Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jazz Fest!

New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest is coming up, April 27-29 and May 4-6. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a huge event that started with Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, and some street jazz bands in 1970. It celebrates jazz, blues, zydeco, funk, rock, country, and other forms of music, embracing the New Orleans spirit. Last year's Jazz Fest was the first one after Katrina, and was a huge morale builder, a psychological landmark, for a lot of local people. Its return showed that yes, New Orleans can come back. Performers this year include Harry Connick Jr., Norah Jones, Ludacris, John Mayer, Counting Crows, Joss Stone, Branford Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, Brad Paisley, Bonnie Raitt, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers, Steely Dan, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Thorgood, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Lucinda Williams, Soulive, Percy Sledge, T-Bone Burnett, and literally hundreds more. If you're in the area, adult tickets are $35 per day.

But I mention it for another reason: the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir is headed down! Me so proud. :) My roommate Bo is actually in the Gospel Choir, although he won't be making this particular trip. Nonetheless, this is really cool news. Per a College press release:

"The Dartmouth Gospel Choir has been invited to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a rare recognition for a school group from outside Louisiana. The group will sing on Saturday, April 28, as the opening act for the New Orleans-based Bishop Paul S. Morton and the Greater St. Stephens Mass Choir.

In addition, the choir will take part in a Katrina-related community service project on Friday, sing in church on Sunday, and perform at one or two high schools on Monday, before returning to Dartmouth, said Joshua Price Kol, director of student performance programs at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Almost ready to disband four years ago, the Dartmouth choir has experienced a rebirth under Cunningham's leadership, Kol said. 'Everywhere this choir goes to perform, audiences are wowed by the artistry of the group and stunned—Dartmouth College has a world-class Gospel Choir? Well, we do.'"

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Orleans Volunteering Opportunities

More and more folks have found this blog lately by Googling "episcopal new orleans volunteer opportunities" or similar phrases. As such, I thought I'd highlight volunteer contact information for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, along with various non-Episcopalian organizations. If your church, college program, or other group is interested in spending a few days or more helping out in New Orleans, or if you're interested in a long-term recovery internship, God bless you. The Gulf Coast really needs it. I can't count the times I was told, "Thank God you're here! If it wasn't for you church people and faith-based groups, nothing would ever get done!" If you're thinking about volunteering but haven't made your mind up yet, please read this post, and peruse these.

Click here for information on specific volunteer opportunities with the Episcopal Diocese of Louisana. The Diocese will provide you with the tools you need and with free housing, though you need to come up with your own transportation and food. Opportunities include gutting and rebuilding houses, helping with the mobile respite care unit (basically a distribution center, which I helped run for several months), community activities at St. Paul's or St. Luke's, helping with various soup kitchen or meals-on-wheels type programs, or traveling with the St. Anna's Mobile Medical Mission (a free RV clinic). The current volunteer coordinators are Susan Foto (sfoto@edola.org) and Darlene Davillier (ddavillier@edola.org). Contact them to set up your trip after you've read through the ODR's website.

If you're intersted in a long-term internship, Foto and Davillier might be the people to contact, although you might also try Katie Mears, who runs the gutting/rebuilding program, at kmears@edola.org. It can't hurt to include them all in the "to" field. Interns lead gutting and rebuilding crews, live in a house uptown, and recieve a small stipend.

I've provided detailed contact information for the ODR because it is the outfit I myself worked with. There are a number of other solider volunteer groups, however, and I'm sure you can find contact information at their websites:

Specific Volunteer Jobs at Volunteermatch.org

Evangelical Free Church of America

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

United Church of Christ Volunteer Opportunities

Hands on New Orleans
Hands on Gulf Coast
(Much of the Dartmouth volunteering is done through the Hands On network.)

Common Ground Collective
For more information - My Blog Entry on Common Ground

ACORN

Habitat for Humanity

Americorps

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some Thoughts on Virginia Tech



John 16:20 says, "Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy."

The nation's prayers and thoughts have turned to Blacksburg, Virginia these past two days, as have Dartmouth's. A well-publicized candlelight vigil was held last on campus last night, and I attended a compline service at our Episcopal campus ministry dedicated to the victims. Our ministry a connection with the Episcopal campus ministry at VT - the put us up for the night and fed us twice during Spring Break last month, as we drove to and from New Orleans. After that visit, I encouraged my brother to look at VT as a prospective college. Father Scott and the students were gracious, inviting people, and the campus was beautiful. Fr. Scott writes a good blog, and I'd been intending to link to it here, but he has apparently set it to invited readers only. That wonderful little town did not deserve to be repaid this way.

