Reverend Ruth's Autonomous Collective

Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit
To boldly go where no man has gone before
--Gene Roddenberry

Updated 03/02/09


The Shrubbery updated 03/02/09

The Underbrush at (Serina's view of life) updated 03/02/09

Frank Lloyd Wright Homes and Gettysburg created on 05/03/07

West updated 5/03/07

East updated 5/03/07

Historic Schellsburg and Bedford updated 12/17/07

A couple of the residents of The Bison Corral in Schellsburg, with the Lincoln Highway Mural in the background.


Serina on the day she arrived here at the house. Quite a cutie, even if her brother wasn't impressed!

Where to start?

Aside from the goofiness of a security update to Windoze XP SP-3 that caused my firewall and my anti-virus software to feud over FTP access to the web (which should have been an easy fix but wasn't because my anti-virus software wasn't fully installed properly; GNERF!), life has been busy enough that keeping up with the websites was at the bottom of the list.

I have pictures from the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC 2 years ago to upload soon, in celebration of the coming of spring. I've been back a couple of times since with my brother Howard, who hadn't realized how close I am to the nation's capital until he saw the signs for DC as we left the Baltimore airport. It's an amazing city any time of year, but especially in the spring. I might even get back this year for the festival if I have interested company.

Vacation in Texas was nice this year. Instead of 50 degrees and raining in both Schellsburg and Corpus Christi, as it has been the last 2 years, it was over 70 and sunny every day. I know they desperately need rain, but I was glad to have the sun after so much ice and snow. We might get more snow overnight from the coastal storm, but not much, being on the outer western edge of it. I feel your pain, my friends in Massachusetts!

I have to go to the eye doctor soon. For the first time in the 26 years I've been wearing contacts, I managed both to destroy one AND to put the partial lens in my eye...on the day I was leaving for Texas. Can I tell you how much I hate being stuck in glasses? Unfortunately, I suspect the doctor won't prescribe contacts for me again because even being more cautious than he told me to be with the amount of time each day I wore my lenses, I'm pretty sure the thickening condition on my cornea is back. Either that or my glasses have really bad micro scratches in them. Is it fair to hope it's the latter? They are 3 years old, after all!

Must let Apollo have his say tonight, since Serina has already had hers. Here's to spring arriving EARLY!

08/27/08 - Memo to the Republican National Committee:

If the man who makes a great speech can run a competent, solvent campaign while the woman who would bring "years of experience" and the man who would bring "years of experience" ran incompetent, insolvent campaigns, then the one who makes a great speech has as much if not more to recommend him to an executive office as the two with "years of [legislative] experience."


Because it shows he has good judgment when it comes to choosing competent people who can make informed decisions about money management; it shows that he has good judgment when it comes to choosing competent people who can set aside personal differences to get the job done; it shows that he has good judgment when it comes to holding people accountable for their screw ups; and it shows that he has good judgment when it comes to evaluating information from multiple sources and then can take action on that information.

The fact that neither the woman nor the man with "years of experience" ran campaigns that ended up with money in the bank; ran campaigns staffed with jealous and feuding favorites who couldn't set aside personal differences to get the job done (let us not forget that good judgment would have included stepping in to quell the feuds and/or fire the troublemakers MUCH sooner); allowed under-qualified people to make the same mistakes repeatedly; and seemed to rely on a single stream of information that conformed to her or his own view of the universe and took action on that information in ways that harmed the campaign...well, that sounds like 4 more years of the G. W. Bush White House in the making.

Oh, and let us not forget that the one who makes a great speech has good judgment when it comes to his personal life, too. She with the "years of experience" has no excuse for her choice. He with the "years of experience" may have made two good choices, but the judgment that led to the need to make good choice number two leaves much to be desired.

And if you were hoping that by using HER in an advertisement supporting your candidate, well...

THAT IS CERTAINLY NOT GOOD JUDGMENT ON YOUR PART. But why should we expect anything else after 8 years of W.? You were the ones who put him in the White House to start with, instead of the man "with years of experience" who should have been your nominee in 2000.

06/09/08 - ENOUGH!

