21 March 2011

Outside Reading for Class

I am auditing a class on Trauma at my workplace, Dallas Seminary. I decided that I would tailor the outside reading to things that I'm most interested in.

I remember the opening class. I was dressed in my clergy shirt. One of the videos highlighted grown men that had been abused by Catholic Priests while very young men. I really wanted to rip that collar off of my neck! The video covered various types of trauma, but every time one of these clergy abuse victims came onto the screen I just wanted to slink away. In case you don't know, that collar is all too uncommon at this protestant evangelical school. In case you also don't know, clergy abuse victims cannot bring themselves to come forward for a very long time--but when they do so it must be validated. They must be afforded the healing they deserve. Clergy abuse victims know that most people won't believe them--even worse, Church folk will blame them for it or silence them for lying about their beloved 'leader'. Talk about kicking someone while they are down, aka re-victimizing the victim.

I knew then what I'd spend time reading. Rocco Palmo has been covering the abuse from within the Catholic fold for years. Recently the terror was announced to his own Archdiocese, Philadelphia. Some of his latest posts have evidenced his pain. His Church has brought shame. Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, recently pronounced, "This is nauseating...hideous...must continue to haunt us".

Yep, yep, and yep.

At Rocco's blog, Whispers in the Loggia, I have found the Grand Jury reports. They are graphic, hideous, nauseating, and will continue to haunt me. Do not follow his links if you are not fully prepared for super-graphic language.

If anything ever happens to you while under the care of a Church leader...Report it, re-report it, call the police, call 911.
Bring the cowards to justice.
The Church does not want to be led by duplicitous, scandalous, heinous, sacrilegious ... FOOLS!

I hate to report it, but the new norms of the Catholic Church will be used to bring many Priests under scrutiny unfairly. This good tool will fall into the hands of those who do not have a genuine complaint--they are not victims, but anti-religious predators.

In short, this is a huge mess.

Possibly it is the fulfillment of the diabolical vision of Pope Leo XIII a century ago.

I have also taken to reading a couple of other sites that report on clergy abuse. Here is one that came to my feeder today. I wish this were not so prevalent. Abuse is not limited to the Catholic clergy. Some feel that clerical celibacy is the heart and source of their predation. Not so...not at all. Married men in ministry are just as likely to abuse as celibate clergy.
  • I remember

    Trish lived down the hall from me when I was 19 years old and in the dorm at the University of North Texas. She was a dear friend, but though we kept in touch for several years after college, we eventually lost track of one another. I hadn’t heard from Trish for about 30 years when, out of the blue, I got this email the other day:

    “Christa:

    Since I met you, I have admired you for your courage, intellect, risk-taking and compassion. What you have done in the past few years to openly confront the sexual abuse that you and others have suffered is so powerful! I am so proud of what you have done for yourself and many other victims of clergy abuse.

    I will always remember the bravado in your voice (probably due to our over-consumption of homemade Kahlua) and the pain on your face the night we sat on the floor of your Bruce Hall dorm room and you first told me about what you then referred to as ‘your affair.’ I know I was a na├»ve little twit and my jaw fell open, but I was still so shocked and sickened that you blamed yourself and not the married minister and that there was no one who could/would counsel or support you. I ached for you as you described how you felt you were unworthy of love and respect and were so distressed that you had lost your connection to God. Despite all of your academic achievements and global travels, you buried your victimization so deep, but I always felt this abuse was the reason for your despondent and sometimes suicidal phone calls. For years I was haunted by the loneliness that was revealed in those phone calls and prayed that you would never give up hope. That you have taken the damage that has been done to you to help others heal is so inspiring.”


    I sat and wept after reading Trish’s email.

    I remember that girl – the girl Trish is talking about – the girl who, for years, couldn’t find any meaning for much of anything.

    I remember that girl -- the girl whose whole sense of self disintegrated after she was molested, sexually abused and raped by a Southern Baptist minister when she was a 16-year-old church kid. I’m grateful that Trish remembers her, too.

    In truth, I have no memory of sitting on the floor in Bruce Hall and telling Trish about “my affair.” But I expect Trish’s memory is more accurate than mine. I was probably totally sloshed.

    What I do remember is that, several years after college, Trish had the misfortune of calling me on the phone one night when I had the pills on the counter and was already half-drunk and was trying to get up my gumption to down them. Trish figured out what was going on and she stayed on the phone with me for hours. No telling how things would have turned out if she hadn’t.

