Another Saturday at St Nick’s

Most Saturday nights find me following my wife to St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Millville NJ. I'm often chasing kids and this Saturday was no exception. Tonight I snapped as I chased. Most of these shots have a tousled head just off camera. It's a nice little church. You can learn more at their website at http://www.stnicholasmillville.com.

In album St Nicholas 2/25/12 (8 photos)

The interior from the balcony.

Places like St Mary’s

I’m writ­ing this from the back of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, a small church built in the 1920s in the small cross­roads town of Mala­ga New Jer­sey. It was closed this past Novem­ber, sup­pos­ed­ly because of a bro­ken boil­er but real­ly because the Dio­cese of Cam­den is try­ing to sell off its small­er church­es – or any church with prime real estate along a high­way. It was reopened with­out per­mis­sion by parish­ioners in ear­ly Jan­u­ary, while we were still in the hos­pi­tal with baby num­ber three, a.k.a. Gre­go­ry.

We’ve spent a lot of time here since then. It’s a 24 hour vig­il and has been and will con­tin­ue to be. In Boston there are vig­ils that have been going sev­en years. I try to imag­ine Gre­go­ry as a sev­en year old, hav­ing spent his child­hood grow­ing up here in this lit­tle church. It’s not an impos­si­ble sce­nario.

I also spend a lot of time talk­ing with the faith­ful Catholics who have come here to pro­tect the church. It’s a cacoph­o­ny of voic­es right now – con­ver­sa­tions about the church, sure, but that’s only one of the many top­ics that come up. Peo­ple are shar­ing their lives – sto­ries about grow­ing up, about peo­ple that are know, about cur­rent events… It’s a real com­mu­ni­ty. We’ve been attend­ing this church for years but it’s now that I’m real­ly get­ting to know every­one.

I some­times pon­der how I, the self-dubbed “Quak­er Ranter,” got involved in all of this. Through my wife, of course – she grew up Catholic, became a Friend for eleven years and then “returned to the Church” a few years after our mar­riage. But there’s more than that, rea­sons why I spend my own time here. Part is my love of the small and quirky. St Mary’s parish­ioners are stand­ing up for the kind of church­es where peo­ple know each oth­er. In an era where menial tasks are hired out, the actu­al mem­bers of St. Marys tend the church’s rosary gar­den and clean its base­ment and toi­lets. They spend time in the church beyond the hour of mass, doing things like pray­ing the rosary or ado­ra­tion.

The powers-that-be that want St Mary’s closed so bad­ly want a large inper­son­al church with lots of pro­fes­sion­al­ized ser­vices and a least-common-denominator faith where peo­ple come, go and donate their mon­ey to a dio­cese that’s run like a busi­ness. But that’s not St. Mary’s. There’s his­to­ry here. This is a hub of a town, an ancient cross­roads, but the bish­op wants big church­es in the splurge of sub­ur­ban sprawl. Even we Friends need places like St Mary’s in the world.

Lessons in Social Media from Egyptian Protesters

A few days ago the NYTimes ran a fas­ci­nat­ing ear­ly look-back at the rela­tion­ship between social media and the largely-nonviolent rev­o­lu­tion in Egypt writ­ten by David D Kirk­patrick and David E Sanger. I doubt we’ve seen the last twist and turn of this tumul­tuous time but as I write this, the world sighs relief that long­time auto­crat Hos­ni Mubarak is final­ly out. Most of the quotes and inside knowl­ege came via Ahmed Maher, a 30-year-old civ­il engi­neer and a lead­ing orga­niz­er of the April 6 Youth Move­ment, who became an activist in 2005.