Although I do not like to identify myself this way, I am a 30-something white woman. I have benefitted from the efforts of women in the generations ahead of me to break barriers and to establish that women are superbly capable of doing anything and everything they set their minds to, collectively or individually. I have been openly discriminated against because of my gender, although I think that is far more a function of my chosen career than most women my age encounter (there are clergy in my area who will not participate in activities with my congregation in part because they called a woman to be their pastor, which is even sadder than not getting my profile placed in churches because of my gender.) I also know that on occasion I have been denied opportunities because I personally was not a good match for the position or because someone else was even more qualified, or showed more potential, or had a certain "something" that made him or her stand out over me. Does it hurt? Yes. But it's life.

So I hereby beg and plead with all the deconstructionists who are writing post-mortems on the Hillary Clinton campaign to stop with the sexist nonsense. Hillary didn't lose because Americans are sexist. Barack didn't win because people are trying to show they aren't racist. Hillary lost because she as a person does not inspire as many people as Barack inspires. On paper, she may be more experienced but she's also laden with a lot of baggage, not least of which is a husband who has been making an ass of himself (appropriate for a Democrat) since at least 1988. Barack may be less well known, but what he says is more sensible and resonates with people because he speaks about changing what isn't working. What a novel concept. It's broke and it needs fixin'. Most of us know he won't be able to change everything - in fact, probably very little. But at least he wants to try new things and does not come with much baggage, save a pastor who went off the deep end. McCain has a couple of those, too, so that's a wash.

Experience often locks people into a status quo mode that prevents them from seeing other ways of doing what is required - hence the studies that show pastoral efficacy peaks during the 7th-12th years in a congregation and begins to slow after the 14th. We've had 16 years of post-Cold War status quo leadership in this country and the peak was in...the 7th-10th years, from 1998-2001. We came to a screeching halt and have moved backwards since then.

It comes down the the Vice Presidential nominees, really. McCain needs a fresh, younger face to woo those disaffected Hillary supporters (who, if they are paying attention, will realize that McCain v. 2008 bears only superficial resemblance to McCain v. 2000, who got robbed of the chance to beat Al Gore without the benefit of hanging chads). Barack needs an experienced person with enough remove from Washington to bring an outside perspective - realistically, someone who isn't seen as a traitor to the family by Hillary, et al. Which is a shame, because I think Bill Richardson was the best qualified candidate in either party's field and would make a terrific VP - and a WELCOME change from Dead Eye Dick.

Anyway, thank God there is always the write-in option. I'm thinking Colin Powell-Sam Nunn sounds like a really good team...

3/05/09 - An open letter to Senator Hillary Clinton (and her supporters in the Democratic Party):

You lost me at Gennifer Flowers.

Yes, way back in January of 1992, before your husband had even won a single primary race, I as a first year graduate student in seminary watched you on 60 Minutes and saw a woman whose ambition trumped even her self-respect. I could not and still do not understand how, in this day and age when an entire generation of women - YOUR OWN! - has fought for and achieved the ability to succeed without ever being married or as a divorcee, you could sit beside your husband and proclaim your loyalty and devotion to him despite what you had to have known was his serial philandering. I was bitterly disappointed to see a woman who could have been such a wonderful example of a strong, independent leader, who could have made it to the top as her own person rather than relying on her husband's political connections and successes, abase herself out of fear that she could not achieve her dreams without a man by her side.

Monica Lewinsky simply confirmed it. Had you stood up for yourself at that time, you might have won back my respect. Had you set aside the fear of losing your chance at occupying the Oval Office as President of the United States long enough to stand up for yourself as a woman worthy of more respect than your husband ever gave you, long enough to state to the world that even the President of the United States must face the personal, professional, and legal consequences of poor judgment, abuse of power, and perjury, I very well might have taken a second look at you.

Instead, you expressed your disappointment in an understated way and stood by your man. I have been known to state that it's probably so neither of you can testify against the other, which is admittedly cruel. I wish I believed that it is a baseless charge, but even in my most charitable moments, I wonder why you have demeaned yourself and all that you have accomplished by standing by your man unless it is 1) out of a devotion so deep that it doesn't come through in pictures, video, or written accounts of your appearances together; or 2) out of fear of what he could say that would completely eliminate any chance you have of being President and/or send you to prison.

