April 14, 2024 my sermon

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B

Luke 24:36b-48

St. Matthew’s

Click here for video (poor image/good sound): https://stmatthewshillsborough.org/blog/sermon-april-14-2024

We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory.

It was only 21 days since their Lord had ridden into Jerusalem with crowds lining the road, shouting and singing Hosanna. 17 since they shared what would be their last meal with him. 16 since he was nailed to a cross and died. 14 since his grave was discovered empty and they had begun to experience and hear of unnatural appearances and disappearances of their beloved Jesus.

They were now gathered together in a locked room going over and over what they knew, what they didn’t know, what they dared hoped for, what they most feared, what they should be doing, if anything.

Suddenly Jesus was among them. The words used to describe the scene are startled, terrified, frightened, wonderment, joy, disbelief. Jesus immediately sharpens their focus with these words: Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see. Have you anything here to eat?

He helps them process everything, puts things into context. And then looks at them and says: You are witnesses of these things. And he lets that sentence just hang.

A witness is an observer, a viewer, a bystander. It doesn’t necessarily require anything of you. You were there, you saw what happened. It’s afterwards, that comes a decision and with that decision an outcome: a responsibility for or a betrayal of the events. Do you keep what you saw to yourself or do you tell others what you have seen? Do you turn that noun into a verb . . .

So, it’s been more than 2000 years from that day when a handful of frightened souls in a locked room became witnesses of an astonishing story. They left that room and began to testify. They began to tell others what they seen, experienced. No longer passive. Today more people in the world claim to be Christian than any other religion: 31.6% of the world’s population. 2.38 billion people. Because a few began talking about the man, they had known as Jesus, was the Son of God. That he had died, had risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven. 

And here we are:

21 days past Palm Sunday; 17 from Maundy Thursday; 16 since Good Friday, 14 after Easter Day. And we find ourselves together in this closed room, listening to these amazing and really unbelievable stories. Rehashing them, trying to understand what happened then and what does it mean for us all these years later, if anything.

Today’s collect says: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him. That is give us new eyes that we can see Jesus here before us, this very morning.

In Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer B we say these words together as part of the Eucharist preparation: We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory.

How is it that we say these words? Under what circumstance? They are statements that seem to imply we were there at his death, his resurrection. They are present tense. What memory are we remembering? What makes that memory real and therefore the statement truthful? We remember what we have directly experienced. How then to understand the words we say: We remember his death. Is it possible that because followers of Jesus have come together week after week, year after year saying these very words, that somehow, we are connecting to some great communal reservoir of memory? That we can claim the original memory as our own?

If that is a bridge too far, what are we to make of these words: You are witnesses of these things. What are we witnesses of? What are we bearing witness to?

If not the wounds of Jesus? Then perhaps the wounds of our neighbors or of God’s created world. If not the hunger of Jesus, then perhaps the hunger of our community, spiritual and physical. 

We know that Christendom is not in great shape. There is much commentary that people are finding the church irrelevant, out of touch. Or worse, responsible for much of the ills of society, past and present. The percentage of people claiming to be Christian has decreased while the percentage of people claiming no religion is increasing. 

And here we have Jesus calling us to be witnesses of what we have seen; witnesses for him and the church that rose around his life, death, and resurrection. Of which we are part of. 

The challenge of the statement “You are witnesses of these things” struck me because I have mixed feelings about being a witness. It immediately suggests to me the image of a Bible-thumping, in your face, holier-than-thou personality. 

When I was quite young: elementary school, we went to a nondenominational church with an evangelical bent; it was big on missions. Every year they would have mission week or maybe mission month. Missionaries the church supported, who were home on furlough, would come into the classrooms in native garb and talk about their work and the foreign lands in which they lived and the people with whom they lived who were far different from us. I hated these programs. They scared me to death. The missionaries would say: God may call you to be a missionary and I would think: Please God, don’t call me to be a missionary. They would say, you may think you don’t want to be a missionary, but God may change your heart. And I would think: Please God, don’t change my heart.

