Monday, February 21, 2011

Hey church: Holy Crimes

Be sure to check out This Week In Holy Crimes from Joe.My.God.

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Be a Champion?

Some of you may know this, but part of my growing up was being a member of Cascade Hills, a megachurch in Columbus, GA.  I don't really talk about it as part of my formation narrative because we didn't go there very long, and it wasn't very formative for me.  I never really felt like I was part of any community.  My mom and stepdad met there, though, so it definitely had an impact on my life.

Since my time there (almost eight? nine years ago?) the pastor now has his own ministries something.  I'm not sure what I'd call it, though the website looks like it's a store mostly.  I don't know how to call it anything because it's so far from my context, I think.  Except when I'm honest it's not.  Barbara Brown Taylor is a personality.  She's a priest, yes, but she's a personality, too.  I'd just call her an author and writer.

I was poking around tonight and came upon the blog entry "Be a Champion" which disturbed me a little.  Here's a (longish) excerpt (emphasis mine):

You and I can have a championship season in our own lives. 2011 is a year for you to start fresh! God already has great plans for you this year. He says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The question is, do you believe it’s going to be a championship year for you? As you hit the ground running in 2011, plan for the best. Like all of these teams you should work as hard as you can with everything you’ve got. It may not be without challenges, but that’s [okay] because champions fight all the way to the end. I want to encourage you to set your sights high and keep pressing on. With the right determination you can be a champion in 2011!
While part of me thinks that this might be a few logical steps away from Pelagianism, but that's not my point/focus tonight.  Rather, I ask what about the people who work as hard as they can and lose their job, find late stage cancer, or financially just can't make it anymore.  What about people who find themselves being pressed by systems they can't control, systems that aren't set up to help people, except helping people already in positions of power get more?

I don't want to go on a left wing rant here, either.  I think it's a worthy statement, but my big question/learning here is ambiguity in making statements from someone who's ordained.  The statements Bill makes are certainly good news!  Sort of.  "God's got a plan, you have to reach the places he wants you to prosper.  Just stick to it, and you'll be fine."  That's not life.  And this kind of set-up sets people up to either be very comforted by their faith or start walking the fine line of losing their faith.  Where's God's plan when they can't keep going?  How is cancer part of God's plan to prosper?

Some people's faith gives them comfort and gives them a way to see people getting sick as part of God's plan.  Some people's faith wouldn't ever assign that to part of God's plan but put that more into the realm of theodicy.  And some people's faith reject God because God's plan, if that's what their cancer is, sucks, so they'd rather not have that plan or planner.  I think people in positions of religious leadership (me learning for the future) need to have room for ambiguity and for the negatives of life.  There is hope in bad circumstances, but that requires acknowledging that bad circumstances happen when no one -- not even God -- is at fault.

PS - I also found this gem as I was looking for links for things above: WHY THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS HERESY.  Enjoy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Worshiping God, Not the Bible

Here's a tidbit, "Literal? Nope, not for me. Authoritative? Absolutely! Important to my life and faith? Without it, I would be lost." There's a lot more good stuff in it.

Read it all: Worshiping God, Not the Bible

Progressive Theology

"Progressive theology at its best does not renew generations, it renews hope for the hopeless and calls for justice to roll down like waters. It believes that God's future is known in the union of justice and mercy in the self-emptying of Jesus the Christ and as well in you and me as we are true to our calling as the anointed ones, being emptied for the health of the world. It turns out that that message, if delivered, will make for new peoples of faith where before there was despair." - Mark Harris at PRELUDIUM.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mexico Pictures

There are two albums.

Part 1

Part 2

And for the record, I don't hate Anglican chant.  I've listened to it the last 20 minutes while blogging.  I listened to it the entire time I was writing the last entry.  It's just listening to it having been rehearsed and actually sung in four parts rather than people sight reading and only singing the melody, in which case I'd just rather us sing in plainsong.


I had a wonderful Saturday night, which may likely be a blog entry later today, but we'll see.  I do want to write about my weekend, but Saturday night was good.  I went to a friend's birthday party and met lots of new people and even some new friends.  One of whom grew up Southern Baptist, as did I.  As we talked about worship he talked about how Episcopal services are more ritualistic than Baptist services.

I wanted to shout, "YES!  Yes yes yes!  You get it, why don't we?!"  By that I mean  he used the right term to describe some of the ways we embody the liturgies that we celebrate together.  Regardless of if there's smoke and bells or cassocks and surplices three Sundays a month for Morning Prayer, we are more ritualistic than Southern Baptists.  And those places with smoke?  More ritualistic than those places that don't have those things.  Either way, we have a ritual that we embody in a variety of different ways.

What so many of our people (lay and ordained) seem to not realize(?  know?  have been taught in seminary or forgot?) is that the degrees of ritualism are about smoke and bells or absence thereof.  Hearing those things described as "high" or "low" church irk me.  One's positions on the church aren't inherently communicated in how one worships.  Places that still insist on using the 1928 Prayer Book or 1662 or something on their own are low church because the church has a whole has adopted something else.  They might have billowing smoke, but they're not worshipping in common with the rest of the Church.

Churchmanship (I wish that weren't a gendered term) has to do with the episcopacy and the hierarch of the church.  While I was in Mexico I saw a delightful demonstration of high churchmanship with very, very little ritualism attached.  The priest with whom we worked was committed to the Church.  She has disagreements on social/theological issues with the Presiding Bishop and the bishop who ordained her, but she's committed to being a part of the church.  Our eucharists were QUITE different than anything we have in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, but I think she was relatively high church.

I personally identify as quite high church, which I attribute to my having been raised in such a low church tradition where each congregation does what it will.  I place a strong emphasis not just on local communities of faith, but on communities of faith being in community with one another.  I think that the Church is Christ's bride, not that individuals are Christ's brides.  That's why I like the Derek Webb song "The Church" (the last line of the refrain is "If you love Me you will love the Church").  And while identifying as a high churchman, I think I am far from being a big ritualist.

But at the same time there are places whose ritualism I can enjoy and worship and then other places where I want to scream about what's going on.  I might not like all of the theological implications of the customary at Trinity Church, but there's definitely "full, conscious, and active participation by the people there."  We do things in the Chapel that drive me crazy because I think we're clinging to something (all the time and not occasionally) that isn't where life is anymore (e.g. Evensong with unrehearsed Anglican chant for the Psalter four nights a week).

I think what I most look at in Eucharistic celebration is how the presider embodies the prayer.  I don't care if they have magic hands crossing things all the time - unless they seem more focused on the magic hands and getting their movements "right" than on the prayer.  I think there's certainly a way to do both well (and it might involve some memorization and muscle memory), but when not done well I certainly understand why less ritualistic traditions are critical of our "dry, moribund liturgy."  That doesn't mean the sacrament is invalid or that the prayer isn't said.  But I understand wanting to hear a prayer being prayed and not read as though it's a story.  And I surely don't want a presider to get to "gave thanks to you" and have body language that says, "Oh, yeah, I have to point up right now" and then quickly throw a hand up.

There are lots of degrees of ritualism and churchmanship in The Episcopal Church.  Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand, and sometimes they aren't related to one another at all.  I think that it would be helpful if we consciously work on altering our language (which students at General are doing) so that we don't use the two interchangeably.