Friday, August 14, 2009

Up to Maseno

Hello dear ones!

After about nine hours on the road, I'm now in Maseno, in west Kenya. We're very close to the hometown of Barack Obama, Sr., and also toLake Victoria, the largest in Africa. (We had lake tilapia for dinnerthis evening. Yum!) My past two days in the Nairobi suburbs were slow and pleasant. I adjusted to the time, thanks in part to a few helpful roosters-- the first one starts crowing about 4 am, the others follow over the next hour and a half-- and took long walks down the neighborhood's dirt roads. Most of the property-owning families from the area commute the hour or more into Nairobi, but also have both farmland and farm animals of their own, so there are both interesting houses to look at and lots of herds. There were many sheep, goats, cattle, and chicken, in addition to all kinds of beautiful birds. In the evenings, I enjoyed getting to know the family better.

This morning, Bakala (Elphas' brother) set off into town early withour luggage, and Elphas and I followed to set out at midday. We tooka matatu from Ngong, the nearest commercial center, into downtown Nairobi. A matatu deserves some explanation: It's a fourteen-passenger van that will, at any given time, carry at least that many people. They come down the main commercial strips every fewminutes, all run by private operators. Our hour-plus ride was 50 shillings, about 65 cents US. The radio usually blasts Kenyan pop music at top volume. It was crowded, noisy, probably unsafe, and clearly the most efficient way for millions of otherwise footbound people to move around the city. I appreciate the relative comfort of an MBTA bus very much now, although I admit I wish they came so frequently as the matatus do in Nairobi!

From Nairobi we set out across country. Parts of the trip were very beautiful, especially as we got further north into the tea-growing country. For the most part, however, it was very sobering. Normallyour route, through the Central Rift Valley, would take us straight through Kenya's breadbasket. But as I mentioned last time, the harvest is a disaster, and every turn in the road showed that. The government expects that 6.5 million people will need food support over the next two summers.

We did see some very typical Kenyan things. Baboons were hanging out by the side of the road, and we had lunch at a roadside cafe-- a whole goat leg (enough for three) and big plates of ugali (the staple grain-- think of very think polenta), for about ten dollars total. I haven't yet seen any of the big game animals, but by all accounts, what I've seen so far is a good picture of middle-class Kenya. That's actually pretty rare for westerners, so I feel very lucky.

Much love, and pray for rain.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hello from Nairobi!

Dear friends,

I arrived in Nairobi last night, and Rev Steph's prodding reminded me to keep all y'all updated on my travels here in Kenya.

Last May, at a Memorial Day barbeque at EDS, I met Elphas Wambani. Elphas is a professor at St Philip's Theological College in Maseno, where Marie and I will be based for our time in Kenya. When I met him, he was wrapping up some time at EDS, where he was writing on how indigenous communities use their own traditions to discern the working of the Holy Spirit. As we talked, I found he was a friend of Marie and had been to The Crossing a couple of times-- and that he was thrilled to help welcome me to Kenya, a trip I was then only beginning to plan.

Well, last night, he met me at the airport in Nairobi. His brother drove us through insane developing-world traffic jams to his house in the Ngong Hills southwest of the city. I've spent the day in the hills resting up and adjusting to local time, seven hours ahead of Boston.

In fact, Ngong features a surprising Boston connection. Many marathon runners train in these hills. The dirt road that leads to Elphas' brother's door is a favorite spot of theirs in the early morning. His next-door neighbor is a runner himself. Elphas tells me that you can drive around the northern hills, where the runners mostly hail from originally, and point to many schools and hospitals built with prize money from Boston Marathons past.

Everything you may have heard about African hospitality is true. The family here has not only let me into their home, but fed me to bursting with tea, cornbread, bean stew, and a chicken from their backyard. I will stay here at least one day more, as they have another EDS student to host on her way back from Rwanda. The plan then is to head off cross country to Maseno.

As you pray, please pray for rain in Kenya. It has been a dangerously dry winter. The maize crop, on which many of the poorest farmers depend, is already a disaster: My Illinois-trained eyes could see that much from my hosts' back garden, where the corn has attained less than half the height it should by now. Water shortages are terrible in central Nairobi. Even the electric grid is in trouble: Kenya depends heavily on hydroelectricity, but most of the dams have shut down for lack of water behind them. We have no power out here during the day, and some places are worse off still.

For all that, I have been very comfortable so far, and I am thankful for the many prayers that have made my presence here possible. Please keep them up, and if you are so moved, consider contributing to Marie's and my trip. And don't hesitate to write: I should have regular internet access in the evenings.

