My visual, audio and literary stuff is free here, but my hold-in-your-hands books, prints, and CDs cost real money. If you want to buy something tactile from me, contact me at stujenks at gmail dot com, or message me on Facebook. If you simply want to look and read for free, that's fine too, but don't hesitate to send me your sofa change. My snail mail address is P.O. Box 161, Tucson, Arizona 85702. Keep those cards and letters coming. And sofa change too. Love and light, Stu.
Rev. Steve Keplinger's Sermon at the funeral of Mary Elton Saum Jenks, Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona, July, 30th, 2011.
[Photo: "Mary's Leaning, Tucson, Arizona" (c) 2011 Stu Jenks.]
In the name of the God who is present with us in our deepest grief. Amen.
There are not many things more difficult in life than what you have just heard Stu Jenks achieve. Capturing the essence of any individual who has lived a full and complete life is always a formidable task. Doing so for someone as complex as Mary Jenks is darn near impossible. But accomplishing all this when you are the one living in the land of intense personal loss and grief, well, that is almost unthinkable. In the midst of losing both his mom and his sister, Stu has done this beautiful thing. Thank you Stu for being willing to put yourself in this place of extreme vulnerability. We are all the richer for hearing your Mom’s story from your lips. As Stu and others have shared their memories of Mary with me, I too have struggled with a way to capture such a brilliantly enigmatic character in so many words. Mary was devilishly difficult to pigeonhole. She was the epitome of the classic, graceful, elegant southern belle and she had all the refined sensibilities that go with it. But at the exact same time, she was so opinionated and forceful that she did not want to let you up until you saw things her way. Similarly, she was so fiercely and proudly Episcopalian that many were often a bit nervous to tell Mary that they were in another denomination. But simultaneously, Mary’s theology was all about full inclusion of everyone and she absolutely and unequivocally believed that God is way too big for one religion. While the most well known colloquial way to describe Episcopalians is to call them God’s frozen chosen, and while Mary was the most Episcopal like person most have ever experienced, Mary was never frozen a day in her life. No one had any difficulty knowing exactly what was on her mind and no one ever stated their position more emphatically or with more fervor. And while Mary had a deep and abiding relationship with God, the last thing she would tell you is that she was chosen. In fact, as Stu has made clear to us, Mary believed we were all chosen and that Episcopalians certainly had no inside track to anything. This afternoon, we will all take part in the act of communion as a part of this service because it was so instrumental to Mary’s belief system. For her, communion was as powerful an act as any of us can ever take part, because it captures the essence of the beloved community. She was all about community, but at the same time, she was more of a rugged individualist than John Wayne. Finally, since the earliest days of Anglicanism during the reign of Elizabeth I, this has been the church of the Via Media, the middle way. We have always been about finding a way to allow very diverse philosophies to live together. Our goal has always been to be a church where people could worship together despite our theological differences. Never has an individual been more steeped in Anglicanism and the Via Media than Mary Jenks. But in the midst of that Anglicanism, all of you who experienced the real Mary know that she, in the nicest, most southern way possible, made it crystal clear that it was, “My way or the highway.” How do we reconcile such a dichotomy? More importantly, how did Mary? This afternoon, I would suggest to all of you that for Mary, it was not difficult at all. In fact, I would suggest that she never saw any of this as contradictory in the least. She saw it as a simple matter of living her faith. She saw it as embracing the very heart of Anglicanism. If there is a standard methodology for attacking Anglicanism and the whole idea of The Via Media, it is that this church does not stand for anything. Via Media is often heard in today’s culture as a theology that does not come down in favor of or against anything. It is heard as a theology for the wishy-washy. But as Mary Jenks knew so well, that is not what Via Media means at all. Via Media is about balance, it is about realizing that Newton’s third law of Physics applies to faith also, for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. In Taoism, this is referred to as the yin/yang. In Native American tradition, it is called walking the red road. The point is, it is about balance in your life and holding the tension that exists when things are not black and white. What Mary knew better than all of us is that this is the nature of the world. As much as we would all love a world where evil and good are easily discernible from one another, none of us actually believes that. We might want our religion to be simplistic because of the complex world surrounding us, but we know darn well that it is not and cannot be “God said it, I believe it and that settles it.” Mary knew that this does not settle anything. The key for a helpful faith then, is to teach us how to live in ambiguity, to live in the tension of the place between being a southern