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.
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.
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 womanâ€™s mental and emotional health will not be restored by suing ConEd. The lawyerâ€™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.
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?
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.”
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.
Okay, 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.