I also remember sitting alone on my parent’s bed reading a thick red book about martyred saints. I realized that it might require courage to be a Christian. It might exact a heavy price: pain, death. It is said that our patron saint, Matthew, died in Ethiopia by sword as he celebrated the Eucharist. The book frightened me with the thought that those things could happen to me. I began to recite to myself a litany as I walked about here and there. Jesus, come into my heart. Jesus, get out of my heart. 

I wasn’t sure I could be a Christian or if it was safe to be a Christian. Even now, it is easier for me to say that I am an Episcopalian than I am a Christian. That I am a member of St. Matthew’s than I am a follower of Jesus. I worry that, if pressed, or if, God-forbid I might experience persecution, I won’t have what it takes, the courage to stand up for my faith. 

But I do know that the church is my home. You are my people. The stories of Good Book are ones I return to again and again. The songs I want to sing are gospels and spirituals. I no longer ask Jesus to get out of my heart. I want him to stay.

I take comfort that Jesus spoke to his disciples in that room as a group and gave to them the common identity of witness. I appreciate that we say out loud and together: We believe in one God; We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ; We believe in the Holy Spirit.

And, I realize that there is an order to being a witness, a progression from passive to active. That there is some learning in this call. To be a witness, one must observe carefully. Be present. Be engaged. Maybe Jesus is asking us first to look up, look around, stop our myopic concentration on ourselves. Look out to the margins of our sight lines. What do we see then? Or, maybe Jesus is simply asking us to look at him, at his resurrected body, scarred but holy. A body that changes everything; upends life as we know it.

It may be that it is only after close observation we come to the active phase of witnessing. Acting on what we have seen, heard, experienced, come to know and sharing that with others. 

I have known since December that I would be preaching today. I decided to keep my ear to the ground and listen; to keep my eyes open that I might find evidence of our collective faith at work. The fruits of our collective witness. The plural “you” in Jesus’ statement of us all gathered together.

The signs were not hard to find. The first one came blazing across my email and Facebook from Julia Sendor: a joyful report on the work of Justice United. Then on January 15, also from Facebook, a smiling-faced contingent from St. Matthew’s had joined the MLK march down Churton Street despite it being a cold and rainy day. There are the 175 cans of beef stew collected every month translating into 2,100 meals over the course of one year. There is Habitat for Humanity. There are the pilgrimages to Selma and Stagville. There is the revitalization of our Faith & Arts programming. And, there are the increasing numbers of people coming to weekly services.

We are here today because we believe that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and that the Kingdom of God is at hand. We remember what we have been told, by our parents, teachers, pastors and priests who were themselves told by their forebearers. All the way back to those disciples in the room charged by their Lord and master to be witnesses of things they’d seen.

Today, Jesus comes to us in this sacred space. Stands before us and says: Look at my hands and my feet: Touch me and see; He looks directly into each of our eyes and says: “You are witnesses of these things.” He looks at us, sees us as we are and despite that evidence gives us a new identity. He names us, commissions us, as witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection. 

I urge you to take encouragement in the words Jesus said to his disciples: the you of all of them together and the you of each one individually. You are witnesses of these things. Note the difference between what I heard initially which was we were to BE witnesses vs. we ARE witnesses. You might hear the difference better from these statements: Be well. I am well. Be safe. I am safe. Embrace Jesus’ characterization of us as witnesses. We don’t have to be something we are not.  Jesus accepts us as we are. Each of us, by living our very lives, bears a witness, leaves a wake: our countenance, our demeanor, our conversations, our choices, our interactions, the way we spend our time and the way we spend our money. The question for each of us today is: Do our lives bear the imprint of our risen Lord? Do our lives bear witness to Jesus? 

Like those disciples we can’t stay here in this closed room.  We will leave this sanctuary shortly. To be a witness one doesn’t have to shout from the roof top (although here I am – a shocking sight to my younger self – preaching from a pulpit); it doesn’t have to be going to a strange land (although my sister answered the call to be a missionary and served for 20 years in Thailand). It starts with who we are. It starts with where we are, right now, in a room with other believers. It starts with simply observing what we see: the people in our community, their needs and their gifts, the state of the world. And then owning what we see. Seeing it all through the prism of Jesus’ death and resurrection and aligning ourselves with that vision in response. Mother Teresa famously said: Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.

