The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Writing in his Journal on 17 January 1912, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, RN(1) wrote of Antarctica:
“Great God! This is an awful place!”
Scott had expectations; detailed expectations are dangerous things for explorers to have.
The value of exploration has to do with voyage at least as much as with destination.
The holidays are coming...days freighted with our memories of holidays past. In those memories
are rooted our expectations of this season’s holidays. Holidays can bring joy, and holidays can
be as hostile as Antarctica. We set ourselves up to expect something.
When our expectations are not met, we, mimicking Scott, declare of the holidays:
“Great God! This is an awful place!”
What expectations do you bring to your exploration of the days ahead? The taste of your grandmother’s latkes, when she’s been dead for 30 years? The wonder of midnight services that never quite achieve the mystery and reverential awe of your childhood? Often, we want what our former holidays gave us so much that we cannot receive what our present holidays offer us. We savor the sweetness of then so much that now inevitably disappoints us, not because it isn’t good, but because it isn’t then.(2) We want the remembered event, or we want to avoid the remembered event, so much that we miss the current possibilities.
How can we treasure memory and explore the present terrains of life? The best way to do this is to explore carrying memories to be added-to rather than to be replicated. Holidays do not attack us, intending us harm. We do that harm to ourselves and each other in the context of expectations and memories which may be too perfect to be accurately recalled, or ever fully be reproduced. Scott’s expedition was doomed in part by his desire that pre-conceived notions be supported by circumstances of which he could have no accurate prior knowledge, and over which he could never have full control. We bring the same expectations to the holidays if we’re not careful.
The record suggests that Scott wanted to be a hero at least as much as he wanted to be an explorer. We can approach the holidays in the same confusion if we’re not careful; it will produce “Scott-results”- freezing to death. The heroic triumph of the gift given, the party hosted, the family meal served may never measure up to the expectations with which we load them; we become like Scott- imagined destination more important than actual journey.
Approach the holidays chastened by Robert Falcon Scott, who failed before he set foot on Antarctica because he went there first to beat Roald Amundsen to the Pole, and only secondarily to explore. The holidays are a voyage of exploration rather than a destination in our expectations. What will you discover? I pray it will be gentle time, substantive conversation, and authentic relationships.....all of it more wonderful and holy than you ever could plan, imagine, or recall.
Love you. See you in Church.
(1) Captain Robert Falcon Scott, RN, CVO 6 June 1868 - circa 29 March 1912
Scott and his party froze to death. Evidence from his final encampment and his Journal suggests that he was the very last member of the party to die. They were discovered eight months later, so the date of his death can be approximated.
Assessments of Scott’s life have swung a long arc, ranging from cravenly-vain, glory-seeking social climber, to serious scientific explorer, to naval officer obsessed with advancing the prestige of the British Empire. As with us all, Robert Falcon Scott was a complex personality. I think all of the assessments convey truth, and in their total, they form a whole picture that is accurate.
In his Message to the Public, written as he was slowly dying, Scott took considerable pains to justify himself and the planning and execution of the expedition. That said, I hope that history’s long view will acquit Robert Falcon Scott well, fully acknowledging his faults and flaws while remembering that he was a man of great personal courage who led his men well on a dangerous expedition, and sheltered and cared for them for as long as he lived.
We hear his humane strength in the final lines of his Message: “...the storm…has fallen on us within 11 miles of the depot at which we hope to secure our final supplies. Surely misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow. We arrived within 11 miles of our old One Ton Camp with fuel for one last meal and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the tent – the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult, and but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which is shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend upon us are properly cared for. Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.”
(2) The t-shirt maxim is true: “The older I get, the better I was”
New Altar Cloth in Memory of Bob Bregler
HOLIDAY WORSHIP SCHEDULE
Sunday, December 24th ~ Christmas Eve
4:15 pm ~ Musical Prelude
4:30 pm ~ Family Service
7:30pm ~ Carols
8:00 pm ~ Holy Eucharist
Monday, December 25th ~ Christmas Day
10:00 am ~ Holy Eucharist
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!
We again rocked it as a family!
We raised over $7700 to help sustain the fight against slavery, human trafficking, and violence against the poor!
We could have not done this without first and foremost, our committed congregation and all the prayers, our Freedom Partners whose donations will be matched, our Birthday Club whose members were so generous (all the years we had to own up to paid off!), the Diocese and Episcopal Relief and Development who also committed to some matching funds.
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
410 South Atlantic Ave
between Atlantic and Beach)
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008