It's hard for me to gauge reaction at Dartmouth, as I've been holed up in my dorm or office the last couple days, and did not attend last night's vigil. From what little I can tell, the dominant reaction, in addition to sadness, seems to be one of "Oh my God, that could happen here!" I say this based on a discussion we had in class today with two visiting former Congresspersons, and on an article about last night's vigil in this morning's school paper. Indeed, like Blacksburg, this is a small, seemingly calm and tranquil town, but all it takes is one person. It's scary to think about, looking around a classroom with just one or two doors. Whenever I read about student Derek O'Dell barricading a classroom door to prevent the gunman from re-entering, I picture one of the classrooms in Dartmouth's Rockefeller Center.

You've no doubt been thinking about and perhaps praying for the victims, their families, surviving students/staff/faculty, the first responders and medical personnel, and the Blackburg community. Perhaps you've prayed for the gunman, as well. I would encourage you to add some more folks to that list: the gunman's family. His parents will no doubt recieve much harrassment and hate as a result of their son's actions, and are surely suffering from heavy hearts and pains of guilt. Pray for their healing, too.

This sad incident reminds me of the song "Friend of Mine" by two Columbine students. Read about and listen to it here. Lyrics here.

On one final note, at least this story generated some heros. Pressure shows a man's true colors, and Professor Liviu Librescu's colors didn't run.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Busy

As you may have noticed, my rate of posting has dropped off substantially. Unfortunately, I've been insanely busy lately, and haven't had much time to blog. I hope to write about this year's LA gubernatorial race in the next couple days; we'll see if it happens. But I'm trying, and I haven't gone away! Just be patient with me! :(

In the meantime, read this Garrison Keillor quote about the beauty of Anglican prayer. I look forward to tonight, when can I listen to my Lake Wobegon podcast and go to bed. Sleep is good.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I Can't Believe He's Gone

Listen:
Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time.

What I mean to say is, Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was 84, and I never got to shake his hand. So it goes. We never met, but I will miss him. :_(

Vonnegut is the author of many wonderful short stories and insightful novels, most noticeably "Slaughterhouse V," a recollection of his experience as a WWII POW in Dresden during the immoral firebombing of the city. He is known as a satirist. His books were called science fiction. His writing style was often seen as cynical, even pessimistic.

But, if you looked closely, you would find an underlying optimism. The world's in terrible shape, and the old man wasn't afraid to say so - yet he never gave up hope. That, I believe, is the best view for any of us to have of life and society, and I now realize that it is why I always found inspiration in his books. The razor-sharp humor also didn't hurt (hooray for Eliot Rosewater).

I would like to thank my friend Grant Minor and my teachers Dr. Bill Proser and Dan Nicklay for introducing me to Vonnegut's works. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit in my room and cry.

So it goes.



Vonnegut Quotes

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

"Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand."

"Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."

"I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'."

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."

"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."

"Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia."

"As in my other works of fiction: All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed. No names have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Angels protect the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine."

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."



"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's..."
"And?"
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Best Harmonica You'll Ever Hear

As cool a harmonica as NPR's John Burnett might play, I gotta say, this guy remains my favorite harmonica player. His name is Grandpa Elliot Smalls; he plays outside the French Quarter's Cafe du Monde on weekends (used to be every day, but he's getting older). He's often joined by a younger guy on guitar, named Stoney B. Smalls went to Lubbock, TX after the storm. This interview suggests he's got a sad soul, but he appreciates his fans and, as he made clear to me, is very proud of his harmonica skills. He's also a good singer. The final picture is a woman playing violin with Smalls the first time I saw him, last March. She was quite good - she would play and converse with bystanders at the same time!






I'm posting these because I realized the other day, reading the liner notes to Harry Connick Jr.'s new NOLA CD (a birthday girft from my parents - thanks, Mom!), that the most important thing about New Orleans is its zany culture(s), and I've made very few cultural posts. So here's one now. Photos courtesy Craig Parker of Hanover, NH

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday: The Easter Vigil

I just got out of the Easter Vigil service, so even though it is not yet midnight, I feel free to wish you all a Happy Easter!

