Thursday, April 28, 2005

Had THE class again

You know, that one that meets 3x per quarter and we had to take it all 3 quarters and it lasts 3 hours. Wow, how trinitarian.

Anyway, the first 2 hours sucked as usual, but the end was great. We'll get to that in a moment. First I have to complain a little about the first 2 wasted hours of my time.

It was this rather befuddled old professor talking about Post-Modernity, and how to Deal with Postmodernism. YAAAA! Help! It's Post-Modernism! How will we ever survive??

It is getting a little ridiculous, all this fear of something that is basically over (except in humanities departments where they can't let go) (I'm going to get angry comments for that, aren't I?) but, as usual, the Christians are several years behind the times and are catching up and realizing the world is Post-Modern and What Are We Going To Do???

I think the church liked modernity so much because it was structured and had rules and had solid end goals and (ironically) depended on man pulling himself up by the bootstraps. Men especially like this, and like to be in power, so modernity suited them just fine.

Now we're in this Post-Modern era and it's all about relating - relating to people, to ideas, to truth. This is women's work. This is Gospel work. And yet the Church is afraid. Believe me - I am in seminary - I sit through class after class about this. I am so bored with it. It's not that big a deal people! It's not a threat!!

I mean geez, if your God is so small that he can't handle someone messing with Truth, then God help you. I think God's been working with the foibles of people for a little while now.

Besides, J tells me that P-M is over, at least in philosophy, which is where it started in the first place. So everybody can relax. I personally think we're acting more like the "me" decade than the slacker/Gen X 90's. The 80's were much more in tune with human nature.

But moving on, we got to spend our last hour listening to three fantastic representatives from fantastic organizations. These are Christians who are morally outraged by something besides R-rated movies and explicit lyrics. I can't really tell what they do better than they do, so I will simply direct you to their websites and tell you that if one (or more) strikes a chord, please get involved. (David vs. Goliath=workers vs. corporations - this group has nationwide ties; they are starting a seminarian's group) (why has the church forgotten its command to care for the orphans?) (hey, here's an idea - let's educate people out of the cycle of poverty!)

'nuff said.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Free Will?

A friend of mine is going through a nasty dispute over a will right now. There's a family member who has caused what should have been a few-weeks process to last nearly a year, and the reward for his efforts is that now he may have found loopholes that will get the whole thing thrown out. He will be rewarded with the largest share of the estate.

Of course it is unjust and feels horribly wrong to my friend. And I am not able to tell her the truth because it is too harsh. So I will write it here.

The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. Bad people do indeed often win, and do indeed get a windfall that should have belonged to the good. Why? Because the good do good, and that often doesn't lead to power in this world.

If he wins, then so be it. It's only money. I know you can let that go. But in regards the injustice, think on this: you have eternal life. You are redeemed. You have an amazing promise of a life that is better and stronger and fuller than he knows.

Is it unfair? Of course. But getting angry doesn't help (something my husband constantly reminds me). The best thing to do is to continue to do right. Because you can trust that God will take care of you. That is better than anything.

And do not fall into the trap of thinking God is testing you to see if you trust Him. That is unfair to God who only has love for you. God hates the situation as well, and God will be there to help you pick up the pieces when it's all over. God says, "Let the evildoer still do evil" (Revelation) but He's got the end of the story for you all written. And it is very, very good.

Final thought from Rev. Barbara Crafton:

Of course you have to plan for the future, as best you can. Of course you have to clean up the messes you made in the past, as best you can. But you can't live in either place. We only live now. If "now" is a place of pain, be present to it and let it be a piercing reminder of that for which you long. Let it burn the extraneous nonsense right out of you, as it certainly will do, leaving only the gold of what is truly important. If "now" is a place of sunshine, be present to it. There will be other moments when you will need the memory of it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Class notes

We're discussing music, and someone asks about too much talking (prayers) "interrupting" my experience of coming into the presence of God.

So many things to say...the professor, rightly, said that it's dangerous to go down the road of my experience being the center of worship. He also instructed us away from trying to make something emotional happen during music.

But the thing that didn't get said, that I wonder about, is what exactly does it mean to "come into the presence of God." I mean, what are we actually DOING there? Because if we're just "basking" in the presence, I wonder if we're just rocking out, having some kind of emotional experience no different from a secular rock concert. There must be something we are doing - and that's what we're learning. We do things in God's presence - not just adoration, but also thanksgiving, confession, dedication, offering, etc. And we must attend to the things we are doing, not just how we are feeling!