Blessings to everyone. Peace, love, and waking with the hens,


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

another different kind of church

(posted to the crossing community via email on aug. 4)

I've missed our community during the summer hiatus, but rest assured, I've been to church every morning the last three days here on Martha's Vineyard. And by church, I mean I've gotten up at 7am to swim and do ocean aerobics with a group of older women called the Polar Bears. They've been meeting on the beach here in Oak Bluffs for at least three decades, and you feel like you just walked into church when you walk into their midst. They're wise, funny, embracing every new person, telling you stories on the side so you know what's come before and how you can find your place. One person will break into song -- usually a spiritual like "Wade in the Water" ... or something by Tina Turner -- and everyone else joins in with raucous abandon. At the end, we make a circle and introduce ourselves, and Teacher Eleanor leads us in an affirmation. Then we dance our way through the water back to the beach to get the day going and see what God is up to.

These sisters and brothers know something about church, something about God, something about life together. I look forward to bringing a piece of their community back to Boston and back to you.

what's happening @ the crossing?
THURSDAYS @ 6-6:45pm in AUGUST / Crossing Community Prayer Gathering on Boston Common
A simple gathering for prayer, scripture reflection and a song or two, keeping connections alive during our hiatus. LOCATION: Meet on the Cathedral steps at 6pm; the group will head onto Boston Common near the State House and get started at 6:15pm. CONTACT Kieran Conroy: or 845.781.3706.

THIS THURSDAY @ 8pm / Shakespeare on The Common
After the prayer gathering, let's head to the other side of the park for Shakespeare on the Common. THE PLAY: "The Comedy of Errors." THE TIME: meet on The Common at 7:15pm; play starts @ 8pm. THE COST: Free! CONTACT: Kieran at 845.781.3706 or Beth at 617.767.1969 -- if you'd like to find the group in the crowd.

SATURDAY, 8/8 and 8/15 @ 10am-3pm / Work Days at the DioMass Intern House
Help our friends in the DioMass Intern Program with preparing a house for interns moving to the area later this month. Good food, good people and good work abound! TIME: Work a shift 10-12, 1-3 or go ahead and stay 10-3. St. LOCATION: Luke's-St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Allston (5 Saint Lukes Rd; 66 bus or B Line to Packard's Corner). CONTACT: Jason at Learn more about the program at

TUESDAYS @ 6:30-8pm in AUGUST / Centering Prayer Group
Join this open group and share the practice of centering prayer (think of it as Christian meditation). If it's your first time or you're a pro, the group will be a refreshing way into deeper life with God. LOCATION: Due to construction in the Cathedral community spaces this summer, the group will meet in nearby churches. At The Paulist Center -- a Catholic church across from Park St. T, about half-way up Park St (toward the State House; red door). NOTE: On 8/25, meet at St. John the Evangelist Church on Bowdoin Street. CONTACT: Keith Nelson, or 205.807.9037.

In two weeks, two members of The Crossing community -- Chris Ashley and Marie Harkey -- travel to forge relationships with our brothers and sisters in Maseno, Kenya. The tickets have been bought, but it was a faith leap. We still need to raise the last $800 to send Chris and Marie to Kenya. CONTACT: Chris at for info. Contact Rev. Steph via email or at 617.312.5218 if you plan to make a donation (checks made out to St. Paul's Cathedral, with "Crossing Priest Discretionary-Kenya" in the memo area -- mail to 138 Tremont St., Boston MA 02111). LEARN MORE:

community notes
Giving @ The Crossing -- An Update
We're at the halfway point in our annual giving goal of $20,000 in 2009. Please prayerfully consider making a one-time gift or start pledging (setting out an amount you'd like to give over the course of a year, and filling out a pledge card so we know we can count on your contribution). Give however you're able: cash, check or credit cards. CONTACT: Chris Ashley at
You got stuff to share (a job, a couch, a theater gig you want people to attend …)? You need stuff (lost scarf, dog-sitter, a summer sublet …)? Log onto our new online forum to connect and share information about random community announcements -- including upcoming events, apartment sublets, job opportunities, lost-and-found, furniture exchange, help requests, etc.
ongoing justice and healing ministries
We're serious about joining ministries that serve our homeless and hungry brothers and sisters. Please join us any day of the week!
** Monday Lunch Program: Cathedral every Monday, 10am to help with set-up, or 11:30am-12:45pm to help serve & build community with our neighbors. Contact Rev. Steph at

** St. Francis House: Volunteers needed every day to help serve meals and provide care. Boylston St, near Chinatown. Lynn Campbell, our link to St. Francis House, is on her way to seminary. But if you'd like to help out, call (617) 542-4211 or go to

AND join Boston Faith and Justice Network to build awareness, relationships and action around fair trade and justice issues locally and globally. Go to for more info.

getting connected @ the crossing
If you'd like to be in touch, we'd love to connect with YOU! Look at the list and then reach out:
** Stephanie Spellers: / 617.482.4826, x318
(priest, communications, pastoral care)
** Jason Long: / 617.482.4826, x311 (small groups & formation, newcomers)
** Chris Ashley: (budget, hospitality)
** Kieran Conroy: (emerging church connections)
** Jamie Urquhart: (music ministry)
** Keith Nelson: (worship arts)
** Jenna Tucker: (general admin)

Blessings, rest and joy in the name of Christ -- Alleluia!
Rev. Steph

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