January 23, 2022

3rd Sunday After The Epiphany – Katharine Armentrout


We have just heard Jesus layout what I would call His “blueprint for ministry”. He was filled with the Spirit that morning, as he read the powerful promises from Isaiah 61:  

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,     
because he has anointed me         
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives     
and recovery of sight to the blind,         
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  

And when he sat down and all eyes were upon him, he said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  

At the time that passage was written, faithful Hebrews had prayed for their long-awaited release from Exile and the rebuilding of Israel.  

And, at the time of Jesus, faithful Jews were praying for God to release them from Roman domination, release from their crushing taxes, their poverty and oppression that had been created by that Roman system.  

Jesus, when he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” is announcing that through his ministry those promises, promises made especially to the least in the kingdom, will be fulfilled and that the coming of God’s kingdom is upon them.   

When he arrived at the synagogue in Nazareth that day, he had already undergone a profound spiritual journey –  

He had been baptized in Jordan river where the Holy Spirit had descended upon him and a voice had announced “You are my son, the Beloved”; then, led by the Holy Spirit, he had spent forty days in the desert where he was confronted by the devil’s temptations.  

I think it was during that time of great temptation and privation that, to use our vocabulary, Jesus came to terms with what being the Beloved, the Son of God, would require of him, what he would face in his ministry, but also understood that the Holy Spirit would accompany him through that ministry.    

So, when he arrived at his hometown synagogue, Jesus took full ownership of who he was – the Anointed one – and proclaimed that Isaiah’s message of great hope would be fulfilled through His ministry.   

And what was to be the focus of Jesus’ ministry? What was the laser-focus of his work?  His focus will be God’s focus.  
And God’s focus has been clear from the first pages of the Old Testament: His unfailing concern had always been the welfare of his people – both the spiritual and physical care of God’s people, especially those who are at the margins.  

Remember it was our God who made clothes for Adam and Eve to cover their naked bodies before they left the Garden of Eden, a tender moment from the very beginning of our relationship with God;  

And it was God who broke open Pharoah’s hold on the enslaved Hebrews and set them free.  

It was God who sent the Cloud by day and the fire by night to guide them, and provided manna and water for the Hebrews as they made their way to the Promised land;  

It was God who gave the Commandments that establish the rules for right living; the Commandments that prohibit murder and covetousness and lying and adultery, each of which prohibition protects God’s people from one another, and especially protects the vulnerable.  

God is powerfully clear about his priorities when he says to the prophet: “Is this not the fast I choose? To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the yoke, to let the oppressed go free. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your house?”  

God from the beginning has had the care of His people foremost in his concerns. And those concerns have always been laser-focused on the poor, the oppressed, the captive, the blind.            

The word “poor” in both the Old and New Testament includes not only those who have little in the way of money or land or goods;  

it includes those who, for one reason or another, are on the fringes or the outside of society – those marginalized by gender, race, physical handicap. Widows and orphans. Prisoners.            

And who are the “oppressed”? They are those who are under the harsh control, either physical or economic, of others.  

In Pickens County they are the poor who won’t, or can’t, speak up for themselves because of fear of loss of job; or won’t speak up about dangerous conditions in their rental trailers because they fear eviction; or immigrants who hide their illnesses or abuses for fear of deportation; they are the addicts whose lives are quite literally a prison;, etc.              

If you wonder about this emphasis this morning on the poor and oppressed, if you are quietly saying to yourself “Oh it’s just Katharine the Deacon talking; she always talks like that”, then just consider this fact when wondering about the priorities of our God:  

There are over 300 verses in the Bible that address our responsibility to care for the poor and to work for justice. The poor and the oppressed always have a priority on God’s care and concerns.  

And it was these concerns that Jesus took up with his ministry.  

We remember so many specific examples of his ministry to them: he healed the blind; he ate meals with the outcasts and sinners; he confronted those who would put heavy Temple tax burdens on the faithful poor; he fed the hungry; he healed the child of a gentile woman.  

The ministry of Jesus to the poor and the oppressed followed the blueprint that he set that morning in Nazareth; and set the priorities and blueprint for his disciples and for us.   

Priorities which we took on at our baptism when we each promised to seek an serve all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and promised to strive for justice and peace among all people, while respecting the dignity of every human being (not just those who look like us or think like we do) .. 

This is God’s kingdom-work, Spirit-infused work, and as Jesus’ followers, we, each one of us, is needed for the work. Each us has been given unique gifts by God, as the apostle Paul tells us in our Corinthians passage.  

Those gifts are essential to the mission and ministry that Jesus set forth on that Sabbath day long ago.   

“You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Says Paul.(vs. 27.) Our individual gifts are important; and we know that when we come together with our gifts, as part of the Body of Christ, that we can accomplish even more.   

As someone wrote, the best way to understand Paul’s point with the body of Christ is to think of it in the true Southern plural: “All y’all are the body.”  

And the Kingdom work that is being done by “all y’all” here at Holy Family for the Pickens County community is remarkable. We pray each week for these organizations, but do you realize how many people from Holy Family are involved in making them work?    

You have brought tangible good news to the poor through the food pantry and CARES Financial Assistance center, which was established right here at Holy Family; it truly is a haven for the poor of this County, and many from Holy Family have volunteered there and continue to support this wonderful place with donations of food and money.   The Weekend Snack program, which provides food to kids in Pickens County, is an organization. It was started by folks at Tate United Methodist Church together with folks from Holy Family. And now 8 or 10 folks from Holy Family, along with other volunteers, pack almost 500 bags of food each week for the students who have signed-up for the program.  

You have brought healing to the broken and the sick through the work at the Good Samaritan Clinic which got its organizational start right here at Holy Family. Quite literally life-saving work is done by the staff and the volunteers at the clinic.  

Holy Family has many volunteers at Good Sam and a number of our folks are on the Board of Directors…Truly God’s saving work is done there.,  

ACES, The Appalachian Children’s Emergency Center, is a shelter established with the help of a number of Holy Family folks. It provides a safe, loving home for older foster children who have been removed from their homes and have no one to care for them.  

Our volunteers continue to serve on the board; they help raise funds for ACES; and they provide direct mentoring to the some of the kids.  

Additionally we have volunteers working with the Boys and Girls clubs; we have Holy Family folks now serving on the board at Habitat for Humanity; we have volunteers up at Arrendale Women’s prison in Cornelia; we have volunteers at the Senior Center and helping with.  

And this list does not include those volunteers go to Honduras and Haiti, when travel is safe.   And I know that I am missing some!   The needs of the poor and the oppressed just in this County remain great even though we are providing some wonderful services:   

For instance over half the kids in the county qualify for free and reduced lunch which means over half the children in our county come from families that are near the poverty level; we have a terrible scarcity of affordable housing and the rents are now very high – at the apartments behind the Mountainside Hospital is $1,100 a month for just a 2 bedroom apartment and that does not include utilities; we have no homeless shelter in the County and yet we have folks who, for no fault of their own are homeless and have no other support.  

January 16, 2022

Epiphany 2C – By George Yandell

Weddings in Palestine were major celebrations with extended family and friends. They typically lasted a week or more. In today’s gospel reading about the marriage feast there is more than meets the eye.

As today’s Gospel passage opens, Jesus’ mother is attending a wedding at Cana in Galilee to which Jesus and his disciples also have been invited. Food and wine were plentiful at such festivities. When the supply of wine runs out it was a social disaster for the host family. Jesus’ mother informs him of the shortage. Jesus replied to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come”. That seems harsh and abrupt, doesn’t it? Referring to his mother as “woman” is not an indication of a lack of affection or respect, but rather is how Jesus often addressed women. (Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is not called by name but is referred to as the mother of Jesus.) [Adapted from “Synthesis, a Weekly Resource for Preaching and Worship following the Revised Common Lectionary” for this Sunday.]

Symbolically, a marriage feast points to the banquet associated with the coming messianic era as Isaiah portrays it in that passage for today. It was a joyful and extravagant event. When Jesus says, “Fill the jars with water”, the ordinary event of a wedding takes on cosmic proportions, as water becomes wine. The words of Jesus accomplished it. Acceptance of Jesus’ words is a crucial theme in John’s Gospel, as seen in Mary’s faith in her son: “Do whatever he tells you”.

An extraordinary amount of wine was produced—as much as 120-150 gallons. It draws attention to the extravagant abundance of the age of the messiah, beyond what humans can comprehend or expect. This abundance is exemplified again in the feeding of the five thousand later in John’s gospel. In the prophetic tradition, abundant wine is a sign of the restoration of Israel. [ibid] Notice the wine steward (probably as fussy as a good sommelier today) pronounced to the groom, “You have kept the best wine until now!” Jesus saved the celebration and the marriage- the guests at the wedding probably recalled the taste of that wine many times over the ensuing years. 

The ‘chief steward’ in Greek is actually ‘governor of the feast.’  This is the only time the word is used in this sense in the Bible-all the other times it refers to a governor of a kingdom or a region. When John’s original readers heard this title they would have thought- “Why does this character have this title? Certainly he was a person in charge of catering or tending the wine, but governor?” Archi-trik’-linos. Literally, the ‘architect of the feast’. He presides at the feast, but is not a servant, nor the best man, but a guest chosen to run the affair because he is on close terms with the bridegroom. He is the one on whom all the action turns- a ‘fifth business’. I believe the gospel writer meant for his readers to realize the importance of that office in their ongoing ministry in Jesus’ name.

Marcus Borg, now of blessed memory, gives insight into the miracle of the water into wine. As the opening scene of public activity in John’s gospel, it discloses what the entire gospel is all about. It frames the story of Jesus. He says, “Big things happen on the 3rd day: in the Bible: notably the resurrection of Jesus.” [Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, 2006 Harper Collins, p. 58]

“The beginning of the gospel anticipates its climax. ‘There was a wedding’ are words equally important in framing Jesus’ ministry: Marriage was a rich religious metaphor in Judaism and early Christianity: the marriage of God and Israel, the wedding of heaven and earth, the mystical marriage between an individual and God, the church as the bride of Christ….The [whole] story of Jesus is about a wedding. And more, it is a wedding at which the wine never runs out….. where the best is saved for last.” [ibid]

That’s the metaphor for us–following Jesus marries us humans to the divine. The feast keeps on going. The wine never runs out. Disciples of Jesus are continually amazed and included in God’s work. We are the ‘archi-trik’-linos.’ Through our baptisms, we architects have pledged “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbor as self.” That supreme commitment means we engineer the ongoing feast that marries ordinary humans to God. And like the wine steward, we stand to be amazed at the abundance of joy that overflows- to be thrilled at the intoxicating love that results from those marriages. Sometimes a distressing event pushes us beyond our comfort zones to bond people together.

I was in ninth grade. My parish had begun to offer after-school tutoring to children in the neighborhood around our Church. It was a pocket of poverty with poor housing and lots of single-parent families. The youth group leaders pressed us to sign up to do one afternoon a week of tutoring to elementary school students in the neighborhood center. I didn’t want to sign up, but did, because they told us it was Christ’s work we would be doing. 

I would walk over from the Church with other kids from our youth group on Wednesday afternoons. I got to know two of the kids who were siblings-boys in grades 3 & 5. The younger needed help with math, the older with reading and writing. I became fond of those boys over the months we worked together. 

Then came an afternoon when they didn’t show up. The center director told me their mother was in the hospital and the boys were with their grandmother across town. I was distressed. I walked back to the church and went to the rector’s office- Mr. Garner let me in and I told him what had happened. He immediately got on the phone and called the neighborhood center, got the mother’s name and the hospital she was in. He said he was immediately going to see her. I waited until the other tutors walked back, and one of their mothers drove us home. 

Just after dinner Mr. Garner called and asked to talk with me. He said, “George, I’m glad you let me know about those boys’ mother. She was startled to see me. She said she had a flare-up of her heart condition, but would recover. And she said the boys were worried about missing their time with you. She asked if you would come back next week. I told her I was pretty sure you would. Thank you for letting me know she was ill. God needs us all to pull together to make Jesus present to those in distress.” When I hung up, I was sort of bowled over. 

I got back with the boys the next week. We were glad to be together. Then the following Sunday they showed up at Church with their mother. And they kept coming. When I graduated from high school, the older boy had started serving as an acolyte, the younger was singing in the choir. I’ll never forget Mt. Garner’s words- we have to pull together to make Jesus present to others.  For me that’s the message of the marriage feast- do you see the progression? Someone told Mary about the wine running out. Mary told Jesus. Jesus instructed the servants to fill the water jars, then told them to take some of the contents to the chief steward. The steward tasted the wine, then gave credit to the groom for saving the best till last. He didn’t know where it had come from, but the servants knew. That’s the real message of the marriage feast for me. The servants of Jesus recognize where the abundance comes from, even though others don’t. Jesus marries us humans to the divine. The feast keeps on going. The wine never runs out. Disciples of Jesus are continually amazed and included in God’s work. That’s heady stuff, isn’t it?

January 9, 2022

1st Sunday after the Epiphany – Byron Tindall

On this, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, the church in the west remembers the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by His cousin, John the Baptist.   

From the Merriam Webster website, we get the following definition of epiphany:               

“Full Definition of epiphany 
1:capitalizedJanuary 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ 
2: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 
3a(1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something 
(2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking 
(3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure 
b: a revealing scene or moment”   

We’ll spend a little time this morning on the first definition provided by Merriam Webster, but first we need to explore the Baptism some.   

All three of the synoptic gospels have the account of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan, albeit they are somewhat different. The writer of John completely ignored this part of Jesus’s life. Mark 1:4-11 and Matthew 3:1-17 record the other versions of the baptism. A full version of the baptism is found in verses 1 through 22 in Luke’s third chapter.   

John was expecting the Messiah, the one who would save the Jews. I, personally, don’t think John’s expectations were fully met by Jesus.   

Several problems rear their ugly heads for me in the entire concept of Jesus needing to be baptized. In Matthew’s account, John tells Jesus that he, Jesus, should be baptizing him, John.   

Remember, too, that John was baptizing, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the citizens of “Jerusalem and all Judea” for repentance and for the forgiveness of their sins.   

Now, the church has claimed for a very long time that Jesus was without sin. He never sinned in any way, shape or form. Why, then did he need the baptism of John? If Jesus was fully divine, as the church holds, he didn’t need to have the Holy Spirit descend upon Him as he was already “a part” of the Trinity.   

My method of reconciling or answering these questions is a little bit complicated, but please bear with me.   

The church holds that Jesus was simultaneously both fully human and fully divine. I don’t feel that the human Jesus had a complete and full access to the Divine Christ at all times. Glimpses into his divinity, probably. Total access, probably not.   

I think that by this time Jesus had at least an inkling of who he was and what he had to do.   

Jesus came into the world to bring God the Father to the people. Emmanuel – God is with us. He came to share our human nature. He came to share our human feelings – the frustrations, the hunger, the thirst for righteousness, the pain and every other emotion felt by human beings. He came into the world to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us back to God the Father.   

In my opinion, Jesus felt he needed to be with the citizens of Jerusalem and all Judea in every aspect of their lives. Thus he presented himself to John to show solidarity with the rest of the population who had fallen away from the proper practice of their religion and were suffering under the rule of Rome.   

As far as the dove coming down and the voice from heaven go, these are just another example of an epiphany, an expression of “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being.” This epiphany event was for those lucky enough to be present when John baptized Jesus.   

While the Eastern Church recognizes the Baptism of Jesus on January 6, and the Western Church uses January 6 to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the newborn Christ Child, both are classified as epiphanies for me. They both qualify as such using the Merriam Webster definition. God revealing Godself to His creation.   

Of course the Baptism and the visit of the Magi are not the only epiphany events in the life of Jesus. Other events were presented to smaller groups, even as few as a single person.   

Epiphanies are not limited to the New Testament. There are many events in the Hebrew Bible where Yahweh reveals Himself to one or more of His chosen people.   

Are epiphanies over and done with, a thing of the past? I hardly think so.   

God shows Godself in many ways in this day and age.   

Using the second definition from Merriam Webster, “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” God manifests or shows “Himself” to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes, I see God in and through music. I find God in the beauty of nature. I feel God at times during a worship service. I see God at work through other people who are doing His work. I find God in reading the Bible. I’m able to feel His presence when at prayer. I am able to find God in any of His creatures and in every nook and cranny of His creation. After all, God, the creator of all, is in everything.   

The epiphanies today may not be as “spectacular” as at the Baptism of Jesus by John. Epiphanies can be extremely subtle. We just have to be on the lookout for the revelations so as not to miss them.   

January 2, 2022

Christmas 2C – By George Yandell

Where did Jesus get his uncanny knowledge of God’s wisdom? It wasn’t all book-learning from the rabbis. Even children understood clearly what the adult Jesus said when he taught. I believe Jesus learned much of his attentiveness to God from Joseph, and also from Mary. Her acceptance of the angel Gabriel opened the way for Jesus. We learn most from what our parents do, not what they say. I imagine the young Jesus learned how to be attentive to God from watching Joseph, as well as learning from Mary and his brothers and sisters, and his rabbi. But learning to trust God from dreams- that was Joseph’s contribution.

Joseph couldn’t go to an analyst to work through his dreams. He had only his heart, his trust in God, and his willingness to take action. This was the second time Joseph had received a dream visit from an angel. The first visit was when Joseph had discovered Mary, to whom he was newly engaged, to already have conceived a child. Joseph had decided to dismiss her away quietly instead of marrying her. The angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the child in her womb was from the Holy Spirit. Joseph was to marry Mary and name the child Jesus, the angel said. And Joseph followed the angel’s instructions to the letter, and now the Son of God was born, with him the step-father. 

As we hear in the gospel, an angel of the Lord again appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel gave specific instructions to flee to Egypt. We might say in contemporary language the angel pushed Joseph to seek political asylum because his child was in threat of death squads from Herod. So Mary, Jesus and he fled by night down the coastal roads into Egypt. Think about it- the holy family was going back along the same path the Hebrews had followed as they fled FROM Egypt because they had been enslaved by Pharaoh. In Luke’s gospel Mary is visited by angels- Matthew has Joseph three times visited by God’s emissary. It seems Joseph was something of a mystic- he immediately interpreted his dreams as coming from God.

And what do we gain from Joseph’s gift to Jesus? Meister Eckhart, the great Christian Mystic, wrote: “There is a force in the soul. God’s own self is this force, unceasingly glowing and burning with all his splendor, bursting forth in a continuous, unspeakable ecstasy of joy.” Eckhart goes on, “God begets the only Son now and in all eternity within every honestly watching soul. Everything that God the father has ever given to the only begotten son in human nature, God also has fully given it to [us]. Nothing is excluded; neither wholeness, nor holy-ness; God gave [us] all, as God gave Jesus all.”

Do you hear what God has done? God spoke to a humble man and woman and re-ordered our world from their responses. Jesus has been born for us, and in us. Jesus was born into conflict and became a refugee. Our own conflicted times are redeemed by God’s Son. God offers us all of God’s love in Jesus, in the Son of God born within us. God speaks even now to us, deep within each of us. To be attentive, to be faithful to what our souls teach us is all God asks.

We are the seers, we are the ones God speaks within and from today. The world is waiting to hear what God offers. The world yearns for our dreams of life and love to become models for living. They offer us creative life and renewed spirit to care for God’s world.

In the silence of eternity, the Word spoke. From his dreams, Joseph led the Son of God into safety and manhood. From within us, the Christ speaks his word now- “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. I am with you always, even to the end of all things. The Father and I are one.” To be attentive, to be faithful. That’s all God asks of us. Listen and respond to God’s voice. Hear it in your dreams and in your waking. Be at peace with God and God’s only Son, born in us again today.

May 26, 2021

By the Reverend George Yandell, Rector


In mid-August 1991, my cousin Nancy and I rendezvoused in Butte, Montana.  We planned to take three days to acclimate to the altitude before we began our 12-day Sierra Club backpacking trip in the Pintler-Anaconda Wilderness area.  That hike was to take us up to the continental divide, then hike north from high-country lake to lake with a mid-hike supply.  Dr. Wayne Chamberlain was the guide and leader of the trip. (An anesthesiologist from Helena but who hailed from Memphis, where I lived at the time.)

The day before the hike, the trip leaders descended on our motel with all the food supplies.  Nancy volunteered to have the loads of freeze-dried food brought to her hotel room (next to mine) and help sort it out.  I had no idea what that entailed.  They got started sorting the food into separate packets for each meal for 18 people for 12 days.  That meant 36 large parcels with more than 72 packets labeled by day and meal. We each ended up carrying @ 15-20 pounds of the ‘Commissary’- the food, the cooking pots, the water bags.

