Those Crazy Episcopalians!

Bishop calls Episcopalians "crazy"
I love to write about what's beautiful and good in the Episcopal tradition, especially when I've sensed that anyone has scoffed at "crazy Episcopalians."
  • Crazy Episcopalians is from the phrase "Crazy Christians" used by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, then Bishop of North Carolina, addressing a convocation of clergy during a week in 2013 when media expressed outrage -- or amusement -- at the approval of rites for union of gay couples.  The Bishop said that we need more "crazy Christians."  I elaborate with some thoughts from other writers about "liberal" and "conservative" churches.
  • "You don't have to be wrong for me to be right," said Rabbi Ben Hirschfeld to an Evangelical cab driver. The Rabbi's essay inspired me on the tenth anniversary of my writing this blog, where I worked through worry that my life seems to just cycle around the same old same-olds.  I found solace in the idea of liturgy.  See Ten Years of this Blog: Progress
  • The Power of Liturgy: I've Heard it all Before  responds to Derek Olsen's book Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life, among other sources.
  • Education for Ministry (EfM) helped to shape my faith.  I am co-mentor for a group at St. James', Marietta.  See our class blog page.
  • An Especially Good Friday traces my love of the Episcopal Church back to my first participation in the Good Friday liturgy, paying tribute to St. James' of Jackson, MS, and especially to Joe and Linda Powell, hospitable surrogate parents and mentors.  The essay develops the metaphor that the Episcopal Church is a "full immersion" experience.  
  • An angry atheist in 7th grade, I adopted a 70s-era feel-good creed that, on later reflection, is not only compatible with Christianity, but good practical advice: Desiderata: So What if it's Cheesy
  • Blessing of the Animals came about when our rector performed this picturesque ceremony on a busy street in our town, where all could see the dogs, people reading responsively, and the priest in flowing robes laying hands on each furry head.  Of related interest, concerning an 18th century Anglican poet's admiration for his cat and gratitude to the cat's "Saviour":  Rejoice in the Lamb, Christopher Smart's Cat, and My Dog.
  • What is ours?  A blessing of animals, a sermon on mustard seed, drought, immigration, and other events of the day (in 2007) inspired these notes towards a personal creed: "The only thing we truly possess is our own action. Everything else is a gift to be cared for, and that's so it can be shared."
  • Anglican Exceptionalism is partly a response to a book on multiculturalism by Fr. Erik Law.
  • My Neighbor's Faith: NPR's Theology?  Essays in the book My Neighbor's Faith tell of finding respect across divides of identity and ideology; but NPR models that every day. What does faith add?  I pull some answers out of the bookShared on EfM's Facebook page, this post was a big hit.
  • O Praise Hymn tells what to appreciate in the 1982 Hymnal, responding to a recording by the choir of King's College Cambridge
  • My Favorite Episcopal Things is a parody I wrote for our parish's "Bad Music for Good Causes."
  • New Episcopalians: Are You Comfortable? I drafted this when I was Senior Warden. Vestry did not approve.
  • Two classic mystery novelists were also faithful Christians in the Anglican Church.  Bells Resonate in The Nine Tailors explores some religious dimensions to the crime novel by Dorothy L. Sayers, who also wrote drama and essays on explicitly religious themes.  About Agatha Christie, I had to apologize for thinking her work shallow. See Christ in Christie.  
  • Church and Theatre: Laughing Matter? and its follow-ups, Mystery Dinner Theatre for Episcopalians and What Slays in Vegas respond to eyebrows raised by a church's mixing of murder and comedy.  Our rector even received a lengthy letter from a group that targets churches nation-wide for presenting "mystery dinner theatre" fund-raisers.
  • I explain how I came to appreciate the liturgy as theatre -- in which we are all the actors.  It's a musical!
  • Introverted Episcopalians of the World Unite looks at the ways our corporate worship makes room for private devotion.
  • Church Stewardship Campaign, circa 1600 compares "revolutionary" church fund-raising practices to what Anglican pioneer Richard Hooker wrote in 1600.  Hooker said it all before.  As a member of the Vestry, I've written pieces for stewardship drives:  Money, Power, and Giving and Ask Not What Your Pledge to the Church Can Do For You.
  • Why I'm Episcopalian, Part One: the Prayer Book 
  • Why I'm Episcopalian, continued  quotes the Lambeth Conference of 1968 on why "comprehensiveness" of our church should not be confused with wishy-washiness. This would be news to conservative friends of mine.
  • Episcopalian Church at Work is an appreciation of a routine Sunday service, with a reflection on the annual budget debate -- should we cut stuff out?
  • Another blogger's piece is wonderful: 11 Things I Love About the Episcopal Church
  • Beyond Right considers two services on one Sunday in which both sermons and the lovely choral anthems transcended the dualities of right and wrong, spirit and body.
  • Is there theology outside the Bible?   What I learned from non-scholars about theology before age 20 prepared me to appreciate Christopher Bryan's And God Spoke: The Authority of the Bible for the Church Today
  • Believing and Beloving considers an excerpt from a book by Diana Butler Bass.  She cites theologian Harvey Cox's history of how Christianity changed from living in Christ to beliefs about Christ.  Her etymology of the words "belief," "creed," and "faith" are eye-opening for those of us who learned that John 3:16 was the whole story.  
  • Fighting with the Bible: How Scripture Divides Us, and How It Can Bring Us Together, by Donn Morgan:  I reflect on two lessons that struck me.
  • Archbishop 101 is my overview of Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. 
  • Poet Christian Wiman writes a slender theological reflection with authority borne of learning, experience, and acuity; he brings out my best in my attempt to pull his strands together in Beyond Belief in My Bright Abyss.  Episcopalian or not, his theology fits.  Krista Tippett's interview with Wiman contained two great insights, relating to the body and to "not having enough time."
  • I would argue that poetry is always a religious expression, regardless what the poet may think of religion.  My posts related to poetry, and earlier posts related to poetry deal with poets who openly care about faith: Christian Wiman, Linda Pastan (including a liturgy for worship taken from her poetry), John Updike's final poems about his own impending death, T. S. Eliot's "Little Gidding", and Mary Oliver.  I deal with faith expressed in poetry by agnostic curmudgeon Philip Larkin; much about Richard Blanco, of Catholic/Cuban background; much by Todd Boss; and a lot about what I call "secular psalms" by a variety of poets in Poetry magazine.  
  • Priest a Barista?  Reading in a coffee house, I saw an employee who demonstrated several qualities of priesthood as re-envisioned in William Countryman's book On the Border of the Holy.   There's more about Countryman in an article where I write, "Interpretations of interpretations, metaphors to explain metaphors:  theologians are sculptors in smoke." 
  • Richard Rolheiser's The Holy Longing changed my understanding of church membership fifteen years ago. See my reconsideration, Spirituality Needs Community. He also wrote in Beyond Growing Up: Sacred Fire about midlife. In it, he refers often to his friend theologian Richard Rohr, whose work I reviewed in Richard Rohr's Falling Upward.  Their work on stages in life resonates with some conclusions I reached when I worried at the lack of "progress" in my own life:  Ten Years of this Blog: Progress?

Blessing of the animals, 2014

When Episcopalians are seen to be embroiled in controversy, I've sometimes worked to define my own position:
  • When I became Senior Warden, the simmering controversy of the gay bishop bubbled over again, and I found perspective in an article from Weavings magazine Calm Advice for Episcopalians in Opposition
  • If anyone facing intractable self-righteous opposition on two sides ever found what Episcopalians call the via media, that would be Lincoln. I'm well-read in the life of our sixteenth president, but I was struck by a line invented for him in Spielberg's Lincoln, concerning his having "no moral compass." 
  • When disgruntled clergy convened in Jerusalem during the church's quadrennial gathering at Canterbury in 2008, I wondered if their so-called "conservative" view was indeed conservative: Tradition Isn't What It Used to Be
  • Rob Bell's Velvet ElvisRob Bell's ideas about church tradition and the Bible seem pretty mainstream, at least in the Episcopal Church, but they are packaged to appeal to people who grew up in the 90s.  He makes a useful image for how many see doctrines as "bricks" -- pull one out, and the wall crumbles down. He suggests instead that faith is a trampoline, and doctrines are the springs that sustain us. 
  • Thinking Outside of the Big Box hits highlights of Designing New Congregations by Laurene Beth Bowers about bringing millennials back to mainline churches.  
  • Pacifism and cynicism are two ways to avoid decisions, said theologian Reinhold Niebuhr; there's an idolatry of "purity" that always leads to injustice.  These are two insights I took from a discussion of Niebuhr's re-emergence in public discourse, around 2007. 
The publication Forward Day by Day gives us meditations by writers, mostly Episcopal clergy, based on readings assigned in the daily lectionary of the prayer book.  These are disposable, but some ideas are so striking that I've wanted to preserve them:

Some blog posts reflect on sermons I've heard at St. James' Episcopal Church in Marietta.  These include:
150 years of rectors, St.J

Occasionally, I've been invited to speak or write to the parish of St. James' Episcopal Church.
My image for summer at St. James'
Our church's spiritual formation group, The Pilgrimage at St. James', has for several years now solicited meditations from parishioners to create our own seasonal "Day-by-Day" booklets. With friends Susan (solicitor of volunteers) and Laura (editor), I've compiled writers' drafts. The idea for these booklets came to me at a Vestry meeting, when we were brainstorming ways to involve parishioners more deeply in the church. So I set these requirements:  write 300 words, base them on the Bible readings assigned for the day, and try to tie the Scripture and personal insight to St. James' Marietta.
  • What's Toxic, Sticky, and Spreads? from Jeremiah 17:5-6  Cursed is the man who trusts in man…. He is like a shrub in the desert [and shall dwell in] an uninhabited salt land.
  • Church was Made for Waiting from 2 Peter 3.8  With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
  • Peace be within Thy Walls from Psalm 122, a favorite of  mine among these meditations, taking off from engraved memorials on the actual walls of our nave, and noting what has changed and what has remained constant during the centuries our worshipers have known
  • Biblical Revenge Fantasies from Psalm 55. 12-13 It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it – but it is you…my familiar friend.
  • God's People Grow Up from Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians.
    (see, "The Truth Shall Set You Free")
  • Liturgy as Theatre from Phil. 3:1 To write the same things to you is not irksome to me.  
  • Introverted Episcopalians Unite! from Mark  6.31  Come away to a lonely place
  • It's Lent: Bon Appetit! from  1 Corinthians 11.22  What!  Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? 
  • Rejoice in the Lord Always from Philippians 4:4, about how the readings a day before Maundy Thursday, like a movie approaching its climax, show all the principle characters in dire peril.
  • Sample meditations from Colassians 1.10, ...bearing fruit in every good work and increasing with knowledge of God.  Spring is prepared for months under the surface of winter.  Same in us?
  • Jeremiah 2.13, They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves... that can hold no water.  Why do we prefer foul water to fresh?
  • John 8.12-20, Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness.  Could Jesus run for office in Cobb County, Georgia?
  • Sacrificing Sons, Genesis 22.1-14, My father! ...Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
  • The Truth Shall Set You Free, John 8.21-32.  "A picture of freedom opens up to us," I write, "at St. James' ugliest spot," a gravel pit from which we can see nearby Kennesaw Mountain rising above a church spire. (see picture, right)
  • Jesus and Dogs from Matthew 15.21-28 Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.
  • Logic and Faith: How to Judge Value? from Romans 11:29 For who has known the mind of the Lord?
  • God's Trumpet: A Shock to the System from 1 Thessalonians 4:17  We... will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air
  • You Have Kept the Good Wine Till Now from John 2.10.
  • You Cannot Be Christian by Yourself! from John 8.53-54  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you claim to be?  

1 comment:

George said...

Thanks for this post, Scott. It was a virtual "yellow brick road" of your thoughts on the current state of the PECUSA. I enjoyed all of them!
George Lamplugh