July 2007 Archives

Moods

I can feel myself going into a real melancholic mood. A lot of things have happened over the last two and a half years (or seven years, depending on how I want to look at it) and I am just weary.

I need a break, and I think I may actually take one come September. It has been a long time. I didn't get to do a retreat before either of my ordinations and I have not had a real vacation in years.

September, September. I'm sure one thing or another will work against it, but I do need it. I need to be discipled and make it happen, regardless.

What's the point?

I came across this book description for Timothy Radcliffe's, "What is the Point of Being a Christian?" both through Church Publishing and Amazon.com.

What is the Point of being a Christian? One is pointed to God, who is the point of everything. If one thinks of religion as just 'useful' then one has reduced it to another consumer product. But if we are pointed to God, then this should make a difference to how we live. This is not a moral superiority. Christians are usually no better than anyone else. But the lives of Christians should be marked by some form of hope, freedom, happiness and courage. If they are not then why should anyone believe a word they say? Shot through with humour, friendship and wisdom, the pages of this book outline a manner of living which is at once faithful to the teachings of Jesus and rooted in the tradition of the Church and at the same time responsive to the turbulence of the modern world.

The sentiment expressed in the above statements I find compelling. The whole notion of the Gospel as "consumer product" predominates within American forms of Christianity. It isn't just Christianity. Years ago in Kent, I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Come to Islam. Come to Success." The problem, I think, is that there is little going on to dispel this notion. Rather, we encourage the commoditization of religion and indulge those who seek confirmation and affirmation of their present selves and beliefs. Many people are so desperate for affirmation (or who are bound by prideful stubbornness) that there is very little consideration if any that they may be wrong in the path of their pursuit, rather than allowing themselves to be challenged by and transformed by the Gospel. If they did, there may well be the discovery, as Radcliffe suggests, of the honest peace, freedom, and contentment that they seek.

What have we done in the name of ideology, insecurity, fear, and lust for power? Truly, as things stand, why would someone be drawn to this faith but by the divine prodding of the Holy Spirit - why be a Christian? We can see, particularly in Europe and much of North American, that most people answer, "Yes, what is the point?" We will need to change our ways profoundly in order for a compelling faith to be realized - compelling not in the sense of convincing people of anything or selling a commodity, but because of the witness of a life lived fully within the promises of God and service to neighbor. I sense that change is coming and even now developing, but I have no idea what it will look like. I should read the book.

We reap what we sow

I was reading in the "sub-way" newspaper this morning that a woman is now suing ConEd because of psychological trauma due to the steam pipe explosion last week. I do feel bad for the woman because her sister died in 911, and as she said this has brought all of that back. She can't sleep; she can't eat, and everything else. Of course, her lawyer is looking a beau coup bucks if this thing actually goes anywhere.

My fear, and I see evidence to encourage this fear all the more, is that we have lost the essence that has enable this country to grow and prosper over the first 210 years or so of our existence.

The expectation that as an individual all others are somehow responsible for my happiness and success is a lie, yet we believe it all too often. Likewise, my misery or plight is the absolute fault of other people or entities is a lie, yet we believe all the more.

The idea that I have an absolute right to do or say anything and not bear the consequences or take responsibility for my own actions (or lack thereof) is a lie, but we assert this demand in a never ending spiral of social disintegration.

We have lost in too may areas of this nation and in our understanding of what human life and community really are the very notion that we are of something other than our own little, individual lives - we are to serve and not just be served, we are to give and not just be given to, we are to put aside our own wants at times for the benefit of the whole rather than acrimoniously demand MY way or need be realized at all costs.

We've lost this notion of being a responsible part of a greater whole -and- that perhaps the interests of the whole are actually more important than our own (or at least of equal value). This hyper-individualism is encouraged by marketing and consumer interests and by polarizing socio-political organizations that are only interesting in gaining power and advantage. It all leads to a disintegration of community - and here is the lie - that life will be better and good if only we as individuals can be islands of self-expression and want being unlimitedly met.

