I was born into the Episcopal Church in 1943 and joined the choir four years later. I would have begun singing a year earlier, when I first learned to read, but my little arms could not yet hold up the open hymnal and prayer book to read the words.
Except for two short periods of time when I found it impossible to attend services – six months at the beginning and five months at the ending of my first marriage in the middle sixties – I have been a church mouse all my life.
I am a born critic, yet I have found little to criticize in the established church as I have experienced it, in terms of its liturgy. Differing little from Roman Catholic services, the content of the liturgy which has been the accompaniment for my life in faith is superb. The Comfortable Words of the Bible start each service. The church’s prayers have been crafted over many generations in many centuries. The musical repertoire we share with the Roman Catholic Church is rich and beautiful. The Holy Eucharist is magical.
My one criticism of the Episcopal services is that there is too little silent prayer, too little contemplation or meditation, built in to the services. That lack was what started me going to Don Elkins’ silent meditations in 1962, from which has developed my life as a channel and a member of L/L Research.
Some of the priests I have known in my long life have been unworthy of the title. One priest, all through my teen years, was basically a businessman. His sensibilities were social and political, and the church performed like a country club. He was no shepherd of the sheep as far as I was concerned. The rampant hypocrisy of his clichéd pseudo-preaching drove me from that parish as soon as I was on my own.
Another priest, one who came and went in my parish within one short year when I was middle-aged, was a man mad for justice and peace, but unused to and scorning of physical exertion. He sat in his church office and thought lofty thoughts while the staff, led by a slight woman twenty years his senior, packed heavy bags of free food and carried them out to the homeless people of our downtown neighborhood, drove them to their appointments and expressed Jesus’ love at every turn.
His habit of blasting the complacency of the people in the congregation in his sermons, discouraging the singing of the classical sacred repertoire to which the church’s people was used and otherwise ruffling the feathers of the worshiping community lost him his position. The vestry voted him out and paid him off. These men shall remain nameless.
On the other hand, I have had three priests whose service has made my life different and better.
One was a superb man of God with a humble and seeking heart, a clever and devious mind, an utterly disarming honesty and a most blessed gift for expressing himself. His loving presence and absolute focus at the Eucharist was riveting and inspiring. His name is The Reverend E. Benjamin Sanders.
Another was the powerfully persuasive bishop who, when I was a teenager, advised me to stay in the church, even though I could not “do” dogma. “If you leave the church,” he said, “You will have no one to talk to about Jesus.” He was right.
He also blessed my channeling when I showed it to him for the first time in 1976. There were two stipulations to his blessing. One was this: “Never forget that as you do this work, and people follow it, you are Jesus for them,” he said. I have endeavored to hear him well.
The second stipulation was that I retain priestly oversight for my channeling. I have done that. My present priest is the sixth man of God to guard my spiritual health by reading over samples of my channeling as they are published in our L/L Research newsletter, Light/Lines. This bishop’s name was The Very Reverend Charles Gresham Marmion.
And the third priest who has made a difference in my life was the man who, during my childhood in the fifties, when the campaign among activists to equalize civil rights was having a very hard time making headway, gave a galvanizing sermon on the duties of those who follow Christ when faced with bigotry. Bishop Marmion had issued a positive, supportive directing letter to all the parishes of the diocese, but our priest was the only one who read it from the pulpit and followed it faithfully. That man made a difference in society, not just in the church. His name was The Reverend William Gentleman.
Another priest who has made a difference in society is the retired bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, The Very Reverend Leroy Matthiesen. Born in 1921, he was ordained into the priesthood in 1946 and appointed bishop in 1980. He fearlessly tangled with corporations and the government in 1981 when he discovered that Pantex, a corporation within his diocese, had been selected to be the final assembly point of all nuclear weapons in the USA.
In an interview on the Texas Legacy website, he told the story this way:
“People would come to me and ask me whether I thought it was all right for them, morally, to work at this atomic energy assembly plant. And I said, well, you’ll have to ask the bishop about that. You know, I had my own convictions about it, but I didn’t think it was my place, at that point, to say, that’s a moral problem. Because what they were doing was assembling weapons of mass destruction, weapons that killed indiscriminately, weapons that just blow out the environment, destroyed everything in their path.
“Then when I became bishop, the question was put directly to me by a nun who was very famous in this area, Sister Regina Foppe, a missionary catechist, who was a burr under the saddle of a lot of city fathers and mothers and challenged me to make a statement about the nuclear bomb. I finally did in 1981 when the so-called neutron bomb was being assembled.
“I issued a statement then that, in my judgment, the use of that weapon and, even the possession of it, was an immoral action. Of course, that brought all kinds of discussion and controversy and Amarillo got on the map in a big-time way because apparently people hadn’t known what was actually going on at Pantex, that that was the final assembly point for all these nuclear weapons.”
Matthiesen retired in 1997, but he is still vocal about this issue. In that same interview, he said,
“There is now a project to start reassembling [nuclear bombs]. In fact, they have been keeping a number of those active as a deterrent. We are the one superpower in the world, and it seems to me that our moral responsibility is to lead toward peace rather than to war, and I’m very much concerned about what’s happening at the present time.”
He is most certainly right! It puzzles me that our politicians repeatedly raise a ruckus about other nation-states having or developing nuclear weaponry while we ourselves still have a stock of such weapons. If it is our right to have such weapons, why should others not have the same rights? If it is wrong to have such weapons, why do we still have them? Are we a nation of integrity, or just the biggest, meanest and most opportunistic bully on the planetary playground?
Matthiesen has long been an advocate of the sustainable, organic agriculture about which I have written several articles lately. He says on that subject,
“I go back to the charge and the responsibility that we were given by the Creator to take possession of the Earth, use it, but not overuse it, maintain it, make it better, so that it can be passed on to the next generation. What I’m afraid about, in terms of all these chemicals and pesticides and herbicides and nuclear energy and so on, is that those cannot be what God wanted. These might be a curse instead and we need to take a serious look at that.”
To aid the farmers in his diocese, Matthiesen formed a Catholic Rural Life Conference organization there. This organization, www.ncrlc.com, “applies the teachings of Jesus Christ for the betterment of rural America and the care of God’s creation,” according to its mission statement. Matthiesen says,
“This [area] has gone now into big agribusiness with huge, huge expenses for the equipment and all of that. And so, I endorsed and we formed a Diocese in Catholic Rural Life Conference. We would bring the farmers, the big producers, and the workers together.
“We had a lot of migrant workers up here at the time. They were constantly calling strikes. We said, ‘That’s not the answer. We’ve got to come together.’ So, we did. We would go around the diocese in the spring of the year and have rural life days, and bring farmers and producers together again, to make farmers proud again of what they’re doing.
“When you grow something in a field, you’re thrilled when the seed comes up and you see the plant growing, whether that’s cotton or corn or tomatoes or whatever it might be. And it produces more and we have some wealth. And we have the wealth in the form of edible food, which we then share with others, particularly with the poor of the world.
“Now, the emphasis and the focus seem to be on growing money, you know, as if that’s something that you can eat and wear. You can’t. We need to get back to a common-sense way of life, and the environment is absolutely crucial to it. You won’t grow any money, you won’t grow anything else, if we destroy the land and the air and the water. Those are elements that are absolutely essential, and we can’t live without them.”
The Bishop spoke, in this same interview, of his childhood, giving his upbringing as the reason for his sensitivity to the issue of sustainable agriculture:
“I’m sure that my boyhood days on a farm in central west Texas, 30 miles northeast of San Angelo, had much to do with the way I think about these issues. I grew up on a cotton farm, there were eight children in our family, so ten within the family on a 120-acre farm and we produced almost everything on the farm that we needed, particularly for food. Mom had a wonderful garden, and in early spring, all summer long and into late autumn, we would share that.
“And then she would can those vegetables for winter use. We had our own chickens. They produced eggs. We had our own cows. We milked them and made butter and clabber and all those wonderful kinds of things out of that. We had our own hogs and our own cattle. We had horses. So I grew up in that kind of situation where I saw the bounty of God’s creation and we were able to live a very wonderful life. We were just part of nature and we knew that we lived by the seasons of the years. We saw the planting, we saw the growth, we saw the harvesting and we saw the renewal of life.
On November 21, 2005, Q’uo said, in an L/L Research channeling,
“Many are the entities on your planet who have destroyed other planetary vehicles for existence such as Maldek, Mars and other [planetary] entities outside of your solar system. We ask that you become more and more aware that you have the opportunity, at this time, within this incarnation, to turn that energy within yourself around and to become stewards, loving and wise, of whatever little acre or square foot that you may have of Planet Earth.
“What does your space need? If you are one who has property, we would ask you to commune with your land. And not simply with your land, but also with your local situation. What local situations having to do with Planet Earth have gone awry on your watch, in your neighborhood? And what can one person do to bring them gently into more harmony with those things which the planet itself needs?
“Are you waters foul? What can you do?
“Is there a lack of sustainable practice amongst your businesses? What can you do?
“We could go on and on, listing the kinds of simple, down-to-earth, human, local problems to which you may address yourself. Whether you do have land or whether you live on the thirty-seventh floor of a high-rise, yet still you are part of Planet Earth. What can you do? What are your gifts, and what kind of problems do you see?
“You are potentially one of those who are able, as one simple, single being, full of flaws, and yet full of good intentions, to join in groups that have a hope of coping with and creating solutions to those imbalances that have resulted in pollution and illness within the planet itself.
“The healing begins within your own heart whether you live on a large parcel of land, a small parcel of land, or in that high-rise of which we spoke earlier. Heal the pollution within yourself. Love yourself. Be a steward to your own body, your own mind, your own nature and your own advancement.”
I open my arms and embrace your spirit! May each of us, like Bishop Leroy Matthiesen, heal our hearts and become just and wise stewards for our own energies and for the land with which we share the dance of life.