Monthly Archives: July 2013

Soul Music


Got an important function coming up? Looking for an experienced DJ? Then you need Fr. Billy O’Dwyer AKA ‘The Spinmaster’ to get the party jumping.

*disclaimer: must like Ghost Town by The Specials

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Filling the Listening Void (from “Life and Work”)

Wednesday July 24

IT IS certainly true that a few years ago, hospital chaplains toured the wards, checking in on people and offering their services to those who would be in for a longer stay. But Hospital Chaplaincy is changing, along with so much of the rest of the healthcare system in the UK.

“Healthcare is changing. The demands on the NHS are changing – incredibly quickly – and we, as a service, need to change along with it.”

The Rev Dr Ewan Kelly is the Programme Director for Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care with NHS Education for Scotland, and he is talking about the role in a modern health and social care environment for the healthcare chaplain.

“Healthcare chaplaincy is going through a period of considerable challenge amidst current financial austerity within public sector provision, but such cutbacks serve to sharpen the need for chaplains not only to show that their practice enhances the wellbeing of service users, carers, staff and organisations, but that their contribution is unique and value for the taxpayer’s money.”

It all seems to be a far cry from the traditional view most people have of the hospital chaplain as someone you can ask to see if you or a loved one is admitted to hospital in a crisis.

“Healthcare in general is moving away from focusing mainly on treatment in hospitals and towards care that’s focussed on keeping people well in the community.

“The Church has tremendous links and strengths within the communities we live and work in, and with healthcare provision increasingly moving towards trying to help people stay in their own homes for as long as possible, increased collaborative working between local faith communities and statutory health and social care services offers great potential to enhance the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

“A healthcare chaplain does not have to be an ordained minister.

“They may help people find meaning and purpose when faced with long-term or chronic conditions, as well as helping people come to terms with a sudden or unexpected loss.

“We care not only for patients and their relatives; we also care for the staff that look after them, and that can have real financial cost benefits by helping them cope with stress or stressful situations; helping keep them well at work and thus reduce sickness rates and retention levels.

“I see it as important that we, as a valuable, unique resource are able to help actually shape policy – that we are at the table to help transform health and social care culture to be more person-centred….

“Sometimes, instead of drugs or psychiatric treatment, people just need time and space to talk, to work things through in their own minds. This informs a second national programme of healthcare chaplaincy work – the setting up of Community Chaplaincy Listening Services in GP surgeries. Such services are now present in health boards all over the country – with over 20 surgeries currently involved. It’s not the same as counselling but focuses on patients’ ‘why?’ or spiritual questions, allows people to come to terms with perhaps a bereavement or a diagnosis, or develop the self-esteem to take more control in their own lives and help self-manage their own long term condition(s).”

There’s a big box of tissues on the table in the room by the Chapel in Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, where I’m speaking to Lynda Wright.

Lynda, a Deacon employed to offer spiritual care by the NHS, is one of the people working within the new vision for the chaplaincy service.

She’s the national co-ordinator and liaison for the Community Listening Service, set up nationally after a very successful pilot study in 2010 and 2011, and now being expanded to cover every health board in Scotland.

“The Community Listening Service is part of the national strategy that recognises that the focus for future health care is changing from hospital based to home or community based.

“Most people will experience their ill-health in their homes rather than hospital and all the health boards are looking at ways of responding to that challenge.

“GPs are aware that a ten minute appointment isn’t really suitable for a patient who could be helped by talking problems through rather than being given medication, or in addition to being given medication. That’s when they can refer the patient on to the Listening Service and know that the person will be given the time and space to sort things out in their heads.

Lynda says that most of her clients have been helped after just one session.

“It’s not counselling,” she says. “We can allow people space to sort out what things are most important and help them see the options available to allow them to move forward.

“We can also ‘social prescribe’. By having a good local knowledge of support groups etc in the area, we are able to help people find others they can share with.”

Lynda sees the role of spiritual care worker as very much in keeping with her work as a Deacon.

“Listening has always been part of my work. I’ve picked up training along the way that has come in useful, like bereavement work, counselling skills. I ran a retreat house in Falkland for 18 years so listening to people talking through their problems is something I have always done.

“The feedback from the initial project was completely positive. Over the year I was involved in helping with the research, I saw 60 patients out of around 250 across Scotland. The responses were excellent – the GPs were in favour; the patients, without exception, said it had been useful.”

Lynda points to the box of tissues.

“That’s one of the most important things in this room,” she says. “Many, if not most, of the people who come to me have a cry at some point; men and women. Sometimes, even when I feel I haven’t really done anything apart from just letting them talk, they are incredibly grateful. They thank me for just listening to them.

“Sometimes, that really is all they need.”

In spite of the changes happening within the healthcare system, there is still room for the work of the hospital chaplain in the more traditional role as well. In a time of crisis, the chaplain has the ability to cut across religious lines, to step up and become someone who can be leaned on and turned to by anyone who needs them.”

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A new Evangelism

Whether or not there is a literal heaven, we are Christians not for the sake of some future reward/glory, but rather for the sake of living faithfully to Jesus and his Way here and now — for the sake of experiencing and partaking in salvation/wholeness and the Kingdom of God here and now. Faith isn’t fire insurance to avoid going to “hell.”

Progressive Christians believe that Jesus *is* “the way, the truth, and the life,” and we believe that all who follow Jesus’ teaching, Way, and example, by whatever name, and even if they’ve never even hard of Jesus, are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and his Way.

That said, we’re rather enamored by the uniqueness of the Jesus story and we invite others to join us in sharing that specific journey — even if we feel no dire need to convert them. Peace.

It is this non-exclusive approach to our faith that many young adults find compelling. So we’re evangelistic even as we’re not. ; )

– Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

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July 31, 2013 · 10:29


A very prestigious cardiologist died, and was given a very elaborate funeral by the hospital where he had worked for most of his life.

A huge heart, covered in flowers stood behind the coffin during the service as all the doctors from the hospital sat in awe.

Following the eulogy, the heart opened, and the casket rolled inside. The heart then closed, sealing the doctor in the beautiful heart forever.

At that point, one of the mourners just burst into laughter.

When all eyes stared at him, he said, “I’m so sorry… I was just thinking of my own funeral… I’m a proctologist.”

The Priest fainted.

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Guantanamo Shades of Orange

Fifty Shades of Grey – not the Koran – is ‘most requested book at Guantanamo  Bay’

  • U.S. congressman Jim Moran made discovery  after touring Camp 7
  • The top-security  facility holds more than a  dozen ‘high-value’ prisoners
  • ‘They’ve read the entire series in English’  said Mr Moran

By  Anthony Bond

PUBLISHED: 17:16, 30 July  2013 in the “Daily Mail” newspaper

The Fifty Shades of Grey series of erotic  novels are the favorite reading material among former CIA captives being held at  the notorious Guantanamo detention camp, it has emerged.

U.S. congressman Jim Moran made the revelation after touring Camp 7, the top-security facility  that holds more than a dozen ‘high-value’ prisoners.

The Democratic Representative of Virginia said the bestselling book by British  author E. L. James was the most requested book – even beating the  Koran.

Odd: The Fifty Shades of Grey series of erotic novels are the favorite reading material among former CIA captives being held at the notorious Guantanamo detention camp.

Odd: The Fifty Shades of Grey series of erotic novels  are the favorite reading material among former CIA captives being held at the  notorious Guantanamo detention camp. This is a file picture of detainees at  Guantanamo

As reported by the Huffington Post, Mr Moran,  who visited the Cuban camp last week, said: ‘Rather than the Koran, the book  that is requested most by the (detainees) is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

‘They’ve read the entire series in English,  but we were willing to translate it.


 ‘I guess there’s not much going on, these  guys are going nowhere, so what the hell.’

Mr Moran, who favours shutting down the  detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, said he learned  about the book’s popularity while touring Camp 7 – which  holds five men charged with plotting the September 11 attacks in  2001.

Popular: U.S. congressman Jim Moran said the bestselling book by British author E. L. James was the most requested book - even beating the Koran

Popular: U.S. congressman Jim Moran said the bestselling  book by British author E. L. James was the most requested book – even beating  the Koran

A military spokesman said he could not  discuss details of Camp 7, whose inmates were held in secret CIA prisons before  being sent to Guantanamo in 2006.

‘We don’t discuss our high-value detainees except in the most generic terms. Further, we do not discuss the assertions made by members of Congress,’ said Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House, a spokesman for the prison camp.

Some prisoners are taking part in a hunger  strike to protest their indefinite detention.

Journalists are not allowed to visit that  part of the detention camp but can tour the other prisons and the library that  provides books, magazines and DVDs to all 166 captives.