Les­son One: Years in the Mak­ing

The Times starts off by point­ing out that the “blog­gers lead the way” and that the “Egypt­ian revolt was years in the mak­ing.” It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that these things don’t come out of nowhere. Blog­gers have been active for years: lead­ing, learn­ing, mak­ing mis­takes and col­lect­ing knowl­edge. Many of the first round of blog­gers were ignored and repressed. Some of them were effec­tive­ly neu­tral­ized when they were co-opted into what the Times calls “the timid, legal­ly rec­og­nized oppo­si­tion par­ties.” “What destroyed the move­ment was the old par­ties,” said one blog­ger. A les­son we might draw for that is that blog­ging isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a step­ping stone to “real activism” but is instead it’s own kind of activism. The cul­ture of blogs and main­stream move­ments are not always com­pat­i­ble.

Les­son Two: Share Your Expe­ri­ences

The Egypt­ian protests began after ones in Tunisia. The con­text was not the same: “The Tunisians faced a more per­va­sive police state than the Egyp­tians, with less lat­i­tude for blog­ging or press free­dom, but their trade unions were stronger and more inde­pen­dent.” Still, it was impor­tant to share tips: “We shared our expe­ri­ence with strikes and blog­ging,” a blog­ger recalled. Some of the tips were exceed­ing­ly prac­ti­cal (how to avert tear gas – brought lemons, onions and vine­gar, appar­ent­ly) and oth­ers more social (shar­ing tor­ture expe­ri­ences). Les­son: we all have many things to learn. It’s best to be ready for counter-tactics.

One of the inter­est­ing side­lights was how the teach­ings of Amer­i­can non­vi­o­lence strate­gist Gene Sharp made it to Cairo. A Ser­bian youth move­ment had based their rebel­lion on his tac­tics and the Egyp­tians fol­lowed their lead, with exiled orga­niz­ers set­ting up a web­site (warn­ing: annoy­ing sound) com­pil­ing Sharp’s strate­gies:

For their part, Mr. Maher and his col­leagues began read­ing about non­vi­o­lent strug­gles. They were espe­cial­ly drawn to a Ser­bian youth move­ment called Otpor, which had helped top­ple the dic­ta­tor Slo­bo­dan Milo­se­vic by draw­ing on the ideas of an Amer­i­can polit­i­cal thinker, Gene Sharp. The hall­mark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that non­vi­o­lence is a sin­gu­lar­ly effec­tive way to under­mine police states that might cite vio­lent resis­tance to jus­ti­fy repres­sion in the name of sta­bil­i­ty.

As an aside, I have to say that as a longterm peace activist, it tick­les me no end to see Gene Sharp’s ideas at the heart of the Egypt­ian protests. Amer­i­ca real­ly can export democ­ra­cy some­times!

Les­son Three: Be Relent­less in Con­fronting Lies

The Times reports that Maher “took spe­cial aim at the dis­tor­tions of the offi­cial media.” He told them that when peo­ple “dis­trust the media then you know you are not going to lose them. When the press is full of lies, social media takes on the fact check­ing role. Peo­ple turn to inde­pen­dent sources when they sense a pro­pa­gan­da machine. The cre­ator of a Face­book site was a Google mar­ket­ing exec­u­tive work­ing on his own. He filled the site We Are all Khaled Said “with video clips and news­pa­per arti­cles [and] repeat­ed­ly ham­mered home a sim­ple mes­sage.”

Les­son Four: Don’t Wait for Those Sup­posed To Do This Work

Most of this social media was cre­at­ed by stu­dents for good­ness sake and it all relied on essentially-free ser­vices. Everyone’s always thought that if Egypt were to explode it would be the dreaded-but-popular Mus­lim Broth­er­hood that would lead the charge. But they didn’t. They scram­bled not know­ing what to do as protests erupt­ed in the major cities. Even­tu­al­ly the Brotherhood’s youth wing joined the protests and the full orga­ni­za­tion fol­lowed suit but it was not the lead­ers in any of this.