What is the evidence of an individual witness? The fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We can do small things with great joy, small things with great peace, small things with great kindness. 

Every week, we pray to be empowered to do the work given us to do, to love and serve as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. Every week we are dismissed with the charge to go forth into the world: to go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Know this: we cannot do this on our own power. Jesus gave his disciples the Spirit of God to enliven them and go with them as they went out into the world. Jesus gives us the Spirit too. We’re not out here on our own. 

The disciples had a story to tell and so do we. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold Jesus, remembering his death, proclaiming his resurrection, awaiting his coming in glory. Amen.

My Remarks before the sacred harp concert at St. Mattew's on February 25, 2024

I recently re-read Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and came across this passage written from the perspective of the fiddler, Stobrod.

“One thing he discovered with a great deal of astonishment was that music held for him more than just pleasure. There was meat to it. The grouping of sounds, their forms in the air as they rang out and faded, said something comforting to him about the rule of Creation. What the music said was that there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just tangle and drift, but have a shape, an aim. It was a powerful argument that life did not just happen.”

When I read this, I immediately thought it could have been written about the tradition and sound of Sacred Harp singing.

A Sacred Harp refers to our vocal cords: an instrument each of us is endowed with. And the style of Shape Note singing is an expression of our life force. It’s not a performance. It’s not entertainment. Not about technique or quality of voice. It is not conducted. The singers are not a choir. There is no leader.

It’s an experience shared in community – a group of people expressing their faith in song with a full voice. If you can hear your neighbor to your right or left you are not singing loud enough. 

Folks take turns in the hollow of the square. Nine-year-olds as well as ninety-nine-year-olds all have a chance to pick a song and be in the center of the music, the center of the sonic whirlwind, the rage of shifting chords. Open 5ths where you hear the harmonics both the major and minor. 

Shape Note singing began in New England in the 1700s to teach, primarily, church congregations how to sing. The first publication of Sacred Harp music was in 1801. The style and teaching found a home in the South. It’s been said that in the years leading up to the Civil War the two books most commonly found in Southern homes were a Bible and a Sacred Harp Hymnbook.

Notes of the scale were given shapes and those shapes were given syllables. However, of the seven notes in a scale only four shapes were assigned. Notes were understood in relationship to one another: the intervals between the notes, rather than the absolute value of any one note. 

For me, seeing the octave I knew as CDEFGABC or DoReMeFaSoLaTiDo designated fa so la fa so la ti fa created a full stop on my brain’s ability to understand the system. I spent many sleepless nights trying to get past this concept, and failed miserably. 

But loving the sound, I carried on relying on my ear rather than my intellect.

The Women’s Singing Circle loves this singing too. Some of the first pieces we learned came from the soundtrack of Cold Mountain: Idumea, Wayfaring Stranger, I’m Going Home. We found the fierce lyrics paired with strident rhythms and angular harmony cathartic. 

Tonight, we’re offering our take on Shape Note. A confession is in order: it is not a true-to-form rendering.

  • One, we are only a 3-part group. We are singing the tenor melody and the bass and treble harmonies – completely disregarding the alto part.
  • Two, we are not grouped in the traditional square, rather a lopsided holy triangle.
  • Three, we are not going to sing the shapes at the beginning of each song. 
  • Four, we have already chosen the key that works best for us rather than having designated pitchers choosing a key of convenience just before the singing begins.
  • Five, we will have some accompaniment on a couple of the songs.
  • And Six, it is kinda a performance. You have our permission to clap. 

So what then are we doing that is within the tradition?

We are giving it everything we’ve got. The values that inform our circle are similar to Shape Note. All are welcome, as long as you are a woman. We sing because we like to sing and we offer our songs to God.

Like the Charles Fraizer character, we believe that life did not just happen. We believe music is a divine gift lifting our hearts, minds, and souls to the creator God. And we believe that God loves our sacred hearts, our beating pulses, and the voices we raise in song.