lady and also getting across your point. The tension between being a fiercely loyal Episcopalian while also being a universalist. That is the Via Media that Mary embraced, a faith that was never for one second wishy washy, a faith that kept life in balance by being the enigma that the world saw. It is this faith that allowed Mary Jenks to see beyond the notion that church is all about “making nice.” It is what allowed her to take sides when Anglicanism came under attack from the inside in the last 20 years. When most sat around during the battles going on in this Communion and said, “Can’t we all just get along?”, it was Mary Jenks deep faith, steeped in the theology of Anglicanism that convinced her that she had no choice but to defend the ordination of women in this church. It is what convinced her that she had no choice but to stand for up for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in this church because she knew darn well that this is what Jesus would have done. She was able to do so even though almost everyone in her generation disagreed with her, because she understood the nature of Anglicanism and was able to interpret the words of Jesus for a new time and place. That beloved, is an amazing accomplishment. But Mary Jenks went far beyond that. She made this bold stand in the midst of the greatest siege of The Episcopal Church. Because while the press was concentrating on the flamboyant events occurring in the Diocese of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh, the real battle for this church was going on in Mary’s home Diocese of Virginia. When Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, the last piece was put in place. Those who were still fuming within the church about women’s ordination, saw this as their opportunity to storm the bastille. They would start in Virginia, because many churches there, including Mary’s home parish of St. Mary’s White Chapel, were incorporated before The Episcopal Church had formed. If these properties were parishes before the Episcopal Church existed, they argued, then they could not legally be owned by The Episcopal Church, giving them the opportunity to not just leave the wider church, but take the property with them. It was a brilliant strategy. What the defectors did not count on however, was Mary Jenks. In the midst of it all, she stood firmly and resolutely with her Bishop and her friend, Peter Lee. In the end, the coups would fail. Mary stood for the Gospel and for the protection of Anglicanism and a church where everyone was welcome and included, even those who disagreed with her. I have to tell you, I cannot help but feel a bit cheated for not having had the opportunity to experience Mary in all her regal feistiness. I have no doubt that she had the ability to be a royal pain, but it is also obvious that it was this same fierce character that gave her the ability to make such a strong impact on the world around her. Her enigmatic ways went a long way to keeping intact the heart of The Episcopal Church and helping others to realize that all of us are children of God. The spirit and chutzpah of Mary Jenks is exactly what this church needs right now and in the years ahead. It is exactly what Jesus taught us to be. Mary’s service on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Virginia and her role as a women’s historian in the church will not soon be forgotten. Her love of church music and her years of service as a choir director will be a major part of her legacy. But it will be her fiercely loyal protection of her friends and those who were being oppressed that will always make Mary a saint for me. May each of us have the courage to follow her example and be an enigma to the world. May each of us learn from her how to live in ambiguity and enjoy every moment of it. May each of us relish every moment of life and always stand proudly with anyone and everyone who has been rejected by others, just as Mary taught us. Amen.
The below creedal statment was written by an anonymous peasant woman in El Salvador. It's from the book Prayers Encircling The World.
This creed will be the statement of faith at my mother Mary Jenks' funeral this Saturday, July 30th, 2011, at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams, Tucson, Arizona at 2 p.m. There will be a reception afterwards. Please come.
Rev. Steve Keplinger suggested this creed instead of the Nicene Creed. (Honestly, the Nicene Creed isn't even close to my own personal statement of faith. Thanks, Steve for this creed.) This prayer is so beautiful I think. I just had to put in on the StuBlog for those of you who can not attend the service. And I look forward to seeing all of you who can be there this Saturday.
Love and light,
I believe, God, that everything good in the world comes from you. I believe in your great love for all people. I believe that, because you preached love, freedom and justice, you were humiliated, tortured and killed. I believe that you continue to suffer in our people. I believe that you call me to defend your cause, But I also believe that you accompany me in the task of transforming this world into a different one, where there is no suffering or weeping: A world where there is a gigantic table set with free food where everyone is welcome. I believe that you accompany us in waiting for the dawning of a new day. I believe that you will give us strength so that death does not find us, without having done enough, and that you will rise in those who have died seeking a different world. Amen.
