The Nativity of our Lord – A NYC Christmas part # 2

— welcome back —

We continue our story of our experience at St John the Divine —

Of course, GOD IS GOOD, and although we felt like leaving after the terrible experience with security, we stayed, and were blessed by parts of the service.  The singing of the Agnus Dei by 4000+ people in that giant space was quite moving, and the Silent Night, accompanied by 4000 lit taper candles was most assuredly a “God moment”.

Moving on (enough ranting from me :-)… )  OTHER NEWS:

We’ve discovered a lovely New York institution, the Westside Market which has the most amazing deli that I have ever scene, and have enjoyed walking the cramped isles for organic produce for “the holidays”.

For Christmas Day, we slept in, wrecked from our late night at the Cathedral, and then headed back to the Westside Market.  Eating an vegetarian Australian-American Christmas dinner, we mixed fake-chicken patties with roast veges and topped it off with the most fabulous New York cheesecake and Rainforest Alliance coffee —  a blessed time.

Today, boxing day, or the first Sunday after Christmas, we discovered another gem of NYC!, the Church of the Intercession, Washington Heights, our local Episcopal Church for our stay. The church offers High Mass in English at 10am and in Spanish at 12:30pm on Sundays, and is comprised of local people, mostly African-American and Latin-American, but is an eclectic group. Father José, the priest-in-charge, gave us a wonderful welcome, showing us around the beautiful building including the crypt chapel.

The organ and playing of was superb and singing led by a duet of choir members was excellent.  Sermon on John 1 was done without notes from the middle of the choir, between pulpit and lectern – excellent, interesting and impassioned!  We’ve been invited back next Sunday – Father José has even offered for me to preach!!  🙂

After Mass we caught the # 1 subway downtown to Times Square, and confronted by the first snow of the season, we raised to “B B Kings” for our “Southern Buffet” and performance from “The Harlem Gospel Choir:
Julia and I saw the choir when the toured Canberra earlier this year, and their performance in the famous New York blues club was intense and brilliant.  Check them out on YouTube:

That is probably more than enough from me!  Stay tuned for more adventures from the Big Apple.  Please continue to pray for those without shelter from the storm, and for all those stranded by weather around the world, as well as those in my home town, Brisbane, affected by the flooding.  Take care — Chris and Julia — Soli Deo gloria —

The Nativity of our Lord – A New York Christmas


We’ve travelled from Chicago to New York and are experiencing an American blizzard currently.

All wrapped up in our apartment, we gift thanks for the simple pleasures of warm food and a warm apartment this Boxing Day (or in American language, “the day after Christmas”)

We were blessed with NO delays and no hassles as we travelled with great service on JetBlue from Chicago to New York. Quickly immersed in the New York experience, we were treated to a heavy-footed yellow cab ride into Manhattan from JFK International (see Jerry Seinfeld on New York cabbies!

Thanks to David and Robyn, we are renting an apartment for our 10 day stay in NYC.  Located in uptown Manhattan between Harlem and Washington Heights, it’s a strong African-American / Latin-American area with great character.  Our host, Susan, who owns this apartment and lives upstairs is an absolute gift.  A lovely vegetarian and animal lover, her wild grey hair tied back as she peddles around Manhattan on her bike, Susan keeps about 10 beautiful ducks in the small grassed courtyard in the back, as well as four cats and two rabbits upstairs. She is a scholarship God-gift – she goes to the market and buys pick packs of fresh veges that we share, and chats quickly about her passions – food, the environment, animals and denounces rich and snooty politicians.

The New York subway is a crazy but fun experience, such an eclectic array of people.  On Christmas Eve, the mood is in the air, with Latin-American performers in full traditional dress singing with guitars and drums in the middle of the train, shaking their stuff for the ladies and having a great time.  As they move to the next carriage, a lady from the “hood” starts up her stereo with funky American blues, singing up a storm with a powerful and soulful voice, wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and gifting her music to the otherwise quiet carriage.