The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful service of the year. It's about two hours long - at least, it was tonight - but it's well worth it. If you've not been to one before, they start in the dark. We process into church in the dark, and we sit in the dark, each of us with a lit candle. Scripture verses about the Lord's miracles and good works through time are read, and psalms and canticles are sung. In the early church, this was the only night of the year on which baptisms were performed, and a friend of mine was indeed baptized tonight (hooray!). Then, the priest proclaims that the Lord is risen, and all the lights come on, and we have a regular Eucharist complete with happy hymns and, for the first time in months, shouts of "Alleluia!" I can think of no moment more beautiful than the Easter Vigil Communion hymn, "I Am the Bread of Life." Jerry is a master at the organ, the hymn is an absolutely perfect song (as campus minister Andy would say), and you get Episcopalians, of all people, raising their hands to God. Plus, I've never seen Father Henry beam so much. It is sheer beauty, for the glory of God, and I'm glad it only comes once a year, for it is truly special. What an amazing hymn - the words, the melody, the harmony. I choke up at the grace.

The sermon, from the Rev. Louise P. Pietsch, was a good one worth writing about here. She quoted an article from Christian Century magazine, but sadly, the author's name I have forgotten. He wrote about two men yelling across a distance to one another shortly after that first glorious Easter:
1: "Yo!"
2: "What?"
1: "Are you there?"
2: "Yeah, what's the news of the day?"
1: "He is Risen!!!"
2: "No... oh no... oh no... He can't be risen! That means the suffering isn't over, that the teaching continues, that more of the same path lies ahead! We're not off the hook!"

Christ is alive and well, which means His mission and His message are alive and well, too. He didn't stay dead, and neither did the teachings and the wisdom he brought with Him. And that, my brothers and sisters, is why I write about New Orleans. It's why William Wilberforce and Robert Kennedy are my heros. It's why prison reform and international issues like the sex trade, the caste system, corrupt governments, and AIDS are next. Easter gives us no choice.

There are a number of collects and prayers associated with the Easter Vigil, but here's the one for the lessons of the day, not the special liturgy: "O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

On another note, this is the one hundredth post of Wayward Episcopalian. Go me, I guess! :P

Friday, April 06, 2007

Gov. Bill Richardson: Passing Grade on New Orleans, but no Flying Colors

I had the chance to talk with presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) about rebuilding the Gulf Coast yesterday. He spoke to several hundred people at Dartmouth College, and then met with La Alianza Latina and the College Democrats. It was at this reception where I asked him about New Orleans. It will eventually be on C-Span.

Overall, I give Richardson a B/B-. He seemed like he was definitely concerned about New Orleans and had a passing knowledge of the issue, but hadn’t fully thought it through the way a presidential candidate should. He said most of the right things, but all his answers had flaws. Katrina is also nowhere to be found on his website, though I find that that’s sadly true for most of the candidates.

I asked Richardson if he was familiar with the Road Home program – and believe it or not, he was! He said it has paid only 10% of applicants – that number is a little inflated, but at least he understood how dismal a failure the official rebuilding program has been. I asked him what he would do if he was President, and he basically said three things:

1) He would make a financial commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast.
2) He would take FEMA out of the Dept. of Homeland Security and have it report directly to the President.
3) He would work to cut the red tape.

These are all three good answers, but all three have problems. First, I’m not looking for a candidate to promise a financial commitment – the commitment has already been made. Allocating money isn’t the problem; getting it to the people who need it is. Second, while FEMA does need to report to the President rather than the Secretary of Homeland Security, that has more to do with the storm's immediate aftermath than it does current rebuilding issues. It will help prevent this type of disaster again, but it doesn't really address rebuilding issues. Third, while cutting red tape is indeed the most important thing that can be done, the example or red tape Richardson cited was something else that happened immediately after the storm: He wanted to send the New Mexico National Guard to Louisiana, and it took the feds five days to get back to him on the subject. I’m glad Richardson wanted to send his troops, but again, that addresses the storm’s aftermath, not the current rebuilding issues.

It was impressive that Richardson knows red tape is the main problem. Unfortunately, his examples of the National Guard, DHS, and financial commitment did not demonstrate a full understanding of the red tape. I can’t say I blame him – as Governor of New Mexico and an expert on foreign affairs, Katrina is not something he has any control over. Nevertheless, he is a presidential candidate, and presidential candidates need to be held to a higher standard. Take Joe Biden – as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his time is also taken up by other issues, but he showed a much better understanding of the red tape, and demonstrated real aggressiveness about cutting it.

I also want to point out that Google searches of Richardson’s website for the terms “New Orleans” and “Gulf Coast” turn up nothing. “Katrina” only comes up once, and it’s in a sentence with Iraq. Unfortunately, this seems to be par the course for all the candidates, and isn't anything special about Richardson.

Finally, check out this webpage to learn about what Gov. Richardson did for the Gulf Coast in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Like some of his answers to my question, it’s irrelevant to current rebuilding issues, but still worth knowing.

My conclusion: Richardson is aware of Road Home, knows the real problem is bureaucracy, and does seem to understand the issue’s importance. That's a good start, but it isn’t perfect: he needs more specifics on HOW to cut red tape, like Biden has, and his examples shouldn't all be about the original aftermath when askied about current rebuilding. Overall, I just don’t think Gov. Richardson’s grasp on the issue is as strong as we might like. It felt as if he was concerned and had a passing knowledge of the issue, but hadn’t fully thought it through the way a presidential candidate should. Still, it’s a start. He’s definitely ahead of Dodd on the issue, and for the time being Edwards and Obama (I hope to revisit my analysis of those two later), but he lacks the deeper understanding Biden demonstrated. Overall, B/B-. I'd make it a solid B if he were able to focus more on current problems.

Candidates on NOLA (so far):
Biden: A-/B+
Richardson: B/B-
Obama: C+
Edwards: C-/D+
Dodd: D-

I do hope to revisit my Edwards and Obama critiques soon – I’ve learned a little more about Edwards on the issue, and hopefully I can learn more about the specifics Obama claims to have but wouldn’t discuss in Durham a couple months ago. I also hope to write a review about Clinton, but I haven’t seen her in person yet. If I get the chance, I’ll critique the Republican candidates, but I don’t come across them as often as I do the Democrats, who have a better chance of winning in 2008 anyway.

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, and while I intend to make post about presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)'s take on Katrina recovery later today, I also plan on going to church tonight for one of the longest services of the year. Of course, the pain I feel in that pew is nothing compared to the pain of Christ's cross we remember today. For an interesting Good Friday read about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, check this out. And here is the Book of Common Prayer's Collect for Good Friday:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday

Here is the BCP's Collect for Maundy Thursday - which, of course, also has its own liturgy. We sang "Just as I Am" in church tonight here in NH - one of my favorite hymns. I was introduced to a new one, as well: "When Christ was Lifted from the Earth." Powerful lyrics, especially when set to music, at the bottom of the page here. I also saw the movie "Amazing Grace" for the second time - it is one of my favorites. William Wilberforce was a man of God, and we can all take a page from his book, particularly on issues like New Orleans and Katrina. Anyways, without further ado, the Collect:

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now livesand reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Prayer for Wednesday in Holy Week

On what is both a non-Episcopal and non-Katrina note, Garrison Keillor has the right attitude about life. Check it out here.

Now, the subject at hand: I've been posting the appropriate Holy Week prayers from the Book of Common Prayer all week. Here's today's, Wednesday:

"Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Prayer for Tuesday in Holy Week

In addition to my regular Katrina recovery posts (the post below is full of pictures, if that's what you came looking for), I am posting the Book of Common Prayer's Collect of the Day each day this week, since it is Holy Week. Here's the prayer for Tuesday in Holy Week:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

http://holycross-raleigh.org/bcp/220.html

Pictures of New Orleans, March 2007

Here they are, as promised, Spring Break photos of New Orleans! Visit http://flickr.com/photos/7389644@N07/ to browse pictures of remaining damage (particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward), gutters in action, some progress, the Lower Ninth Ward memorial, a photo exhibit at the Louisiana State History Museum, and a relaxing day in the French Quarter. Please let me know (in the comment section) if there are any problems viewing the website - there should be 137 photos total. (Disclaimer: I did not take all of the pictures, and a few are even from other Dartmouth groups in New Orleans. Proper credit is given at Flickr.) Here are a few samples:

REMAINING DAMAGE
Notice the house on top of a house:




THE GUTTING








JUST FOR FUN

Habitat for Humanity's Musician's Village
My crew, relaxing in the French Quarter's Jackson Square

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Prayer for Monday in Holy Week

Throughout the week, in addition to my New Orleans posts (of which I plan several), I will also post the Book of Common Prayer's suggested Collect for the day, it being Holy Week. Yesterday, instead of posting the BCP's prayer for Palm Sunday (the thought had not occured to me), I wrote my own. Here is the prayer for Monday in Holy Week:

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

http://holycross-raleigh.org/bcp/220.html

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring Break 3: Michigan

On day four of Spring Break, we gutted a house for “Ms. Lisa.” Ms. Lisa is an African-American woman about 80 years old, and has lived in the same Gentilly-neighborhood house for about thirty years. She’d actually paid off the mortgage just a year before Katrina.

After the storm, Ms. Lisa went to Michigan to live with her daughter. She said it was nice, and the people there treated her like a queen, but it was just too darn cold there and she just HAD to come back to New Orleans and the warmth! My friends speculated the weather was just a convenient excuse to move back. I said one doesn’t really need an excuse to come back – it’s home! But, my friends said, when there’s only one other person on your block, your favorite haunts are still gone, and everything to your name is garbage, perhaps you need an excuse to feel psychologically justified in coming back. And feelings really do count for something, because when all is said and done, God and feelings are all you’ve got.

Ms. Lisa’s return really spoke to me. Rebuilding New Orleans is an overwhelming and sobering task, and at her age, she can’t actually do any of the work herself – she must rely on others to do every last physical step for her. It would be so easy for her to turn her back on the mess and be done with it: call the city and have it demolished without taking another look. She even has a loving home in Michigan to escape to if she so desires! I’m guessing that if I were in her shoes, even I might flee to Michigan – but not Ms. Lisa. For better or for worse, home is home and she’s sticking it out. That, I think, really says something about the character and spirit of the people of New Orleans. She’s even taken on another job and baby-sits a little two-year-old boy in her trailer and yard.

I had a conversation at St. Andrew’s after church that week with an older gentleman, perhaps 60 years young, who said post-Katrina New Orleans is such a stressful world. His was a refrain I’ve sounded here before: after work, taking care of your kids, dealing with sick elderly relatives, running a household, dealing with piles of government paperwork, and cutting through miles of red tape, you don’t have any time to sleep, much less work on your house or, heaven forbid, several more houses of family members. You need help not only to get through it, but just to get started – if two people stand alone in the doorway of an ungutted, unmucked house, the job seems as big as building the place must have once been. Moving out all the contents alone, let alone taking out walls and ceilings, looks like moving Mt. McKinley with a backhoe, plus emotional baggage. As another homeowner put it, “You don’t even know what corner to start in!”

But thankfully, homeowners don’t have to do it alone. Although millions of citizens don’t realize the dire straits New Orleans remains in, Dartmouth still sent a dozen relief groups. Grinnell College has seen an outpouring of support to the region. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Presbyterians, and other churches have followed the call of God. Habitat for Humanity, ACORN, and Common Ground do good work.
And as a result, Ms. Lisa’s spirit really does get to count for something.

This wraps up my spring break report. My next posts: tomorrow, pictures; sometime later this week, the Governor’s race and hopefully NM Gov. and '08 candidate Bill Richardson on New Orleans (I'll meet him Wednesday).

My Prayer for Palm Sunday

I wrote this prayer today for the high school youth group I help run:

Heavenly Father,

We come before you now on this Palm Sunday, so many years after that first Palm Sunday, when your son Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem not on a horse from the west like an emperor, but on a donkey from the east like a peasant. We thank you for this message and for this power; that all of your children are loved and are equal in your sight, and that none should be oppressed, shamed, or mocked.

Lead us, Father, as we seek more of your message. Help us to ask the right questions and pray the right prayers; show us your answers and your will. Keep us safe and guide us now and all through Holy Week.

We thank you for the many blessings of this life, for mercy and wisdom, for faith, hope, and love, and it is in Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen.