The Next Step…

As we continue along the societal path leading us further into the “Post-Constantinian-Era” of the Church and society in the West – and I’m thinking primarily of those in the U.S., in more urban areas, and substantially those under 30-years of age – the way we go about doing church, the way we go about influencing society for the good and the beautiful, the way we go about the doing of Jesus’ two Great Commands, and particularly the way we go about evangelism/witness – by necessity will and must adapt and change.  This isn’t change for the sake of change, change to attempt to be all hipster-like, change to be on the presumed cutting-edge, or change to accomplish personal or group agendas, but rather change that should naturally come from careful observation, study, participation, and discernment with regard to the dynamic morphing of generational, cultural, perceptual, and/or ambition-al sensibilities and understandings we have of ourselves, our cohorts, and our world. After all, while we are called not to be of the world, we are certainly not called to be other than or out of the world!

So, what does this all mean?  Since we have entered into the cultural milieu where a Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity, our world, and our place in it is no longer the foundation upon which our society revolves with regard to so many things – ethics, morals, sense of purpose, how we relate to other people(s), concepts of freedom and integrity, material things, and our inner-selves – let along God – we must understand and re-engage the central purposes of the Church – the institutions that embody the Mystical Body of Christ in the world.  What are the purposes of the Church to be re-engaged?

I posit this: to begin, that which has endured through the centuries of testing – there is gravity here.  What purposes have been tested and shown to endure? The primary purpose of the Church is to worship God and be present with God in His desire for the good of the created order.  Secondly, the Church is to be the primary conduit through which people come into a salvific relationship with God through Jesus Christ, period.  Thirdly, the Church is to be the place where people are formed and re-formed into the Life-in-Christ by way of the transformative working of the Holy Spirit in our individual and collective lives. This happens as we give ourselves individually to the
practice of the enduring Christians Spiritual Disciplines and as we collectively provide place for the learning of, the habitation of, and the practice of such disciplines. The Church provides for the practice of these disciplines. Once these three enduring proposes of the Church are engaged heartily, even if imperfectly (which is inevitable), then we become the image of God and go about being a witness for Christ’s desire among the people we engage every day.  The way we are a witness – doing evangelism – changes, naturally.  The way we care for the poor and needy will change, organically.  The way we campaign against injustice changes, fundamentally.

The authentic Christian response to the profound needs of the outcasts and marginalized and the way to come against injustice can only happen after we come to love God with all of our being – then we are able to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The central purposes of the Church are not social work and political activism – sorry.  Those things are born authentically for the Christian out of worship, formation, and self-denial. Frankly, the world does not need the Church to care for the needy or to champion justice.  There are plenty of NGO’s and non-profits (religious or secular) that are very good at this. The world does need the Church to know God and to be transformed for living “life to the full.”

Worship/Prayer, Formation/Discipleship, Selflessness/Self-Denial,
Witness/Evangelism are the watchwords, and IMHO the more helpful progression
for action.

I am convinced that once we re-engage the core practices of the Faith, we will realize again the Church’s positive influence for the shaping of the world by God’s design, which is good, beautiful, and peaceful. Although, for the time being as we rebuild trust and authentic alternatives to the prevailing world systems to which we have become beholden, growth will be small and under the radar (because we need to regain our sense of purpose, value, and worth not born out of the seeking of societal approval and affirmation).  For those of us who are after such things, we will need to stay under the radar to a degree because such challenges to the status-quo always gather together those who oppose and resist.  So be it. We work with and along-side all
who wish God’s purposes to be realized, but the next step in the reshaping and reforming of the Church will take place with or without us – I want to be part of the reshaping!

I think here, in this messiness, is where I want to find situated the Imago Dei Initiative!

The New Black

I posted an observation on Facebook early in the spring and asked whether “Pink” had become the new “Black” for guys in New York City. I didn’t really get much of a response.
Well, last week my question was answered. One day last week, from the subway to my office (a block and a half), going out to eat lunch in the area (around 75 minutes), and walking back to the subway after work I counted 12 guys in pink shirts – t-shires, Polo’s, Oxfords, and dress-shirts – 4 guys in pink ties, and one guy with muted pink lipstick (it is New York, after all).
So, I will declare that “Pink” has become the new “Black” (as much as that really means anything at all) for guys in New York. After all, “real men wear pink.” That, of course, was conjured up by some die manufacturer that had an overabundance of red die, I suppose.

The City #28

Language in New York is, well, colorful. The F-word is a common as, well, “like” in some other parts of the coastal-country.
This morning, as I was walking from the subway to work, on 37th St. I passed by a construction site with two brawny construction workers standing in the street, one yelling into his cell-phone. It’s kind of funny to see a skyscraper going up on a plot of land no larger that a little gas-station in the rest of the country, between other tall buildings. It’s kind of indicative of New Yorkers’ concept of personal-space.
Anyway, this is what I overheard as I walked through the sidewalk maze.
“That f**king, head-ache-*ss, bullsh*t.”
What did he say? That’s all he said. Now, that’s all I heard and I’ve no clue of the context of the conversation, but other than conveying that he was a bit miffed, what in the world did he actually say? Might he have said something like, “I’m a bit angry right now and what happened wasn’t at all helpful!”
Yes, he could have, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as colorful.