Truth be told, if you were as independently able as Janet Neapolitano or Kathleen Sebelius (the optimal not-Hillary-as-you-are-now-but-as-you-might-have-been), I would consider voting for you in the general election. In general, I agree more with the domestic agenda that you and the Democratic Party will bring to the table; foreign policy weighs heavily on my mind but I think you would need to adopt much of the fresh view of realpolitik as put forth by Senator Obama in order for me to see a real difference between the parties. In a contest between the optimal Senator Clinton and Senator McCain, you might get the edge because I am not sanguine about his likely judicial nominees.

You are not, however, the Hillary-who-might-have-been. You are tainted by your association with a man who, whatever his policies might or might not have done for the country, sullied the Office of the President of the United States of America. That many other Presidents have done the same thing is not germaine; your husband got caught and then compounded the indiscretion with a lie and tried to brush it all off with semantics. And you let him get away with it.

Senator Obama is right: it is a question of judgment, and not just about who answers the phone at 3:00 in the morning. Your judgment has been flawed since the second time your husband cheated on you. Once I can understand; I have friends who have rebuilt their marriages quite successfully after a single extra-marital relationship. But as the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." If in your judgment it was better for your ambitions to stand by your man, then that shows me your judgment about your own abilities and self-worth is seriously lacking. How can I in good conscience vote for anyone, male or female, black or white or Hispanic or Asian, who does not value him/herself enough to escape from a humilating relationship when there is absolutely no obstacle except, apparently, blind ambition?

So the upshot of it is, Senator Clinton, that I am going to grit my teeth hard as I go change my affiliation from Independent to Democrat tomorrow at the county courthouse so that I can vote in the Pennsylvania primary. And on April 22, I am going to vote for Barack Obama. Not because he is a member of the United Church of Christ, as I am. Not because I believe that he can accomplish everything he says he wants to - he can't, and we all know that deep down, no matter how hard we might wish otherwise. Not because I know I will vote for him if he is the Democratic nominee in the end. I will vote for Barack Obama because I believe that he has integrity, self-respect, and ambition tempered by an innate sense of good judgment. Is his judgment infalliable? No. But it is most assuredly better than yours by all the evidence I've seen.

Should you somehow manage to be on the ballot in November, Senator Clinton, I will be casting my vote for the Republican nominee, Senator McCain*. Even, as I heard today, should you and Senator Obama both be on the ticket, I will be voting for Senator McCain. If you are not on the ballot in November, then there's about a 50% chance that I will vote for the Democratic ticket, Senator Obama and whomever he chooses as his Vice Presidential running mate.

So now the question for you (and for your supporters) to consider is this: which is more important to you, that YOU are the nominee for President of the United States or that the Democrats win the White House in 2008? Given your prior decisions, my guess is the former, which is truly sad. I don't know for a fact that Senator Obama can beat Senator McCain in the end, but I do know that a lot of people who are interested in Senator Obama could live with Senator McCain as President much more readily than they could live with you, and will vote to prove it should the need arise.

You won't give up, I know that. But I would regain just a bit of the respect I had for you back before the 60 Minutes segment started on January 26, 1992 if you gracefully bowed out of the race now and let Senator Obama have every bit of your considerable knowledge and campaign experience against Senator McCain. We stand a chance of having a more civil, ideas based general election campaign if you and Senator Obama haven't beaten each other black-and-blue before the convention. You could be the Secretary of Health and Human Services who ushers in a new era of universal health care for a nation that desperately needs a new way of doing medical care across the board. That would be an accomplishment for the ages, ultimately more important than anything your husband accomplished as President.

Don't you think that would be the best revenge of all, to make history anyway?


An Independent Woman in Pennsylvania
(Writing as an individual! I might talk politics with parishioners, but not from the pulpit and not with any intention of telling them who to vote for. Just who I will and won't vote for and why. Many of them have equally good arguments for and against candidates of their choosing. Such is the beauty of democracy as protected by the 1st Amendment.)

*except in the unlikely event that Senator McCain choses Mitt Romney as his running mate, in which event I will probably write in a McCain/Obama ticket just to prove a point. Heaven knows I've written in Senator McCain twice before (with retired Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia), why not a third time?

