>What Would Pete Think?

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Ok. I have to admit Lisa Fox’s story about her Uncle Russell inspired me to write this post. Her post got me to thinking about those things in our lives that, if we did not grow up in the Episcopal Church, might have been the “prequel” to our finding TEC as our church home.

Now, for at least two and a half decades, I would have told you that this man, Wellington Buel (aka “Pete”) Stewart, was one of the people who encouraged me to go to medical school and, ultimately, lead me to a career in pathology, even though he died before I ever graduated from medical school. But it was only in recent years that I have come to realize he also posthumously led me to the Episcopal Church, in some ways. The photo above is of him when he was chair of Pathology at the University of Kentucky Medical School, in 1960–the year of my birth.

I knew Pete from my Amateur Radio (“ham” radio) activities in the 1970’s-1980’s. But the part that was lost to me back then, and has grown over the years, is that I realize he was a loyal Episcopalian, and a member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia, MO. Pete was one of those guys who didn’t really “talk church” much, but I now realize he was one of those guys who led “a secret life of faith.” He simply mentioned “heading off for church” or “getting back from church” in a matter of fact way, or things would come up in the conversation that exuded what I would call “A comfortable faith.” It was “just part of him.”

Church was simply “part of the ‘fit’ in his life.” He didn’t ever get too worked up about church politics or the details of sermons. He was the kind of person who was more likely to go to the early service than the late one. He was old school, and deep down inside, he was a “Rite I” sort of guy, and was not crazy about a lot of singing, preferring the spoken service. But his love for the Book of Common Prayer showed through every now and then.

At the time, I was living my life as a “disaffected LCMS Lutheran.” Once in a while, we’d discuss deeper subjects over a beer. I distinctly remember his classic line when we were talking about prayer–what it was, what it does, and speculating “how it works.” He used to say, “I don’t pray anything that isn’t in the Book of Common Prayer.” At the time, I thought he was being a stodgy, unimaginative old fart. Now that the BCP and I are old friends, I realize his words had more to do with the fact there is probably something in the BCP to use as a “jump starter” for any possible prayer, and that the BCP has had so much thought in it, it truly has an almost universal quality to its ability to “fit the situation.”

Only once in my exile did he ever bring up anything even halfway close to the “E” word–evangelism. We were doing the “discussing deeper subjects over a beer” thing at the old Heidelberg restaurant/bar in Columbia, MO (the one that burned, for you natives) and we were discussing my self-imposed exile from the LCMS. He very matter-of-factly, without missing the timing of his beer-swigging, “Have you ever thought about coming with Polly and me to Calvary sometime? Everything you’re mad at about church, it’s not an issue with us. We ordain women. Our theology is based on the Incarnation, not about guilt or shame for your sins, or “boy, oh boy, aren’t you lucky Jesus died for you.” It’s not about that stuff. It’s a theology for thinking people, and really, the way your mind works, you’d actually make a very good Episcopalian.”

Then he sort of winked and added, “Of course, in the beginning, we might have to let you in the side door,” then quickly said, “Not really–I’m kidding. Seriously, you could even go up for the Eucharist the first time you visited.”

But nope…nope…I was still more interested in being mad, I guess.

I did, however, go to the rail at his funeral Eucharist. I had remembered his words. I wonder sometime if that wafer planted a seed, albeit a very slowly germinating one.

Seventeen years later, I began to regularly attend Trinity.

I think about him now and then when we do Prayers of the People and remember the dead, especially when the week of his birthday and the week of the date of his death rolls around. I wonder sometimes if he’s sitting among the company of Heaven on those Sundays and hears me think it, and tells the gathered company, “I KNEW IT! See, I knew this was a fit! It just took a long time, that’s all, but I WAS RIGHT!” I do muse now and then in church, “I wonder if Pete can believe it? Yeah, he probably can and does.” I worry now and then he is scrapping with my late friend Debby for dibs on the credit. I imagine Debby credits her role in all of it, too.

When I think these things, I do have one unfulfilled longing. I do long for one time, that I can feel him sitting in the pew beside me. I think I would like, just once, to feel he and I have transcended a boundary and have “attended the service together.” There’s a lot there to thank him for, and I think I have felt that I have thanked him for everything in this life he did for me sufficiently except this one little leftover part. Maybe some Sunday, I will feel it. I hope so.

>A small change for Lent in "The Order of Service for Doing Laundry"

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>One of my most popular posts last year had to do with the discovery that the Episcopalian Facebook world seems to all do their laundry on Saturday. Many of you remember this post.

Last week my friend Robert reminded me that we can’t do the opening hymn during Lent, because it has the liturgical “A” word (A@#$%uia) in it. So the pressure was on to create a new one.

Here it is, sung to the tune of “Rock of Ages”:

Rock of Ages, clean for me,
Cheer and Tide I give to Thee;
Let the water and the suds,
Clean my grass stains, dirt and blood,
Give my laundry double cure;
Save from wrath and make it pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill my laundry’s demands;
Could my shirts no respite know,
Clean my undies white as snow,
Tighty whities, Bali bras;
Lingerie, you save them all.

Dryer sheets my hands now bring,
To prevent the static cling;
Naked, ‘cuz my clothes are spent;
If they weren’t soiled, my clothes I’d rend;
Loads of laundry, by and by;
Wash them, Savior, or I die.

While I spend my Saturday,
Laundering my life away,
Watching ball games on TV,
Facebook friends, they comfort me,
Rock of Ages, clean for me,
Cheer and Tide I give to Thee.

>Breaking News

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>Thought I would share with you a recent e-mail from Steve Thorngate of Christian Century:

Sent: Fri, January 22, 2010 4:39:33 PM
Subject: Re: Applying to join CCBlogs


Forgive my slow response. I’ve gotten pretty behind on these.

Yes, your blog looks like a good fit with the community. The first step is for you to embed our logo at or near the top of your menu–high enough that it’s visible without scrolling down. Here’s the code:

Let me know when that is done and we’ll get you plugged into our feed system and write you back with more information.

All best,

Steve Thorngate

Needless to say, I’m kind of excited about this. They haven’t put me in their RSS feed yet, but evidently it is coming. I look forward to this allowing me to meet new readers!