Archive for December, 2015

No Room in the Guest Room

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

In a recent book, Journey to the Manger, the British New Testament scholar Paula Gooder claims that the word translated as “inn” in the traditional Christmas story really meant a guest room in someone’s house. “Inns” were only found out on the highways, where travelers needed to stop for the night.

So Luke seems to have envisioned Joseph and Mary being put up in a typical Bethlehem house–beneficiaries of the traditional hospitality for which the Middle East has been famous. There would have been no room on the upper level of the house where the family slept, so the visitors had to stay on the lower floor, which is also where the family’s domestic animals resided.

In fact, as Gooder points out, this revision of the story actually makes a better theological point than the familiar version. For Gooder, Jesus received the hospitality of strangers; and he received it not in an ancient version of a Holiday Inn but in someone’s own home, under the same roof of the local family’s house. All the more encouragement for us to offer hospitality to the stranger. —J. Douglas Ousley


New Signs of Incarnation on 35th Street

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

In the pre-Christmas rush, it’s easy to overlook events that aren’t directly related to the holiday. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the uptick in attendance at some of our groups, and at the number of new people showing up repeatedly at services and events.

Particularly gratifying have been some very generous gifts to our outreach ministries from people who have given little or nothing in the past. We are so blessed at Incarnation–not only with the faithful who keep the doors open and the candles lit, but also with folks on the fringes of our parish who look to us for inspiration and who do what they can to support our work.

Happy Feast of the Incarnation! —J. Douglas Ousley


“Active Shooter Resources”

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

“Active Shooter Resources” was an item in a PowerPoint presentation at a conference I attended yesterday at NYPD Headquarters, One Police Plaza.

The meeting was called by Commissioner William Bratton; participating were Clergy Liaisons and other religious leaders from the five boroughs. (I was invited because I am a Liaison for our 17th Precinct.) The huge auditorium was filled to the brim for this unprecedented “All-In” clergy gathering. Many speakers from the Police Department, including Commissioner Bratton, presented the many new initiatives and programs now underway. Mayor De Blasio closed the conference with assurances that he is dedicated to preserving the safety of New Yorkers.

I would categorize the conference’s concerns as mainly relating either to the racial divide between police and persons of color or to the dangers of terrorism. The NYPD is addressing the former issue by forming a “Community Partner Program.” Every officer in a given precinct, instead of being on duty in the area at-large will be assigned to a particular neighborhood. This change should help police to become more familiar with the residents of the area they serve.

Two disturbing videos dealt with the second issue of terrorism. One film told how to recognize a young person becoming radicalized (watch for changes in behavior); the other video showed what to do if an active shooter/terrorist enters your building (Run if possible, if not possible, Hide; if you can’t run or hide, Resist.) Clergy were urged to arrange to show these videos to their congregations.

All in all, I was happy that the police were trying to tackle the problem of racism in some policing. But I was sad to think that we religious leaders should actually be prepared to deal with active shooters. God help us all. —J. Douglas Ousley