It is a lie, and we are reaping what we sow. This woman’s mental and emotional health will not be restored by suing ConEd. The lawyer’s pocket will be lined and she just may get some money, but she has fallen to the lie that money will make her happy and that punishing others, regardless of whether they truly are responsible or not, will sooth her soul. It will not. She thought processes and actions only contribute to the overall sickness that besets American society.

The City #15

On Tuesday, two days ago, we had to evacuate our building. This was not a drill, however, but the real thing. As we made our way to the common meeting spot, we found out way we had to leave. There was an unattended suitcase left on the sidewalk in front of the building. The police evacuated about a three block radius around the suspect suitcase.

We spent about an hour or a bit less and it all ended up to be much ado about nothing. As one of the cops said when asked what was going on, "New York post 911." I guess they do have to be vigilant. When, however, we honestly come to the point when all of "normal" life is disrupted and our responses and reactions are borne of paranoia, free, and distrust they have won.

I recently heard a guy, an expert in something or another, talking about our reaction to terror threats. He said that our best response would be to get back to normal as quickly as possible after an attack. "Terror" as a weapon of choice would soon stop being an effective way to force opponents to bend to terrorists' demands.

We will not win this thing through force, no matter what the neo-hawks on Capital Hill or the White House seem to insist upon. Diplomacy will not stop this sort of thing, either, although in the long run it is the best path to pursue. The "true believers in the cause" will stop at nothing. If, however, they realize that terrorism will not force a society, a people, a system into submission, they will turn to other means (perhaps more terrible, perhaps for civilized).

In the City, we played our little part this week. To what end?

Once

Go see the movie, Once. It is great!

Quote attributed to Thomas Merton (I say, attributed, because it wasn't referenced and I haven't found it yet):

"That which is oldest is most young and most new. There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The 'latest' is always stillborn. What is really NEW is what was there all the time. I say, not what has repeated itself all the time; the really "new" is that which, at every moment, springs freshly into new existence. This newness never repeats itself. Yet it is so old it goes back to the earliest beginning. It is the very beginning itself, which speaks to us."

When one is celebrating the Mass, one should be aware of wearing the right underwear.

Yeah, it makes a difference.

The old-new thing

Watch the video of Church of the Apostles and see the priest in the video, a friend/acquaintance of mine from seminary.

I like what they are doing.

I've been leading (stumbling through) the first stages of the discernment process for "Journey 2 Adulthood" with our "Discernment" and "Prayer" committees. Right now, we really don't have much of a "youth group."

I was reading an article not too long ago (I don't have the reference?) by an Evangelical on this phenomena of American youth-groups. Basically, the author stressed that it has only been since around the 1950's that this method of youth ministry sprung up. Before that, faith formation of young people happened primarily in the home, and the Church was there to help the parents. He also said that with today's young people, perhaps we need to examine our current methods (he is writing primarily about Evangelical youth ministry, remember) and re-examine that was it was done for most of the history of the Christian Church. Consider a recent "study" that was done that suggested that only 4% of current Evangelical teenagers will pro-actively continue on in their faith after leaving home.

Our J2A discernment committee is taking a break over the summer, as does most everything during the summer months in New York City. As I continue to pray and think about our young people, the young people of this City, and what our physical plant suggests about how St. Paul's viewed ministry to young people in its past.

St. Paul's Church, as an Anglo-Catholic institution of The Episcopal Church, was not built for a modern-day "Sunday School" program or a current-day American youth group. There originally was no space provided for "Sunday School" classes whether for children or adults. Much of Christian formation was done through working in the Guilds of the Church and simply being together.

Within the Anglican-Catholic expression of the faith, it is expected that the people are engaged in their own spiritual growth at home, on the job, and in the parish. They give to God what is God's, they love God with their entire being, and they love their neighbor as themselves - to varying degrees of success and failure of course. Sunday mornings are for the Mass - the celebration and receiving of the Eucharist, the hearing of the Word, and the prayers. The parish is also responsible for providing Daily Offices for integrative interaction of Scripture and prayer. The parish conducts instruction for a variety of things, but in ways different than what we may expect or envision today.