Introductory remarks I made for Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps (The Quartet for the End of Time) at St. Matthew's Faith & Art Event on June 8, 2023 

Today was not the first date chosen for this concert; we landed on it when our first choosing didn’t work out. But all things work together for good.

At the time, I didn’t process how significantly today, June 8th, from a lectionary standpoint, fits with the overarching theme and message of tonight’s music.

The Anglican lectionary calendar has a three-year cycle of readings. This past Sunday, June 4th, was the first Sunday after Pentecost. Pentecost is the longest season of the church year, and for that reason is also known as Ordinary Time:  a time of in between. And the readings appointed were all about the beginning and end and all the time that falls in the middle. 

The Old Testament was from Genesis –the very first verse of the very first chapter: 

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Note that God does not command – God invites, encourages light to become light.

The end times were eluded to in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus comforts his disciples with these words: And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is the end of the age? The end of time? These days, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the end of the world is a mere 90 seconds away. It being the 30th second, of the 58th minute of the 23rd hour of an allegorical day. For Messiaen, it might have seemed it was the time in which he was living as a prisoner of war some 80 years ago turning to the Book of Revelation for inspiration, perhaps also for solace.

How are we to be in this ordinary time, possibly so so close to the end? This answer came from the Epistle reading - from Peter’s letter to the Corinthians. He says: 

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, agree with one another, live in peace. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 

Not bad advice. Each day we live is a lifetime: the morning breaks as on the first day of Eden, we live and work, interact and be until night. We sleep not knowing if we will wake up to the morrow.

So, in these last days at the end of time, be kind. Seek agreement. Live in peace. See the holy in one another. 

If we are to be granted tomorrow, trust that God will be saying: Let there be light. Tonight we say: Let there be music.



Easter Two -- Year A

Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Lord have mercy. (Christ have mercy.) Lord have mercy. 

I am just as surprised as you to be standing at this lectern about to preach but when Robert asked if I wanted to preach sometime during Easter, and I said “Yes” straight away. So, here I am. He may not have known how much I love this season. 

You may not know that St. Matthew’s has its own Resurrection Story. It’s really the story of the beloved late parishioner Isabelle Webb and it occurred many years ago. But since she is no longer here to tell the tale, I will. Isabelle lived in Carol Woods. Another Isabelle also lived there and it was this Isabelle that died. However, someone in the office confused the two and mistakenly called Elizabeth Matheson to share the news. It was a Sunday, Elizabeth told our former rector, Brooks, and Brooks relayed the sad message to the congregation. We were all grief stricken. The next morning there was an urgent voice mail from our Isabelle with an important point of clarification: “I am alive. I am not dead.” I saved that voice mail for the longest time. 

Eastertide is full of surprises. Different outcomes from what is expected. Almost magical. I made this association when I was preparing the opening remarks for the Faith & Arts hosting of Josh Lozoff, a local magician. He came during the season of Easter and I realized those liturgical readings continually contrast seeing and believing and believing without seeing. Magicians have a talent for making something you know can’t happen, seem to happen before your very eyes. Thomas, speaking for many of us, would not believe that Jesus was alive until he saw him for himself. I’ll bet, even then, he could scarce believe his eyes. Such is Faith:  Believing the Unbelievable. 

The days of the post-resurrection Jesus upended the tidy way we have of understanding birth, life, and death. Linear no longer. The veil between heaven and earth, torn from top to bottom. The space between: especially thin, full of mystery and power. We are living sometime between the now and the everlasting. Someplace between here and there. Not This. Not That. Both. Utterly new. 

Jesus left the shroud of death in the tomb and emerged a new state of being. He tells Mary, do not hold me for I have not yet ascended to the Father. He enters locked rooms and leaves in a poof. He is unrecognizable to people who knew him well until he gives them new eyes to see. 

In Jesus, the eternal joined with the temporal. The promised Kingdom of God was at hand. Everything previously known needed to be reconsidered. Words required new definitions. Death not death but life. Bread not bread but the body of Christ. Wine not wine but the blood of Christ. Slave not slave but sister, brother, mother, father. A whole new language was needed to explain what had just happened and The Holy Spirit brought it: Tongues of Fire on the Day of Pentecost. Through Christ, because of Christ, we live both in this day and in the day that is to come as if they are one and the same. We live in The Kingdom of God. 