We are sorry to report that the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Christmas Eve was a disappointing experience to say the least.  Although the building was immaculate and beautiful, the music was of a fine quality, and the liturgy sound, the experience was hardly transformational.

To be honest, the thing that soured our experience from the get-go, was the over-the-top security who searched bags and prevented non-ticketed worshippers from passing more than half way down the nave (let alone the transept). When a older lady politely inquired of security if her old and visibly sick husband could find a place for disabled people closer down the front, she was rudely told that this wasn’t possible.  When she tried to move to the right in order to back away from him, the burly security guard pushed her, causing a frightening scene for all present.

All this was made worse by the fact that no ushers were present until shortly before the service began, even though the faithful arrived 2 hours before the service began.  When I finally inquired to a well dressed usher as to the whereabouts of an “order of service”, the reply was a “what do you mean… do you mean a ‘program’?”, I felt my whole body cringewhere was the Christian hospitality in all of this I thought — we felt walking out and missing the service altogether.

… stay tuned for the conclusion of this tale in part # 2 …  CG

Chicago day 2 – Dec 22

Hi from Chicago, Illinois and greetings to all back home

Since I last wrote we have travelled from St John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota via car to Chicago.

St John’s Abbey (St John’s University) and the partner St Benedict’s in St Joseph’s about 6 miles away, are working in many ways in the stewardship issues which effect them in their pledge for “stability” within the rule of St Benedict.  This is a spirituality within the Benedictine tradition which is being discovered, or rediscovered (depending who you talk to).

Today has been a great “green” day with great meetings with two organisations – Faith and Place – a partner organisation with Interfaith Power and Light  Thanks to Clare for her time today.  Thanks also to John from the Midwest Institute for Environmental Spirituality – for his time and resources.  Both these organisations have been pathfinders in working with parish communities in raising the political and theological profile of sustainability/stewardship/environmental issues within the Christian Church and other faiths, particularly Islam and Judaism.

Tomorrow Julia and I plan to explore some of Chicago. Of particular interest is the Chicago centre for green technology, a place which exhibits examples of numerous sustainable technologies.

Also of interest for art lovers is the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art , Chicago

Please continue to pray for those on the streets in the U.S., especially in the cold, rain and snow of Chicago.  Love from us both.  xo

St John’s, Collegeville MN – day 2 – Dec 18

Greetings from Collegeville, Minnesota, home to St John’s Abbey and University.

Our journey here has taken us by plane from San Francisco to Chicago, and then by road to Madison WI (overnight), and then here to Collegeville, an hour and a half north-west of Minneapolis.

My first taste of snow has been wonderful — it is so very beautiful here.  The guest house, a lovely new and award-winning facility, overlooks the frozen Lake Sagatagan where people ice-fish in small tents (ask Scott Cowdell about this experience! — he was a visiting scholar here at St John’s last year as many of you may know).

Surrounding its amazing architectural heritage and history lies the St John’s Arboretum, “which encompasses over 2400 acres”.  It is home to a unique collection of native trees and wildlife.  As part of their work, the Benedictine brothers have restored “sixty acres of wetlands, fifty-five acres of prairie, and forty acres of oak savanna” which provide living for many species.  I meet with one of the Brothers from the St John’s sustainability team tomorrow.

Julia and I were taken on a tour by the hospitable Don today, who is the head of the Collegeville Institute. Among other things, we saw how St John’s celebrates Christmas — in grand style (lots of fun)… check out these YouTube clips for more 🙂

It has been lovely to be able to take some time-out here;  to worship in the grand space of the Abbey Church, to eat quietly watching the small colourful birds against the white snow, and to observe the busyness of the (very cute!) squirrels at work – in and out of their burrows.  It is a place of natural and built beauty which has given so much to the community and the church throughout the years, through which God brings new gifts to Julia and I at this time.

May God’s peace be upon you this night.  CG.


