Hurry up and wait. That was the constant driving force behind everything I used to do when I worked as an engineer offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Time was money and thus time was an expensive commodity and it was always in short supply. Everyone working on a drilling rig is ready and essentially standing by waiting for another person to get their job done so that we can start our own. Of course this meant that there was someone else who was waiting on us to finish whatever we were flown out by helicopter to the rig to do.  

Everyone was always in a hurry. Everyone was waiting for their turn to do what nobody else could do. The pace was fast and it was furious. It was also relentless. I’d no sooner finished the job that I was doing before it was time for me to catch a flight back to land only to fly out the next morning to Another rig somewhere in the Gulf. 

Most of us understand what it feels like when the pace of our lives is running at light speed. The faster we go the more likely we are to make a mistake. When we find ourselves ensnared in such a system we look for an exit off-ramp or a way to step away and simply catch our breath.  

Think about the culture we find ourselves living in today. The Christmas decorations have been out in places like Lowe’s since Labor Day in September. Retailers are well aware that the number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are fewer than usual. Hence the artificial sense of urgency to try and cram even more into the short Advent Season.  

Feeling overbooked? Don’t think you could find room on your social calendar for another party? Haven’t sent out your Christmas cards yet? Still have gifts to buy, stockings to fill and a house to decorate? Looking forward to having dinner with family members who want to pick political fights? Don’t forget about putting up all the many outdoor lights so you can rival your neighbors and double your electric bill.  

What if you could actually get away from it all even for just 30 minutes? What if you could do something that would feed your soul instead of sap your energy? Along with my clergy colleagues at First Methodist and First Presbyterian, we are offering you such a spiritual respite. You don’t have to do anything but show up. You don’t need to buy a new party outfit. You don’t have to bake or cook anything to share. You just have to come and be still for thirty minutes.  

At 6:00 PM on the first three Mondays in Advent, December 4th, 11th, and 18th, our three churches will offer you a time and a place to step back from the hurry up and wait syndrome. As Psalm 46 states, “We are to be still and know that God is God.” So come and join us and just be still. Let the sounds of the choir soothe your weary body. Let the quiet of three houses of worship open you up to welcoming the presence of God during the Season of Advent. Allow the words of the prayers that will be offered open you up to more than the chaotic rush of the world.  

I invite you to join us and give yourself a gift and be still to know that God really is God.  

God’s Peace, Mark+ 

By the time you are reading this in early October, I will have returned from making a family trip down to New Orleans. This trip is both personal and professional for me. You see, I have the honor of baptizing my grandson on the 29th of September.

Early on in my priesthood I had a wise retired priest point out to me how blessed we are as clergy because we get to be included in the most significant moments in our parishioners lives. We are present soon after a child is born when we baptize them into the Body of Christ. Later we are present when they are adults, often young newly independent adults, when we officiate at their weddings and they become one flesh. Finally, we are present whenever they depart this world to enter into God’s Kingdom, and we say goodbye to them at their funerals. I’ve had the privilege of being present at these important times in life more times than I can begin to count.

Now, almost 30 years into my priesthood, I am discovering how truly blessed I am that I can also be present to Hatch’em, Match’em, and Dispatch’em, as a priest for my own family. Twelve years ago I was asked to officiate at both of my fathers’ funerals. A couple years later it was my mother’s funeral. Over the past few years I have officiated at my niece’s wedding and also at two of my own children’s weddings. Thirty years ago I baptized my niece. And now, I have been asked to baptize my almost one year old grandson.

These are indeed important moments in life. As a priest, I’ve baptized over 600 people. I’ve officiated at the weddings of over 400 couples. I’m grateful that I am no longer prohibited from doing so based on the gender of the two people getting married. I have also officiated at nearly 500 funerals. There have been so many times where I’ve been allowed to be present when God has also been present.

Now that I’m older, I can better appreciate what it means to be part of a circle of life. God continues to create and bring new life into the world. God finds a way to bring together parents that will perpetuate love by nurturing new life. Finally, God will welcome home our souls when our physical time here has ended.

When my bishop ordained me into Holy Orders and thus set me apart for ministry, my elderly and wise priest friend was right, I might not have realized it at the moment, but I was blessed.

God’s Peace, Mark+

The past few years of us dealing with the COVID pandemic has created a much bigger
disturbance in my life that I originally thought that it did. So many aspects of my life had their own
unique rhythms and now I’m discovering they are all out of sync. Certain things in my world once brought me dependable comfort because I could depend on them. Now it seems the loss of them can be a source of great distress. This was made abundantly clear to me during my own recent bout with COVID.

Like so many of you I have taken all the shots. After two and a half years, I was confident I had
been spared the worst. This turned out not to be the case. The deadly respiratory virus found me and
punished me with a vengeance. I woke up on a Saturday morning and instantly knew something was
very wrong. My body was aching. I had a low grade fever. My head was congested and I felt as if I had
been run over by a truck. So, I took an at home test and watched it quickly turn positive.

For the first time in my priesthood, I missed two consecutive Sundays because I was sick. Then
the virus spread from me to my wife. Next it went to our daughter. We were officially living in a
quarantine zone. For a week we didn’t leave the house or go anywhere. Life was turned upside down.
I finally saw firsthand what so many millions of others knew about COVID. It has been a slow recovery
process to get back to whatever is the new normal in life.

Churches across the country have learned how to overcome the COVID disruption and find a
rhythm once again. Social gatherings that were cancelled are starting to return. There was no
in-person worship for over a year. Now people are coming back to church along with those who found
us online. Gone were the first Sunday morning breakfasts with mountains of bacon. Bingo and other
outreach offerings were postponed. We had to discontinue the nursery on Sunday mornings. All these
things are returning in September.

Here we are almost three years into a post COVID world, and we are having to find new ways to
live together. Some of us now work from home. Students understand that the wearing of masks might
come back in a moment’s notice. We are just starting to come out of forced isolation.

A new rhythm in our common life is emerging. We have let go of some traditions that no longer
have meaning nor relevance in our lives. We can once again embrace those things we have missed and
now we want them back. As our BCP reminds us, “Life has changed, not ended.” COVID is not going
away anytime soon. So be it.

We the Church will focus on what the new 21st Century Church can and will be. We will learn to
adapt and overcome any and all obstacles, some that we couldn’t even imagine before. We accept that a
church in 2023 and beyond will need to have a regular online presence. New opportunities to witness
the mission of the church, like the Blessings Box outside our parish offices will now become part of us.
We will double down and reinvest in human relationships because our hearts are heavy over the loss of
over 1.3 million souls as a result of this pandemic.

Pre or post pandemic, the basic mission of the Church remains the same. “Love the Lord your
God will all your hearts, all your minds, and all your strength.” The second part is like unto it. “You will
love your neighbor as yourself.” So, let’s get busy and rediscover what that new rhythm is.
Peace, Mark+

We are officially past the 21st of June, so that means the days are now getting shorter and the nights are getting longer as we move closer into the fall. It used to be that the school year began in September right after Labor Day. That is no longer the case. Gradually over time the start day for a new school has now been pushed up almost to the beginning of August.

“Time keeps on slipping into the future,” as the Steve Miller Band said in the song Fly Like an Eagle. Time is elusive. We want more of it. Sometimes when we are excited about the future we can’t wait for it to pass. Nonetheless, time is constant and relentless in its marching on.

A few things told you that school was almost ready to start like the gathering up of new school supplies for the new year. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how many parishioners have been generously dropping off school backpacks and school supplies to share with the children of Morristown. Thank you all!

Starting the year with a new backpack and school supplies sets the tone for the whole year. You feel good about a new year. You feel that the past is behind you and what is ahead has endless possibilities. You are no longer focused on old mistakes. This is a new year and it is filled with the hope of the future.

At the beginning of the school year I always hold what has lovingly become known as the Crayon Mass at the first chapel service. There is also a Blessing of the Backpacks. Each child lines them up their pack on the floor in front of the altar. During the homily I hold up a large Box of 64 Crayons (the one with the built in sharpener), and I remind the children that a new school year is like a new box of crayons.

The point of each crayon is new and unbroken. The protective paper hasn’t yet been peeled back. There is nothing like the feel and smell of a new box of crayons. The kids get it. They are quick to make the connection between a simple box of crayons and a new school year.