So, that’s why I love Easter: the Season of Joyful Astonishment. 

As soon as I got home after Robert asked me about preaching, I read all the Easter lessons for Year A. The week that gave me a spark were today’s, Easter Two. I hoped this would be my assignment and it turned out that it was. 

It was Peter’s epistle that sent my spirit-birds aloft: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. . . 

In particular, the words:  He has given us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you  . . . 

The notion of inheritance and the words, in the present tense, kept in heaven for you caught my attention. Kept in heaven for you. You meaning me as I read it; you, yourself when you just heard it; you, meaning all of us, sitting here together in the church this morning; and you the whole church universal, all creation, earth, moon, stars, and constellations. This is Unbelievable: God giving us an inheritance and keeping it intentionally for us. Keeping it, protecting it, preserving it – imperishable, undefiled, unfading, a living hope. It is something to live for, something maybe even to die for. 

After all, all inheritances come from death. 

I have a corner cupboard. It belonged to my great aunt Mary, my mother’s mother’s sister. She was a doctor and it was in her waiting room. I remember it from my childhood. In it are a collection of tea cups and saucers, wedding china, a bowl and two pitchers belonging to my great-grandmother Fiddy, and a tea set that was a wedding gift to my forbearers married in 1775. Even though these items have been cared for and treasured, their age is showing. Some plates are faded, some cups are chipped and cracked. The wedding china has missing pieces, previously broken and thrown away. They may not have been everyday items but they were used and then passed down from one set of hands to another’s. Frankly they are completely fragile and will, one day, all be broken. 

I like having these reminders of my past because Living Memory is frightfully short, as much as we may want to remember those who came before and want to be remembered ourselves when we’re gone. Even those who carve tombstones know that most of their etchings won’t be readable in 100 years’ time. We will be forgotten.   

St. Matthew’s has a rich inheritance. So much is obvious. The windows. The organ. The carvings in the chancel. The land itself. But there have also been gifts, intangible gifts, gifts of goodwill from really good people who are on their own way to being forgotten as our membership ages and new people join: Joe Rosemond who lovingly tended the churchyard; LT & Betty Matthews who befriended newcomers with their broad smiles and good cheer; Steve Lockwood who revitalized the Christmas Pageant, clothing the angel Gabriel in a gold lamay jacket and sequined tie; Paige & Joyce Fisher, who gave stuffed church mice to families with newborns; and the previously mentioned Isabelle Webb, who was a keeper of our memories. 

But, we all know that inheritances are a mixed bag and bring their own encumbrances. I inherited my father’s eyes. I may also have inherited a tendency to dementia. All the people I know who have had these eyes of mine succumbed to that disease. Beyond such unintended inheritances we also live with the choices, biases, prejudices, and world view of those who came before. We are, in fact, reeling from the effects of choices individuals and society, in general, made. We know this in our bones here at St. Matthew’s, here in Orange County, in this state, in the South, in this nation. And what about us? Our children and grandchildren are inheriting a world, on our watch, at a perilous ecological tipping point. The fact is we have a poor record of bequeathing. Everything we do has a whiff of decay. 

And yet, 

God sees something in us worthy of receiving an inheritance, a goodly inheritance. We believe the unbelievable: despite the fact that our bodies will turn to dust, despite being blind to our own sins, God has not turned away. God is not finished. God has other plans. We will not be abandoned to the grave. Rather, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are shown the path of life leading us to the fullness of joy found in the presence of God. 

Again, the idea of inheritance has been turned on its head. We inherit the keys to the Kingdom, as it were, not through the death of God’s only son but by his resurrection. There is no downside to this inheritance. God gave a promise to Abraham and is keeping it. It was a promise of land: a home. It was a promise of descendants: a family and community. And it was a promise of blessing: to be blessed and to be a blessing. Jesus was and is the fulfillment of this promise. He says “I go to prepare a place for you,” he is our home. He says “Lo, I am with you always,” he is our family. 