When we’re talk­ing about pop­u­lar orga­ni­zat­ing, mon­ey and estab­lished cre­den­tials aren’t always an advan­tage. What’s inter­est­ing to learn with the Egypt protests is that the gen­er­a­tion lead­ing it doesn’t seem to have as strict a reli­gious world­view as its par­ents. This came out most dra­mat­i­cal­ly in the images of Chris­t­ian Egyp­tians pro­tect­ing their Mus­lim broth­ers in Tahir Square dur­ing times of prayer. This is hav­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tion in copy­cat protests in Tehran. Iran­ian lead­ers tried to paint the Egypt­ian stu­dents as heirs to their own Islam­ic rev­o­lu­tion but it seems prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions are more impor­tant than set­ting up an Islamist state (stay tuned on this one – protests have begun in Tehran on one hand and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood might well take over from Egypt pro­test­ers now that Mubarak is out).

On a per­son­al note…

It’s inter­est­ing to watch how the three-year old Save St Mary’s cam­paign has mim­ic­ked some of the fea­tures of the Egypt­ian protests. Their blog has been pret­ty relent­less in expos­ing the lies. It’s attract­ed far more media atten­tion than the professionally-staffed Dioce­san press office has been able to muster. There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes talk­ing with church­es in oth­er regions to com­pare tac­tics and antic­i­pate counter-moves. As far as I know it’s one of sev­en church­es nation­wide with round-the-clock vig­ils but it’s the only one with a strong social media com­po­nent. It’s aver­age age is prob­a­bly a gen­er­a­tion or two younger than the oth­er vig­ils which gives it a cer­tain frank style that’s not found else­where. The Philadel­phia Arch­dio­cese is explod­ing now with arrests of recent Dioce­san offi­cials and rev­e­la­tions from the Dis­trict Attore­ny that dozens of priests with “cred­i­ble accu­sa­tions” of pedophil­ia are still min­is­ter­ing around kids and while church clos­ings and the pedophil­ia scan­dals are not offi­cial­ly con­nect­ed, as a non-Catholic I’m fine admit­ting that they arise from a shared Dioce­san cul­ture of mon­ey and cover-ups. Again, “repeat­ing­ly ham­mer­ing home a sim­ple mes­sage” is a good strat­e­gy.

Gregory Gets Baptized

Depend­ing on your the­o­log­i­cal ten­den­cies, Gre­go­ry was bap­tized or sprin­kled this past week­end. It was a very mov­ing cer­e­mo­ny, though an emer­gency trip to the pot­ty for the 4yo meant I missed the best part. Appar­ent­ly the priest raised him over the altar and made the sign of cross with him. This is at St Nicholas’ Ukrain­ian Catholic Church in Mil­lville NJ. We all went across the street to a Pol­ka dance after­wards and then had some cake and snacks at the lib­er­at­ed St Mary’s in Mala­ga.

Godparents holding the baby

And for new read­ers, I long ago explained why the Quak­er Ranter’s kid was get­ting bap­tized. Sor­ry for the weird for­mat­ting, I haven’t cleaned up all the back arti­cles.

Introducing Gregory Kelley Heiland

Bothering babies to make them make cute faces is fun!

On Tues­day, Dec 28 my love­ly wife Julie gave birth to our third son. After some dither­ing back and forth (we’re method­i­cal about baby names) we picked Gre­go­ry. Every­one is hap­py and healthy. Vital stats: 20 inch­es, 7 pounds 9 oz. The broth­ers are adjust­ing well, though Theo’s first response to my phone call telling him it was a boy was “oh no, anoth­er one of those.”

Francis is now also a big brother! Proud brother

That’s 5yo Fran­cis (aka “lit­tle big broth­er”) and 7yo Theo (“big big broth­er”) meet­ing their new sib­ling at the hos­pi­tal. More pics in the Gre­go­ry! and Gre­go­ry in the Hos­pi­tal sets on Flickr.

As you can see, we’ve basi­cal­ly bred triplets spaced over three years apart. As fur­ther evi­dence, here’s Theo and Fran­cis in their first pics (links to their announce­ment posts):
Brotherly love

As I men­tioned, we’re method­i­cal about names. When we were faced with Baby #2 I put togeth­er the “Fall­en Baby Names Chart” – clas­sic names that had fall­en out of trendy use. It’s based on the cur­rent rank­ing of the top names of 1900. “Gre­go­ry” doesn’t appear on our chart because it was almost unused until a sud­den appear­ance in the mid-1940s (see chart, right). Yes, that would be the time when a hand­some young actor named Gre­go­ry Peck became famous. It peaked in 1962, the year of Peck’s Acad­e­my Award for To Kill a Mock­ing­bird and has been drop­ping rapid­ly ever since. Last year less than one in a thou­sand new­born boys were Gregory’s. While we rec­og­nize Peck’s influ­ence in the name’s Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry pop­u­lar­i­ty, Julie is think­ing more of Gre­go­ry of Nys­sa [edit­ed, I orig­i­nal­ly linked to anoth­er ear­ly Gre­go­ry]. Peck’s par­ents were Catholic (pater­nal rel­a­tives helped lead the Irish East­er Ris­ing) and were pre­sum­ably think­ing of the Catholic saint when they gave him Gre­go­ry for a mid­dle name (he dropped his first name Eldred for the movies).

Easy Prey

This pas­sage from Ezekiel struck me this evening:

What sor­row awaits you shep­herds who feed your­selves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shep­herds feed their sheep?.. You have not tend­ed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone look­ing for those who have wan­dered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harsh­ness and cru­el­ty. So my sheeph have been scat­tered with­out a shep­herd, and they are easy prey for any wild ani­mal. They have wan­dered through all the moun­tains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them…

For this is what the Soverign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shep­herd look­ing for his scat­tered flock… I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safe­ly home again. I will ban­dage the injured and strenght­en the weak. Book of Ezekiel 34.

It seems appro­pri­ate for all sorts of rea­sons. Last week the priest of my wife’s Catholic church shut it down under false pre­tens­es (see savest​marys​.net/​b​log), the cul­mi­na­tion of a long plan to close it and ulti­mate­ly most of the small Catholic church­es in South Jer­sey. There are sheep that will be scat­tered by these acts. I’m also just so acute­ly aware of reli­gious of all denom­i­na­tions who are so caught up in the human forms of our church body that we’ve lost sight of those who are wan­der­ing in the wilder­ness, easy prey for the wild ani­mals of our world­ly lusts. I take solace in the promise that the Lord’s Shep­herd is out look­ing for us.

St Marys

Sustaining the purpose for which we were peculiarly raised up

Marlborough meetinghouseJust fin­ished: Ken­neth S.P. Morse’s “A His­to­ry of Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends” from 1962. Like most his­to­ries of Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends, it’s both heart­en­ing and depress­ing. It’s great to read the quotes, which often put the dilem­ma very clear­ly, like this one from Iowa Friends in 1877:

In con­sid­er­a­tion of many and var­i­ous depar­tures in Doc­trine, Prin­ci­ple and Prac­tice, brought into our beloved Soci­ety of late years by mod­ern inno­va­tors, who have so rev­o­lu­tion­ized our ancient order in the Church, as to run into views and prac­tices out of which our ear­ly Friends were lead, and into a broad­er, and more self-pleasing, and cross-shunning way than that marked out by our Sav­ior, and held to by our ancient Friends.… And who have so approx­i­mat­ed to the unre­gen­er­ate world that we feel it incum­bent upon us to bear testimony…and sus­tain the Church for the pur­pose for which is was pecu­liar­ly raised up.

I love this stuff. You’ve got the­ol­o­gy, poli­ty, cul­ture and an argu­ment for the eter­nal truths of the “pecu­liar­ly raised” Quak­er church. But even in 1962 this is a sto­ry of decline, of gen­er­a­tions of min­is­ters pass­ing with no one to take their place and month­ly and year­ly meet­ings wink­ing out with dis­arm­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty as the con­cept of Friends gets stretched from all sides. “It is cer­tain­ly true that most of those who call them­selves Friends at the present time are only par­tial Friends in that they seem not to have felt called to uphold var­i­ous branch­es of the Quak­er doc­trine.”