So, what does youth ministry for an urban, Anglo-Catholic parish look like? Young people are terribly busy and scheduled with all manner of other activities, as are their parent(s). So far, the traditional American understanding of youth ministry has fallen flat, and there are various other reasons for this other than busyness. But, what do we do now? What is the need, now? How do we best engage young people and be about their formation as pro-active, life-long, and faithful believers?

I am beginning to think it is not through "traditional" notions of "youth ministry." J2A is a great program and perhaps the best I've seen. It is not really designed for urban youth ministry, however. We can adapt it, but is there something different we should be doing? I have no desire to remake the wheel, but I just don't think that the "normal" means will work around this place at this time.

Has there be a fundamental shift in how we need to deal with our young people - with this generation? I don't know, but I sense we are in the midst of such a shift.

iPhone

iphone.jpgOkay, I saw my first iPhone yesterday. Yes, it is incredible! We are about to the point of Science Fiction communication devises!

I can get out of my current cell contract without penalty after August, but I don't know whether to buy an iPhone then or wait until the next rendition in 2008, which will include a couple very nice additions - like a larger screen. Now, the current screen is really amazing - real Web, video, TV, etc. all look great, but an extra inch can make a world of difference.

Each One of Us

From "A Thomas Merton Reader," edited by Thomas P. McDonnell.

Background - Thomas Merton had just arrived at Gethsemane, the Trappist monetary in Kentucky, as a postulant.

"In any case, the Father Abbott turned to us with just as much ease and facility as if he had nothing else whatever to do but to give the first words of advise to two postulants leaving the world to become Trappists.

"'Each one of you,' he said, 'will make the community either better or worse. Everything you do will have an influence upon others. It can be a good influence or a bad one. It all depends on you. Our Lord will never refuse you grace...'" (p. 143)

In all of our communities, we must make a decision of whether we will be a good influence or a bad one, whether we will make the place we find ourselves better or worse. Our dispositions, our attitude, our words along with our actions will all contribute to whether we are a "smell of life" or a "smell of death."

Which will it be? In all of our politicking, moralizing, and pontificating, what will it be? Are we an element that uplifts and encourages or an element that speeds the decent into banality, superficiality, hypocrisy, and idiocy?

Despite our person foibles and problems, we still have the ability to decide! Which will it be? How will we be known?

Communion without Baptism

A continuing discussion over at Daily Episcopalian/Episcopal Cafe covering Sacramental Theology and the surrounding issues, particularly addressed in this essay is Communion without Baptism (or Open Communion, as some refer to it).

The following is a portion of an essay written by Derek Olsen:

You see, Anglican—Christian—sacramental theology is the logic and theology of intimacy. Even the metaphors Scripture uses for the relationship between God and believers bespeak this intimacy: to abide, to dwell with, to remain within. The prophets and poets of sacred page have used time and again the figure of bride and groom in scandalous and sometimes shocking ways to communicate both the depths of intimacy (Revelation and the incomparable Song of Songs) and intimacy’s betrayal (Ezekiel and Hosea). Remembering the logic of intimacy, remaining faithful to its vision of life in relationship grounds our ritual ways, our liturgical practice, in a theology that honors the God who has chosen to be in relationship with us.

At the heart of intimacy is commitment. Nothing more—and nothing less. Intimacy is not instant; it grows over time. Intimacy is a process of growing into knowledge, love, and trust gradually—and its gradual nature demands that those growing remain committed to the process and to each other. It grows through hearing promises, then seeing those promises come true; through sharing truths, then recognizing and confirming those truths embodied in the patterns and rhythms of everyday life.

In our sacramental life, the moment of commitment is baptism. Like promises exchanged between lovers, like the promises made before the altar in marriage, baptism is a covenant relationship. God is constantly inviting us into relationship, simultaneously presenting and fulfilling the promise to be in relationship with the whole creation and with each individual member of it. In Baptism, individuals—or those presenting them—both recognize the call of God and return the commitment, recognizing the identity of God as it has been revealed to us in the baptismal creed and promising to be faithful to the relationship with God. This, we believe, is an everlasting covenant....

