23 and Billingsley

As KPRC’s Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley unravels the mystery of his DNA, he gives us all important perspective.

Gregor-Mendel-examines-peasWhen Gregor Mendel’s little gardening experiment with peas revealed the way that particular traits are passed down through the generations, he could never have imagined the myriad uses that technology would find for genetic information.

Want to know if you’re going to be bald? What your odds are for contracting Parkinson’s, psoriasis or palsy? Or do you wonder about your ancestors? What distant shores did they roam? What did they look like? What were their names? What’s your (real) name? Who’s your (real) daddy?

Spit into a cup, swab the inside of your cheek, and everything you ever wanted to know about your heritage can be revealed. But how much do you really want to discover?

Knowing he was adopted, Frank Billingsley, KPRC’s beloved meteorologist, had occasionally wondered about his birth parents, but he had such a strong relationship with his adoptive parents that he never considered searching for his roots. It seemed somehow disloyal. When a chance email set him on a genealogical search, he soon found himself compelled to know more. He swabbed and spat into myriad genetic test kits, and scoured the Internet late at night for connections to names he discovered. What he found surprised him on a multitude of levels and unfolded as an intriguing mystery.

On Sunday, October 22, the Cathedral Bookstore welcomes Frank from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to share his recently published book, Swabbed and Found: An Adopted Man’s DNA Journey to Discover His Family Tree. Frank’s experience reminds us that while the technology provided by companies such as 23 and Me enables us to know exponentially more than Mendel or other early geneticists dreamed possible,  in the end, whatever our genetic makeup or history, when it comes to our common humanity, we are all still as similar as peas in a pod.

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I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

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Keeping Faith with Books

We’re celebrating 35 years of our beloved bookstore with a tea.

A good bookstore, by definition, shares stories, but when your bookstore celebrates its 35th year in a church that was established in 1839, it’s important to document and share your own history, too. We asked J. Pittman McGehee D.D. for his recollection of our beloved shop’s beginnings during his tenure as dean of Christ Church Cathedral.

The Founding of the Cathedral Bookstore

Henry Ford said, “The greatest wisdom is in doing the obvious.”  So it was with founding the Bookstore.  There was a kind of old-fashioned church parlor where the bookstore is now.  It was affectionately known as, “the Red Room.” (Obviously because of the decor.) For 99% of the time, it was wasted space, with anachronistic decor.  I had desired a bookstore at Christ Church Cathedral, as symbol and fact that I wanted the Cathedral to become a center of intellectual curiosity. So, on October 16,1983, the Cathedral Bookstore was founded.

There was a historic bookstore in Houston called the Episcopal Bookstore. I asked the former manager, Alberta Jones, if she would consult and help us begin our own store.  At that time I asked Cynthia Pyle, who had been in conversation with me concerning the bookstore founding, to be program director and coordinator of volunteers.  Within a manner of months, it became obvious the Cynthia was more than capable of running the store, so, on January 4, 1984, I appointed Cynthia as manager.  Much of the success of the Cathedral bookstore is due to the innovative leadership of Cynthia Pyle.

In 1993, Kathy Jackson succeeded Cynthia as manager and successfully led the store through some of the most tumultuous times in bookselling history until her retirement this summer. The current dean,  the Very Reverend Barkley Thompson then appointed Lucy Chambers, a pioneer in Houston publishing, to carry on their work.

The rich history and tradition of the Bookstore, soon to be 35 years old, continues thanks to those mentioned above, plus long-time volunteers Wendy Bentlif, Jan Fitzhugh, Pat Hallmark, Earle Martin, Roxanne Dolen and other dedicated volunteers who have served their ministries at the Cathedral as a part of the bookstore.

~J. Pittman McGehee D.D.

Thanks to the faithful work of this team, the Cathedral Bookstore has provided a haven for book lovers for decades, and we are grateful to the Very Reverend J. Pittman McGehee for his vision in 1983. The Cathedral has indeed become a center of intellectual curiosity in Houston, so in addition to a well-curated list of religious, spiritual, general non-fiction, fiction, and children’s titles, we carry books by the many notable speakers who visit the Cathedral and a constantly-refreshed supply of quality used books.

The Cathedral celebrates the store’s history and retiring manager, Kathy Jackson, Friday, September 29th with a tea. For more information, stop by and see us or visit the Cathedral’s website www.christchurchcathedral.com.

God is in the midst of the city, and we are assured that He, too, loves a Good Book!

 

 

[Y]ou might also choose to see it as a cathedral of the human spirit–a storehouse consecrated to the full spectrum of human experience. Just about every idea we’ve ever had is in here somewhere. A place containing great thinking is a sacred space.
~Forrest Church

The Peace Builders’ Poems

Taking more time for stories won’t solve our problems, but it provides an understanding that is the first step. 