Brian McLaren talks about post-protestant worship, saying forms of worship are not biblically mandated and necessarily evolve. Worship as spiritual formation. Doing things I may or may not feel like doing to bond to what they represent. Um, yeah, that would be the anglican church. How about PRE-protestant!!

If worship is spiritual formation, and if it evolves, then can we agree that theology can also evolve along with it? That is, can our understanding of God's work in the world grow and change through the years (as it has already), and maybe even our understanding of who God is? Can we deal with new things like the "gay issue" and open theism by realizing that as a church, we are growing up? Over 2000 years God has allowed us to grow up from a baby church into, well, we're probably in our teenage years. And God gives us more as we can handle it. And we learn what that is through worship. Which evolves. It's the circle of life, baby.

Documentary about Pastors

A friend of mine is making a cool-sounding documentary. The purpose of the film is to (1) to demonstrate the transformational power of pilgrimage, (2) to showcase ecumenical unity, and (3) to encourage others to seek opportunities for faith-based travel. He is looking for a diverse group of clergy from different denominations and of varying age, race, gender, ministerial experience, congregation size, and geographic location to participate in the project.

If you know of or are a pastor, priest, father, teacher or any other clergy who might be interested in this unique opportunity, please visit for more information. Applications are due by June 1st!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Today's sermon

If you are on our lectionary, today's Gospel reading was part of the dialogue Jesus held with his disciples just prior to his arrest (John 14:1-14). This passage in particular was the part about his going to prepare a place for them (and us, presumably).

My priest said something that I don't think was her point, but it really got me to thinking. She asked, "Where did Jesus go next, that the disciples could not follow?" (the cross). When Jesus says, I am going to prepare a place for you, does he mean he is opening the way of the cross to humankind? He is going first before his disciples as their example in the life of sacrifice and death?

I have no idea if this is something new or old (though I would presume the latter). Still, it struck me. If you want to converse about this, let's have some comments.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Why "A Big Old Mess" is gone

You may have noticed that I've deleted the post "A Big Old Mess." Many of you read it and your comments opened a great dialogue. I just want to assure you that I did not remove it because of any pressure from any of the parties negatively implicated in the post. I removed it at the behest of someone I care about who did not want friends and family hurt by how it could have been misinterpreted.

I will post some comments from her later.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Here's a brain-bender for you

How can there be music in eternity if there is no time?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Evil MasterMime

Today we had Latin music on the quad. Let me tell you something: mediocre praise choruses sung in Spanish is NOT Latin music! Luckily it got better - almost, I would say, good. Not Kinky or Cafe Tecuba, mind you (who are touring together this summer - must go!), but my toes were tapping.

We got to have class with The Mime today. It was a decent talk, but he had to lead off with a mime set to a Ray Boltz song. Anybody remember "Watch the Lamb?" Whew, that's some stinky cheese! [incidentally I just learned that he did the same exact piece at my friend's church...when she was 8 years old...17 years ago]

Doesn't it defeat the purpose of mime to always do it to music with words?

I shouldn't get started on The Mime. Too many people read this now. The Mime is the beloved of my department. He's been "in residence" for many years and has been given his own Directorship of our dramatic program. People who I truly respect think he is the greatest thing. So I must tread carefully.

Can we at least agree that there is a problem with miming to 20-year-old Christian cheese songs? Why does Christian art equal crap? Why can't we reveal the real truth of the universe without resorting to proselytizing or silliness or obviousness or just being lame?

The quality meter of the average Christian has gotten so low that we accept, even celebrate, that which we'd never allow from Hollywood or the concert hall. Then again, I may misspeak. Britney still sells and reality shows still rate great and what will be the biggest box office movie this summer? Probably not Hotel Rwanda.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Feminarian Goes to Mosaic

First I must ask for your prayers, as my dad today resigned his pastorate, as is his associate, leaving their church with no pastors, and dad & mom w/no jobs, friends, or house. This was the recommendation of the oh-so-helpful survey people who came to "evaluate" the church a while back.

But I want to share with you about my trip to Mosaic, a church here in Pasadena. In the spirit of Ship of Fool's Mystery Worshipper, I'll just list some questions and my answers to sum up the experience (this is going to be long).