    I remember only that one suicidal phone call, but again, I don’t doubt that Trish’s memory may be better on this than mine. There were probably other calls.

    And then there was the night I finally went through with it . . . and woke up in my own vomit.

    I remember that young woman – a young woman whose life should have been full of promise but instead seemed so void of meaning that she saw no reason to continue it.

    I remember that young woman – a young woman whose emotions were so deadened that the only thing she felt was disgust at the smell of vomit and anger at her own ineptness.

    That’s what clergy sex abuse does to many of its victims.

    For people who are raised with faith, faith and meaning become intertwined. The two are often so fused that, when faith gets twisted into a weapon, meaning itself is destroyed.

    I was lucky to have a friend like Trish. Many other abuse survivors are not so fortunate.

    My youth minister abused me. My music minister silenced me. My childhood church abandoned me. My faith betrayed me.

    But my friend Trish was true.

    I am profoundly grateful.

18 March 2011

[St. Louis Post Dispatch] Giving up Church for Lent

Speaking of violence [last post], today we have an entry that intersects the 'religion of peace' with the 'religion of whirled peas'.
Bolds and comments are mine.

  • Episcopal cleric tries Islamic rituals for Lent

    BY CYNTHIA BILLHARTZ GREGORIAN cbillhartz@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8114 | Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 12:05 am

    (NOTE: A correction on dietary restrictions was made in the sixth paragraph)

    The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent.

    Instead, Lawler, of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ferguson, decided to adopt the rituals of Islam for 40 days to gain a deeper understanding of the faith [in distinction to The Faith of Jesus Christ].

    On Friday, he faced being defrocked if he continued in those endeavors.

    "He can't be both a Christian and a Muslim," said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. [Wait a minute, some gal already pulled that off in Seattle!] "If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church."

I can't post any more here. Follow the YELLOW BRICK LINK.

Only in the Episcopal Church, folks! Unless you are in the ELCA, PCUSA, or UMC.

17 March 2011

[Silouan] Violence or NOT?

From the Class of Nonviolence

Here is a snip...
  • Fred: OK. So you're a pacifist. What would you do if someone were, say, attacking your grandmother?
    Joan: Attacking my poor old grandmother?
    Fred: Yeah, you're in a room with your grandmother and there's a guy about to attack her and you're standing there. What would you do?
    Joan: I'd yell, "Three cheers for Grandma!" and leave the room."

    Fred: No, seriously. Say he had a gun and he was about to shoot her. Would you shoot him first?
    Joan: Do I have a gun?
    Fred: Yes
    Joan: No. I'm a pacifist, I don't have a gun.
    Fred: Well, I say you do.
    Joan: All right. Am I a good shot?
    Fred: Yes.
    Joan: I'd shoot the gun out of his hand.
    Fred: No, then you're not a good shot.
    Joan: I'd be afraid to shoot. Might kill Grandma.

    Fred: Come on, OK, look. We'll take another example. Say, you're driving a truck. You're on a narrow road with a sheer cliff on your side. There's a little girl sitting in the middle of the road. You're going too fast to stop. What would you do?
    Joan: I don't know. What would you do?

Read all the rest before continuing here.

I have a question for Joan. What would you* do if it was culturally acceptable to murder babies before they were born?
Would you* march against it?
Would you* picket against it?
Would you* stage a sit-in?
Would you* boycott?
Would you* lobby?
Is abortion within your* definition of violence?
If not, then you are flippant with life and resting upon the 'luck' of being one of those who were born.
Because, as far as I can tell, ABORTION is as much as a reality as WAR. Both are senseless, shameful, VIOLENT, and fueled by selfishness I cannot begin to describe.
Now let's move on the the elderly.
[After all we're supposed to be eschewing
hypotheticals and considering real-life evils]
What would you* do if they were systematically denied life sustaining medicine/treatment by their "care-givers"?
What would you* do if they were forgotten by their self-indulgence offspring to rot in sub-standard "homes"?
Do you* care that life at its beginning and end are being reduced to decisions of convenience while people try to save the rest of the world from violence, oppression, and hate-crimes?
I am afraid this attitude makes us miss our intended goals to help people and work for the GREATER GOOD. If I were left with only this mantra my best efforts to reach out will have missed a hundred people before my elbows straightened. Ideologue. Blind. Moat-in-eye.
God forgive us both and save us both from blindness.

