Pastor Dies from Snake Bite During ‘Serpent-Handling’ Service

NY Daily News:

A West Virginia preacher famous for holding dangerous snakes during sermons  has died after a rattlesnake bit him last weekend.

Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford, 44, was bitten during a Memorial Day gathering  at park, the Washington Post reported.

“His birthday was Saturday, and all he wanted to do is get his brothers and  sisters in church together,” his sister, Robin, told the newspaper.

Wolford was profiled in the Post last year for his unconventional ways of  testing faith. He believed that the Bible says Christians must handle serpents  to test their faith in God.

“Anybody can do it that believes it,” he told the Post last year. “Jesus  said, ‘These signs shall follow them which believe.’ This is a sign to show  people that God has the power.”

Lauren Pond, a freelance journalist who had recently worked with Wolford on a  project, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that there were about 25  people in the park for Wolford’s ceremony.

She told the newspaper that Wolford was bitten in the thigh, but members of  the congregation seemed unfazed.

“I don’t think anyone necessarily expected it, but they’ve dealt with it  before so it’s not such a huge shock maybe,” she said.

He was eventually transported to Bluefield Regional Medical Center, where he  was pronounced dead.

Serpent handling is controversial and illegal in many states. But according  to a 2003 National Georgraphic report, it shows no signs of going  away.

“Serpent handling is maintained through powerful families whose children have  carried on that tradition for up to four generations,” one expert told the  magazine at the time. “There are a small number of converts, but they generally  maintain themselves through these families, and by people marrying into the  tradition.”

Wolford, according to the Post, was passionate about keeping the tradition  alive.

“I promised the Lord I’d do everything in my power to keep the faith going,” he said in October. “I spend a lot of time going a lot of places that handle  serpents to keep them motivated. I’m trying to get anybody I can get  involed.”

Park officials told the Charleston Gazette that poisonous snakes are not allowed in  the park where the church cermony was held.

“We do not allow people to bring poisonous snakes into the park,” State  Division of Natural Resources spokesman Hoy Murphy said. “If they did it, it was  without the park people’s knowledge.”

What a strange practice. Pentecostal madness…


Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter Ordination Schedule (Summer 2012)

From the Official website:

Ordination Schedule for Summer 2012

Below is a list of ordinations for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Dates will be added as they become available:


Priesthood: Mobile, Alabama (9 a.m., Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception): Matthew Venuti

Diaconate: Washington, DC (10 a.m., Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Crypt Church): Rick Kramer, Mark Lewis, David Reamsnyder, Randy Sly, Anthony Vidal


Priesthood: Greenville, South Carolina (6 p.m., St. Mary’s Catholic Church): Jon Chalmers

Diaconate: St. Augustine, Florida (6 p.m., Historic St. Joseph Church, Mandarin): Nick Marziani


Diaconate: Los Angeles, California (9 a.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels): Andrew Bartus

Priesthood: Baltimore, Maryland (10 a.m., Cathedral of Mary Our Queen): Jason Catania, David Reamsnyder, John Anthony Vidal


Diaconate: Des Moines, Iowa (8:30 a.m., St. Ambrose Cathedral): Chori Jonathin Seraiah


Priesthood: St. Augustine, Florida (11 a.m., Historic St. Joseph Church, Mandarin): Nick Marziani


Priesthood: Washington, DC (10 a.m., Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle): Rick Kramer and Mark Lewis

Priesthood: Arlington, Virginia (10:30 a.m., Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church, Potomac Falls): Randy Sly


Reception of a parish community: Towson, Maryland (9:30 a.m., Christ the King Church): Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson will receive 125 members of the Anglican parish of Christ the King (rector, Fr. Ed Meeks) into the Ordinariate


Priesthood: Fort Worth, Texas (9 a.m., St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Keller, Texas): Mark Cannaday, Charles Hough III, Charles Hough IV, Timothy Perkins, Christopher Stainbrook and Joshua Whitfield


Priesthood: San Juan Capistrano, California (11 a.m.: Basilica Mission San Juan Capistrano): Andrew Bartus (also at Mass: reception of Catholics from Orange County and San Diego, California)


Priesthood: Des Moines, Iowa (10:30 a.m., St. Ambrose Cathedral): Chori Jonathin Seraiah

HT:  Thanks to Conchúr and Don Henri in the comments, the latter who has the list per former denomination here.


Homily for the Ordination of Deacons for the Chair of St Peter

Bishop Kevin Vann blogs. His homily for the Ordination to the Diaconate for the six Personal Ordinariate clerics of the Chair of St Peter follows:

Homily for the Ordination of Deacons for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth

May 29, 2012

To our brothers Chuck, Chuck, Tim, Josh, Mark, and Christopher, and all of you gathered here at this historic Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth, on what is certainly a historic evening, welcome and may the grace of this occasion and the feast of Pentecost be yours. It is a blessing for all to gather here in this time of celebration and faith. Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter could not be with us this evening, and sends his prayers and greetings. He texted me earlier this day, and said to me that he “Will be keeping you and our noble lads in prayer today from somewhere in Nebraska!”

The words of the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” speak in several places of what is spoken of as II “Anglican Patrimony”, and the sharing of this gift and reality with the entire Body of Christ. Certainly for me, as a musician, part of this patrimony is the choral heritage and hymnody, and the singing therefore, that is a gift and blessing. It is fitting, then, that as we gather here this evening, we are under the watchful gaze of St. Cecelia, in the rose window in the choir loft here at St. Mary’s. For as the patroness of music, as one who “Sang to the Lord from her heart,” she will certainly pray for us and guide us in our worship this evening, not only from the choir loft, but from eternity. For certainly, here this evening, this celebration is on every level a chorus of praise to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for what has been and what will be. My brothers, I wonder if we can reflect this evening on this chorus of praise to God. What would be the voices that sing to you; to us this evening; and to what surround us? They may not be SATB, but they are the voices of the song that the Lord has sung with the lives of many individuals, and many events.

You will hear shortly the official instruction of the Roman Ritual for you, as you are ordained deacons, ministers of the Word and Charity, for the whole people of God—for your ordinariate communities and those whom God’s Providence sends your way. That is one voice – perhaps the voice that may stand out over the others. The theme, we might say, is the living Word of God in the readings for this day: St. Mark records the voice of St. Peter who seems to say, perhaps in frustration, that “we have given up all to follow you.”  By giving yourself over completely to the Lord, one commentary on this Gospel would say “to shed selfishness,” you have nothing and yet possess everything. The ministry of the deacon in word and charity will show you that again and again. In the first reading Peter, the first of the Apostles and Vicar for Christ, speaks again to you. Pope Benedict teaches [in Jesus: The Apostles and the early Church, Ignatius Press 2007] that “Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity of love. And, in this way, He shows us the way, notwithstanding all of our weakness. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours…It was a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, a ‘rock’ of the Church, because he was constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus.”

Having had the blessing to journey with you in these years, my brothers in the Lord, I have some insight into the fact that this has been indeed a long journey for you. But I do know that the Lord has been working with you in your lives so that like Peter, you may truly be a trustworthy witness to the Lord. I pray that you will always be open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus, like Peter. Some of the chorus of voices that sing to us in harmony this day are those who gave you the gift of Faith, and the communities of Faith in the Anglican Communion – Bishops, Priests and lay faithful – who helped nourish that Faith so you could hear His call to “come and follow” through all of the events of your lives. Someone, for example, like Father Acker of St. Timothy’s, who in reflecting on what could be called “four things” for the life of a Christian says that in the face of life’s challenges, “talk about it to the Lord. As you have waited upon him, you are more than likely to find that you will not only have strength to run, but to walk step-by-step, day-by-day, and not faint.” I know that you will not faint as you assume the order of deacon but I exhort you to find indeed [the strength] to walk step-by-step, day by day, in your new life and ministry. There are people whom the Lord will have waiting for you so that they may hear that good advice. Having lived that reality yourself in many ways in these last years toward full communion and diaconal/priestly ministry in the Catholic Church you are now in a blessed place to live that as Deacons.

You also have in this chorus the voices of those who surround you here, and you have your families as well, who have surrounded you with their love, prayer and faith. The chorus of praise over which Saint Cecelia presides, in a way, also includes Mary the Mother of God, in the windows here in the joyful and glorious events of her life, which are also the events of our salvation history. The chorus includes the voices of all of the apostles here, and may I add, the saints and martyrs of the Vincentian family: St. Vincent, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Francis Regis Clet, and St. John Gabriel Perboye. How appropriate for deacons, whose lives and ministry must always revolve around charity and service, and for all of us whose lives must be an uncompromising witness to truth and the freedom to speak and teach the truth always as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps one more recent set of voices joining this chorus are the voices of the Oxford Movement and their impetus toward Christian unity, and the healing of the wounds to communion in the Body of Christ. We are all part of this living history here this evening, and must listen to one more voice in this chorus: Blessed John Henry Newman. As Pope Benedict said in England, “Newman teaches us that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives. Our every thought, word, and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of His Kingdom.”

We need to thank the Lord for the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. Because it was indeed his voice, his words, that have brought to birth the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus“. Tim, do you remember at one of our meetings of priests of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and some of the priests of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, you said that “We are just waiting for someone to extend their hand?” I remember that well, and Msgr. Hart was present at that time also. Well, Tim and all gathered here, that hand has been extended, and indeed it is the hand of the successor of St. Peter – the same whom we heard about in the readings for this ordination Mass – who extended his hand to you and all gathered here with “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”

As we turn once more to Newman’s thoughts, then, indeed as Deacons, in the service of Word and Charity, remember always that every thought, word, and action of yours must be directed to “the glory of God and the spreading of His Kingdom,” because in the final analysis, as St. Paul tells us this evening, earthen vessels that we are, all we do is “Concerning the salvation of souls.”

Ordination to the Diaconate for Six Chair of St Peter Ordinariate clerics

Fr. Scott Hurd, Vicar General of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, writes on Facebook:

I thank God for the last night’s ordination as transitional deacon of six oustanding men in Fort Worth. As a former priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, I give thanks in a particular way for my friends and former colleagues. Of them, Deacon Chuck Hough Sr. was my first boss at St. Andrews’, Grand Prairie, and his son was an altar server at Stephanie’s and my wedding. And I had great joy assisting Deacon Christopher Stainbrook Stainbrook leading the diocesan youth ministry- which included a fine young woman named Kristina Steenson! And thanks you, Bishop Kevin Vann.

(left to right) Charles Hough IV, Timothy Perkins, Joshua Whitfield, Christopher Stainbrook, Mark Cannaday, and Charles Hough III



The Problem with Same-sex Marriage

A documentary worth watching.


8 Reasons your Church is Stuck

  1. You lack a leadership empowerment plan. We have failed as leaders in the church if we do not embrace the unique gift-mix that God designed. And we won’t fully know the power and impact of the local church until people are empowered to be the people God wired them up to be.
  2. You are unclear about your vision and mission. There are lots of churches with vision statements, but I don’t think there are very many churches that really have a vision statement that clarifies who they are as an organization. A clear vision that is properly communicated will both rally and repel people.
  3. You blame outsiders and external factors. Victim-thinking will only lead to bitterness and competition. Leaders who blame outsiders and external factors actually are confessing their own failure to think creatively and inspire their team.
  4. Your structure inhibits growth. One of the attributes of a church in decline is a complex structure. The natural tendency of organizations is to add complexity to their structure and systems. The longer an organization exists, the more complex it typically gets.
  5. You worship your past success. Our past successes can be one of the greatest contributing factors to our future demise. When organizations stick to “the way we do it,” the safe approach of avoiding innovation and change becomes the riskiest approach.
  6. You focus on activities instead of outcomes. While many church leaders are full of vision and passion, they lack an effective strategy to accomplish their mission. That leads to a feeling of disorganization, and ultimately they become stuck.
  7. You fail to equip God’s people. For whatever reason, smaller churches I work with have a tendency to rely on the pastors and paid staff to carry the ministry load rather than equipping lay people.
  8. Your ministries ignore people outside the church. When churches become inward-focused and start making decisions about ministry to keep people rather than reach people, they also start to die.



Italy: Earthquake, Priest Killed Trying to Rescue Church Statues


A country priest has nothing but his Church. The fact that it is not an architectural masterpiece and is not home to any great works of art matters little to him. Each statue and piece of furniture represented a piece of the village. Sixty five year old Ivan Martini who had worked for nine years as parish priest of Rovereto – a village near Modena, the area of Italy that has been worst hit by the earthquake – died this morning after his church collapsed on top of him…

Fr. Ivan loved his Church and everything in it. St. Catherine’s parish had been damaged and declared unfit for use following a previous earthquake, but an inspection had to be carried out in order to salvage some furniture from inside it. So, this morning, the priest entered the church along with two firemen, to try to save some statues. Among these was a statue of the Virgin Mary which his parishioners were particularly fond of.

But the strong earthquake that followed took the priest by surprise. Unable to escape, Fr. Ivan was hit by a rock or a collapsing beam, while the two firemen who had accompanied him managed to escape unscathed.

In the midst of all the damaged buildings, Rovereto mourns its only victim, its parish priest, who was much loved. It is certainly not easy being parish priest, surrounded by communists and immigrants who call God by a different name. “Fr. Ivan was really on the ball,” a parishioner of his said, accompanying his words of praise with an explicit but respectful gesture that described the courage the priest had shown throughout his mission.

Another parish priest was injured when the cathedral dome in Carpi, in the Italian Province of Modena, collapsed. Although news of his alleged death spread, he only actually suffered light physical injury and a huge shock, as the rest of his fellow parishioners did.


Using an iPad as a Missal

Via The Deacon’s Bench:

This comes from New Zealand, where one priest writes that the biggest problem with the new missal isn’t the language, but the physical ordering of the missal itself.

Then, inspiration struck:

What the people who translated the new Missal didn’t do was decide how the new English translation should look. They didn’t decide the layout of the New Zealand edition of the Missal.

Given the first effort was rejected, I can only but imagine what it might have looked like.

I’d suggest this edition still has layout issues. Among them

  • page turns in awkward places
  • the capitalisation of the words of consecration, making them almost impossible to read, and
  • some of the text is so closely aligned to the gutter of the book, that standing in a normal upright position makes it also almost impossible to read e.g. the Prayer of the Gifts on the 4th Sunday of Lent.

Negotiating the new text is one thing, negotiating poor formatting is another.

If this were a normal book, I’d be tempted to return it.

After my Sunday experience, I chatted with other priests who like me have tried-out the new New Zealand Missal.

Alas, they reinforced my view; one going as far as saying his experience was “dreadful”, and another, “forget the words, the layout is all over the place.”

I’m fortunate enough to have an iPad, and for some time have had the Universalis App.

This week, Universalis released a new free upgrade and with it came a feature “Mass Today”.

My initial reaction, it’s fantastic.

Some of its features include the ability to:

  • select the New Zealand liturgical calendar
  • make the font size either smaller or larger
  • select “Mass Today” and you get the whole Mass from the Sign of the Cross through to the Dismissal, including readings and your choice of Preface and ten Eucharistic Prayers.
  • take it with you in portable form.

Universalis on the iPad is not without its issues:

  • some of the pagination still interrupts the flow a little, (but because you don’t have to turn the page as often, this inconvenience is minimised)
  • it’s only in English; there’s no Maori translation
  • unlike a book which you just open and use, it’s important to make sure the iPad has enough battery-life to get you through Mass. A full-charge lasts for 10 hours. Hint: Turn the screen off during your sermon :-)
  • managing the iPad itself, navigation, updates and the like, may be a challenge for some
  • it probably requires a cover to make it look more like a book
  • it costs NZ$26

Using the iPad as a replacement missal may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, but I’d pose it’s at least worthy of consideration.

Read more.

Now, if only I could afford an iPad…


The James Ossuary May Be Destroyed?