The sorting day was August 19. There was no room for me in the sorting space, so I watched TV- special coverage of the fall of the Soviet regime. Boris Yeltsin was standing on top of a tank in front of the Soviet Parliament building.  I rushed into Nancy’s room to tell the team what was happening. Nancy turned and said, “Don’t disturb us- this is very difficult work here.”  She shushed me with vigor. 

Only after we were 3 days on the Skyline Trail did I realize how intricate the sorting was.  A few times the bags labeled ‘Breakfast day 3” or “Dinner day 6” did not contain what they should’ve.  (I never suggested to Nancy that she could have been at fault.) Sometime after the mid-point in the hike I mused that Boris and Nancy had a common trait- neither was reluctant to take charge.  I understand from long-time parishioners who knew Nancy well (she was Sr. Warden for Holy Family when the initial property purchase from the Griffith family was arranged) that they respected her for how devoted she was. And willing to take charge.

By the end of the hike, Nancy had apologized for abruptly shutting me off.  And she appreciated that Wayne and I had brought our fly rods- many late afternoons we caught enough cutthroat trout to augment the groups’ high-carb freeze-dried food.

I imagine we each have commissary items that equip us for our paths through life.  That we’ve sorted out what’s important and what’s not. I credit Nancy for helping me yield to tackle what’s critical to the well-being of the team.  It’s a long hike we’re on together.  G. Yandell

May 19, 2021

By Reverend George Yandell, Rector


Each spring I watch to see how the service berry bushes are doing.  Three of those small trees are planted in front of the gallery, and 30 of them encircle the ball ground just west of the nave and parish hall. (Planted there with donations for Holy Family’s 30th anniversary celebration.) The trees begin to produce their fruit in mid-spring.  A few weeks ago I saw the first of the little greenish berries, and yesterday after the 10:30 service, I saw them turning a rose color and thought, and “It won’t be long.”

Just now I went to the nave to remove the celebration frontal from the altar. Stepping out to the car, I beheld the beginning of the spring feast- the red-eye vireos had begun to harvest the berries with gusto.  Normally the small, dull green red-eye vireos are reclusive, living in the tops of trees.  From early spring into the fall, I’d heard them repeating and repeating their call, “Here I am, where are you……” yet never saw them.  I spied my first one 4 years ago while hiking near our house after years of searching.

But now a flock is descending on the service berry bushes with gusto.  It seems they abandon their normal shyness for a huge feast.  It will continue for a few days, if past springs are any indication.  By the time they’ve filled themselves and flown away the concrete is littered with the remnants of their flurried gorging.

They seem like us a bit, I think.  How ready am I to throw off the long covid-inspired retreat and let loose with friends. Maybe not as frenzied as the vireos, but certainly as hungry to celebrate the ripe fruits of the season and offer thanks. 

Come on by the nave and watch the vireos.  Soon they’ll be back in their haunts, hard to spy but present none-the-less.  Crying ceaselessly, “Here I am, where are you.”  G. Yandell

March 17, 2021

The Rev George Yandell, Rector

The Key of Earth

In 1978 I heard a remarkable song on the FM jazz station in Metro Washington D.C. It was ‘Common Ground’ by Paul Winter on the album of the same title. The DJ gave some background on the album- it featured songs of the humpback whale, the African fish-eagle and a Canadian timber wolf named Jethro. (I kid you not.) The animals’ songs were woven into compositions by Paul Winter and others. Two days later I had the album. I was entranced by the recordings. Reading the liner notes I saw the name of the cellist- David Darling. It rang a bell. Turns out I’d read in National Geographic some years prior about a scientist named Darling who’d been doing pioneering recordings of humpback whales- Jim Darling was his name. David was Jim’s older brother- the connection jumped out at me- the early hydrophone recordings of the humpbacks must have captured David’s attention and he linked Paul Winter into the research. (David died just two and half months ago at age 79.)

The album featured Darling, Paul McCandless (oboe) (both original members of the Paul Winter Consort and later members of Oregon- I heard them in concert in early 1979) along with Steve Gadd (drummer for Chick Corea, Paul Simon, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon, Bob James, Nancy Wilson, Joe Cocker, and Eric Clapton to name a few). And Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. An eclectic assemblage of passionate artists.

