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Notes on a birthday

I have spent many of my recent birthdays out of the country — last year in Vienna, three years ago in Exeter, four years ago in Prague, six years ago in Bristol, seven years ago at Interlochen (not out of the country, but in the different land of Michigan).

This year I wanted nothing more than to be home and be happy. I received a note yesterday, from the Dean at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in Saint Louis.  Part of that note said “I pray that the anniversary of your birth will bring reflections of care, love, and hope.”

And that’s exactly what July 17, 2019 brought me.

Crepe myrtle makes me happy. This is from the Saint Louis Zoo on my birthday.

I spent part of the totally July day (intense heat and humidity) at Saint Louis Zoo, wandering around with three surrogate nephews.  I call them my ‘circus nephews.’    (Zoo photos follow tomorrow.)

My niece Anna works at the zoo, and I stopped by to say ‘hi’ to her.

Then after dropping the boys at their home, I stopped by Sugarfire to purchase an entire Key lime pie, something I’d been craving for a few days.

I dealt with birthday greetings from far and near on Facebook, having heard from people in Morocco, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and the USA.  And as I take stock of those greetings, I find Shirley Ward, who has known me since I was six years old; college roommate Steve Davis; boyhood friend and now stepbrother Greg Herriman; Linda Hodges, sometime surrogate mom who with whose children I grew up and who was with us as my father was dying; and current and former students, people with whom I’ve made and lived theatre; people with whom I’ve sang; colleagues, friends, chums, classmates, acquaintances from around the world.  This is a rich tapestry indeed!

I ran some errands and tidied my life a bit by returning things and dealing with gardening recycling.

And I cooked, which for me is spiritual and physical sustenance.  The dinner menu, shared with my dear friend D., was lamb kebabs (broiled after the storm came through and squelched my charcoal plans) and homemade tzatziki, garden salad with mango dressing, and Key lime pie.

And then we sat out doors in the temperate weather and talked for an hour.

[The ground lamb, by the way, was flavored with ginger, garlic, shallot, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, as well as salt and pepper.  This is one of my favorite grilling dishes!]

Evening Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer closed out my day.  Then some Downton Abbey.

Surrounded by love, reminded of love from afar, with a growing sense of newfound centeredness and qi that is positive and healthy, with new determination to right some physical and emotional listlessness . . . “care, love and hope” indeed.


The morning light renews the sky.
Across the air the birds ignite
Like sparks to take this blaze of day
Through all the precincts of the night.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The fires of dawn refresh our eyes.
We watch the world grow wide and bright
And praise our newly risen Light.
The winter land receives the year.

Her smallest creatures rouse and cling
To swelling roots and buds that stir
The restless air to reel and ring!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The sounds of waking fill our ears.
We listen to the live earth sing
And praise our loving Source and Spring.

~Pack Browning

From Christ Church Cathedral, Saint Louis, on Easter Sunday 2019:

Easter tidings

Through a window screen, and outside my home office window: a dogwood in full flower.

This week has brought tidings. News. Clarity.

Spring is in full bloom.

The day job is kicking my butt right now.

Christ the Lord is resurrected.

I know more of the path of my life now than I did four days ago.

Old friends have enlivened my days.

School is winding down, but not really.

Voice students are thriving.

Bedding plants are going in the ground on this Easter Sunday.

And all is well.

At the Easter Vigil, we were reminded of our baptismal vows.


Alleluia!  Christ is risen!!


And so am I.  The alarm went off at 6 a.m. this morning.  Fifteen minutes later, I was making pie crust.  Now at 7.30 a.m., the pineapple pie is nearly baked, and will soon emerge from the oven.

The homemade cheesy potatoes are ready for baking too, including a from-scratch sauce.  http://realmomkitchen.com/10810/no-cream-of-soup-potato-casserole-aka-funeral-potatoes/

Fresh flowers grace all four downstairs rooms.

The table is set.

A joyous resurrection celebration awaits at Christ Church Cathedral, and then I come home for Easter dinner with seven beloved students.  On the menu: steak, cheese grits, cheesy potatoes, asparagus.  Pineapple pie.  And a wonderful & decadent tuna spread for an appetizer.

Three nights

Glory Be!!

I have three consecutive nights at home.  This will likely be the last time this occurs before sometime in May.

So Friday night?  I made dinner of steak, rice pilaf, and green salad with my homemade creamy Parmesan dressing.  Then I watched movies.