During a visit last week, Reuters saw an  eclectic mix of books in numerous languages, from religious tomes to Star Trek  novelizations, Agatha Christie mysteries, stress reduction workbooks and the  Greek classic ‘The Odyssey’.

Also on offer is ‘The Hunger Games,’  according to a librarian who goes by the nickname Zorro. ‘We have the movie and  the book too,’ he said.

Guantanamo librarians have said in the past  that they screen reading material for sexual content, even blacking out photos  of scantily clad women in the advertisements in sports magazines. 

Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance  novel and is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy.

Secure: The inmates of Camp 7 were held in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006. This file picture shows guards at the gate of the Cuban camp

Secure: The inmates of Camp 7 were held in secret CIA  prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006. This file picture shows guards  at the gate of the Cuban camp

It traces the deepening relationship between  a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian  Grey.

The book gained much publicity because of its  explicitly erotic scenes.

The series has topped best-seller lists  around the world and sold more than 70 million copies worldwide.


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The Gairdner

charlieCharlie Chaplain’s Tales
When I first started my full- time  healthcare chaplaincy post some fourteen years ago, I visited as many of the clients and residents at our then mental-health care facility.
“Hello, I’m Sandy, the new chaplain” I would introduce myself.
On one occasion, the response was “I’m John and I’m a gardener” (with a broad Galloway accent – “gairdner”)
He was interrupted by a fellow female client: “I’m X…. and I’m awff ma heid”
“Wheesht, wumin”, interposed old John, “Ye dinnae ken whit ye’re talking aboot!”
He monopolised the rest of the conversation.
“Ah ken you meenisters; Ah usetae dae gairdenin’ work fur some o’ them at their big posh manses”
“Aye,” he continued, “ye sit oan yer erses a’ afternoon readin’ the ‘Scotsman’ and drinkin’ wheesky”
I hadn’t the heart to contradict him.  It was usually a G & T and the “Herald” for me

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A Rabbi and a Priest

A Rabbi and a Priest were sitting together on a train, and the Rabbi leans over and asks, “So how high can you advance in your organization?”

The Priest says “If I am lucky, I guess I could become a Bishop.”

“Well, could you get any higher than that?” asks the Rabbi.

“I suppose that if my works are seen in a very good light that I might be made an Archbishop” said the Priest a bit cautiously.

“Is there any way that you might go higher than that?”

“If all the Saints should smile, I guess I could be made a Cardinal”

“Could you be anything higher than a Cardinal?” probed the Rabbi.

Hesitating a little bit, the Priest said “I suppose that I could be elected Pope, but…”

So the Rabbi says “And could you be anything higher than that? , is there any way to go up from being the Pope?”

“What!!! I should be the Messiah himself!?!”

The Rabbi leaned back and said “One of our boys made it.”

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My fellow student and dear friend and colleague, the Rev Greg Renstrom


Minneapolis church provides comfort for LGBT community

by Hannah Wolf, Cara McClain, and Emma Wheatley

Lounging on the red cushion of a pew in the sanctuary, a grey cat represents the community that fills these pews every Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The New Harmony congregation at the Wesley United Methodist Church on 101 East Grant Street is welcoming to the gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual community in Minneapolis, and pastor Greg Renstrom believes that this cat is a symbol of the church’s goal.

“She’s a symbol of what we’re trying to do here, to be inclusive,” Renstrom said. “She was a stray, and no one was able to keep her at the rec center, so we decided to give her a home.”

This once-stray cat now lives in the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church, and often joins the services there with other guests.


Built in 1891, the stone building has had both religious and architectural importance. The original congregation worshiped there for almost 150 years, and the “Akron style” sanctuary with stained glass windows and potential for expansion was innovative for it’s time.

However, in 2010, the building was voted as the most endangered historic building by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. After the past congregation had declined, the building was essentially empty for a year.

“The congregation had died, there was no functioning congregation here,” Renstrom said. “For a dollar a year, I became the pastor of a new church that is largely focusing on Minneapolis’s LGBT and Ally community.”

At the age of 64, Renstrom came out of retirement to begin the New Harmony congregation, centered out of the United Methodist Church.

“It has tremendous sense of purpose to me personally to give back to friends that happen to be gay and lesbian,” Renstrom said. “we just have to succeed. we cant allow ourselves to fail because too many people are counting on what we’re doing. It’s both a burden and a blessing.”