Putting the book down the most remark­able fact is that there are any Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends around still around almost fifty years lat­er.

The task of shar­ing and uphold­ing the Quak­er doc­trine is still almost impos­si­bly hard. The mul­ti­plic­i­ty of mean­ings in the words we use become stum­bling blocks in them­selves. Friends from oth­er tra­di­tions are often the worst, often being blind to their own inno­va­tions, often­er still just not car­ing that they don’t share much in com­mon with ear­ly Friends.

Then there’s the dis­uni­ty among present-day Con­ser­v­a­tives. Geog­ra­phy plays a part but it seems part of the cul­ture. The his­to­ry is a maze of tra­di­tion­al­ist splin­ter groups with carefully-selected lists of who they do and do not cor­re­spond with. Today the three Con­ser­v­a­tive Year­ly Meet­ings seem to know each anoth­er more through carefully-parsed read­ing of his­to­ries than actu­al vis­i­ta­tion (there is some, not enough). There’s also the human messi­ness of it all: some of the flaki­est lib­er­al Quak­ers I’ve known have been part of Con­ser­v­a­tive Year­ly Meet­ings and the inter­net is full of those who share Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends val­ues but have no year­ly meet­ing to join.

No answers today from me. Maybe we should take solace that despite the tra­vails and the his­to­ry of defeat, there still remains a spark and there are those who still seek to share Friends’ ways. For those want­i­ng to learn more the more recent “Short His­to­ry of Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends” (1992) is online and a good intro­duc­tion.

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Doink Doink/Chunk Chunk/Bomp Bomp

As the evi­dence accu­mu­lates on the Follieri/Galante church-for-beach-house devel­op­er scan­dal, it’s become some­thing of a par­lor game around the kitchen table to spec­u­late on who will play all the char­ac­ters in the upcom­ing mini-series. It’s only a mat­ter of time real­ly. We’ve got a glam Euro­trash huck­ster, a Hol­ly­wood actress, the Sopranos-like mob vice pres­i­dent, Bill Clin­ton shady deal­ings with his all-but-pedophile drink­ing bud­dies – and of course the Dio­cese of Camden’s Bish­op Galante and at least one dioce­san priest with a fond­ness for play­ing dress-up. It will only become more truth-is-stranger-than-fiction when a few more details work their way from open secret to FBI doc­u­men­ta­tion and NY Post head­lines.

So while it’s not a sur­prise, there is a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion in the lat­est media rumor that “Law & Order” is plan­ning one of their clas­sic “ripped from the head­lines” drama­ti­za­tion of the scan­dal:

Raffaello’s arrest was and still is the buzz in New York City’s social circles.…He was the ulti­mate con man; hand­some, rich, smooth and with a celebri­ty girl­friend to make him seem legit. I’m sure this will be the highest-rated Law & Order episode next sea­son.

There’s enough angles to this sto­ry to fill an entire sea­son of tele­vi­sion so we don’t know how promi­nent the Bishop’s part will be. But L&O cre­ator Dick Wolf grew up an altar boy at St. Patrick’s cathe­dral in New York and the L&O cos­tume depart­ment has more cler­i­cal out­fits that Raf­fael­lo Follieri’s clos­et. Wolf rarely miss­es the chance to throw a priest into the script. Whole sea­sons of the show were devot­ed to ripped-from-the-headlines pieces on the priest/bishop sex abuse scan­dal in the ear­ly 2000s and I’m sure a follow-up look at the web of finan­cial fraud fueled (or at least jus­ti­fied) by the set­tle­ment pay­outs would be a big rat­ings hit.

I just wish Lennie Briscoe was still around to make the col­lar. BOMP BOMP.