The City #27

When winter rolled around my first year in New York, I noticed that when it began to snow people pulled out umbrellas. They looked funny! Walking along as fluffy snowflakes fluttered in the air, pushed along by the wind, slowly descending and landing on the dog poop left on the sidewalk by an obnoxious, irresponsible, degenerate dog owner with no consideration for anyone else. Snow is white. Dog owners that leave their dogs’ poop for everyone to marvel at, well, they are black. (How is that for dualistic thinking and self-righteous judgmentalism?) People in New York don’t like deposits left on the sidewalk – really, really don’t like them.
Anyway, snow, winter, and umbrellas.
Growing up in the mid-west along a Great Lake, we had lots of snow during most of the winter. In places where winter is truly cold and snowy, well, people just don’t do something as droll as use an umbrella during a snowfall. Why would you, really? Half the time snow is falling sideways, anyway. What good is an umbrella during sideways snow flurries? What about blizzards? Useless.
I suspect it really does make sense, in a way. In New York City, 60% of the population come from somewhere else, and many of that 60% come from warm climates that rarely ever see snow. So, for those people, when water falls from the sky in whatever form, well, an umbrella is an appropriate response.
They’re wimps! They look funny.
This morning, I found an open umbrella just rolling around on the sidewalk as I headed to work in Manhattan. It had just started to snow a little (it had been drizzling rain, earlier). Who was the owner of a working umbrella? I went and investigated this bizarre occurrence only to find out that while the umbrella had wonderful spring-action-opening capabilities, it would not remain closed. A death sentence for an umbrella! There was a woman standing by me who said, “I’ll take it!” She was one of those that use umbrellas when it snows. Oh, well; I gave it to her and she was thrilled. Good deed for the day – besides, I was wearing clericals and it is always good to dispel those negative stereotypes applied to priests. Now, all that water falling out of the sky won’t muss her hair.
If I were back home, using umbrellas during snow is considered a bit weird. No one does it, except for those who happen to migrate from warmer places. I just looks funny.
UPDATE: Okay, okay, okay… Freezing rain. That might well be an appropriate time for an umbrella during winter. The stuff hurts! Freezing rain, but not for snow!

The City #26

The morning after a historic event, riding on the subway to work, dead tired because I was up too late last night. On the subway, an African American woman heading for work, a T-shirt with “Brooklyn” written across it in white letters. Her young daughter sitting next to her, pig-tails, back-pack, all coordinated in pink. An expectant look. Not rich, not poor – I think. Mother quietly reading to daughter from the beginning pages of, “The Dreams of My Father, ” by Barrack Obama. That’s PRESIDENT Obama, to you.

St. Paul’s, Fisher, and the Village Voice

My church of preference – that would be St. Paul’s Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where I serve (okay, I’m biased) – has played host over the last few years to a myriad of musical recordings, mostly from people who attend St. Paul’s.
More recently, one of that group of performers/singer-songwriters/producers yielded an article in The Village Voice where St. Paul’s is mentioned.
I guess I now live in a hipper, cooler area of New York City – BoCoCa! Go figure.
Here is the story in The Village Voice.
Here are photos of my church of preference, during Lent:

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The City #25

Well, it is coming to the end of August, and, well, the City is empty! I’ve spent 5 summers in New York City and it seems to be that this month is the emptiest of any I’ve experienced. Now, I well know that when I write, “empty,” that it is an exaggeration, but getting a seat on the subway, taxing around in slight traffic, quickly finding a parking place, walking along and not bumping into as many people makes it seem “empty.”
My doctor even said he has no idea to where all the people went.
In a couple of weeks, however, schools will have begun and most people will have returned from their vacations. Once again, New York life will return to “normal.”

The City #24

Okay, I’m getting to work a little late today because of a blood test (cholesteral). Coming out of the subway on 6th and 40th, by Bryant Park, suddenly the line up the steps stop. There is a crowd, and I think, “What is going on?” Finally, I’m getting closer to the top and I hear all kinds of screaming and hoards of people. Then I though, “Oh, yeah, its the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series in Bryant Park – they do this every Friday.
There is a cop right there at the subway exit blocking entrance to the sidewalk leading east along 40th St., across the street from the park. I had to actually show my work ID to get through the barricades.
Swarms of pre-pubescent girls everywhere – all texting like mad, all taking photos of themselves and their friends with their cell phones. I guess they started lining up last night. They had sleeping bags. I wondered why, on the way home last night, GMA and Bryant Park had all kinds of extra barricades and “General Admission Signs” all over.
It’s the Jonas Brothers! Damn Nickelodeon, or is it Disney?
Overheard: “I’ve got to get home. I’ve been up 24 hours.” That isn’t so bad, but as I turned the corner onto 5th Ave…. Okay, I’m four stories up in CPG and on the other side of the block and I hear them screaming… anyway, I turned the corner and there was a bus for, I guess, the brothers, girls everyone. They were kissing the bus. They were actually kissing… the… bus.
Well, there you go. A “typical” day in the City. By the way, Feist certainly didn’t get this kind of attention. Hum….