Winter and his colleagues discovered an amazing thing: the songs of the humpback, timber wolf and fish-eagle were all the same key: D-flat. Winter says in the liner notes for the song ‘Trilogy’ (which features all three animals’ songs without accompaniment): “I’ve enjoyed speculating on whether this is a lucky coincidence, or a gift from the Muse. I was told by a teacher once that in some esoteric systems D-flat is considered to be the key of the Earth.”

In the notes for the song ‘Wolf Eyes’, Winter writes, “This song was inspired by a magnificent Canadian timber wolf named Jethro, and by the extraordinary wolf music I have heard in the wild… The closing duet was recorded live at the North American Predatory Animal Center in the California Sierras. Ida, the wolf who sang with me there (on my alto sax), is pictured on the back cover.” He writes in the notes for ‘Ocean Dream’: “This song is a fantasy inspired by experiences I’ve had playing saxophone to grey whales from a small raft in the Pacific off Vancouver Island with the Greenpeace Expedition of 1975, and later from a rowboat in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, as part of a film about whales.”

In July of 1994, I was lucky to be with my daughters on a whale watching trip out of Northeast Harbor, Maine. Bob Bowman captained the small ferry/mailboat with about 15 of us on board. We motored out toward Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse, 18 miles from land. The wind was calm, the water glassy. We spied a lone puffin paddling along- everyone got their cameras out- that tiny bird was evidence of a recovering puffin population on the islands near Acadia.

Captain Bowman talked with local lobstermen, asking about whale sightings. We could hear one of the lobstermen responding over the radio, “We’ve seen two humpbacks spy-hopping about two miles from you- you might motor toward them.” Sure enough, as we drew near the location, two humpbacks surfaced and swam near the boat. After a few minutes, they dived. We waited, motor off. Then one of the whales rose up on the port side of the boat- all of us moved to that side- the whale was about 12 feet from the rail, vertical in the water, looking at us. On a whim, I moved to starboard by myself, leaning over the side. The second whale was deep below me, coming to the surface. Over the clamor of the other group, the whale surfaced 5 feet from me, his huge left eye on level with my own. I was entranced. It seemed everything went silent in reverence. In his/her eye, I saw and felt the presence of an ancient, sentient being. He/she stared at me for over 30 seconds, then slowly subsided under the surface.

I’ve not felt the same presence since. An out-of-body connection to one of the largest most majestic creatures ever to live on earth.

It’s now thought that not only male humpbacks sing their intricate, repeating songs, but that females sing at lower tones only now being recorded and studied. Makes sense to me- why should only males get to sing? George Yandell

March 10, 2021

The Rev. George Yandell, Rector


Not sure why, but some of the most striking, hilarious expressions have come to me from a few wonderful southerners. They made Lewis Grizzard seem tired and bland.

Annie Lee Brown, Guest House Manager at Virginia Seminary, former house mother for the Delt Tau Delta’s at Auburn: “She was going down like the wreck of the Hesperus.” “He is like a lost ball in high weeds.” “He is one egg short of a dozen.” “He’s like a blind dog in a meat house.”

Rick from Americus GA during Emory days: “When they were giving out brains, you thought they said ‘rains’ and you ran for cover.” “When they were giving out noses, you thought they said ‘roses’ and you asked for a big red one.” “When they were giving out looks, you thought they said ‘books’ and you asked for a funny one.” And more.

I was a young deacon, 26 years old, assigned to Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis. Bowlyne Fisher (priest, Ph.D., hailed from Henning TN) associate to the rector, introduced me to the lore of Memphis. One afternoon, standing at the picture window of his 8th floor mid-town apartment, he pointed to the street below and exclaimed, “There’s Prince Mongo.” I said, “What? Who?” Bowlyne said, “Yeah, he’s a fixture here. Has a bar down near the river. Get’s raided pretty often. Claims to have been born on the planet Zambodia around 333 years ago.” This man in a big late model convertible, top-down in winter, parked, got out and started walking down the street. He was wearing fluffy white leggings like a Zulu warrior. Bowlyne said, “He always wears goggles and a long white wig in public and wild clothing. He lives about 3 blocks from here.” Prince Mongo had run continuously in every Memphis mayoral election since 1978, sometimes intermittently running for Mayor of Shelby County. In the 1991 mayoral election, Prince Mongo got 2,000 votes, which put him in third place. Bowlyne summed up Mongo, “He’s out of his green leafy tree.”