Images: "Rincon Ocotillos: For Mary Jenks" (c) 2011 Stu Jenks & "Mary On The Fourth Of July" (c) 2010 Stu Jenks
Mary Elton Saum Jenks October 31st, 1926 - July 7th, 2011
Mary Elton Saum Jenks died July 7th, 2011 at Crossroads Adult Care Center in Tucson, Arizona of complications from dementia. She was 84 years old. Mary was born in Alexandria, Virginia into a family of landed gentry. She attended Duke University in North Carolina, graduated from Duke pre-med, and married Stuart Carlyle Jenks Sr. soon after. They were married 52 years until his death in 2001. Mary was very active in The Episcopal Church, from being choir director at St. Mary’s Whitechapel in Lively, Virginia, to being a member of The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Virginia. She is survived by her son, Stuart C. Jenks Jr. of Tucson, Arizona, her brother, Courtney Saum of Silver City, New Mexico and a few nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sisters Virginia and Nan, her husband Stuart and her daughter Pamela. Memorial services for Mary will be held at Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2331 East Adams Street, Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, July 30th at 2 p.m.. Another funeral for Mary and the burials of both Pamela and Mary Jenks will be at St. Mary's Whitechapel Episcopal Church, 5940 White Chapel Road, Lancaster, Virginia on September 17th, 2011 at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Casa de la Luz Foundation, 400 West Magee Road, Tucson, Arizona 85704
"Now That's Good" & "A Smaller Mary": November 2009, February 2011; Crossroads Adult Care Home, Tucson, Arizona.
“I could use a High Ball.” “Say again?” I ask. “A High Ball,” Mary says. “So would you like some Scotch?” “Yes...I would,” she states slowly but firmly, like she’s making a statement of faith. Well, she does look close to death. Whatever you want, Mom. Scotch Whiskey it is. The next day, I’m walking through Total Wine looking for the Dewar’s. Been almost 25 years since I bought a fifth of Scotch. Last time I bought a fifth it was ten bucks. Christ, it’s over $30 now! I quickly breeze by the single malt section. I don’t linger. I don’t hang outside of drug dealers homes anymore. Best not dwell in front of the Glenfiddich now. Half hour later, I’m with Mary. It’s 6:30. She’s in bed. I show her the Dewar’s and she smiles. “I’ll be right back,” I tell her. I go in the kitchen and find her Sippy Cup. Pour in three fingers of Dewar’s, a splash of water and a couple cubes. Screw on the top of the Sippy and put in a straw to make it easier. “OK, Mom,” I say, sitting on her bed. “I’ll hold the cup and you just sip.” I place the straw to her lips. She sucks lightly and the Scotch slowly rises up the straw. Then the Scotch hits her throat and she sucks harder and harder and harder. I watch as the level in the cup goes down, down, down. Finally, she releases the straw and lets it fall from her lips. Mary closes her eyes and let’s out a loud “Ahhhh....” I chuckle. She opens her eyes a bit, looks right at me. “Now...that’s good.”
Mary’s sleepy today. Ansel, the nurse, says she’s been sleepy all day. I talk about the Gem Show with Mom. She wants to go. I remind her that she’s too sick to go. By the look on her face, she doesn’t like that answer but she accepts it. She seems to be getting smaller. Not only in size but in spirit. She’s not giving up the ghost yet, but it might not be that far off. Then again, I was saying that fifteen months ago. She looks likes she’s dying and then she isn’t. Weak as a kitten, then roars like a tiger. It’s a mystery, you know. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary just wakes up dead one morning, after being fine the day before. And she has a new bottle of Scotch in the freezer. Pig Nose Blended Scotch this time. Bought it for her for Christmas. It had a pretty box, and I made dozens of ceramic pig noses in Art School, back in the day. Seems appropriate Mary should drink Pig Nose. She and I joke this afternoon, about the time a few weeks ago, when she sent back her Scotch. Ansel had made it one part Scotch to one part water. Very weak. “It was awful....just awful” she says. “I’ve trained him now on how to make your Scotch, Mom. Three fingers, splash of water, a couple cubes. He knows now.” She nods, satisfied with my answer. I talk about how it’s been 26 years today since I last drank Scotch. Ten years ago, Mom said being a recovering alcoholic is the bravest thing in the world, that she was proud of me. It’s really not that hard, but I gladly accepted the rare compliment from her. “Been a long time since I’ve drank Scotch,” I say. Mary scrunches up her face, like she’s winding up to throw a fastball. “You used to...drink...like a dog,” she says. I burst out laughing. “Yea, I did, Mom,” I says, “I drank like a dog. I now have this image of me lapping up Scotch from a dog bowl on the floor. Ain’t that far from the truth, really. Really.
The Blessing by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at the Memorial for the Victims of the Tucson Shooting January 12th, 2011 McHale Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Welcome. Let me start in the traditional way by introducing myself.
I am Carlos Gonzalez. On my mother's side, I am Mexican. A child of descendants of this valley, pioneer family from Mexico that came in the 1800s. On my father's side, I'm Yaqui. Refugees from Mexico that escaped the genocide in the Rio Yaqui in the 1800s.
We have been here -- for myself, I am fifth generation in the valley of Tucson.
Now, please understand I am not a medicine man. I'm really just a family doc. Fortunate enough to teach here at this university and fortunate enough to learn the sacred ways and the sacred words so that I can share them with you.
I have been given permission by my elders to say blessings of this type although, to tell the truth, I've never done one with so many people.
So I've also been fortunate to grow up in this great country where a poor kid, from the south side of Tucson could get an education at a fine institution like the University of Arizona, and then even better, to come back and teach here. And teach students at this institution. So with that, I would like to start the blessing after my brief introduction.
I'm sorry I have to do it the traditional way. It's the way we do it. Now, for those of you that know the traditional blessing way, please feel free to do it. For those of the rest of you, just please stand. So let me begin.
Oh Creator, I come to give a blessing, a blessing at this time of disharmony, at this time of disunity. Please after hearing my blessing and my prayers, let us work towards harmony, towards wholeness and balance.
Let us begin by honoring the eastern door from where we get visions and guidance. May each of us get the vision and guidance to proceed in a good way.
From the southern door, where we get the energies of the family, please let us honor the families of those that have passed on. Let us honor the families of those that are healing. And also let us honor our own families. Let us remain humble. And also use humor when appropriate. For humor is healing and can help people.
From the western door, please let us honor the sacred ways and our sacred ancestors. For without them we would not be here. Oh, Creator, that is a door to which those that have passed on have walked to the next world. Let us honor them as they passed on. Let us also look within ourselves to see how we can improve and be better human beings.
From the northern door, where we receive challenges and the strength to meet those challenges, let us all receive strength to meet the challenges that face our great country. Please, give us that strength as we proceed.
From Father Sky, where we get the masculine energy, the energy to be responsible, to be respectful and to protect those that need protection. Give us that good energy.
From Mother Earth where we get the feminine energy, give us that energy to nurture and care for those that need it, and also to help those that ask for our help.
Oh, Creator, may the two energies, the masculine energy and the feminine energy, come together in our center where the creator exists, where each of us has a piece of the creator.
Please, you have given us each a gift. May we use these gifts to help our fellow human beings.
Oh, Creator, let us bless the families of those that have lost their loved ones. Let us bless the family of those that are healing. Let us bless those people that are here today. Let us bless those that are outside in greater Tucson, in Arizona and in our country. Let us bless them so that they too can heal from this tragedy that has occurred.
Oh, Creator -- if I may, my son is in Afghanistan. A little blessing to him, too.
Oh, Creator, let us not forget our fellow creatures. Those that stand. Those that blow in the wind. Those that are tall and stately. Those that crawl on the earth. Those that slither on the earth. Those that live under the earth.
Let us remember and bless the winged ones. Those that swim in the waters. The four legged. And also our brothers, the two legged that walk throughout this world. When we all come together at this time. And may the words people hear here sink in to their hearts so that they too can heal. So that they too can feel better.
Oh, Creator, I ask this humbly. I ask this so that we all can once again achieve harmony and balance in our lives.
Oh, Creator, welcome -- we welcome those people who come to our beloved city here, our beloved city of Chukson or Tucson as it's known. Welcome here and please bless each and every one here.
And with that, I would like to end my blessing to all my relations.
This new image may or may not make it into the Dementia Blues book, for we are in the final design push, but we just might have to find room. Mary was trying to smile that day. Her voice is weaker now. Her mood varies, as it always does. She's seeing visions of Dad more. She may be getting ready to die, but it's a mystery.
The staff at Crossroads told me yesterday that Mary's fifth of Dewer's in the freezer is almost empty. Among my Christmas presents in my apartment, sits a brightly wrapped bottle of Pig's Nose Blended Scotch. A wee medicinal dram of scotch will do my mother a world of good, on Christmas Morn.