My husband’s last sermon

Bob baptizing granddaughter Mica

Last week when I asked what was the assigned text for him to preach on, my husband, the Rev. Bob Smith, said he’d been trying to run down translations again. Old translations of Matthew 4:19 have Jesus telling fishermen Simon and Andrew that if they follow him, he’ll make them “fishers of men.” The inclusive re-wording in the New Revised Standard Bible says they’ll “fish for people.” “It’s different,” he said. “One is about changing who you are. The other is just an action.”

Three Sundays remained in Bob’s current Interim Rector assignment at St. Luke & the Epiphany. It…

Someone has slit in half the 30-foot-long Black Lives Matter banner outside our St. Luke and the Epiphany. For the second time.

This summer, four of our #VoteThatJawn interns danced a TikTok in front of that banner. I videotaped them with my phone from across the street. Cars passed between us, and they looked very like they were in a movie. It felt like a movie. One girl was still in high school, one in Community College, West Chester University, and UPenn. Different young bodies, moving, because youth is movement and freedom is movement. The song they danced came from…

The Jones’ old house looks on at our empty curb — and raked leaves

Now that my editor-turned-Episcopal-priest husband has retired from our parish and serves in interim assignments, I no longer teach Sunday School. But the liturgical seasons beat out my year anyway. This week marks Advent, four weeks at the beginning of the church year when we wait for the coming of the baby on Christmas.

What happened to me during my own baby-waiting, aka pregnancy, happens to many of us during Advent, especially Advent 2020, when the books of Isaiah and Matthew, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, come at us on the nose, talkin’ bout “the people who walk in…

St. James, Philadelphia, students GOTV, Nov 2, 2020

Look at those beautiful children! Socially distanced. Coats on against the chill. Lined up and climbing to sit astride the wall that runs around their church — the church that old, white parishioners tried to wrestle away from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania all for themselves , and lost in the early 2000s.

Now the campus houses an Episcopal middle school, welcoming neighborhood children who came out onto their busy corner to mount a handmade GOTV rally. Their signs tell us: Their literacy connects to Black Lives Matter, which connects to voting.

St. James’ new director of choral music and…

Dear Postal Employees,

When I went away to boarding school, leaving my 8-years-younger sister alone in our parents’ shattering-glass marriage, she needed someone to confide in. Someone who would believe and not shush her. She wrote me a secret letter, found an envelope — no lightly penciled guide lines — and addressed it something like this: to my sister Lorene who goes to St Pauls school in Concord, New Hampshire. How many postal workers handed it to each other, agreeing to keep it moving, with the middle-school handwriting sliding off the envelope, and no stamp anywhere?


When my husband Bob…

If you have not registered anyone to vote today, please follow #VoteThatJawn and help young people do it.

During this past crazy, half-remote Spring term, my Creative Writing student, Blake Kernen, came up with these games for #VoteThatJawn. “I Nominate…” invites youth to think about their friends as leaders. The games should slip easily into social media feeds and return young people’s political gaze from the magnetic self-regard of celebrity politics and power to the potential in their own communities.

Template by Blake Tanner

Then, the youth leaders and TAs wanted more: What if students don’t want to write anything? Couldn’t we do a…

Philadelphia BLM Protests, 6/6/20. Source: The Indian Express

As I pedaled around Saturday’s massive protest, on the edges, behind, beside, I stopped to send photos to my daughters in Vermont and Chicago. News from the ancestral homeland, the old country. Your streets. We’re passing your pediatrician’s office now. See?

Sometimes, when the group called the names of the most recently murdered, I’d pull over on my old green bike — a Sunday School boy once called its predecessor “the bus” — and cry and pray: for the murdered, the protesters, the organizers, all of them aged from my stepson to youngest daughter. Then I’d ride on, sometimes behind…

Creator: Hecktic Travels © Hecktic Travels

The ‘Rona rages, and Passover and Holy Week bloom with the Judas tree out back. We’ve given up groups for Lent, and we can’t have them back yet. I’m reading my student’s blogs for #VoteThatJawn to tell her young cohort how climate change, like COVID-19, will deepen global injustice. She’s made me picture parched villages above Mexico City where government water trucks come or don’t come every week, Puerto Rico after Maria, Haiti, still after earthquake and hurricane, not to mention the crushing debt of nine million francs that France required after the revolution, India’s changing monsoons, African droughts.


Happy Birthday, Queen

Someone stole my “Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace” CD. It was Christmas. Family members and a dear friend were unpacking the car. We were laughing in the cold, arms full, happy together — and one of us left the door unlocked. It happens.

And then, because we live in the city, maybe someone was watching, or just coming down the street, popping door handles. Click. And then they sit down and grab quarters from the ashtray and CDs from the glove box.

Years before, from right here on the block, someone had stolen our whole car. …

Dickerson Building Mural by Ernel Martinez | via Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

If this were some other city, maybe there wouldn’t be so many wires in front of this corner building, Art Sanctuary’s double-sided mural images of the 1920s power couple, G. Edward and Addie Dickerson by the brilliant Belize-born, L.A.- and Detroit-raised, artist Ernel Martinez. That’s why I had to get right up under Ernel’s aerial lift to see the painting in process, and the imprint of the bricks, and the blue sky that has looked down on us forever accepting generously the toxic self-absorption of our prayers.

Lorene Cary

Author, lecturer, playwright

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