Again from Peter: 

By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you …  

Going back to that magic Easter theme, it is as if God is sprinkling pixie dust on us. We are taking on through Christ, because of Christ, in Christ a new birth, a new life, and one that offers redemption from this failed attempt we call living. 

Without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our life lacks meaning. What we have to pass onto our children, the next generation, lacks substance. 

But in this hopeless world, in our hopeless condition, we are offered a living hope, a portion and cup, a fullness of joy, gifts we can offer the world during the now in which we live and the then that we will come to know: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Gifts that keep on giving. A life reconciled to the past, the present, and the future. A life redeemed and ready to serve. A life that does not wither and perish but finds fulfillment in the life God bids us to experience. 

Mysteries, miracles, magic if you will, are all around. The mystery of why God created us, loves us, wants us; why God considers us worth it. The miracle of life itself, each breath we take, each breath the planet takes. And the magic of that thin space: that yesterday, today, and tomorrow forever bound. God holding us there. We are given an inheritance of faith that is being kept for us, in each of our names, ready to be drawn on now and later: imperishable, undefiled, unfading. 

This may require a new way of thinking about each day we live, a new way of seeing the world around us, a new way of relating to our neighbors near and far, a new way of understanding the tasks that lay before us, a new way of describing the mystery unveiled. Like Thomas, we may need to ask Jesus to show himself to us. And like Thomas we may find that sighting Unbelievable. The reality of what is Unbelievable transformed into Faith accompanied with a profound sense of joyful astonishment. 

Alleluia!! Happy Easter!! Amen.


I was invited to give a Zoom Reading by Jeannette Stokes, founder of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. My long-time friend, Georgann Eubanks, was asked to be the moderator. We were to introduce each other at the beginning. These were the remarks that I prepared. Of course, in the real time and space I didn't stay on script or even cover all the bases! So, here is what I intended to say:  

Georgann Eubanks is a writer of non-fiction, poetry, and songs. She calls herself a “writer for hire.” She has a long and distinguished resume of Showing Up for the Arts. 

I have known her quite a while – since the mid-seventies. First as a performer on the stage of Somethyme, then as a faithful customer and generous contributor to our sense of ourselves. The line on our advertisement “Sunday and the Thymes” I believe is attributable to her and her poem “A Place to Come To” was printed on one of our menus. 

I say, with some shame, that our association has primarily been a benefit to me. My attendance at the yearly Wildacres Retreat, to which I go for songwriting, accustomed me to writers and their world, paving the way for my own writing. As far as songs go, I can’t tell you how many songs I and others have written based on her prompts. And then, there was the Murphey School Radio Show which introduced me to many seriously talented singers and musicians, actors, play writers, and poets as we shared the stage all the while raising money for Durham and Orange County non-profits. 

From my close association and friendship (which I am privileged to have) I have discerned that Georgann has an extraordinary curiosity about people and places, a deep-seeded appreciation for their gifts or uniqueness, and a determination to create spaces that support those gifts and qualities within the construct of community. 

In her bio for her current job as Executive Director of the Paul Green Foundation she has made a list of ten things she must have – one of them is space for a garden. 

I am here to tell you that WE are her garden, and with the love and attention she bestows, we are thriving. 

Thank you, Georgann.      

Click HERE for the link to the zoom reading.



Other than selecting a new calendar based on the pictures, a calendar is something we rarely think about. It’s something we take for granted. We don’t, consider that a calendar is a mathematical and cultural construct. But, know this, we are in a kind of time warp tonight. We are, right now, straddling two calendars, three millenniums, and two liturgical seasons: Christmas and Epiphany. We are both the shepherds in the fields hearing the angels sing and we are the magi following the star. 

It might seem odd to us now but Christmas Day was not given a place on the church calendar until the year 336. Easter and Pentecost were earlier placed. And, back then there was not an overly marked distinction between the birth of Christ, Christmas, and the manifestation of Christ, Epiphany. 