In order to keep the building up and running, Renstrom has found ways to provide funding.

“In order to save the building from the wrecking crew, we’re starting a foundation to pay the bills,” Renstrom said. “They’re going to operate the building and the congregation is going to be a tennant of the center.”


With 40 to 50 people coming to the New Harmony congregation during the course of the week, Renstrom recognizes how he needs to focus his church to keep people returning and to gain new followers.

“Right now, were doing whatever we can through worship,” Renstrom said. “The single most encouraging thing we can do is to have uplifting, inspiring, encouraging services. That’s why we have 4 services a week. People are coming back constantly. One of the most encouraging things that is happening is that were building a base of people that are returning.”

And although the New Harmony Church is LGBT focused, Renstrom seeks a congregation that is still balanced.

“My goal for every service that we’re together for is that there will be 50 percent LGBT and 50 percent straight allies, supportive of the gay and lesbian community,” Renstrom said. “Last Sunday it was 60 percent, 40 percent. That was incredibly encouraging.”

With two musicians on staff, Renstrom says his congregation focuses on music to keep the services encouraging and uplifting. One musician, who plays for their Thursday night and Sunday morning services, is a new age jazz musician, and, according to Renstrom, “absolutely wonderful.” The other musician who plays for their Saturday services is more of a classic, Dave Brubeck jazz player.

We really focus on jazz because its a common denominator among generations as well as origins and orientations,” Renstrom said.

Renstrom also believes that his church should be religiously tolerant.

“Dealing with other denominations and reverencing other traditions is really important to me,” Renstrom said.

According to Renstrom, Thursday night services are ones that reverences and respects other traditions, such as Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and others. Their readings are taken from secular literature, and their speakers are not necessarily people who are pastors or ministers. Renstrom says the Sunday services are much more traditionally Christian worship.

Controversial Times:

During Gay Pride Week this summer, Renstrom performed 6 same-sex blessings on June 25, all in public parks around Minneapolis.

“It’s a classic David and Goliath story.” Renstrom said. “A tiny little group is taking on a huge issue and saying ‘this is not right.’”

However, Renstrom’s same-sex blessings did not settle so well with United Methodist Church leaders.

“It’s been really interesting because I’m up on disciplinary charges,” Renstrom said. “A formal complaint was lodged against me. It was televised, so a number of people hit the roof. Many of our church leaders in Minnesota are caught in a very difficult position because personally they reflect values that affirm what I’m doing, but they are part of a structure that says we have to administer rules and regulations. And right now, the rules and regulations in the United Methodist Church say you cant do this.”

In fact, this controversy gained national attention. In early July, Renstrom said there were six references to the New Harmony congregation in newspapers across the country because of what they were trying to do for the LGBT community.

According to Renstrom, though, this wasn’t about the media attention he received.

“I did the same-sex blessings as part of the church’s ministry, not to gain publicity,” Renstrom said. “It’s something i believe in. But it gained a lot of publicity because it hasn’t happened in Minneapolis in a while.”

However, Renstrom says the reaction have not been all negative.

“The response has been more than mixed because more people have been supportive than negative,” Renstrom said.

Standing Up:

For the 2012 election next November, the republican party has pushed a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that states marriage can only be between a male and a female.

And as former president of the Minnesota Council of Churches, Renstrom tries to speak on behalf of LGBT concerns.

“It’s just a slap in the face to not only every gay and lesbian in the state, but siblings, parents, grandparents, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.”

According to Renstrom, 31 states have already approved similar legislation. However, Renstrom still believes there is potential to stop it.

“We have to defeat what is being proposed,” Renstrom said. “It gets a little bit tricky, but we may be the first state to pull it off.”

Sticking to Beliefs:

Amidst some of the controversial events surrounding the LGBT community in Minneapolis, Renstrom believes it is important to remember what his congregation is all about.

“One of the things our church is trying to do is to remember as followers of Jesus, we have basic values,” Renstrom said. “Our church’s values are very simple: justice, kindness, faithfulness, and inclusiveness. If were going to take kindness seriously, we cant be belligerent, hostile, or demeaning of people on the other side. We have to model values and characteristics that are positive and healthy and helpful.”

And ultimately, Renstrom’s goal is to be a helpful source to others.

“Our goal is that people will feel stronger better more hopeful, better equipped to deal with life when they leave then when they came,” Renstrom said.

– See more at:

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July 30, 2013 · 15:31