The Basics
Name of the church:
Denomination: Southern Baptist (so I’ve been told, it’s not made known by the church)
Origin/Mission: Their welcome packet included a confusing five-part mission statement (their “Core Values”):
Wind – Commission: Mission is why the Church exists.
Water – Community: Love is the context for all mission.
Wood – Connection: Structure must always submit to Spirit.
Fire – Communion: Relevance to culture is not optional.
Earth – Character: Creativity is the natural result of spirituality
It sounds pretty but I don’t get how these are connected (the element, “C” word, and sentence of each, that is).
Name of the service: None as far as I could tell, just “Mosaic” or maybe the name of the sermon series, “Imagine: Creating the Life of your Dreams” which was on a huge banner above the big screen. Today’s session, which was introduced by a little film, was entitled “Adapt.”
Kind of service: Sunday morning worship
The cast: Musicians, skit actors and dancers, a preacher, and a guy who did announcements.
The manner of the worship leaders: The musicians were accomplished but when they tried to encourage the crowd it sounded a little weak and forced. Besides this they only sang, didn’t pray or talk. The actors were “in character” so it’s hard to guess their manner. They were trying to be funny and mostly succeeded. The preacher was very loud, yelling at us most of the time, except when he’d affect a hoarse, “meaningful” tone in his voice. The announcement guy was a little dorkier than the rest but he was warm and welcoming.
Description of the congregation/Demographics: The congregation was almost entirely 20-30’s (most looked in college or just out), although there were 2 or 3 older folks (elderly) and maybe 10-15 boomers. I saw one baby, one young child, and one older kid who came in at the end. The musicians looked about 20 (except the boomer playing the bongos), the preacher mid-30’s, and the announcement guy mid-40’s. It was almost entirely white people, although the band was half Koreans. There were a few people of different ethnicities in the group but they were mostly one of a kind. Definitely there’s no problem here with a “hip” look (dyed hair, funky clothes, etc.), so it was hard to tell how wealthy people were. They seemed to be more from Pasadena than LA (not cutting-edge). The majority of people were in casual clothes – not preppy, but clean and pressed.
How full was the building? About ¾ at the start but seemed mostly full by the end. It was hard to guesstimate but I think about 500 were in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally? The parking guy, two people at the welcome table (where we purposely hung out – one was a nice young Asian girl who answered our questions and the other was a boomer who seemed a bit nervous of us), and the person handing out programs at the door.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost? I was accosted by a woman who gave me a flyer for the women’s breakfast, telling me 6-700 women attend and I should bring my non-believing friends (I don’t know how she knew I was a believer).
How would you describe the after-service coffee? They had lemonade and coffee to drink, and bagels and pastries to eat, all at a charge. We saw a sign for “1 free drink for 1st time visitors” so I asked for a lemonade and was told I had to fill out a guest card. I drank my lemonade with guilt.
How would you describe the pre- and post-service atmosphere? People seem to be there to get church done – not really a feeling of anything in the air. There were many small social groups talking, 2-3 people, but just about shallow things. Most people got inside to get a seat and when it was over they checked out a few tables and talked to friends. It wasn't an especially excited place but it was pleasant enough.
The overall mood or atmosphere of the service itself? It felt mellow…almost to the point of disinterestedness. It was all very loud.
Level/type of participation by laity? I was really surprised that the people didn’t sing (not that they could have heard themselves). They all stood up and listened to the singing, then sat down and listened to the sermon, then left. There were no opportunities to talk, pray, greet one another, or say anything as part of the liturgy. If you didn’t want to sing, you could keep your mouth shut the entire time, and a lot of people did. They were, however, engaged in listening to the sermon, taking notes and/or using their Bibles (the verses were also projected on-screen).
Clergy? One preacher and one announcement man, neither identified themselves, and no other clergy were visible. I don’t know who the clergy were, although I was offered a “Backstage Pass” to talk to them and invited to the “10-Minute Party” afterwards where I could have someone answer questions.
Vocal/Visual/Body cues of leaders: The musicians raised their hands when singing some parts of the songs (words like “Hallelujah”). They mostly stayed standing in one place. The preacher used his hands a lot when talking and paced the stage, obviously wanting to draw the crowd’s interest into his message. He held up his Bible when reading from it and the Harvard Business Review when quoting from it. The announcement guy used a hand-held mic (as opposed to the preacher’s Secret Service-style earpiece) and also paced a little.
What does the congregation do in response? They stood every time we were singing, they clapped for the peppy songs, a few (less than 10) lifted hands (especially when the leaders did), some hugged themselves, some hunched over in prayer. One woman was signing through the songs (to the side, not a leader). Two people at the left were painting. All of the congregational actions, except for a couple holding hands, were individualistic – eyes closed, many hands folded, standing straight up.
What action(s) does the most work in the service? This is a toss-up between the singing and the sermon, but judging by the level of congregational participation, I would say the sermon was most effective for the laypeople.
What is the dramatic high point of the service? I think the congregation most enjoyed the skit, because they whooped for the dance moves (it was about hip-hop dancers) and laughed at the jokes. Most of the service was on an even keel and I didn’t feel especially moved by any of it.