In the 4th century, the Julian calendar, which was established in 46 BC, was the calendar in use. The calculations on which it was based were close but not close enough. It was 11 minutes too long per year. That doesn’t seem like much but over time it was getting out of sync with the natural order: the spring and autumn equinox, the summer and winter solstice. Something had to be done. And so, in 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian calendar was introduced to correct the misalignment. To accomplish this ten days had to be eliminated: a hard sell in a world distrustful of Papal authority. It would not be until 1752 that England adopted the calendar and those intervening two centuries now required the elimination of eleven days rather than ten. Since 1752 is the year that Orange County and the Parish of St. Matthew’s were established, it is not implausible to think that we, ourselves, had not yet heard the news from England about the calendar switch and may have celebrated Christmas according to the Julian Calendar (Old Christmas) rather than the Gregorian (New Christmas).  

Tonight we celebrate Christmas as if we were still using the Julian calendar like our brothers and sisters of the Coptic Church in Egypt and the members of The Eastern Orthodox Church and like some who live deep in the heart of Appalachia. The folk lore and wisdom of Old Christmas tell us that it is a night when the Holy Spirit manifests itself upon the earth in many strange and wondrous ways. Elderberry bushes may sprout up out of the frozen ground, animals may kneel upon the stroke of midnight and pray. Tonight we are giving homage to the old ways: serenading each other in song, gathering with friends, family, and neighbors, sharing the old stories. In her book Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith’s character Ivy Rowe remarks: “Daddy allus said Old Christmas was a time to stay home and think on what will last.” 

Think on what will last. Let this be a gentle reminder, because how quickly we forget. But have the elderberry and the animals, be they tame or wild, forgotten? Maybe, maybe not. So walk outside tonight at midnight and see for yourself . . . look for signs and wonders . . . see how the earth, the natural world, moved and stirred by the Spirit of God is remembering and celebrating a babe, a star, angels, dreams, visions, God with us and God revealed. 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a Glory-filled Epiphany.

1104 Broad Street: a memoir

In 1973, freshly graduated from Duke University, I along with two people I barely knew, opened a vegetarian restaurant in Durham, NC: Somethyme at 1104 Broad Street. This book is both my story and the history of the restaurant and the one that would follow, Seventh Street. It is also an attempt to look back and try to make sense of what we did and did not accomplish. While the food was central it was never just about food, it was also art and politics, culture and community and, it was 18 years of my life.

June 25, 2022: Post Roe v. Wade

When six Justices of the Supreme Court tell you that the federal government does not have the authority to guarantee your right to end an unwanted pregnancy, but that the state in which you lives now does, I am dismayed. I live in a state in which 36% of voters are Democrats vs. 30% who are Republican. In our state assembly, there are 28 Republican senators vs. 22 Democrat senators; in the house there are 69 Republican representatives vs. 51 Democrat representatives.  Beyond the gerrymandering which protects Republican voters and produces an unbalanced and erroneous reflection of the body politic, there are efforts to restrict voting which will affect more Democrats than Republicans. How does this represent the wishes of the voters in North Carolina? It doesn't. It's a farce. It is false and they know that. 

Abortion should always be on the table as part of the health care a woman receives throughout the reproductive portion of her life.

Faith & Arts Concert: April 28, 2022

I retired from my position as Parish Administrator at the end of December 2021. I had held this position since June 2006. This concert was one of the many ways St. Matthew's honored my work. I was joined by Charlie Ebel and Lew Wardell. It was the first concert Faith & Arts sponsored since COVID. 

Ocracoke Musings 

Ocracoke is not a place I come to to be entertained or which provides distractions from my life. Ocracoke is a place that extends an invitation to rest, lean back, lean into, and embrace life. It has offers me the opportunity to live my life more fully.

When I come I bring my notebook and guitar for song writing, an in-progress-quilt, embroidery projects, and books I’ve been wanting to read, hardback books (this year: In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent and Lila by Marilynne Robinson).