During Lent we were sent to Montesi’s Food Store to get some last-minute items for a Lenten Supper. Walking through the parking lot a woman in big new Cadillac whizzed by us and parked close to the store in a handicapped parking spot. She leapt out of her car and raced into the food store. Bowlyne turned to me and said, “Must be mentally handicapped.” Other of his sayings: “All his leaves aren’t raked into one pile.” “Always off-key in the band in his head.”

I miss these people – can’t imagine how they became such comedic sages. I guess it’s in the water we southerners drink and the company we keep. George Yandell

March 3, 2021

The Rev George Yandell, Rector


I owe Bill Pattillo for giving me that word “earworm”. He used it with me about 10 years ago- it describes that tune you can’t get out of your head- it keeps burbling up from your inner self, taking residence in your ear AND IT WON’T QUIT. Knowing the syndrome has a name does not keep me safe from its assaults.

Don Henley’s song ‘This is the End of the Innocence’ is the worm that’s been plaguing me for weeks. Why? My subconscious has yet to tell me. I’ve been playing it in the car, resonating with the lyrics, trying to expunge it. But my hunch is that I am longing for the earlier times when covid hadn’t struck and we could be together in what now seems to be gauzy, blissful times in the sun. Oh no, not “We Had Joy We Had Fun We had Seasons in the Sun—” stop it!

Another earworm has taken up permanent residence in my subconscious- it’s the tune ‘Kingsfold’ from our hymnal. That tricksy part of my psyche defaults to it unbidden in quiet moments. That tune is used in two hymns- this is one I seem to prefer: Hymn 292

“Oh Jesus, crowned with all renown, since thou the earth hast trod, thou reignest and by thee come down henceforth the gifts of God.”

This second portion of the verse bounds and rebounds around in me: “Thine is the health and thine the wealth that in our halls abound, and thine the beauty and the joy with which the years are crowned.” To me it’s almost a reminiscence of pre-covid times. But that’s too simple an explanation, isn’t it?

It could be that I sang it in the boys’ choir on Sundays during the fall. It could be that it’s a most singable, lovely song. But that’s the thing- I CAN’T KNOW. It just starts up like a holy jukebox with only one disc.

The juke box in our house at Emory always contained Led Zeppelin’s song “Black Dog” even when other titles were switched out. “Hey, hey mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” I could always tell upstairs when David came back from class. He’d cue up that song in the huge party room downstairs and start blasting out the lyrics with Robert Plant at top volume. Maybe I should seek him out and suggest it become an earworm for him. Would that be fair? Can one remove the worm in thine own ear by infusing it in the ear of another?

Googling ‘earworm cure’ yields this and many other results:

5 Ways to Get Rid of Earworms: According to Science LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SONG. Earworms tend to be small fragments of music that repeat over and over (often a song’s refrain or chorus). LISTEN TO A “CURE TUNE.”. The same study also found that some subjects used competing songs, or “cure tunes,” to control their earworms. DISTRACT YOURSELF WITH SOMETHING ELSE. … CHEW GUM. … LEAVE IT ALONE. … Hmmh- don’t seem like cures to me. They’re just substituting other activities until the dreaded worm slinks back into my ear again. Oh well, here’s one for the road: “All the leaves are brown….” Come out, come out, wherever you are. G. Yandell

February 24, 2021

By Patricia Stimmel

After Ash Wednesday services last week, I went about running errands but first stopped by McDonald’s for an iced coffee. I placed the order and drove around, the little Mexican lady at the window started to speak but abruptly stopped, put her hands on her face in disbelief and cried out…’Oh my God, today is Ash Wednesday!’ She was upset, almost crying and repeated…’Isn’t that right lady, today is Ash Wednesday, oh my God!! I can’t go…oh no…I’m working!” I realized immediately that she was staring at my forehead with the cross of ashes. I said, ‘It’s okay, wait…I have something to help you…”, digging in my pocked for the little packet of ashes remaining from the service. The look on her face was tearful and so upset. I handed it to her and explained the ashes were blessed and it was perfectly acceptable for her to administer the sign of the cross. She kept saying tearfully, “Oh my God lady, thank you so much.” As I collected my iced coffee, I noticed her hanging her head out the window still shouting “Thank you lady…thank you!” Best iced coffee I’ve ever had! Patricia Stimmel