12/14/07 - You know, I'm getting very tired of this whole "War on Christmas" thing. I happen to celebrate three holidays between December 24 and January 7: Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany [although some could argue that Barb's birthday is more fun to celebrate than Epiphany :) and others would argue that Epiphany is only a holiday to me because it's a Holy Day] I am not in the least offended when someone wishes me, "Happy Holidays" because I take it to mean that they want me to enjoy a) the season and b) whatever holidays I celebrate. Neither am I offended when someone wishes me, "Merry Christmas!" or, "Happy New Year!" - but I can easily see why those of other faiths might be about the former. Around here, I'm more likely to say, "Merry Christmas!" because we are fairly homogenous, but back in Massachusetts, I found it to be better manners to offer holiday wishes because of the diversity I enountered regularly.

Furthermore, let's set the record straight about XMAS. An anecdote will start us off:

We decorated our sanctuary on December 2 after church. There were a few kids there to help with the Chrismon tree, which is always an interesting endeavor because one or more of them will wonder out loud why we're hanging strange symbols on the tree. Case in point, a very sharp 8 year old picked up a big stuffed fabric ornament and examined it carefully as he was waiting his turn to approach the tree. "Pastor Ruth, why are we hanging a PX on our tree?" he asked. "I don't see what this has to do with Jesus at all."

"Well," I said, "to us it looks like a PX, you're right. But it's actually an ancient symbol for Christ."

"Huh?" (I love it when kids are predictable.)

"These are Greek letters. The X is a chi in Greek and the P is the letter rho. Early believers in Jesus used the Greek word for Messiah, Christos, because both words mean 'anointed one.' And the first two letters of Christos are chi-rho."

He thought for about 2 seconds, brightened, and exclaimed, "Well, then this absolutely belongs on our tree! It's a symbol of Jesus!" He left me long enough to hang the ornament on the tree, then came back and said, "So the X in XMAS is like a secret way of saying Christ, right?"

I also love it when kids figure out deep truths all on their own. One of our local churches is commanding us to "Keep the Christ in Christmas! Don't X Him out!" I am disturbed at the lack of historical knowledge shown in that statement, though I shouldn't be surprised. Most of us have forgotten or never knew that Christmas itself is an adaptation of many pagan practices surrounding the winter solstice that didn't even become a major Feast Day in the church until the 4th century. Pope Julius I chose December 25, which was also believed to be the birthday of the sun god Mithra, whose worship only began to die away after Constantine chose Christ over Mithra in his dying years.

I'd forgotten until recently that the Puritans fought the original "War on Christmas". The Pilgrims fined those in the Plimouth Colony who celebrated Christmas until 1681 and Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas while he held power in England, in part because the Bible does not give a date or even a time of year for the birth of Jesus. Scholars today say that it's far more likely that Jesus was born in the spring when the shepherds would have had their flocks out overnight grazing in preparation for lambing season.

And then there's a colleague of mine who asked his congregation to imagine not being allowed to decorate for Christmas or to celebrate with the parties and other festivities we alternately stress over and enjoy this season. "Would you still celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ if it were illegal to put up trees and lights, to have parties, to buy gifts? Or are we so wrapped up in the trappings that we cannot imagine celebrating Christmas - literally, 'Christ's birth' - without all the things that have accreted to the stark reality of a child born into abject poverty in a stinking barn?"

I don't mean to sound like the Grinch, but I'm just so disgusted with the implicit bigotry of the season and with the way that faith has been pushed aside for the almighty dollar (and Euro, I suppose) this time of year. If everyone will take a deep breath and recognize the common element of celebrations this time of year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) is the return of LIGHT to the world, then perhaps we can find common ground enough to make the angels' proclamation a reality:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all people on earth!

10/06/07 - Soapbox time again. If a parent cannot do it to his or her child without facing criminal charges for abuse, then it ought to be called "torture" and disallowed by our government.

According to today's online edition of The New York Times, "In two separate legal opinions written in 2005, the Justice Department authorized the C.I.A. to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures." Um, excuse me, but if a police interrogator did any of these things to a suspect (even a serial murderer or rapist), anything learned under such conditions would be barred from use at trial - if there ever were a trial, given police misconduct. I am so disturbed and angry that my government is doing these things in my name as a way of finding out "actionable intelligence" that will make me safer.