My husband and I walk places…

Read more

With Bread: Thoughts on Bread Baking - based on a presentation I did at St. Matthew's for our Faith Formation Class 

Bread Baking

Baking helps me remember my past.  My great grandmother, Fiddy who was born the year the Civil War ended, would come every Thursday and she and my Mom would bake the bread we would eat the following week. Often I was given a small amount of dough to knead into a roll but more often than not I would take that dough, go hide in a closet and eat it unbaked.

I have been baking bread since I was in college. I found that when I left home I missed the bread my Mom and Fiddy made, so when I was…

Read more

My remarks before the Women's Singing Circle concert 11/15/15 

(for context: The concert in celebration of our CD "Homecoming" took place shortly after the Paris bombing attach)


I feel I need to acknowledge that the events of this week have put the concept of Homecoming under a certain pale.  Home itself feels threatened: homes are no longer safe nor are the neighborhood cafes and other places were friends congregate.  Millions of people are fleeing their homes no longer even dreaming of returning.

And so we dedicate this concert to those who have lost…

Read more

The St. Matthew’s Women’s Singing Circle Celebrates a Birthday 

The Women’s Singing Circle has turned five! Who knew that a group formed to provide music for the 2009 St. Mary’s Homecoming would endure, even thrive, this long? We’ve sung at every Homecoming since then; held 60 compline services; produced 2 CDs; performed concerts with Lee Smith, Sheila Kay Adams, and The Gospel Jubilators; been invited as guests at other churches and civic events; and created a song book containing over 100 songs . . . we’ve come a long way baby!! We continue to draw inspiration from…

Read more

Murphey School Radio Show 

I was asked to be a regular performer at the Murphey School Radio Show!!! Last time I sang the show song and did a number of jingles for the sponsors of the show along with Women's Singing Circle buddy Cindy Stevens. See more about the Murphey School Radio Show from the links page.

St. Matthew's Women's Singing Circle going back into the studio 

We are working on a Christmas CD which will be out December 2013. We'll be partnering up with John Plymale of Overdub Lane Studio I expect the singing circle to be some 20-strong when we record the 17th & 18th of this month Andrea Moore, Claire Wright, Megan Whitted, Lise Uyanik, and myself will have some solo pieces. Ericka Patillo will bring her golden harp, Bob Mutter his booming djembe. The working title: "Venite Adoremus" which goes beautifully with the art work that Ebeth Scott Sinclair is…

Read more


I wrote Oleander at Ocracoke a couple of years ago. This year at the OcraFolk Festival in early June they had a songwriter circle at one of the coffee shops. I played it when it was my turn: giving it back to the island. It felt good. All that oleander, all those mourning doves . . .

Don’t you hear the lonesome call of the mourning dove
It’s a common sound I don’t think much of
Heard it all my life, more’s the shame
I’d rather hear the warble of the whippoorwill
If I hadn’t run away I would be there still

Read more

Little Chicken Stories 

I have collected my stories about our backyard chicken flock and self-published them through Lulu.com (go to links to others to get to the site from here). I'm so excited about this - I've been working on them for about three years. It's been a totally enjoyable project. Anyone who knows me knows I always have a new chicken story to tell. They are fascinating to me. I want to give a shout out to April Higgins for helping me by designing the book. Thanks April.

Christmas Eve 2010 

I can now put on my resume that I have stood in for Andrea Edith Moore. Andrea was to have sung "O Holy Night" at the 9:00 Christmas Eve service at St. Matthew's but she has a strained vocal chord and is on three months of voice rest. So, now I will sing my "Twas on a night" which is perfect for Christmas Eve.

"Twas in the dead of winter the angels did proclaim
To sleepy-eyed poor shepherd boys who with their flocks remained
They were not praying for a sign When they gazed up in the sky
The stars ascended…

Read more

The Wood Thrush Returned Today 

I've been waiting for the return of this song bird to our area. This morning I heard the distinctive voice: Sunday, May 2. Two years ago it was April 19. I remember because I announced it at a house concert I did that evening. So, I've been waiting with some anxiety since mid-April for the sound of the glorious song. Did you know the wood thrush achieves their sound because they have two vocal chords so they can sing harmony with themselves. (I learned this, as most everything else interesting, by listening…

Read more