Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, March 19, 2015


On Funerals

I do not want a Celebration of Life when I die. I want a funeral. That event is where you can let it all hang out, cry, sob and shed tears. A funeral is not about the dead. It is about the living people who have lost someone they love. The funeral is a time when the family and community gather to express grief. The readings from the Bible, the Psalms and the Hymns elicit grief and sorrow for the family and friends of the person who has died.

Our society shrinks from sadness and death. There is not time for lamentation and mourning. If we do not mourn, we will not recover in a healthy way from sadness and deep grief. We would rather remember the good times, the fun times and the inspiring times. These days a celebration of life is held where one is forbidden to mourn.

I have my funeral all planned. It will be in our local Episcopal Church, a full liturgy, music, singing and weeping. All will be welcome to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. If you do not weep the ushers will show you to the door.

There will be a full food and booze reception after the service. Anyone wishing to say something about me is welcome to do so.

When one dies we mourn, we feel sad and bad. Render your hearts in mourning and then have a good time at the reception following. When a loved one dies be prepared to have a year or more of sadness, which will come and go.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Anger at Illness

When people get sick, are in pain and in the hospital, they often are angry. They take it out on doctors, nurses, relatives and their bodies. They want to blame others for their distress. When you get sick to your stomach you may blame it on something you ate.  I used to blame my doctor for not warning me that the cartilage in my hip was wearing out. He should have told me to stop running. Some people get angry at themselves for being in pain. They think they have done something wrong. There is even a notion among some that being sick is God’s punishment for their sins.

Not everyone can be the patient patient, the serene bearer of all things or a perfect saint when it comes to being sick. Often we are just plain angry at the pain, discomfort, distress and helplessness of recovering from surgery or chemotherapy. We feel angry bereft and hopeless when we are not in control of what is happening to our bodies.

Feeling angry is a natural and normal part of being human. Anger is a basic emotion that arises in us when we are sick and sometimes when we least expect it. Perhaps it happens when someone we love scolds us suddenly.

Many people think anger is a sin and it is to be squelched. Others think anger is an unworthy feeling and should not be recognized. If you try to escape anger, it will always find you. Suppressing anger for too long may lead to an outbreak of violence.

My mantra is when you feel angry, notice it, watch it, allow yourself to feel how your heart beats, how your breathing quickens, your fists and jaw clench. Allow those bodily feeling to occur in you and don’t do anything, just feel the anger.  Take a deep breath or two, relax, try to think about how you feel and still feeling the anger in your body. Take some more deep breaths.

Then think about what you want to do about the anger that you felt, the person or event that triggered he anger.

If you are ill and in pain when you feel the anger, allow the feeling of anger to arise fall and get you to a place where you may want to get help, a pill, talk about it or sleep.

Sometimes there is nothing that can be done. You just have to lie there and allow the time to go by. Noting the anger probably won’t solve all your problems. But seeing your anger as a friend, a helper, a source of energy for healing and change.

When African-Americans got angry enough, they brought a non-violent revolution that crated healing, change and justice.

Letting you anger work for you, may be a way toward healing and joy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jesus Gets Angry

Sermon for March 8, Third Sunday in Lent: 2015

The gospel story is that Jesus drove moneychangers from the temple. Jesus was full of self-righteous anger. Jesus is just like you and me.

Jesus is truly human – a lot of debate about that in the early days of the Christian Church. This story shows his basic humanity

Some of the first century’s debates were, Donatism, Gnosticism, Marcionism, Manichaeism and others. Look them up for some fun reading.

Our basic Christian concept is that JESUS WAS TRULY MAN AND TRULY GOD. That is the beginning of a discussion, not the end of it.

2. For us today in this world and our parish and you and me we rejoice that Jesus got angry, we get angry. All human beings get angry.

Facebook, Twitter. New places for anger.  Road Rage, Get even Rage are new ways to express anger that hurts.

Being angry is not a sin. What we do with our anger is where we can physically or emotionally hurt other people.

We get angry at our children’s behavior. We admit we are angry, mad or furious. Then we can calm down and decide what to do with our child or ourselves to handle the anger. We can cuddle, cajole, kiss, argue, reason and sometimes even smack the kid. Not popular these days but we do it anyway.

When we get angry, we can make social change.

Rosa Parks, MLK, Jr. Nelson Mandela got mad at racial discrimination and they helped bring about enormous changes in our race relations.