What does this moment say about what is valued? The congregation values being entertained. The clergy value their music and their sermon and maybe can’t decide which is more important?
Which part of the service was like being in heaven? If heaven is anything like this, I don’t want to go.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place? Most especially the music.
Did anything distract you? These glowing orbs on silver pillars that were set about the stage (they glowed through the blackouts, and even changed color).
Are they clearly exhibiting an adherence to any cycle of Christian time? Not that I could tell, although they were in the middle of a nine-week sermon series.
What does the church’s schedule look like? Services at 5 pm Saturday and 9 (two locations), 11, 5 and 7 on Sunday. They have a lot of small groups that meet at various times.
Outline of the worship service: There was no written program (the brochure I got was just an offering envelope, a guest card to fill out, and a list of their services). The service went: five songs, short computer-animated film that introduced the sermon topic, a skit, the sermon (intro, prayer, exposition with scripture interspersed, closing prayer), a greeting to guests, the offering (canned music and announcements on screen), announcements, closing song (same as opening song). The offering and announcements went on for 10 minutes.
Is it linear or layered in progression? Linear.
Do things happen spontaneously or are they carefully planned? They want to seem spontaneous (hence no printed order of worship) but obviously it’s planned because the PowerPoint followed everything perfectly. Even when the preacher said “By the way…” and went into what might have been a tangent, the slide came up with the scripture he was quoting.
What were the exact opening words of the service? The opening of the service was extremely loud music (especially the drums and bass) and a song. The first actual spoken words were “Thank you, sit down” after the songs.
Closing? “It was great to see you, look forward to seeing you next week. Why don’t we have a closing song?” and we did.
Describe the segues: Lighting was used (blackout or change in light) to indicate changes in mood and between worship elements. The short film was a segue from singing to skit. Canned music was used during the offering, during which there were announcements on the screen.
Does anything unexpected or surprising happen? We were really unsure about when the service was ending. The sermon was done, and the preacher closed it in prayer. Then he welcomed the guests and told us not to feel obligated to give to the offering. Then the offering began (people passed paint cans) and several people left. We weren’t sure if that meant it was over. The canned music had come on, as had the announcements that were running before the service, so we thought maybe it was over. But not everyone left so we stayed put. Then the guy got up with the microphone and gave some verbal announcements (which were also put on the screen), and took us into the final song. People were having conversations during all of this, and the audience lights had come on, so it was really hard to tell if it was part of the service or just the coda. After the final song, though, most people left, so we did too.
The neighborhood: Residential, one of the middle class Pasadena neighborhoods.The building: Auditorium of William Carey University
Is there another location(s)? Mosaic has four locations in LA (and seven elsewhere in the country).
Gathering space: The “Connection Village” which is a bunch of tents set up. It looks like an arts fair. Each tent has info about a group or event, or food, or stuff to buy. It’s where people hang out before and after the service – not a lot hang out in the auditorium.
Worship space: A large auditorium (seats probably 1000) with the sides and back rows corded off. Some theater seats were available, but we sat in the front where there were folding chairs. In the very middle in the front were maybe ten cushy armchairs and two café table setups (three wicker chairs around a little wicker table). These seats went first!
The leaders are on a raised stage, with a second raised area behind the main platform, where the non-singing band members reside. Behind is a black backdrop curtain. To the sides of the stage are large silver pillars, probably 30 of them. To the left facing the stage is the area for artists with canvases and lights set up for them. Onstage are large triangular shapes that are lit in blue, and smaller silver pillars topped with glowing orbs. On the back wall is a huge banner that says “IMAGINE,” a smaller one that says, “Creating the Life of your Dreams,” and two huge vertical banners with sketched human figures, a man on one and woman on the other. These are all spotlit.
Subdivisions of space: The theater seats vs. the folding chairs vs. the “coffee shop” chairs; the painters’ area; the two levels of the stage; the pillars which hide the unused parts of the auditorium.
Where congregation/clergy facing? They face each other (with the stage raised).
What liturgical furniture is in place and when/if used? Halfway through the singing I noticed a plain wood table at the front of the stage. It was stark and unfinished and had a white towel on it. I thought it might be their altar or something that the pastor would use. But it turned out to be part of the skit – they actually broke it. Which had a meaning all its own.
Was your seat comfortable? Yes, it was nicely padded for a folding chair, but the length of sermon tested my limits.
What, if any, printed materials are used? None whatsoever.
Describe the prayers: There were two prayers said aloud by the preacher, one at the opening and one at the close of his talk. They were not read but had probably been thought through.
To whom are prayers addressed and how is that person spoken to? The prayers were definitely addressed to the congregation. They were prayers of thanks and request regarding the points of the sermon. Example: “God, thanks that we are adaptable…you know we allow ourselves to be shaped by the wrong things…help us to be pliable…shape us to be your people” etc. Basically he asked that God help us take on the challenge of what he was about to say, and then that God give us the things he just talked about.
