As young people growing up in a small town we often visited one another’s churches. While there was broad religious teaching in these mixed groups it was never doctrinaire nor used as a tool to proselytize.
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As a clergyman, people often ask me if I am afraid to die, or, conversely, if I really believe all those things I say about death in sermons, particularly at funerals. To the first question the answer is no. However, the process of dying, and certain ways of dying, pain, and all the accoutrements of dying may bother me when I think upon the process of leaving this earth… I don’t want to die, because I am only learning to live more fully. I love life, family, friends, and the Church here on earth, most of all, I love God, and He gave me this life as a gift, so I cherish it. As to question two, do I really believe those things I say about death, the answer is a resounding yes!
I had a conversation with a man I admired. He was a judge on the bench many years. I felt he was a good Christian man.
I had an acquaintance I barely know who made very unsettling comments to me. This person sounded “nice,” as did the comments, but I know neither were intended to be taken as pleasant. I was meant to understand that I was being insulted, and affronted, and everyone else was supposed to understand the veiled ugliness of the exchange between us. Actually it was one-sided, I kept trying to understand where the anger was coming from, and was completely bewildered.
Election season brings to mind an experience. While in college I served on the Student Government Association as senator for two years and finally elected president during my senior year.
So much of what we read and preach about Easter has become too practiced or rote. It is not that we don’t believe what we say, or even that we don’t have emotional attachment to what we are saying, but rather that it has become a distant truth. We have connected it to a one time event in the chronicle of Christ, and we are “preaching to the choir,” those who already agree with us.
My first calling was to a congregation who were very strong in their faith — and in their opinions. One such parishioner was a retired surgeon, of great personal wealth, who had been extremely well respected, and feared, in the health care community.
When my father died I was devastated. I was relatively young, as was he, and we were close — even though my parents were divorced and I lived with my mother in another community. The loss was enough to cause me to register shock. One of my coping devices is to compartmentalize, which I did in this case. As a result, I did not have to deal with my emotions until much later.
I have been overweight most of my life, with periodic bouts of relative thinness. The unfairness of being overweight, for me at least, is that there is no way to hide the excess — it’s out there for everyone to see. Most people’s over indulgences, or “issues,” can be hidden or masked, not so when you are overweight.
During a recent period of snow and ice I announced to my family on Saturday morning I was driving to the church to check on how clear the sidewalks and entryways were, and to see what needed to be done for Sunday. My youngest son, Walter, who is not old enough to have the teenage loathing of traveling five minutes with a parent, said, “I want to go!” Happily, I said “Sure, come on…”
As a little boy I would think in terms of the future, often to the exclusion of the present. Of course, children and young people think they have forever to live… No different than my friends, I was always looking forward to something that was days or weeks away. Saying things like; “I can’t wait until Christmas,” or “until my birthday,” and the universal, “I can’t wait until school is out!”
The word “epiphany” means “manifestation,” “striking appearance,” or “to make evident,” and happens to be the name of one of the Church celebrations that traditionally falls on Jan. 6 — the 12th day after Christmas — and this year the Season following Epiphany Day will last eight Sundays).
Beginning as a young child, I remember many of the men in our small town, my father included, getting together around Christmas to buy groceries and wrapped gifts for families less fortunate, widows, and our local orphanage.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” [Matt. 7:1-3, KJV]
As an Episcopalian growing up in an old river town (Pt. Pleasant, W. Va.), I was a rare commodity indeed, because there were so few of us. Truth be known, there are not a superabundance of Episcopalians anywhere in the United States. However, if you look at the Anglican Communion [our world-wide denomination, which includes our “Mother Church,” The Church of England] there are about 80 million adherents. I have found that in many cases, even in large cities, the experience of having a large church building and a sparse membership is not uncommon in our branch of the Christian faith.
As a young clergyman, I was paid a stipend of $1,200 a month, no insurance or pension, all the farm eggs and deer meat I could eat, and frequent kind invitations to dinner in the homes of my parishioners.
“…Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place…” (Luke 16:25-26a)
Years ago as we were beginning our family, and my wife was adjusting to being married to an Episcopal priest, she was diagnosed with an illness, one contracted during her first pregnancy. This was an illness that threatened her life, and the lives of our two young children. The diagnoses came as we entered into a new community, and a new parish. We lived under great pressure and fear while it was all unfolding — at the time, to be honest, it seemed a death sentence. Still, for our children, and those around us, we were trying to create a “normal” home life — and I was trying to be about the duties associated with my new position.