Santa Rosa to San Francisco Dec 16

Happy Birthday to Marty, my step-mum, whose birthday is today!!

We are currently in SFO as our United flight to Chicago is delayed 3 hours.  I am happy to report WiFi access is free and that the airport has a Sustainability page and an Environmental Action Plan.

There is also a destination green store here, selling “Green” products…

This city is ahead of the curve in many things, and the county I have just come from (Sanoma County, CA), is one of the “Green County’s”, meaning it is green environmentally, but also has a majority Green Party in Government…  this blog is quite excellent for San Francisco greening issues

As I have said previously, the last few days have meant much in the way of “green” involvement. I have seen community/church gardens, programs and theology; I have seen green stores and shops, solar panel installations and green “hippies”; together Julia and I went and visited the Armstrong Redwoods

Sonoma County is so beautiful and diverse, encompassing wine country, fruit orchards, running from the beautiful Pacific Coast to the rugged  Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The Episcopal Church has a presence here, but it is struggling with similar issues as back home, with ageing congregations and (often) small numbers.  There is much to be done, but many faithful and committed people in the congregations.  Similar to our diocese, cluster ministry (combined parishes) are common, raising its own challenges.  The county as a whole faces it own challenges of course, with the economic downturn here meaning cuts to services such as education and even law-enforcement… some parts do not even have police officers on-call 24 hours…

More to come… Chris and Julia from San Francisco International Airport. xo

Santa Rosa, CA – Day 2, Dec 13

Hi from Starbucks, Santa Rosa… you have to love free WiFi

Much “green news” to report — problem is, Starbucks closes in 8 minutes!!!

Julia and I had a wonderful day visiting many community/church gardens in the area today, toured around by Phina, the most generous host!  Phina is an Deacon in the American Episcopal Church, and, it seems, you name it, she has done it!!

More on this when I get back to the internet (not working at hotel unfortunately)…

We are (or maybe I am) adjusting to life outside Australia much better now which is great, and there is just so much to see (of course).

Tomorrow Julia and I are taking a day off to do the wine tour – my birthday and all!

Love and best wishes to all at home.  Please pray for the church communities of Santa Rosa and County, and all who work for peace and justice in this beautiful but divided world.  CG

San Fran day 5 – 11 Dec

As we pack our bags and prepare to move on from this beautiful city (tomorrow), I thank God for the blessings bestowed through our hosts at Grace Cathedral.

Many thanks go to the Dean, the Revd Dr Jane Shaw and all the staff at Grace for their hospitality and welcome.  Julia and I have been granted many gifts large and small in this beautiful place.

(Beautiful religious art-work in this apartment by Sadao Watanabe )

Yesterday Julia and I were privileged to meet the Revd Sally Bingham, the President of the “Regeneration Project” of Interfaith Power and Light. Sally has been working in the area of greenhouse gas and energy saving within the Episcopal Church (and now in an inter-faith capacity) for many years, and is a formidable force in my particular areas of interest.

Came across a great natural cafe chain here also.

Also a great photographic gallery at Fisherman’s Wharf

We also headed to St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church and had a look at their food pantry program which is absolutely amazing! Thanks to Rector Paul for his welcome.  Julia and I head to St Gregory’s for the 10:45am service tomorrow (Advent 3).

Great links here between worship/theology and mission (social justice mission, that is). Much floating around in my head at present, and many ideas across the education, worship, justice fronts… the U.S. Episcopal Church definitely inspires hope — helping people and making a difference is possible — and on a big scale — met many people that have just had a passion for something and just gone with it — God has done the rest!  (of course God does – why should we doubt, but we do!!  :-S)

Please pray for all those living on the streets here in San Francisco – it is such a lovely city, but so much sadness, pain and grief of so many poor (but they have given me love and joy too!)

Such a country of contrasts — rich/poor is one which is especially evident here, more than back home… or maybe just more noticeable… I’m not sure.

Praise to the Trinity, the life giving and incarnate God.  Peace to all this night.  CG