I simply place a couple hundred new crayons in a basket. Next I tell each child when they come forward for communion to choose a color crayon of their liking and keep it. I want them to hold on to it as an icon for their future. Not surprisingly, the orange ones go first. This is after all Volunteer country. In Baton Rouge it was the purple colors that went first.

Regardless of what color crayon a child chooses it is theirs. It is a reminder that they have a big say in how successful this new year will be. Anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how broken any of us are. It doesn’t matter if our point is worn down and our paper covering is peeled back or we are broken into two pieces. We can each be made new once again.

It really makes me wonder. If the children can so easily understand this message, then why is it so hard for the adults to do the same?

Peace, Mark+

Next Wednesday will be a national holiday. People will take off from work and gather with their families to
cookout, maybe head over to the lake, and later set off fireworks at night. They might overeat and some will certainly
over drink. This is what Americans tend to do on the 4th of July. Not all that much time is given to reflect on why this
day is so important and celebrated. We are so caught up in the moment of waving our red, white, and blue flags, that we
forget the important ideals that were carefully crafted into words to give us such a unique country in which we live.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We live in a country that puts forth the bold guarantee that all of us are created equal. Regardless of where we
were born. Regardless of our gender or the color of our skin. Regardless of whom we choose to love. All of us have been
created equal. Or as we Episcopalians choose to live this ideal out:

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will with God’s help.”

It seems to me that this might be the real test. How does my nationality and my faith come together and have a direct impact on others? When we squabble over laws that are designed to limit another person’s Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, we have truly missed the point of it all. It saddens me to see how much effort has been put into restricting a person’s ability to cast a ballot, to love whoever they choose, to make medical decisions concerning their own bodies, read a book of their own choosing, or worship as their faith leads them. Real independence requires discipline and tolerance. It demands our understanding of another person’s point of view.
Is there a way to bring together the promises of our Baptismal Covenant and the founding principles of our
nation’s independence? Perhaps there is.

“You will Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, you will love you neighbor as yourself.”

Have a happy and safe 4th of July, Mark+

The public schools let out for the summer break this past week. I’m not sure who was more excited, the students or the faculty and staff. When you are a child you look forward to the summer break almost as much as Christmas. When you are a teacher the summer break is a chance to recharge your batteries. It’s an opportunity to travel for a few weeks on vacation and then start getting ready for a new year. 

When I was a teenager in middle school, back then it was called Jr. High; the first day of summer break opened up the possibility of new adventures in life. Of course I was living a relatively sheltered life on military bases. It was a safe place for me and my friends to ride our 5-speed stingray bicycles anywhere our legs were strong enough to take us. We rode our bikes for miles and miles. 

We could ride our bikes over to one of several lakes where we could camp out without the damper of parental supervision. Never mind that the military police would always drive by and check on us and call our parents to let them know we were not up to any serious mischief. Each week we tried to think of new places to see and do. Those summer days were long. The sun stayed up almost until 9:00 PM. The mornings were cool, the days were hot, and we hoped that our summer break would last forever. 

Now that I am 65, I’m rediscovering the joy and the importance of sabbath time in my life. Liz and I so enjoy our Tuesdays in Tennessee traveling adventures. We never run out of ideas or adventures for us to pursue. This year we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’m glad we did. Otherwise I would have missed seeing the wild elk at Cherokee, NC. I also would have missed the wonderfully unique and quirky Alpine Inn, located in Little Switzerland and I never would have climbed Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains. 

It’s good for the soul to take small trips to new places. How else would you ever know about oddities like the mutant white squirrels in Brevard, NC? You also shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things. We were both in our 60’s when Liz and I first rode 17 miles downhill on the Virginia Creeper Bike trail in Damascus, VA. Because we were up for the adventure, we were able to see Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Opera House in Newberry, SC, and yes, we sang all the words to Alice’s Restaurant. 

Taking time for sabbath is so important for the well being of our souls that our vestry chooses not to meet in the month of July. I just hope that all of us get away at some point the summer for our own adventures. Far too many people wish they would have when they could have. There is so much to see right here within two hours of Morristown. 

Whenever I think about doing something new or different, I remember the chilling words from Jack Nicholson in the Shining. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” None of us want to be like Jack. 

Enjoy your summer sabbath. Be adventurous. Take the road less traveled. Try a new recipe. Climb a mountain and breathe in the air. Go the beach. Whatever you do, just get out of the house. 

Certain senses are engaged more than others depending on the particular environment in which we find ourselves. At this time of year it is the sense of smell that lets you know All Saints’ BBQ is right around the corner. In three short weeks the fires will be started and smoke will fill the air at the pit to let all of Morristown know- it’s on! 

Last week and this next weekend we have been cooking a total of 130 gallons of our special BBQ sauce. Trust me when I say the process is a total assault on the olfactory nerves of the human body. When adding the necessary ingredients you are careful to stay upwind from all the spicy dry additives. 

Early in the week before the tent sales begin there is the aroma of cabbage and vinegar drifting in the air when the coleslaw is prepared. When you walk into the parish hall while this is happening be prepared for your eyes to water and your sinuses to be forcibly opened. 

What really draws the crowds twice a year to All Saints’ is the smell of several thousands of pounds of BBQ pork butts slowly cooking over smoky hardwood coals. There is nothing else quite like it. It causes the average person to drool in anticipation of eating one of our BBQ sandwiches covered with coleslaw and All Saints’ BBQ sauce. 

When everything is said and done we will have sold out sometime early on Saturday morning. More than 6000 pounds of pork will have been smoked, cooked, mechanically pulled and appropriately packaged for human consumption. There is really a feeling of contentment that comes with another BBQ in the books. 

If you haven’t yet signed up to help, please do so at your earliest convenience. The sign up sheets are on the kiosks in the parish hall. It takes more than a hundred parishioners to pull this Herculean effort off. Yes, it does raise money for the church. However, it is the building of community within our church that is the real benefit from all of this. Feeding Morristown with the best tasting BBQ twice a year is also the best way for us to engage with the wider community beyond our own members. 

So stop and take a whiff. Once again, All Saints’ BBQ is in the air. 

Peace, Mark+

Have you ever noticed that we Episcopalians tend to have a fancy formal name for practically everything.

The space behind the altar rail is the Sanctuary. The space in the church outside the altar rail up unto the entrance doors is the Nave. The area between the Parish Hall and the Nave is known as the Narthex. Finally, the area downstairs underneath the Parish Hall is more formally known as the Undercroft.

Considering our Episcopal need to formally name everything, it should come as no great surprise that we also do the same naming theme with our unique liturgical form of worship. Each liturgical season is defined by the particular color we use on the altar. Right now we are in Lent and the liturgical color is purple. However, in two weeks we will switch our liturgical color to red once we begin Holy Week.

Here again, we do not allow the opportunity for giving formal names to escape us. Sunday is the first day of the week. So in Holy Week we begin with Palm Sunday and the Blessing of the Palms. This is the day that Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem and was hailed as the coming King. Of course we know things didn’t go exactly has people thought they might.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Holy Week, which this year is April 3rd, 4th, and 5th , will give us the opportunity to share our Holy Week worshipping with two neighboring churches. First Methodist and First Presbyterian will join with All Saints’ for a three day series of noon day meditations based upon John’s gospel. A light soup and salad meal will follow after each service.

Next we get to Maundy Thursday. Several traditions are often observed on this night in Holy Week. This is the night when Jesus offered a foot washing to his disciples. In a post Covid world we are not quite ready to resume this tradition. Yet, this is also the night in which he instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. At the end of the service the altar is solemnly stripped and left bare of all vestments and vessels. This is to prepare us for what will follow on Good Friday.

On Good Friday Jesus is crucified. We remember his death by reliving how he suffered by the walking the 14 Stations of the Cross. We share communion from the reserved sacrament from the night before. After which whatever is left is consumed. The Tabernacle where the reserved sacrament is kept is now empty and the door is left open. The Sanctuary Candle is extinguished as the real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood is not present until after the Resurrection.

On the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, we hold the Great Vigil of Easter. This is traditionally the first service of Easter. The service begins in the dark with the kindling of a new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle. The story of God’s creation is retold. The dawning of Easter Day is greeted with the return of Alleluias and joyful music.

All of this happens in just seven days. There are so many opportunities for us to delve deeper into the mysteries of our Christian faith. Having taken part in all the events of Holy Week a greater understanding is reached when we boldly proclaim the words, “Christ has died! Christ has Risen! Christ will come again!”

God’s Peace,


I really love the fact that we have four real seasons here in East Tennessee. This was not the fact when I lived in Louisiana. There, the fall season was about three weeks long starting from Mid-November. Next we would get our first peak at winter with the first frost. More often than not it was followed by a fake fall which meant the temps went back up to the mid 80’s again for a couple of weeks. 

Winter might actually be as long as ten days. This occurred when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees. Though in Louisiana most people were known to fire up the gas fire places when the air temp got below 55. Spring might possibly be as much as three weeks long. Spring was easily identified by the blooming of azaleas and dogwood trees. Then it was followed by a weeks return to fake winter for a week or two depending if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not that year. Then we settled in for basically eight months of summer. This meant 100% humidity and temps in the high 90’s or even higher. 

When I lived in Chicago it was pretty much reversed. Winter was eight months long with temps seldom above 30 degrees and we could have months of gray overcast skies where we never saw the sun. Spring only lasted one week. It was usually the first week of June. Fall also lasted only about one week before the first blizzard. Summer could fluctuate from three to six weeks depending if we were lucky. 

Here in Tennessee we get the best of all four seasons. Though I have to admit spring is my personal favorite. I love this time of year when the daffodils are in bloom. I love waiting for the wild Dogwoods and Redbuds to come alive. We don’t have much in the way of azaleas here but we do have Rhododendrons which are spectacular by any measure and well worth the drive into the mountains to see them in full bloom. 

Another sign of the return of spring happen when the TVA begins to let the water levels rise in the local lakes. Life begins to emerge from its winter hibernation. Wildflowers are in abundance everywhere you look. One night you would swear that your front yard was brown and then overnight it is suddenly appears a verdant green. 

So much in nature reminds you of the sheer abundance of God’s creation. Spring reminds you that what might appear dormant is really never dead. It’s good to live in East Tennessee. We are blessed with so much that most of us tend to take for granted. Enjoy it. Enjoy it all. Get your hands dirty in potting soil. Put in your vegetable gardens. Share a portion of your produce with your neighbors. For God has been especially good to those of us who live in Tennessee. 



The month of February is interesting on several levels. First, at 28 days, it is the shortest month of the year. Second, it is the month where we begin to feel the end of winter’s grip is at hand and that warmth of spring is just around the corner. Finally, for those of us who are Christians, the Season of Epiphany guides us to make way for the Season of Lent.

There is something comforting about the predictable seasonal cycles in life that we experience. Winter will give way to spring. Spring will give way to summer. Summer will give way to the fall. And finally, fall will usher in winter to complete the cycle. The same is true with our faith. Advent leads to Christmas. The 12 Days of Christmas lead to Epiphany. Epiphany brings us to Lent. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and thus we engage with the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and giving alms.

In South Louisiana, the time after January 6th through Ash Wednesday (this year it is February 22nd) is marked by King Cakes, colorful beads, parades in the streets, and pure unbridled revelry. It culminates with Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the somber start of 40 days (not counting Sundays) of Lent. Lent is a time of penitence. It is meant to be a time of deep reflection. It is an opportunity to get our lives back on track once again and press forward. Lent is also a season to remove the bad habits that have creeped into our lives this past year. It’s like hitting the spiritual reset button so to speak.

People are prone to take on all types of traditional Lenten disciplines in hopes of ending a few bad habits and creating some new good habits. Some will give up alcohol, sweets, or red meat. Some will take on reading the Bible. Others begin modest exercise regimens to develop better health. I personally believe that small incremental changes verses large dramatic changes have the best chance for bringing about lasting change. 

Here is what I’m going to suggest for Lent, 2023. The worst of the pandemic is now behind us. Come back to church. Get out of bed on Sunday morning for the six Sundays in Lent and go to church. For a faith community to thrive we need to be intentional about being present with each other. It’s time to come back to church.

Two years of dealing with the COVID virus caused new habits to replace familiar habits. Let’s use the Season of Lent to create something new together. It’s not possible to go back in time and relive the past. It is possible to take the lessons in life that we’ve learned and strive for something better. This year, make a commitment of creating a new habit of being present on Sunday mornings here at All Saints’. For just six Sundays, come back to church.

Peace, Mark+