Same questions about the sacraments and other parts of the liturgy (i.e. creeds). The only other liturgical elements were the songs and announcements. They did do a warm welcome for guests.
Who is preaching? I have no idea.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about? God made us adaptable and we have to be able to adapt to be what God wants us to be and to live the life of our dreams. BUT, in order to be adaptable, we must engage the culture, be flexible, and hold strongly to our core convictions.
What is the point (conversion, teaching, narrative, topical)? The sermon was a teaching sermon, using stories from the Bible and a few from life, to give people tools to make their own lives better.
Exactly how long was the sermon? 39 minutes, though it should have been 20. The natives were restless around 33 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher? 3: I appreciated his use of Scripture, and the message was good, but he didn’t seem to believe much of what he was saying. It was more like a performance than a personal talk to us.
What is the response(s) to the sermon? There is no corporate response, and since we went straight into the intermission/offering/conversation time, it was kind of chaotic.
The style(s) of music used and from where/when is it? I didn’t know any of the music and there wasn’t any information about it on the screen. It was a pop music style.
Who leads? One female and one male leading singer on each song (two men switched off the male role).
What musical instruments are played? Keyboard, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drum set, bongos, tambourine, shaker.
Who is participating? Not very many people are singing but there is a lot of movement (mostly bopping along to the music). The congregation’s singing, if there was any, was absolutely inaudible over the drums and bass. If the mics weren’t turned up, the leading singers couldn’t be heard either, which happened when you could see their mouths moving but not hear anything. The building completely absorbed the sound such that I couldn’t hear myself at all (and I can sing pretty loud). Looking around, I noticed most people were not singing, but they were listening to the music and participating with their bodies.
Who is the intended audience? The first four songs were to God and the fifth was more to one another (lyrics like “Together we sing, everyone sing”) and then to God during the chorus.
How does the music fit the order of worship? I had a hard time telling one song from another, but near as I could tell, there was no rhyme or reason to the order of the songs or when they were placed in the service (case in point: the opening/gathering song was the same as the closing/sending song!). They did have four peppy, one mellow, and one peppy again.
Where is the eye drawn? Usually to the big screen, which showed announcements, screen savers, the lyrics of the songs, the band members (in a concert-video style with weird fades and wipes), the actors, the preacher, and the scripture readings. Also to the painters, and to the glowing orbs.
What do you hear? Indian music when we entered, then generic, funky, ethnic music. Drums and bass during the songs. Mercifully at one point there was just keyboard – that was the only time I could hear people singing. Recorded music and talking during the intermission/offering. One thing I did not hear that I’m used to hearing is the noise of children and babies.
Do you use any other senses (smell, taste, touch)? Nope, except the sour taste in my mouth.
What type of sacramental objects are used and to what effect? The only objects I saw were personal Bibles, pens and pads of paper, the paint cans for the offering, and the preacher used a stool as a table and to sit on when praying (and his aforementioned Bible and magazine).
Is art used intentionally? Definitely – there are fancy screensavers behind the song lyrics, the whole stage looks like a set of a futuristic sci-fi film, the painters are there. The preacher brought up a painting of a butterfly, which stood behind him during his sermon. The skit combined acting and dancing (the dancers were not actors, unfortunately).
Does the visual and dramatic environment make an independent contribution to the flow of the service? The lighting and the video segments were used effectively to signal changes in the service mood, but they were intended to do that work. Just the painters, who had no specific correlation to the worship, were independently contributing (although they didn’t really fit into the flow).
How is art used to endorse/undermine the church’s theological values? Putting the painters up front shows that they are welcome and encouraged to worship God with their art. The church wants to be an impressive, moody show, and the sets, lighting, and screen play into that. The drama was silly, which may have undermined its purpose to lead into the sermon. In fact, when they smashed the table, I’m sure that didn’t reflect the church’s feeling about the Lord’s supper. The table wasn’t supposed to represent the altar – it was just part of the skit. I don’t think they intended the correlation I made. But I’m used to seeing a table in church used for the purpose of Eucharist, not to do a cool stunt (a guy in a ninja suit broke it with his hand...don't ask).
How is this church distinctly different from my own tradition? In every possible way, except that we might both believe in God.
Were there new, interesting, unusual liturgical elements? Smashing the table was definitely unexpected. The painters were new to my experience. The kinds of music (especially the ethnic, funky, and techno that played us out) were interesting.
Theological congruence – does the service do what it purports to do? If it means to teach a little and entertain a lot, then yes. If they hope people will come to a deeper relationship with Christ, I question their rather shallow offerings. There’s not much ritual to get into, and I couldn’t see any reason to come back.
What is the level of laity empowerment and laity awareness of their empowerment, such as it is? The laity do run many of the programs and ministries, but it seems that the majority of attendees just come for the show.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)? 0
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian? I have to go with my husband’s comment: “If I thought that’s how Christians are I would never want to be one.”