The horse that would really make me safer is not only already out of the barn, he fled the county on March 18, 2003. Given that we cannot turn back time to keep our focus on Afghanistan, and given that we cannot now withdraw from Iraq because, in the immortal words of Colin Powell regarding the Pottery Barn doctrine, "We broke it, we bought it," what will ultimately make me safer is to have an executive branch staffed with area specialists. That is, people who actually understand the nuances of international and tribal relationships in the Middle East and who are not religious or political ideologues intent on causing one version or another of the Apocalypse.

Alas, with the current crop of candidates on each side of the spectrum, I don't hold out much hope for W.'s successor to be any better equipped or prepared to adapt our foreign policy to the realities of the world as we have created it since 9/11. Because, of course, to do so requires first and foremost the humility to acknowledge that we bear some responsibility for current shape of the world.

And speaking of the crop of candidates: Anybody but Hillary and anybody but Mitt. Please, I beg of you, whichever state primary or caucus you're going to vote in, pick somebody else. I get to choose which primary I vote in because I'm not affiliated with a party (though I wish PA had a truly open primary like MA - I could decide the day of rather than holding my nose to affiliate before the end of this year for 6 weeks or so). I don't know yet which primary I'm voting in, never mind who I will pick, but I know who I won't pick!

07/14 - Sad to say but true, what prompts me to finally update this part of the site (sorry, cats, you're going to have to wait a few more days) is politics. Oddly enough, a factually true statement by Tony Snow.

Speaking about the Iraqi parliament, Snow said in yesterday's press briefing that, "My understanding is at this juncture they're going to take August off, but, you know, they may change their minds." He went on to say, as if in their defense,"You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August."

Where to start with this?

It's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August and there are men, women, and children who don't have enough electricity on a daily basis to refrigerate perishable food or run fans to alleviate a small fraction of that 130 degree heat - because the Iraqi parliament can't sit down like grown up human beings to figure out a way to share oil revenue, which would help diminish sectarian violence and allow the work of rebuilding infrastructure to move forward. Which, by the way, would further reduce violent clashes.

It's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August and we have men and women from the US and a dwindling number of allies sweltering in the city as they try to make the city safer despite IEDs, RPGs, suicide bombers, and general distrust - because the Iraqi parliament can't sit down like grown up human beings to figure out a way to share power in a way that allows every group a voice and a vote in the future of the country.

It's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August. At least it's a dry heat, which ought to be some comfort to the Iraqi civilians and US soldiers and Marines whose future rests in the hands of the vacationing Iraqi parliament.

A daylily off my side porch in June, 2006.

The name of this site is a tribute to the many Monty Python fans in my youth group at my previous church in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The boys in the group discovered that a sure-fire way to get me to laugh was to spout random lines from Monty Python movies or TV shows at me. A favorite was the repeated line from The Holy Grail, "I belong to an autonomous collective," which was quickly shortened to "autonomous collective."

On this site, you will find information about and web-links to the many tourist attractions around my new hometown, Schellsburg, Pennsylvania, where I am the Pastor and Teacher of The United Church of Schellsburg UCC. You'll also find musings (okay, it's a blog) that strike me as I embark on this new phase of my life. I may add other pages as time goes by - or, as we say in my business, as the Spirit moves.

Apollo, of course, has his own page, but Serina does not. I somehow don't think Apollo would like her to have a public rebuttal page, so I will just do the best I can for now and hope that at some point, she will decide to stand up for herself.

Alas, my attempts to convince Dreamweaver to code for new browser windows for outside links have thus far been as successful as Arthur's quest. My advice is to bookmark my site so that it's easy to find once you're done scoping out the attraction of the moment. I've done the best I can to provide good, accurate reference sites for attractions and activities, but when in doubt, the telephone is an excellent option.

The "B&B" is fully ready for guests and was at last count rated 20 stars by my first guests. Snapshots of the guest rooms are in the column at the left. There will be no commentary from anyone who owns more than 200 of anything: books, CDs, DVDs, video games, action figures, stamps . . .

Have you figured out the meaning of the web address? Here's a hint: it's related to what I do for a living. The answer is on a random page of the site, hidden among the shrubbery.

Blessings and peace,
Rev. Ruth

2008 by Rev. Ruth
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