Coming from this perspective, Communion without Baptism misreads the logic of the liturgy. It demands intimacy without commitment, relationship without responsibility. To apply this same logic to another sphere of human relationship, this is the logic of the one night stand—the logic of the “meaningless” fling. Is this the relationship that we wish to have with the God who knows us each by name and who calls that name in the night, yearning for our return to the Triune embrace?...

The seekers, the strangers, the wanderers in our midst—they are the ones in view here. And here is my question; this is what we must answer to the satisfaction of our own consciences: Do we have the right to choose for the stranger and the seeker a relationship contradicting the logic of intimacy without offering them a yet more excellent way?

Kwik-E-Marts

apu_small.jpgIt seems that 7-11 Convenience stores, at least some of them, are in the process of transformation into the Simpson's Kwik-E-Marts. As the Simpson's movie premier is fast approaching, some of the 7-11's are becoming Kwik-E-Marts, complete with "Frosted Krusty-O's" cereal and "Squishees."

The 7-11 on 42nd St. between 8th and 9th Ave's. has undergone the transformation. I know what I am doing at lunch, today!

The City #14 & Thoughts

I was getting ready to exit the subway this morning on 32nd St. A small crowd of people was waiting to get into the train car, but instead of standing back and waiting for everyone to get off and then getting on, they held back for just a moment and then began to push their way in.

Entering and exiting subway trains has always been problematic, but the problem is getting worse, particularly as the population increases and more people ride. Unless there is a return to a common sense understanding that all things will be much more efficient and expedient if those wanting to get on the train wait until all those getting off are in fact off. As it stands, the chaos and gosling that results from everyone trying to do their OWN thing all at the same time accomplishes nothing but frazzled nerves and longer waits. (Just to let you know that I am not venting because I feel put upon, this incident really didn't effect me. This is just an observation.)

Here is the problem, and the worst is yet to come. As the result of the drive for rabid individualism marches on in this country, ideas of the common good and a community sense are lost. Selfishness, self-centeredness, personal greed, narcissism, and the loss of concern for anyone else are the outcomes of hyper-individualism. Much of our pop-culture, including the almighty advertising dollar, have encouraged hyper-individualism for the past 35 odd years. Get what YOU can, get what you DESERVE, YOU can have it ALL and to hell with those who don't, these ideas represent the mantra of the past few generations. We get what we deserve.

There comes a point where the common cultural understanding of the common good, of altruism, of concern for the welfare of the other person becomes alien - this common sense has been breed out of us, so to speak. The outcome is chaos and a world that will not look much different than the Mad Max movies of the 1980's.

I know that people not waiting for others to get off a subway car is a minor kind of incident, but it represented to me this morning the outward manifestation of the virus of hyper/rabid-individualism. This virus will destroy our ability to function as a civil society all being together under the rule of law, common decency, and life-sustaining community.

What will happen? A loss of personal liberty - it has already begun (the Patriot Act, for example). When we no longer know our neighbors and when our personal, individual safety is threatened without a strong, inbreed culture sense the wellbeing of the whole community rather just the self, everyone becomes suspect. Well, we won't abide chaos for too long. What will happen is a clampdown on "rule breaking" and personal liberty. The end result will be far less freedom than when the whole "libertine" movement escallated beginning in the 1960's. They thought the 1950's were oppressive, just wait!

I thought this morning, "each subway car has a few burly men standing at each door. When the doors open, these men form a barrier to open a path for everyone to get off the train. Once everyone is off, then they allow people to get on. Now, some hyper-individualists will balk and try to fight their way through, but these burly men will have to basically beat then down. Taser, anyone? Kick in the groin?"

A far-fetched scenario? Perhaps, but in order to restore a sense of order intense means will have to be employed. We loose our liberty. We lose balanced individual expression, because during such times conformity becomes paramount. We lose it all in the name of hyper-individualism and the encouraged selfishness and greed that has always plagued humankind, and of which the zeit-qeist strives to deny the outcome.

The world changes, yes. Change is not a bad thing by any means. Yet, we have to be honest in perceiving and discerning the direction in which change is moving and whether that direction is beneficial or not. The end result is not guaranteed.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2007 is the previous archive.

August 2007 is the next archive.

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