Friday, April 15, 2005

Worship Enrichment

So today I had to go to a "Worship Enrichment" seminar (required for class). Here's some food for thought that I took away from it:

Pick Your Favorite One:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
Healer of our every ill
Bless the lord my soul (taize)
We are marching/Siyahamba
Jesus loves me
Shout to the Lord
Now pick one if it was the only song you could sing for the rest of your life.

"The worship of God's people flows on the river of music." We're missing out on the prophetic voices of the other streams when we only swim in one current.

We make creative use of words, music - and more! - from many times, places, peoples, and cultures to enlarge our vision of God's kingdom and situate ourselves properly within it. When we wrap our tongues around unfamiliar syllables and our ears hear unfamiliar sounds we are dipping our toes into the river of heaven.

"The Preached Word of God IS the Word of God." (my question: Can visual art be the Word also? It's important to note that preaching isn't always perfect - it can NOT be the word of God. Whereas, an image CAN be, or a kinetic experience.)

1 John 1:1-4 (that which we have seen, heard, touched with our own hands concerning the Word of life) - John is tipping us off to the different ways that people get in touch with the Gospel (Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic).

When we talk about the Word of God, we're talking about (a little hierarchy per the seminar speaker):
1) Jesus
2) Bible (and I add tradition because you can't have one without the other - which Bible do we consult? You can't just say "the Bible" without more digging - in fact, I would say it's irresponsible to simply say "the Bible" - it doesn't exist without at least the tradition that gave us the canon, and our traditions have interpreted Scripture, you can't just say "Scripture's clear" because it's always been interpreted by the Church and we are products of that history - and for that matter, how has any of this happened without human reason? We don't have any way to read or interpret what the Bible says without our reason. I don't like this appeal to Biblical authority without acknowledging the role of tradition or reason. I'm so Anglican.)
3) Preached word of God (where do the sacraments go?)
4) Holy Spirit inside heart

A provacative question from Michelle: even though we are an image-oriented society, we still equate knowledge/intellectualism with words. Are we using the way of the world, what the world values, when we rely only upon words?
And I would add: Are we ignoring God's original revelation in creation? God doesn't tell, God shows: the Logos was flesh, not spoken; the HS came in tongues of fire, not a sermon; Revelation is depicted through outrageous imagery, not straight-up word. The old testament is full of actions and images. "This is my Son - listen to him" (yet the transfiguration is a visual event, not audio - and perhaps listen to him means look at him, at least in that moment?)

Does an image always need to be explained? Ah, do words also need to be explained? Do they mean anything? Can we really just go with words as the safe way of explanation anymore?
If images can help interpret words, then go that way!

"Our job as preachers is not to innovate but to tell the old, old story" Why does this statement give me such pause?!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Faux Pas

Today I asked a question in class and I heard someone say, "Why don't you take church history?" Well, they were right. It was probably inappropriate to ask, and I get bothered by that all the time. I need to stop talking so much! It's not always about me and MY education.

I guess I also goofed on the type of Quaker service I meant to refer to.

And I dumped coffee on myself.

Doing really well today.

Quick post today

Today on Feminary it's Vocabulary Day! Because I learned a new word. I am not, as recently accused by my husband, a relativist. I am latitudinarian. Now you may go look that up.

Also I just have to express my surprise that a classmate told me she went to a Taize service and really didn't like it at all. And I'm thinking, what's not to like? Well, I guess if you aren't comfortable with silence or repetition or whatever. But no, what she didn't like was how planned the service was. She was unable to worship with a bulletin before her telling her everything that was going to happen. She must like twist endings I guess.

And so we learn yet another aspect of Christian worship language. Some people genuinely don't want planning - or really, don't want to know what's been planned. I should recommend the Quaker church to her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Today, give thanks

Rise before the sun and watch the sky turn shades of purple, pink, orange, and yellow.

Let a cat sit on your shoulder and purr into your ear.

Notice the mountains and the trees. If there are electrical wires in your view, thank God for the light they provide.

