My post below, Youth Myths, was cross-posted to my Facebook profile as a “Note,” yesterday. Mark Robbin Collins posted a comment on Facebook, and I attempted to respond. Below is what I wrote down to answer his questions though all my disjointed and chaotic thoughts.
This is an interesting series of comments. As a parishioner at Ascension during your summer internship, and as an ordinand, I’m interested in this discussion. I think liturgy is about the beauty of holiness, and should inspire awe and glory. But I wonder if the attraction to more historical forms of worship represents an exclusive, rather than inclusive impulse. Are your youth about creating a place where esoteric rites appeal to a finite group of the liturgically pure? Or are they about celebrating the mystery and majesty of God in a way that is inclusive, and accessible to those who may not have their tastes? Don’t get me wrong, I’m bells and smells for the most part. But I think the most important people to the church are those *outside* of it — that’s where our mission calls us, and that’s whose needs we should be discerning and seeking to meet. And don’t forget, some of those 79 & EOW rites are closer to early Christianity than are some of those 1928 and 1662 ones!
Mark â€“ First, a bit of standing on a soap-box. I have found in my 27 years of being in academe and then in this Church that there is all kinds of talk about “inclusion,” but what has been meant by that term is “inclusion (acceptance) of those who agree with us.” My experience, which has always been on the more “liberal” side of things, is that the “inclusionists” are only really pseudo-liberals, because too many of them virulently excluded “conservatives” and those who donâ€™t line up behind their definitions and expectations of â€œinclusion.â€ These terms (inclusion or exclusion) are meaningless to me.
Jesus makes a way for anyone and everyone, but not on our terms. He is very patient and long suffering with us as we seek â€“ always wooing, but never compromising on the means and ways of the call. He offers life, forgiveness, restoration, salvation, peace â€“ but the requirement is that we give up ourselves and our ideologies, etc. That is the crux. As individuals and in common, we give up ourselves and are converted and in so doing we actually find our true selves â€“ individually and collectively. This isnâ€™t accomplished by our words, our theories or theologies or ideologies or our peculiarities of perspective, but is accomplished by the Holy Spirit doing the work within us. Acceptance of all kinds of not very socially popular people has occurred at St. Paulâ€™s over its history â€“ they have found a place in this parish.
Jesus wasn’t an “inclusionist,” mind you. He was about people, no matter who or what they were. The rich young ruler, once he said he couldn’t give up all his possessions to follow Jesus, was not included. Jesus didn’t say to him as he walked off, “Oh, heck, that’s ok, come and follow me anyway.” It wasnâ€™t Jesus that told him go away, but Jesus set the criteria under which he was to follow Him and left it up to the guy, but never compromised His own standard. He certainly didn’t include the religious establishment – unless they were willing to follow Him. Jesus was a respecter of people and their decisions.
That’s what we do – direct people to God through Jesus by the enabling of the Holy Spirit and say that it is He that they should follow. We respect their intelligence and their decisions, but we donâ€™t compromise the standards that this Church has set through the Creeds, Canons, and Book of Common Prayer. It is the people’s decision, after all, and there are people from every perspective and place in the journey in the parish – from those who doubt mightily and those who would rather get rid of a good chunk of â€œthose other peopleâ€ to those mighty women of God who can pray the mountain to move, and it does.
What we present is the liturgy, the Creeds, the Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the traditions of the Church that over the centuries have proven to touch people’s lives in ways that draw them to God – the tried, not the trendy (although with younger people, it seems the ancient is becoming the trendy). We arenâ€™t everything for everyone and we donâ€™t try to be. We trust the liturgy, Scripture, sacraments, and the Creeds to do their stuff as God works through them.
Early on, I heard St. Paulâ€™s described as a â€œnon-fussy, Rite I, Anglo-Catholicâ€ parish. The â€œnon-fussyâ€ refers to the fact that the liturgy is not a show, but a lived piety. It is what resonates with the parishioners. I asked the rector early on why they still used Rite I and he said, â€œBecause it is the more modern liturgy.â€ As I mentioned in the original post, it seems that younger generations, generally, seem to be drawn to Rite I language, and then even to traditional architecture, tried liturgical expression, the ancient and the mystery.
This is too long, I know, and not all that well thought out, but it gets at the gist of my perceptions of the what and the why of St. Paulâ€™s. It is Jesus that draws all women and men, so it is Jesus that we present. After that, He can do whatever He decides in the hearts and minds of the people.