“This brings me to the fundamentals, Doctor,” replied the Rector. “If you will permit, let us pass by the particular things for a moment and try to understand the principles that govern the methods of our worship…”
“…To understand the public worship of the Episcopal Church, you must grasp three principles,” said the Rector. “They will serve to interpret practically all of its practices and habits. You may not approve of these principles but at any rate you can understand that the Church has reason for adhering to them. These principles of the Church are the basis of its practices.”
“The first principle is that the Church attempts to appeal to the eye as well as to the ear…”
“The eye is the gateway to knowledge,” continued the Rector… “The Church for a 1,000 years or more attempted to instruct the people by education through the eye.”
“For that reason our churches are furnished so that each great function of the Church has some article of furniture which constantly suggests that function…”
“… I think I see,” said the Doctor seriously. “Your Altar then is like a great picture which sets forth the religious teachings of the Church.”
“Exactly,” affirmed the Rector…
“Did you ever go, alone, into an Episcopal Church?” asked the Judge.
“No, I think not. Why should I?” asked the Doctor….
…The Doctor was clearly impressed. “I thought churches were for public gatherings,” he said quietly.
“They are,” agreed the Judge, “but they are likewise for individual edification. The mistake you may make about the Episcopal Church is in thinking that it is an organization having as its object public assemblies, in which a general effort is made to promote goodness. It is more than that. It is a great Mother who teaches you so impressively that its influence and control endure throughout the week. The idea of righteousness and the idea of salvation are often too abstract. The Church is the embodiment of these ideas. You know the spirit of college?” asked the Judge.
“Class of 1905,” said the Doctor. “Best college on earth.”
“That’s loyalty,” affirmed the Judge. “The college stands for education. Its activities tend toward the development of the student. It expresses great ideas and trains men in a score of ways. Do you keep your old text-books?”
“Shelf full of them, ” confessed the Doctor.
“Pretty dry now, aren’t they?” questioned the Judge. “Yet they have the heart of the substance of your education in them. But it was the college that made those books live. You were part of all that. So the Church is a great living organization to which loyalty and love and devotion respond. You are proud of it, and you carry the thought of it with you constantly. On days when services are held the people come to pledge anew their faith, to refresh their spiritual life. They come not as chance spectators of a service, or accidental listeners to a moral lecture, but as part of the whole body of the Church.”
“That is a fine idea,” admitted the Doctor, “but the Church never impressed me in that way.”
“You have misunderstood it,” said the Judge simply. “It is our spiritual home. So we keep it orderly and furnish it gloriously. We like that picture of the Altar and the Cross, even as you like the warmth and glow of your hearthstone…”
[The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today, George Parkin Atwater; New York: Morehourse-Gorham Co., 1950; 6-12.]
more to come…
I keep hearing that “the Church no longer has anything for men…” This isn’t a nostalgic longing for an imagined time past, but a recognition that we are now fairly empty of any real focus on the development of the moral, spiritual, devotion lives of men, as men and not as some androgynous entity that does not recognize that there are honest differences between women and men.
To some degree, the focus over the past 30 years has been on providing women the ability to enter into an equal place in the leadership structures of the Church. And, that kind of focus is needed. There continues to be Episcopal Church Women (ECW) that existed in times pass to give women some level of real involvement in the structures of the Church, even if they were not allowed within the greater leadership. ECW is, for the most part, still the focal point for the development of the lives of women within the Church.
The younger generations do not carry the baggage of hard feelings or ill will that still inhabit the minds and attitudes of many people who fought for their right to be a real and honest part of the leadership of the Church. Younger women or gays do not automatically jump to the conclusion that if men want a men’s ministry that is made up of men and for men, that it will not by its nature be misogynist or homophobic.
Yet, I think that like ECW has not lost its purpose as a ministry for women, there needs to be a ministry of some sort for men. Well, actually, I think that the current generation of leadership needs to exercise the spirit/demon of “liberal, while, male” guilt out of its Psyche that tends to denigrate men or a particularly male way of fellowship or leadership. Already, I can hear howls of opposition. That’s my experience, whether it is normative or not.
Now, the above quotes come from a book published in the 1950’s. The attitudes of the authors, of men and women within the Church, and of course society in general were terribly different. Yet, there is not an embarrassment to be men gathering and saying things that actually sound like men in ways other than barbaric, aggressive, loudmouth posturing.
Are there ministries for men within the Episcopal Church? Perhaps, but, I don’t think there is much going on, and there needs to be.