Savor the warmth of your coffee.

Stay under the sheets a little longer, and then get up and into something warm. Be relieved that it's not hot yet.

Listen to the birds. If all you hear is traffic, be thankful that we have cars to help us get around.

Say good morning to your neighbor.

As you pick up groceries, think about where they came from. They weren't always shrink-wrapped for your convenience. Someone put them together this way to make it easier for you.

For Amelia, the most incredibly beautiful baby, who is 4 days old today.

You can read this. I can write this.

Abraham Kuyper said that there is not a single square inch of the earth over which God doesn't say, "This is mine."

My friend Sam says that there is not a single square inch of the earth through which God doesn't say, "Look at me! Here I am!"

Don't let this day go by without noticing something. God won't interrupt our busy schedules, but God will be there if we look.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oh, crapper

I said I'd write every day. So here I am, even though I must rush off to a rehearsal on the other side of town soon. On the other side of town, in LA, means I'll be driving at least an hour. Whoopee!

Anyway it's already burdensome to keep up this pace. Can I cheat since I wrote twice yesterday?

I got my grades and I'm actually doing really well. I am a little surprised. I always did great in school, but I'm not exactly in my comfort zone with the kinds of things I'm studying. Still, it turns out applying yourself (and having some brains to begin with) does the trick.

Can we talk about body image for just a sec? Because I am so obsessed at the moment. I hit that nasty time when suddenly your waistbands are cutting into your flesh. And I did the big naughty and went and bought two new pairs of shorts that fit my new giant ass. You know, I only really get bothered about my weight when my clothes stop fitting. And by then, it's usually too late to do anything except buy new clothes. I tend to be okay at maintaining weight, but losing just seems not to happen anymore. This year I turn thirty. Actually in less than a month. And I guess my metabolism is simply gone.

Anyway, as all students of any level know, it's nearly impossible not to put on a few pounds what with all the grabbing of food between classes and eating on the run and free pizza.

Speaking of free pizza, there was such in our courtyard today, with a program by a couple of guys who were in Iraq (one was a soldier but I'm not sure about the other) who are disillusioned and now protesting the war. There were a lot of people listening politely, but lots of people seemed pissed off. Like the guy would say that the media wasn't allowed to record wounded or dead soldiers being shipped away, and the person next to me said, "Why do they have to see everything?", so I suggested maybe because it's their job to keep the American public informed about what's going on over there. Then he simply said that the media are biased. Ah, that old chestnut. And it turns out that the media that he think are lefties I think are righties. Having worked four years at a journalism school, I realize that media people really try so hard not to be biased. They report what's there. And if what is there disagrees with your personal politics, then you're simply not living in reality.

More from the reality-based world later. I haven't nearly got the time to get into politics.

Monday, April 11, 2005

So here's what's been going on

This quarter is such icing on the cake. It's all classes that are exactly what I want to study. I know later when I'm taking three systematic theology classes at once from fundamentalists I will regret this. But for now, I'm so happy.

(and I was kidding - near as I can tell, no fundamentalists at Fuller, at least not in the faculty population - students are another story, but we're working on them)

So I'm taking two classes in worship (one is how to do it and the other is "let's think about it"), and Episcopal polity. Bet you didn't know we did that at Fuller! Me neither. But there you have it. The latter is a directed reading which means we don't meet regularly, just a few times, and we're supposed to be reading, but I have yet to even get my books yet. Not the best format for a procrastinator.

But the other two classes are interesting and annoying and stimulating and I think I may actually learn something. I'm really getting what I came to Fuller for - the diversity. There are people from me, ultimate high church gal, to those who are so nondenominational that they don't even know what "ordination" means. For the most part the classes vascillate between lots of questions by people who are ignorant about just about everything church-related to lots of discussion about different traditions.

And I have to admit it is really hard, in those situations, to accept that your own tradition isn't necessarily the best. Well, it's hard even to listen to other people sometimes. Especially if you think they are shortchanging their congregations by denying them the beauty of liturgy, or forcing upon them the banality of contemporary music, or any number of the pet peeves that drove me from the Evangelical church. And yet, and yet. My prof insists we can learn from one another. So we try to drop our smugness (it's all around, it's not just me) and listen.

I will say that from what I've seen of emerging church, it's a trend that will fade quickly. There is simply not enough substance there. But I haven't got time to go into it now. I don't know what the American church's salvation will be. I have a feeling it lies in the laity, though, not in the clergy. People need to be educated about what church is, what they are doing there, what the body of Christ is about. That is what I want to do - train better worshippers.