Samson was happy.

The steak?  Crusted on one side with seasonings, then seared on each side for three minutes in an oiled and moderately hot cast-iron skillet, and then left in the skillet in a 350-degree oven for eight minutes.  Perfection!

Today I shall work at home: four voice lessons, audition a new student, do laundry, and this evening wade into the pile of stuff I brought home from the office, but wade whilst in jammies and with my little furry companion beside me.

Christ Church Cathedral holds its annual parish meeting on Sunday.  I will attend that and attend Evensong at The Church of St. Michael and St. George.  And that will be my Sunday.


My neighborhood is changing.  The poor lady who lived two houses north of me is gone.  Her house — one that needs massive fixes and updates to roof, HVAC, plumbing, electric, yard, garage, tuck-pointing, and the like — sold for a pittance recently.  The new owner has been taking out hundreds of bags of trash (she was a hoarder), tearing out the kitchen, throwing out furniture, and is today selling the last of her possessions at a yard sale.

Meanwhile, a new couple has moved in a few houses away.  Will and Shannon’s kids are growing up.  Nancy has her youngest daughter at college.  Nancy’s parents next door to her are aging.  And Boo Radley is gone on yet another jaunt to the Orient.


From the Dean

My friend and pastor The Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Saint Louis, posted this to Cathedral congregants earlier today.

The past 48 hours since the shooting death of Michael Brown have been a wrenching time for the St. Louis region. It has revealed wounds that have been deepening for a long time. Those wounds have exploded in anger, and the pictures have been broadcast for the whole nation to see.

The violence both of Michael Brown’s death and of the looting and rioting last night in Ferguson are cause for mourning. But they are also like the shooting pain in our gut that alerts us that something is seriously wrong in our body. They are a call for attention. A call for us not to just treat the symptom and to re-establish a fragile and festering peace, but to address the underlying causes. The causes of the anger cut right to some of the most painful divisions in our region — divisions of race and class, of power and privilege. 

The causes and problems are complex and there are no quick fixes. But that is also not code for “there is nothing we can do.” The events of the past two days can be redeemed only if they cause us — ALL of us — to focus sustained attention on the healing that is needed in our body, healing that can only happen as we all confront difficult truths of how far we still have to go toward justice in our society.

Yesterday, we took a first step — in the language of Sunday’s Gospel, we put a toe out of the boat onto the stormy sea. Several of us from the Cathedral gathered with clergy and others in a prayer vigil at the Ferguson Police Department. But for that to be a first step, there has to be a second step and a third … and whether or not you were with us yesterday, you can take those steps, too.

If you are looking at the paper and your TV screen wondering “what can be done?” … here are some ideas:

Pray — Prayer is our first resort and our last resort. Prayer is not passing the buck to God saying “Lord, do something.” Prayer is opening ourselves up to God and saying “Lord, do something through me.” Pray for peace. Pray for your own heart and the heart of our Cathedral community to be moved and guided. Pray for the people of Ferguson and the whole region, for the Brown family, for the police, for Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and for the media who are telling the story. Pray for peace and courage and wisdom. Pray that God will use us as instruments of reconciliation … realizing that we are asking God to put us on a risky road ourselves.

Come Together — At 7 pm Tuesday at Christ the King United Church of Christ (11370 Old Halls Ferry Road), faith leaders from around our region will be holding a strategy meeting to determine our next steps moving forward together. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. I will be there to listen first and then ask what I can do to help. I hope you can be there, too.

Have an Inquiring and Discerning Heart — That phrase is from our baptismal service. Having an inquiring and discerning heart means not just taking things on face value. It means asking, “why?” and not jumping to our immediate assumptions and prejudices. When you see a picture of someone looting a Quik Trip, ask yourself “Why?” and don’t be satisfied with your first response. When you hear the story of the police officer confronting Michael Brown, ask yourself “Why?” and don’t be satisfied with what immediately comes to mind. The media will usually feed us the story on the simplest terms — but we are not simple people. Don’t be afraid of the complexity that is beneath the surface. Search for it. Demand it. Strive to embrace it.

Above all, do not despair and do not run away. That is not who we are as people of Christ. Pray, listen, talk, ask questions, envision what changes you can make in your life to bring us together across the lines that divide us. Know that as we venture out of the boat onto this stormy sea that Jesus is there already waiting for us to join him.

in Christ’s love,

The Very Rev. Michael Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral