NTD is a perfect time to…

One of my favorite National Days is this one; today is National Trails Day in the US and it’s a perfect time to walk a favorite — or brand new — trail or put together a plan for your next outdoor excursion.

There are so many ways to enjoy and exult in the beauty of God’s Creation and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors is a very important and fulfilling one.

If you visit this site, you can find ways to help spread the word about hiking and trail-walking and advocate for this splendid way to build fitness and promote serenity.

Enjoy the day, whether or not you’re exploring a new or familiar outdoor trail or simply walking down life’s path.

Navigating Earth’s lovely terrain, I am,

Ben Lawrence Basile

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

100 years ago in Tulsa

The story of the Tulsa Massacre is a very, very ugly one. It’s one that you may have heard about recently, as there is no longer immense pressure to keep the whole sick and brutal event on the down-low.

The effects and the legacy of this shameful attack are almost too great to assess. It’s truly hard to wrap one’s mind around it all.

Because I spent the better part of nine years in the City of Tulsa — including my three semesters in Seminary — it’s something I’ve paid quite a lot of attention to lately. I say lately as I only learned about it approximately five to six years ago. Simply by browsing the content of an internet forum.

There’s no need for me to try to add anything to the work done by so many about this traumatizing, racist event. I merely want to say that I feel — as I look back over my time in Tulsa — that it is remarkable that I never had the slightest clue that Black Americans had been attacked and massacred on the north side of the city where I lived, the city I had grown to love.

Tomorrow will mark the 100th Anniversary of the massacre which claimed at least 300 lives and burned a 35 square block area to the ground. There were many events to mark that somber event. One will be that President Biden will travel to Tulsa and meet with community leaders and the last three survivors.

Another event will be the prayer and commemoration in front of the last standing wall of the Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood District.

There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that there were active efforts to keep the event under wraps. It’s almost inconceivable that I could have lived and studied in that City for most of the decade of the ’70s and had no idea that I was living about ten miles from the site of what was almost certainly the greatest, most violent paroxysm of racist white violence on black Americans in our — at that time — 200 year history.

I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around that. But it highlights once again that the perpetrators of racist violence will always go to great lengths to minimize, justify and hide their crimes.

And to avoid any accountability. The last thing that should be noted about this murderous, horrific and traumatizing act of violence is that no white person was ever arrested or put on trial for the rampage.

Ben Lawrence Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Meet the House Chaplain

Margaret Kibben is the Chaplain of our House of Representatives. She had only been in that post for a week or so when House Members found themselves in the cross hairs of a violent mob on January 6th.

Chaplain Kibben did what she was put in that job to do — she led our Representatives in prayer. As the gas masks were being put on, she led her charges in prayer.

To be in danger was nothing new for her. She served a tour in Afghanistan as a Navy Chaplain. Admiral Kibben was in that role for 36 years so serving under hazardous and difficult conditions was not a new experience.

If you’d like to learn more about one of the few folks who’ve held both the titles of “Pastor” and “Admiral”, just follow this link. It’s quite a story, one well-worth reading.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Our Blessed Hope

I most certainly do want to wish all of you a most happy and blessed Easter today.

I don’t have to tell you that our joyous celebration is the second consecutive Easter taking place while COVID-19 is drastically effecting how we gather together.

And even though much progress is being made on returning our lives and our spiritual practices back to some semblance of normal, it’s true that for most Christians, the virus is still blunting the Joy of Eastertime and the ways we have always come together to celebrate it.

But even in these troubling times, this we know: the hope and transcendent glory of Christ’s resurrection was a stunning, singular event on that first Easter morning and we can feel and appropriate that glory, that blessed hope today just as surely as Jesus’s followers and grief-wracked mother did nearly two millennia ago.

May that blessed hope be yours today.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Church Membership Continues to Fall

As you most likely know, Church membership in the US has been declining for many years. As the line on the graph continues its steep drop, a milestone has been reached.

Americans who do belong to a church are now in the minority.

The stark truth that so many in positions of leadership in the institutional Church don’t want to admit is simply this: the downward trend will continue — and will actually accelerate — as long as many denominations and congregations continue to treat Christianity as merely a ticket to heavenly bliss and as a club to be used to beat unbelievers, doubters and heretics over their collective head.

Yes, members will keep heading for the exit. Many will number themselves among the millions who choose the “spiritual but not religious” tag. And many will simply turn away and feel an unending sadness and sense of alienation. So many feel as though they are falling into a deep well of anger and bewilderment. For many spiritual orphans, those feelings will persist as long as they draw breath.

It may be true that this was bound to happen regardless of how Church leadership and those engaged in Pastoral Ministry went about their business. There are many, many factors at work here and many of them are beyond anyone’s control.

But the trend has been made much worse by the way so much of the leadership in so many church bodies and congregations have been chasing after the two false gods which have blunted the witness of the Church, alienated millions of believers and created scandal after scandal: a heretical and hyped Prosperity Gospel and the unchecked lust for political power by denominational leadership.

It’s not the Devil. It’s not the liberals. It’s not the godless, evil Apostles of Atheism. It is the Ken Copelands, the Paula Whites and the Jerry Falwells, those who hold the reigns of power, those who are leading God’s flock.

It did not have to be this way.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

More Dead Sea Scrolls Unearthed

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced yesterday that a recent excavation of a cave which lies in the desert about 40 miles south of Jerusalem has yielded 80 scraps of parchment containing texts from the Books of Nahum and Zechariah. They believe the texts are from a scroll stashed in the cave for safe-keeping during the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Roman Empire which took place from 132-136 AD.

Discovering new texts, however fragmentary, that are related to the famed Dead Sea Scrolls is a very important find. To learn more about this very noteworthy announcement, follow this link.

The new find has come to light as we are right on the cusp of Spring. Easter is a mere three weeks away. May this time of year lead to renewal, to new discoveries for you in the story of your own Journey of Faith.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Another tragic result of our failure to care for Creation

Climate scientists are doing great work, trying to get ahead of some of the many problems we’re facing as the damage we’ve done to the Earth becomes more and more apparent.

The way rainfall is distributed around our planet is changing. And, as you might imagine, those changes will become more pronounced going forward.

It’s a bleak situation and the effects are being felt over large portions of the Earth.

The good news — if there is any — is that we have climate scientists who have their eyes on this, and so many other urgent issues arising out of our collective failure to care for our Planet. 

The bad news is that there are still many citizens — and governments, sad to say — who don’t believe any of this is real. Or that it arises from human activity.

To have a look at a CBS News article from last week that shines a light on this bleak situation, just follow this link.

Benjamin Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile

Faith Leaders in the Aftermath

In the aftermath of the seditious attack on our Capitol on January 6th, faith leaders of many churches, denominations and religious bodies reacted.

I read this article detailing some of those reactions about six days ago. I’m featuring it here, though it’s not “new” news as I’m certain many folks didn’t see it.

As you might imagine, the statements released in the wake of this horrible episode were far from uniform. Some statements — in my view — were pushed in this direction or that by particular beliefs, particular theological points of view. But there were reactions and statements aplenty.

It’s easy to feel exhausted and frightened as we think about what happened on January 6th. It’s made much worse as we come to the realization that this painful and unprecedented incident was almost certainly not a one-off.

Hang on to your faith, your hope. The challenges ahead are great; God’s assurances that he is, indeed, a very present help in time of trouble is our consolation.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

New Year’s Wishes for all

December 31, 2020

I think there is nearly universal agreement, here in the US and everywhere, that 2020 was — on the whole — a very challenging year.

As we sit perched on the threshold of a new year, I am hopeful that 2021 will be better. Much better. It could scarcely be worse.

Exactly how things go from here… well, we just can’t say. If I may be allowed to prognosticate just a bit, I’m thinking that the first half of this nascent year will be rough. Very rough, in all likelihood. And then, it will get better.

How’s that for a prophetic look into our shared future?

Well, Nostradamus I am not. But I am a hopeful human, a hopeful citizen and I stand ready to do what I can to pull in the same direction as my fellows who want to help. To help to get us pointed in a positive direction and to begin to make some progress.

I am hopeful — cautiously hopeful — that we’ll be in a better place 12 months from now as we compose our thoughts about what kind of year 2021 will have been.

And I’m content with being able to say that tonight.

Ben Basile

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone

 I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. This piece of mine was originally posted on Christmas Day, 2007 on another site. 

This has been a challenging year for me in a lot of ways, yet I find myself feeling even more than the usual holiday spirit right now as I sit at the keyboard, waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Wait! I don’t have a chimney! Oh well, I still believe! Well, the part about Santa, who can say? The rest of it, I’m still pretty big on all the good stuff that we think about when the holidays roll around each year. No doubt a lot of you feel the same.

The Christmas story does hold a lot of meaning for me. I’m not quite sure if I still believe all of it, all the nuances and consequences and so on; not quite like one “believes it” when the assembled faithful say the Apostles Creed together at Midnight Mass. Some will be doing exactly that in just a few hours, perhaps some of you.

Yet it doesn’t seem at all “funny” to me that God comes to us whenever it suits his/her purpose. Not entirely sure if “he” did in that particular, historical way. Being raised in a Christian family and having gone part-way through seminary a few years ago, I do lean in that direction. But I’ve come to see some things in a different light now that I’ve spent a little better than a half-century on this planet. This planet where almost a billion people believe that God became incarnate, was born of a young woman who had never “known” her betrothed. And that his coming among us in that way was the beginning of a Divine plan to make it possible for all of his creatures to enjoy unending fellowship with him and with one another! In this life and in the next! Now that’s a story! One we humans have been telling one another for a very long time, and I’m quite sure we’ll be telling it for a long time to come.

I’ve been struggling for so many years now about exactly how much of the story still “works” for me and all of that. But what I’ve never doubted is that God, or the Divine, does come to us and among us all the time. And I’m finally in that phase of life where I’ve learned to look for it, to expect it and to embrace it. And I know that the other really big thing about Christmastime is to get a bit closer to my brothers and sisters who also bear the image of the Divine One in their souls and on their beaming faces. Some of them were raised on the same stories I was; this one about God being born of a virgin, and many others.

Some, of course, have heard and embraced and celebrated different stories. I’m not very inclined to quibble about the particulars at this point in my life. I’m quite sure that God would love to see us move a little closer together at this time of year, and to go on telling those stories; especially that one about God robed in human flesh, living and dying as one of us. And I’m quite sure that the heart of the Divine is pleased when we carry forward “his” mission to strip away that illusion that our sins, imperfections, and much less, our differences, should separate us from one another or from his Divine Heart.

Well, Christmas Eve has progressed, as it will, into Christmas morning as I’m wrapping up this little holiday message. And I’m sitting here, luminous and expectant, like a six year old waiting for Santa to appear. Like Simeon in the temple, waiting to bless the infant Jesus, knowing then that he has seen and embraced, quite literally, the Divine plan to end our sinful and deadly illusions of separateness. I’m expectant, waiting in earnest to see and to embrace the next manifestation of the Divine. In you, in her, in us. Perhaps–and wouldn’t this be a great story–perhaps in and across many countries and cultures, in four billion human hearts at once!

A wish, a dream, a fervent hope… Perhaps that’s all it is. But a hope to hold close to one’s heart on Christmas morning. God bless each of you today and throughout the year to come. May you be blessed to see the image of the Divine, of the Christ-child in yourself–and in one another.

Ben Lawrence Basile
Christmas morning, 2020

© 2007 Benjamin Lawrence Basile