The Jerusalem Post:

A Jerusalem judge will announce on Wednesday whether he has decided to order the destruction of a burial box that could have held the bones of the brother of Jesus and an inscribed tablet that could have come from the First Temple.

At a Jerusalem District Court hearing in April, Judge Aharon Farkash said he might exercise “the judgement of Solomon” and order both items to be destroyed.

The stone burial box, or ossuary, dates to the first century CE and has an Aramaic inscription that reads “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The black tablet is inscribed with a passage recording repairs by King Jehoash around 800 BCE. Its surface is spattered with sub-microscopic globules of gold that suggest it might have survived a fire in which golden items melted into tiny airborne particles.

If genuine, the items are the only artifacts yet recovered that can be linked directly to the family of Jesus and the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and could be of considerable historical significance.

Last March, at the end of a trial lasting nearly seven years, a Tel Aviv collector was acquitted of faking the two artifacts and other antiquities by Judge Farkash, vice president of the Jerusalem District Court.

But Judge Farkash reserved judgment on whether the ossuary or the stone tablet were authentic because of disagreements between the world’s leading experts.

On Wednesday, Judge Farkash will pass sentence on the defendant, Oded Golan, who was acquitted on 41 charges of forgery, fraud and other serious crimes, but found guilty of three minor misdemeanors of trading in antiquities without a license and handling goods suspected of being stolen.

At a hearing in April, the prosecution demanded a tough sentence including jail time and said that the ossuary, the tablet and many other items should be confiscated by the court, even though Golan had been acquitted of all charges related to them.

“Maybe I’ll order them to be destroyed and neither side will have them,” said Judge Farkash in comments that were not recorded in the official court transcript.

It would be “the judgement of Solomon,” said Judge Farkash.

“Neither of you will have the ossuary or the Jehoash tablet. They broke once already, they can be broken again. Just destroy them,” he said.

The ossuary cracked into two pieces 2002 while it was being shipped to an exhibition in Canada and was repaired by restorers at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The Jehoash tablet broke along an existing crack in 2003 while it was being handled by investigators at the Israel Police forensic laboratory.

The judge also suggested that the items might be put on display for the public.

“Maybe they should be exhibited at the Israel Museum as items from this trial suspected of being fakes,” he said.

Experts who gave evidence for both sides last night urged Judge Farkash not to destroy the items.

Andre Lemaire, the Sorbonne scholar who published the first analysis of the ossuary in 2002 and has stood by its authenticity, said its destruction would be “scandalous” and “a manipulation of historical evidence.”

“It would be necessary from a scientific point of view to start a new suit, on a real basis this time, for voluntary destruction of historical evidence and tentative manipulation of history,” Professor Lemaire told The Jerusalem Post.

Christopher Rollston, professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Emmanuel Christian Seminary who appeared as a prosecution witness, said “it is never prudent to destroy antiquities, regardless of the controversy surrounding them.”

“I would certainly not wish to see the Ya’akov (“James”) Ossuary destroyed. Indeed, to destroy the ossuary would only fuel the controversy, effectively turning this ossuary into an archaeological martyr of sorts. I wish to see it returned to its legal owner,” he said.

Prosecution witness Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, agreed that the ossuary should not be destroyed, but said it should not be returned to Golan. “The Israel Antiquities Authority has a place for alleged forgeries in their storehouses – why not put this item there too for posterity?” Finkelstein suggested.

Defence counsel Lior Bringer said the items should be returned immediately to Golan, who said he has not yet decided what to do with them.

“The prosecution is asking the court to punish the defendant for crimes for which he was acquitted,” said Bringer. “Golan admitted to the three minor charges he was convicted of in the first police interview. On these charges there was no need for a trial at all.”

“He spent more than two years under house arrest and was in prison twice. He has suffered enough,” said Bringer.


The Northeast Anglican

The June 2012 edition of the The Northeast Anglican (pdf.) is out. It’s by the Diocese of the Northeast of the Anglican Church in America (TAC)  It has news and more – not just of the Diocese, but the Church greater too… there’s plenty to read and enjoy. Click on the link.



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