Today 50th Anniversary of the brutality at Selma, the nation and the world and even the congress got angry and the Civil rights legislation was passed. That happened on a Sunday in Selma.

Roman Catholics got mad and challenged the current RC Archbishop of SF for his reprehensible rules for teacher and student behavior.

People are getting angry that they can’t die with dignity when they are in great pain or misery at the end of their lives. More and more Baby Boomers growing older want to be able to request life-ending medication.

3. Why aren’t we more angry?

Street gangs, drug dealing and death from drugs make us do what we can to bring about change.
24/ work weeks, no extra pay.
Low paying jobs for the working poor.
At obscene salaries for a few and poverty for the rest.
Overcrowded prisons, homelessness, mental and emotional illness.
The deep humanity of the Man Jesus who gets furious, who heals the sick and sights injustice is an inspiration for me and perhaps others here.




Non-Violence can be taught.

The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to do, to minister to the hungry, widows, orphans, the sick and to seek justice against oppression. Pay taxes to finance the needs of the oppressed.


Do Not Rob Me of Anger

DEAR LORD, I am filled with anger born of frustration.  I confess I know not whether all my anger is of you.  I just know I am filled with hope, which makes me angry that others are not so filled.  Take away the self-aggrandizing righteousness that so often accompanies such anger, but please do not rob me of the anger.  It is energy.  Make it to be of service.  Help me pass it on.  We are taught by the world to fear anger.  Yet we know that you are a just judge, angry because we are not justly angry.  We want you to be like us—get along by going along.  You will not play that game.  You expect your church to be faithful—yes, angry.  Make us a people with dark brows capable of scaring a few folk.  May they look at us and say, “Those guys are so filled with love their anger overflows.”  AMEN

- Stanley Hauerwas

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Malcolm Boyd
June 8, 1923-February 22, 2015

Malcolm Boyd was a movie critic for Episcopal Life, a national monthly publication of the Episcopal Church. He showed how Hollywood and Foreign films often reflected Biblical and theological themes. Issues of sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, love and community were found in films. I was thrilled to learn that connection through Malcolm’s columns. I was then in The General Theological Seminary, 1953-56. 

Malcolm was on the Diocese of New York Department of Christian Education. I was on that committee too. Malcolm was always sharp, insightful, clever and amusing. He made those long boring meetings exciting and memorable. His writing and lectures were well attended. I went to a few.

Then he became a freedom rider on buses going into the Deep South for voter registration drives. He appeared many college campuses. From afar he was a mentor for me. James Albert Pike was Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in those years. He and Malcolm drew me to see that the gospel of Jesus had to connect to the social, political and economic facing the people of the country of the world.

I followed Malcolm’s writing and media appearances over the years. We would meet at meetings and conventions from time to time.

When I was vicar at St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, 1965-70, Malcolm’s book Are You Running with Me Jesus, was a best seller. He came to San Francisco and preached at St. Aidan’s. Many of us went to the Hungry i to hear Malcolm read his prayers from the book in that nightclub.

In 1967 I was a residential fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington, D.C. for three months. I contacted Malcolm, who was living in D.C. at the time. He kindly invited me to dinner at his apartment. We had cocktails and a nicely prepared dinner. We then went out to a club to hear Charlie Byrd play the guitar. I was thrilled to have spent some time with Malcolm.

Several years later Malcolm revealed that he was gay and was relieved to have come out of the closet. It was well after that I wondered if Malcolm was cruising me on our date. He made no move toward me. Of course I was so thick at that time I may not even have noticed.

I had sporadic touch with Malcolm during the 70’s. In 1981, I was rector of Trinity, SF. We had many gay men members of the parish. I invited Malcolm to come and preach at Trinity to a crowd from gay religious organization throughout the Bay Area. A crowd of 500 showed up to a fine service at Trinity to hear Malcolm.

The late John Michael Olexy was Senior Warden of Trinity and a passionate follower of Malcolm’s every word and action. Ann and I invited John Michel to dinner with Malcolm and us. John Michael, a very amusing and delightful man, was so thrilled he could hardly speak. He said it was a high point in his life.

That may have been the last time I saw Malcolm. I certainly followed his career and read his books.

I learned from Malcolm to have a brash public persona, tell the truth and preach boldly. I envied his writing and getting published. He worked very hard and carefully on his manuscripts. I also learned from Bishop Pike and Malcolm to be an unabashed self-promoter. I hope we did it so that the gospel shown through us.

-Robert Warren Cromey