*Ultimately it matters less what we believe individually...but what does the Church teach...and do...and what are examples of it?
Education, homeless shelters, orphanages, hospitals, reformatories [prisons], soup kitchens, pro-life advocacy, adoption, ad infinitum.

Biretta tip to Silouan.

16 March 2011

(RNS) Feature plus my comments

From the Crescent City we have this report.
Bold and comments are mine.

Archbishop wrestles with doubts on school paddling

By Bruce Nolan

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) As a high-school student in the mid-1960s, Greg Aymond occasionally saw an angry teacher cuff a student. It never happened to him, nor does the memory of faculty discipline in those days particularly trouble the man who later became the archbishop of New Orleans.

But now, as Archbishop Gregory Aymond confronts formal physical punishment at one of the city’s top Catholic high schools jewels, he is clear:

“I do not believe the teachings of the Catholic Church as we interpret them in 2011 condone corporal punishment.

“It’s hard for me to imagine in any way, shape or form, Jesus using a paddle,” he said. [perhaps a whip on one occasion]

Moreover, Aymond said, the social research “is very, very clear: Violence fosters violence.” [research is also clear that DISCIPLINE fosters DISCIPLINE. which is just what folk forget about in our times.]

The 61-year-old archbishop’s concerns about corporal punishment at St. Augustine High School received a public airing late last month (Feb.) in an extraordinary meeting with the school’s parents and alumni.

The alumni urged the school to drop its temporary ban on paddling—a ban put in place, Aymond disclosed, as a result of concerns he quietly raised months ago. [parents requested the ban be dropped...notice how that works?]

One after another, business and professional men, tradesmen and fathers recalled getting bent over and whacked by a lay teacher or a priest during their days at St. Augustine. [one wonders how they grew to be such fine citizens in N'awlenz]

With the distance of age, they told Aymond they appreciated the crack of the paddle for its ability to force a mid-course correction on a young man grown lazy, or disrespectful, or too full of himself. [popcorn or Proverbs, anyone? this is getting good]

A few recalled memorable collective punishment: a whole class getting caned, one by one, for substandard academic performance, or because one miscreant declined to come forward. [let's be fair--I hate this type of punishment. but who am I?]

[Dr. Spock, isn't all this paddling just pent up eroticism? Kinky stuff, right?! You'll know why I ask in a moment...]

“I listened, genuinely,” Aymond said. “The words I heard are that we are different. We are unique. It works for us. It’s not a problem. This is the best way we can do discipline.” [so let's see how the good shepherd responds to the voice of his sheep for the GREATER GOOD.]

Still, Aymond said after the meeting, physical punishment is banned in all Catholic schools for reasons both theological and psychological. “It saddens me that any school in the archdiocese uses corporal punishment,” the archbishop said. [I'm not surprised by the psycho-babble load, but I really want to hear the theological reasons not to DISCIPLINE young people]

Aymond said the concern about corporal punishment at St. Augustine dates back two years, and the concern is his—not a parent’s, nor a lawyer’s.

“I’m not concerned primarily about liability,” he said. “I am concerned about morality. [who mentioned liability? oh, yes. YOU did. hmmm. All that the parents were talking about was discipline.]

“In my mind, to strike another person in this day and age—40, 50, 60 years ago, it might have been OK—but in this day and age, all the data says this is not an appropriate thing to do. [Am I being unfair to see the CLEAR connection between this day and age and HIS mind?]

“It doesn’t foster a positive self-image. I don’t think it’s what the Catholic Church should be doing. And it’s not what Jesus would do.” [He must be watching The View, or Orpah]

The archbishop said he found the matter waiting for him when he arrived in New Orleans from Austin in the late summer of 2009. [Pet peeve alert! Only this time I'm glad they're not capitalizing his title for respect.]

Aymond said his early official readings contained an unusual letter forwarded to New Orleans by the national bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, the abuse-prevention department set up in the wake of the Catholic sex abuse scandal. [?]

Aymond said the letter came from an activist (whom he did not identify) who wrote from Ireland, which is suffering through a sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church worse than the American experience in 2002. [Do I, alone, find it odd that there be a connection?]