The Jerusalem Peace Builders, Israeli young adults from the each of the Abrahamic faiths–Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–spent the week at the Cathedral. On Sunday, before reading the lessons in the service in Hebrew and Arabic, they explained themselves to us by reading poems they had written.

Each poem began, “I am from…” And each list-format poem included sweet, mundane ingredients that made up these young men and women: my mother’s hummus, my sister’s tabbouleh, roses and olive trees. But going beyond the sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice aspects of their character, they also shared darker ingredients: trouble, chaos and death, and the ways love had softened hearts of stone.

As they had opened up to each other through the course of the week, they opened themselves for the coffee-hour crowd. They shared their inside jokes and their respect and love for one another. They will never be able to look at a person from another religion as other, because by sharing their stories, their “I am,” they created connection and empathy.

At the Cathedral, the Dean has a book club. The titles are varied, selected by the group, and we carry them here in the bookstore. The title for September’s meeting is My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit. Called a “must-read book” by Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times, Shavit doesn’t try to tell us what to think about Israel, instead, he shares its story, intimately intertwined with his own.

“The Israel question cannot be answered with polemics,” he writes. “As complex as it is, it will not submit itself to arguments and counter arguments. The only way to wrestle with it is to tell the Israel story. That is what I have tried to do in this book.”

Taking more time for stories–for sharing our own openly and listening to and reading those of others intently–won’t solve our problems, but it provides an understanding that is the first step.

The heartfelt group hug after the Jerusalem Peace Builders’ reading testified to what an important start knowing and understanding one another is on the path to peace.

 

The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.
–Anthony de Mello

These little lights of mine

There is no denying the pleasure of a thoughtful gift.

In this day of online shopping, flash sales, and instant gratification, finding a gift for a dear one can be a daunting task. Nothing seems special, or worthy of conveying the fondness we have for the recipient. Or we feel guilty about the material blessings–or collections, piles, or hordes– that threaten to encroach on our serenity, and we don’t want to burden anyone else with more stuff.

But there is no denying the pleasure of a thoughtful gift. Knowing that a friend or family member took the time to select something to delight us, wrap it carefully and brave traffic or the lines of the post office to get it to us warms the cockles of our hearts.

At our bookstore, we carry beautiful beeswax candles that have burned under twelve inches on our altar. Made by the same family since 1869, they smell divine, and they last longer than paraffin candles. Most importantly, they have been part of the beautiful services here, and perhaps some of the peaceful energy that is present in those services might have somehow rubbed off on them. At least, it’s lovely to think so.

Next time you’re wondering what to share with that friend who has everything, or you need special candles to adorn your family dinner table or cast a soft glow on a gathering of friends, remember that we have beeswax candles that can add a touch of the Cathedral to daily life. Proceeds from the sale of the candles go to the Altar Guild, so when your candlesticks shine, you’re helping the Cathedral shine, too!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
–Edith Wharton

 

Tree-Part Harmony

Have you listened to the songs of trees?

Have you been forest bathing recently? Did you know that spending two or more leisure hours under a canopy of trees provides a variety of health benefits so potent that the Japanese government has designated forest therapy paths? Have you listened to the songs of trees?

After publishing Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen, Sewanee professor David George Haskell repeatedly visited a dozen trees around the world. His keen–and infinitely patient–powers of observation and fluent prose convey a deep and specific understanding of the connectedness of all species and describe the audible evidence of health or disease that really listening to trees provides.

The Songs of Trees: Stories From Nature’s Great Connectors will leave you with a new appreciation of the relationship of the arboreal world to the future of our planet, as well as fascinating insight on the many ways the biology of trees affects our daily lives.

Next time you’re forest bathing, take along Haskell’s contemplative study of the natural world. We have much to learn from trees, and there’s no better place to read than a leafy room lit with dappled sunshine.

 

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. –Anne Lamott

Our Bookstore

As the back cover proclaims, “There’s a Story Inside Every Bookstore!”

Conventional wisdom says that when a browser picks up a book, the path to purchase is as follows: 1. Look at front. 2. Read back cover. 3. Read some or all of flap. 4. Check out table of contents. 5. Open at random and sample. At any point in this process, the book may be abandoned or may find a home.

With some 700,000 books published each year,  many deserving titles don’t even get this much contact with readers. So, how are we to determine which books we want to add to our shelves? Enter bookstores. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, to be precise.

Any book lover knows that browsing the shelves of a carefully curated bookstore provides peace and pleasure. The great bookstores of the world hold a well-deserved place on any bucket list, and even the smallest nook selling good books offers untold hours of enjoyment and enlightenment.

And who better to tell us about wonderful bookstores than authors? In My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, renowned writers such as Isabel Allende, Douglas Brinkley, Terry Tempest Williams and dozens of others share their experiences with their most beloved bookstores. As the back cover proclaims, “There’s a Story Inside Every Bookstore!”

There is a story inside the doors of The Cathedral Bookstore. We invite you to get to know us better and make our little shop part of your story.

Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading!—Rainer Maria Rilke