Aymond said the Irish author singled out the continuing existence of physical punishment at St. Augustine in New Orleans and called it to the bishops’ attention.

Aymond said he inquired and learned that despite archdiocesan prohibition, corporal punishment was and is expressly authorized in St. Augustine’s handbook, administered with a piece of wood at the front of a class. [Just like I remember it being done through my school years]

He said he learned that the archdiocese occasionally received parental complaints, which were forwarded to St. Augustine for handling.

Troy Henry, who chairs the board that runs day-to-day operations at the school, said he was surprised to hear the archbishop had received parental complaints. Henry said he had spoken to school officials, who maintain they have not heard any. [No, I'm not surprised by this either]

Aymond said in late 2009 the archdiocese hired Monica Applewhite, a national consultant on “safe environments” for minors, to review the environment at St. Augustine in conversations with administrators, teachers, parents and students.

Although he declined to discuss her report, he said it was her research underlying his statement that St. Augustine is the last Catholic school in the country to use the wooden paddle.

Aymond said his conversations with the Josephites, the order of Catholic priests that runs St. Augustine, prompted them to call a temporary ban on corporal punishment.

(Bruce Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)

Biretta tip to GetReligion

15 March 2011

[GET RELIGION] 'Worship'? Just say 'NO'

From GetReligion.org

I apologize, gentle readers, for having to go over this issue again so soon. Still, I have to admit that when a reader sent the following URL to your GetReligionistas, I thought for a second that it was a prank.

Before I serve up a chunk of this way-below-average Associated Press report — a version posted at FoxNews.com — let’s review a crucial term in the religion-beat dictionary.

ven-er-ate
… transitive verb

1: to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference
2: to honor (as an icon or a relic) with a ritual act of devotion

Read the rest at Terry's splendid page.

...I remember as a Baptist someone would sappily bemoan, "We have not prayed together for a while/long time." Why did they need me to pray? Were they praying to me? Good gracious, NO! Maybe they had developed an appreciation for praying TO GOD in the presence of another dear saint...maybe.

14 March 2011

(Project Canterbury) Of Advance in Lent, by Father Congreve, SSJE

'But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.' (2 S. PET. iii. 18).

WHAT expectation have I of growing in grace, and how is Lent to help me to advance in the knowledge of Christ? Lent is no mere ceremonial regulation, like the Lord Chamberlain's order for Court mourning for so many days. As if the Church should announce that on Ash Wednesday immemorial custom and ecclesiastical propriety demand that we begin to live sadly for forty days, put aside every encouraging consideration, and dwell upon past sin and the consequences of eternal sin. All ornaments are veiled. The silence of a house where one lies dead falls upon the Church according to the Almanack, and joy is out of season for six weeks. On the contrary, George Herbert writes, 'Welcome, dear feast of Lent'; and the meaning of Lent is the spring of the soul and of the Church. It symbolizes not the despair or indifference of the dead in sin, the winter of the soul, but the spring, the stirring of mysteries hidden in the depths of our nature, the silent awaking of a desire to love God, which is new and wonderful--of a capacity of growing in likeness to Christ, which we did not dream of as possible for us; an interior stirring of faith, hope, and love coming to a new life in us; a new glimpse caught of the height of the true aim of the Christian life; a new start in following Christ closely, instead of afar off. Is not that the meaning of the gravity, and of the silence of Lent? The Christian soul is setting herself in a quiet time to remember the highest and deepest thoughts she ever had, and deliberately to choose afresh the highest aim she ever caught sight of. All who intend to obey the Church, and keep Lent, mean that by the grace of God they intend to grow through these forty days in the knowledge and love of God.

The wise world laughs at keeping Lent, a mediaeval custom quite gone out of fashion, and which has long ago lost its symbolism and significance. No; Lent never was in the Early Church a mere significant ceremony; it was a real time of self-discipline, by means of which souls made some way in their escape from the prison of self-love into liberty in the love of God; it was a time in which they took courage to deal practically with selfish sin, strove and conquered lust, laziness, pride, unkindness. Here, where S. Etheldreda and her holy companions served Christ, the keeping of Lent was a serious and practical matter. [The Church of the Holy Trinity, once the Lady-Chapel of the Minster, Ely.] It was just as hard a fight for them to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil here in the seventh century as it is for us to-day in the nineteenth. No touching Church ceremony could do it then; it was a hand-to-hand fight then by prayer and fasting to cast out the love of self, in order to cause to spring up the mystery of the love of God, sown in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Lent was a school of Christ for them, and they became saints through discipline. And Lent must be no less serious a discipline for us, but never a discipline of gloom. By the exercises of prayer and self-denial in Lent the soul comes to find out that she is a living soul, made partaker of the Divine Nature, and intended for spiritual advance. On Ash Wednesday, therefore, each of us asks himself, What hope have I of growing in the love of God this Lent?

Lent awakens spiritual hope in us, just as the sight of the enemy awakes the spirit of an army. They were lagging just now, tired with the march, dispirited; but a sudden signal, one turn in the road, shows them the enemy's lines stretching right across their way. How the men's hearts leap up: who is fagged now? So Lent awakes the energy of hope by showing us our enemy, the reality of the battle of life, of our conflict with evil. We all know that our fifty or seventy years in this world were given to us for a great achievement--to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, to win holiness for eternity; but we easily forget this, and slip out of range. But Lent rallies us, reminds us of the seriousness of our moral life, of the reality of sin, of bad tendencies of our childhood not conquered yet, of the strength of sins of the flesh, of pride and temper, of love of the world, of cowardice in confessing Christ, of sloth and depression, of neglect of prayer and the sacraments. As we look up, Lent shows us the way to God and our heavenly country, and right across that way, cutting off our road to God and holiness, lies our sin. So Lent brings us to face the enemy and prepare for battle. And hope is the very soul of a battle: the men intend to win that position now held by the enemy at any cost. So in your case, suppose there is sloth, or unbelief, or ill will, or some other vice: your Lent battle means your hope to wrest that position from the enemy. That sin, that indifference, or bad temper, shall be conquered by God's help. There is no evading the issue; that sin is going to conquer me, and separate me from God for ever, or I am going to conquer it. Lent means nothing if it does not imply in each of us a very definite resolution to deal with our besetting sin. But if that resolution of facing the particular evil that holds us back is made, then Lent will not prove for us a mere mediaeval ceremony gone through. No; in two months time we shall be in the middle of April. Will that be nothing? merely two arbitrary divisions of time passed through? Ah! this world will have come to a new life in that short time; the blossom will be on the pear tree then; every field will be aflush with tender green, every willow bush will have its flower. So the honest effort to repent more deeply, to conquer our chief sin by a good Lent, brings us to our spiritual Easter, a new spring of the soul. And we shall see the change; we shall not be coming to one more ceremony in our Easter Communion: we shall welcome and receive Christ risen from the dead, in His power and beauty, putting forth all the energies of His victory in our changed hearts, our self-conquest, our humility.

...

So I ask you all to make some resolution to-day as we begin Lent, and to write it down, and to offer it to our Lord in true fellowship with Him in His temptation and Sacrifice--a resolution about fighting your oldest and most serious fault, the bad habit that keeps you far from Christ. And I say that your promise so made to God in humble trust in His Spirit, is already an actual advance, a growth in grace, and an earnest of further growth.

If any one declines to respond to any such appeal, saying to himself, 'It is enough for me if I can get through life without scandal,' I ask you to consider whether God could ever have made a man in His own image without intending him to rise above the level of fallen nature in its depressed indifference? At the judgement will the question be, 'Did you live a decent life, without public disgrace?' or will it be, 'Where is that lovely image of God that I gave you? Where is that seed of a heavenly life, which I sowed in you in Baptism, that princely Spirit of Christ, God's love, which I shed abroad in your heart at Confirmation? Did you cultivate the noble plant? Where is its beautiful growth through these twenty or forty years, which I gave to you for nothing but that you should use them in growing in likeness to Me?'

...

Then, again, your real keeping of Lent by a practical resolution in regard to fasting, prayer, and almsgiving--as to discipline of the body or of the temper--will help you to grow in grace, because it will bring you and keep you nearer to Christ. When an army is on the march, a few will fall out, giving way to weariness or a little slackness, and lagging so they begin at once to lose the spirit of the corps, and feel the discouragement of solitude, and are left behind. Those who keep up with the body have the stimulus of their officers' presence, and of the spirit of the regiment. So Lent means that you are not going to play at soldiering any longer, but that you take up Christ's Cross in sober earnest, and begin to follow Him closely. As you strive by prayer and self-denial to follow, you are keeping well up with our Leader, Who knows who is with Him, and the swing of the march of His companions cheers you.

But Lent is so full of the hope of advance, because the energy of every Christian's Lent resolution is the stirring up of the life of God that is in him--the calling up of the power of Christ's victory over sin, and putting it forth under new circumstances. You might smile to know that a boy here is going to fight against some fault this Lent--is going to get up as soon as he is called in the morning, in order to have time to say his prayers; is going to behave like a gentleman to some one who has been no friend to him; is going to work hard in school instead of idly--you might smile over that Lent resolution, because it is such a small matter! Yes; small, like the live seed that has a huge oak tree of a hundred years hence folded up and hidden in it. You smile over the child's Lent resolution; but your laughing at it will not stop its growing, till it becomes the power and beauty of Christ enthroned in the grown man's character. I know a noble person who converts many to righteousness, of whom a school-fellow said to me, 'I knew him as a boy, and he was just the same at heart when he was at school as he is now; he would never allow a word to be said against the honour of God, against truth or purity.' There was the divine seed, the life of Christ on the throne, hidden in a boy's heart; and here to-day is the great tree, the man whose whole life from the beginning has been the same, but growing--a life of grace, always given to God in the service of men. You may trace the history of that tree of grace fifty years, back to its seed, the child's Baptism, Confirmation, Communions. But when did this seed begin to grow--begin to know the life that was stirring in it, and exert it? It was very likely some call of God responded to, like the Rugby schoolboy Noble's resolution to give his life to God as a missionary; or it was the first time he made a Lent resolution, denied himself, and gave his first Lent savings for the love of God to some charity.

The hope of growth in grace springs out of the self-denial of Lent, for that is the exercise of the sorrows and sacrifice of Christ, of which we are made partakers by the Sacraments. ... Already he is no longer a babe in Christ; he has won his spurs, has dared something, suffered something for the honour of the King, Advance! You can see it in his face; he has grown from Christian childhood to the first hope of Christian knighthood.

And then our hope of advance in Lent will never be the hope of our own solitary improvement...The congregation must keep Lent well, every communicant taking a real part in the spiritual movement, the penitence of Lent, so as to be a support to all the rest: each trying to bring some one to Church who has not found his way there...Our Lent exercise will be patience, that exchanges hot and angry thoughts and words for prayer. And the choir must keep Lent well, as they will be taught by their choirmaster. Then their leading of the daily Song of the Church will be more than ever sacrifice, something given as a means of union with God. There is nothing in public worship that helps us more to seek God earnestly than the song of a choir, who sing not of constraint but for the love of Christ's service, who are reverent in Church, and try everywhere to keep the character of Christ's servants, of which the surplice is only the outward sign.

And whatever victory we win in Lent over any sin, we win it not for self alone, but for the joy of heaven ('there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth') and for the support of all who are trying to serve God...Like a change in the weather: yesterday we were frozen up in mid-winter, but the wind changed from north-east to south in the night, and when. we woke spring was here. Your Lent prayer and effort carried right through to Easter has brought a change of moral temperature, has touched other souls, softened and encouraged them, wakened the remembrance of forgotten blessings. Not one in a family keeps Lent like a Christian, perseveres in prayer and self-denial, but somehow he changes the general tone of life round him in ways nobody can explain. So the whole Body of Christ grows in grace, through the good Lent of one member.

And there is no end to this advance. The ancient chestnut trees yonder that stand round the cathedral, each of them has grown from one seed, dropped there ages ago, and yet their top branches are growing still. This spring the white spires of bloom will be lifted up nearer to heaven than ever, and the giant arms will cast a wider shade, because the life that was in that small seed has not exhausted God's purpose for it yet. But a day will come when old age or a gale of wind will end the growth and history of the great tree. And the Christian penitent who kept Lent well--death will lay him low too, when God wills, but will not end him, but will only set free the life of God that he cherished by prayer and self-discipline--set it free for a new and endless advance.

11 March 2011

Allied Forces prayer (useful during Lent)

Full article here.

When the allied soldiers found the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck where about 92,000 women and children died, they found a note tied to a rock alongside a dead woman and child. It is actually a prayer written by one of the women:

“O Lord, when I shall come with glory into Your kingdom, remember not only the men and women of good will; remember also those of ill will.

“But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we bought thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which have become part of our lives because of our suffering here.

“May the memory of us not be a nightmare to them when they stand in judgment. When they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

10 March 2011

(George Herbert) Welcome deare feast of Lent

Full Text found here.

Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and layes the burden there,
When doctrines disagree.
He sayes, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandall to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

09 March 2011

(Bishop David's Blog) LENT BEGINS ANEW TODAY

Milner-White's Prayer for the beginning of Lent

The Very Reverend Dr Eric Milner-White (1884 - 1963) was Dean of York between 1941 and his death in 1963. This prayer is taken from his collection, My God my Glory, SPCK London, 1967 edition.

LORD, bless to me this Lent.

08 March 2011

John Donne on Lent (in a way)

“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.”

opening words by John Donne in his sermon on Christmas Day 1626

Open Communion

The Anglican Journal covers this one for us.
My emphases and comments.

Should we invite persons who are not baptized to receive Holy Communion? [all the kewl kids are doing it!] The church is discussing this question today. [in order to be relevant, me thinks!] Anglicans traditionally have believed that the eucharist [editorial warning...this article will never Capitalize the word Eucharist even though it is our central, oldest, and most unifying Sacrament ordained by Jesus Christ] is a family meal, reserved for members of the church through baptism. [...again with these Sacraments not being capitalized, let alone designated as HOLY...I see a pattern (cough, smell an agenda)] Those who are not baptized are not members of the church; therefore, they cannot participate in the family meal.

This exclusive view of the eucharist has a long history. [Damned old traditions again!] St. Paul warns against eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner” (I Cor. 11:27), though he seems to leave the decision whether to partake in the meal to each person’s conscience (I Cor. 11:28). Closed communion is standard practice in some Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic and Orthodox. [and we have no clue as to why--those mean ole bullies! Oh, shoot, my cousin is a Lutheran and they're meanies too, sniff, sniff] However, many Anglican churches throughout the world now practice open communion. There are good reasons, both missional and theological, for doing so. [okay, let's all hold our breath until his discusses the unpleasant (cough, unorthodox) consequences* for doing so...]

The Missional Case
Consider the fact that most Anglican churches now celebrate the eucharist every Sunday at every service. [okay. credit where it's due. this is a great post-conciliar correction.] Yet many people are not baptized. How do we reach them? [Read, "How do we get around that, rather than do anything about it?"] Do we invite them to church for Sunday dinner [pass 'em 'er biscuits, Merle!] and tell them they cannot eat the food? [never mind the wedding garment thingy...no parables about that...so...]

How, in our multicultural and pluralistic society, can our churches be places of hospitality if we exclude table fellowship with the non-baptized? This is not an academic question. [Winning clarification, that!] In Canada, a growing number of the population is not baptized. [No! we shan't do the work of evangelization! that would be exclusivist and bigoted.] Included are people from different religious traditions or people with no religious affiliation at all. Quite likely, some are our grandchildren or great-grandchildren, whose parents neglected or refused to have them baptized. [I knew this paragraph was going down hill]

How can the church effectively minister in a post-Christian world where a significant percentage of the population is not baptized? [chirp...chirp...nope, can't think of a single way] Some Anglican churches are attempting to meet this challenge by becoming open and inclusive faith communities, [OPEN and INCLUSIVE are always good things, right?] ready and willing to support people in their spiritual journeys. [because it's all about the journey] They understand that the Anglican tradition has never been content to adopt a sectarian mentality, to insulate itself from culture or to refuse to connect with an unchurched population. [The word adopt occurs in his narrative...yet no connection to Holy Baptism...how splendidly relevant!]

Open communion increasingly is seen [just allow us to show you...yawn] as a way to build a bridge [bridge? I'll leave the Latin word for that alone] between the church and the unchurched. [because, of course, there really is no other way] If people are “spiritual but not religious” as several sociological studies indicate, then the desire for transcendence experienced in sacramental worship may well draw them to church. [unless the un-capitalized 'church' has quit being The Church. In which case they might just fly home to experience private sensations without other individuals interfering with the reception]

There is a pattern here:[oh, you see one too, do you?] experience, community, and faith—in that order. [and ALWAYS in that order...money quote if there ever was one] In this organic process, experience is foundational to faith. I term this “experiential evangelism”—offering people an experience of God that draws them into the Christian community and leads to faith in Jesus. There is precedent for this model. Solomon Stoddard, the father-in-law of Jonathan Edwards [notable Anglican worthy...not] and himself one of the great New England Puritan pastors, referred to Holy Communion [kudos on the dignified attribution] as a “converting ordinance” in which the experience of receiving communion served to transform the heart of the recipient. [which is just what Edwards meant, you see]

We now live in a post-modern world that places heart over head, feeling over thought, intuition over logic and image over words. [Oh thank heaven we've all grown up and cast off those nasty nannies--head, thought, logic, and words] “We have a generation that is less interested in cerebral arguments, linear thinking, theological systems,” observes Leith Anderson, author of Dying for Change. Instead, they are “more interested in encountering the supernatural,” he says. It is by an experience with the supernatural that people enter into community. It is through community that people come to faith. [contra Anselm it's the new way to come to church]

To be sure, this is a significant shift in the way Anglicans usually have thought of Christian formation. The traditional model holds that believing leads to belongingyou believe the faith of the church in order to belong to the church. In this model, the church made confirmation a prerequisite to communion. However, an emerging model reverses the order, and holds that belonging leads to believing. Insofar as people belong to a Christian community, they come to believe in the faith of that community. [each and every time this is true!...funny there is no footnote or quote from a trusted authority that has performed actual research into this] In this model, communion leading to baptism may complement the still normative practice of baptism leading to communion. [sure, it just may. let's all wait and see]

This new model of Christian formation is consistent with church growth methodology. “The old paradigm taught that if you have the right teaching, you will experience God,” writes Leith Anderson. “The new paradigm says that if you experience God, you will have the right teaching.” [I promise I'm not making this up!]

Open communion played a major part in the rapid growth of my parish in Southern California. I saw the same scenario repeated many times—non-Christians receiving Holy Communion and experiencing God in a powerful way, leading to a desire to be baptized. Therefore, I ask: might we not see the experience of receiving communion as a way of drawing people to faith in Jesus?

The Theological Case

There is, however, another consideration. Who is the host of the Lord’s Supper? God is. God welcomes us. Even before we ask for food, God spreads a table before us. God’s all-embracing hospitality is a hallmark of the meal we call eucharist. [hey, he's capitalizing God, if no one noticed]

One of the most powerful witnesses of God’s inclusive love is the welcoming table, so prevalent among southern black churches in the United States. At these fellowship dinners, held on church grounds, a large meal is prepared for anyone who might come: rich and poor, black and white, stranger and church member. [taking nothing away from these events which I love, that is not a Eucharist] In the days of the segregationist south, when legal measures were ruthlessly enforced to prevent different races from eating together or even sharing a water fountain, the welcoming table was a powerful witness to God’s inclusive love. [?]

Might not the Lord’s Table in Anglican churches be understood as a welcoming table? Is it possible for us to see the altar as a symbol of inclusion rather than exclusion? Anglican biblical scholar John Koenig and reformed theologian Amy Plantinga Pauw have argued separately that the most pervasive image in the Bible is the banquet table, with God serving as a generous host. Salvation is feasting in the kingdom of God, where people will come from north and south, east and west to sit at table together. In Isaiah 25:6−9, for example, the banquet is a symbol of salvation, with the invitation extended to “all peoples” and “all nations”—not just Israel.

This table fellowship is at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus welcomed all kinds of people to his table: rich people, poor people, good people, sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, you name them, and they came to eat and drink with Jesus (Mt. 9:9−10; Luke 14:12−23;19:5). [how many of them were at the first Eucharist? how unjust and exclusivist of our dear Lord!] United Methodist Bishop William Willimon has said that Jesus’ open invitation “manifested the radically inclusive [not just inclusive, but radically inclusive] nature of his kingdom, a kingdom that cuts across the barriers we erect between insiders and outsiders, the saved and the damned, the elect and the outcast—barriers often most rigidly enforced at the table.”

Jesus welcomed all sorts of people to his table. [He was invited to their tables in the book I read] Might we also welcome people with the same openness and acceptance as he did? [oh, why not?, nothing is sacred anymore!] After all, it is the Lord’s Table, not ours. Who are we to exclude the very people that Jesus includes in his ministry? [while we're at it let's teach the unbelievers to serve this Holy Group-Meal and clean up afterward]

The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi is the rector at St. James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont.


*edited from reasons.