Yesterday we attended St. James, South Pasadena, and visited a newcomer event. Never have I been to a church where the people so "get" what church is really about. All of them are involved - most were recruited to usher, and even serve on vestry, inside of a year (several told stories of being asked to usher within the first couple weeks!). Nobody in that room isn't doing something at the church. They understand that they gather to serve, not simply to sit. They work with the children or youth, they usher, they LEM, they sing, they read. And as near as I can tell, it's all laity-driven. The rector isn't asking - people are just doing it. That, my friends, is a body that is getting it. They understand that their role isn't to sit by and wait for the leader to make church happen. They are the church. They make it happen. They want their church to be ministering according to the gifts of those who attend. They aren't trying to do things they are not gifted for just because it's "expected." They understand that each individual body is made up of members who were called there by God because God had a plan for putting those people together. God actually strategically plans church bodies! God puts gifts together in order to create a particular ministry. And we stifle that work when clergy force the congregation into something they are not gifted in, or when people feel like they want a particular kind of church that doesn't fit the gifts, or whatever.

It's like my parents' church, which has a committed organist and a committed piano player, yet some people are complaining that they want a praise band. There is nobody who wants to actually be in this band, nor is there anyone who could do it. They'd have to hire outside the church. Perfect example of trying to match someone's idea of church instead of going where God leads. They are extremely fortunate to have the committed musicians that they do have (who do it for free, mind you), and maybe God just gave them to the church.

Anyway, I'm totally on my soapbox now. I'll step off.
And hey, check out


I am making a promise to you that I will try to write every day. It will probably be early in the morning or late at night, so I can't promise coherence, but I am sick of feeling so behind that I'm unable to get started again. So I'm just jumping back in.

And since I was so nicely outed on the Revealer, I can now shamelessly self-promote. My USC office is sponsoring a very cool panel discussion on the upcoming Kingdom of Heaven film. Here is the info:

Monday, April 18, Knight Chair Forum
Whose Crusade? Media, Muslims and the "Kingdom of Heaven"
Join journalism professor Diane Winston, USC Annenberg's Knight Chair in Media and Religion, for a panel discussion with scholars, religious leaders, and film critics about the soon-to-be-released film Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott. Panelists include Aymen Khalifa, a cultural consultant on Islamic issues; John Aberth, historian and author of "A Knight at the Movies: Medieval History on Film"; and Reuven Firestone, professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and author of "Jihad: The Origin of Holy War In Islam."
This event is co-sponsored by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, the Office of Religious Life, the School of Cinema-Television, the School of Religion, the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture and the TriBeCa Film Festival. Reception follows. RSVPs requested. To RSVP, visit
5:00 pm, Annenberg Auditorium, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Maps and directions here:

And I have the pleasure of presenting, for the third time, my reader's theater arrangement of the book of Revelation (yes, the entire book). It's really cool and I hope if you are in the LA area you'll come. There are seven readers and they kind of have characters, but mostly just imagine listening to a dramatic reading of the Odyssey or the Divine Comedy and you'll get an idea. It's my work I'm most proud of. Here's the info:

Saturday, April 16, 2005
7:00 p.m.
Travis Auditorium, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
A Staged Reading
Text by John of Patmos
Arranged for Reader's Theater by Anastasia McAteer

Oops, now I guess I'm really out.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tithing, worship, book lists...

Well I unfortunately can't find the little paragraph I wrote on tithing that my church published in the following week's bulletin, but suffice to say, the feminarian is serious about it and does NOT take that commitment lightly at all. I will have to get on my soapbox another time, though.

Right now, I have to announce first that I am no longer using dialup!! Curse SBC forever! It's a long story but basically they've done something very naughty with my phone line (let your imaginations run wild) and I can't have their DSL anymore. So it's off to Time Warner cable, even though I'm unhappy about supporting a megaconglomorate, but I could not possibly deal much longer living in the stone age of internet connection.

That said, my parents are still in town so I need to spend time with them. The Feminarian is pleased that I have a really good relationship with them, although we see eye-to-eye almost never on theological issues. So as long as we don't talk about politics and religion, we get along just great. Just like most families!

I wanted to give you a little chart that resulted from the lecture in my worship class. This quarter is the pie quarter: I have two worship classes and Episcopalian polity. Nice! anyway, first I will list the chart. Then I will list some books that are on my suggested reading list for Epis polity. If you can recommend any, I am all ears. I have to read two books in each of four areas: history, theology, worship, and polity/Ang Communion. I like the recommended list but it's much too long and I don't even know which books fit in which areas. So thanks in advance for your help.

Okay, here's the chart:
Group participation/Individual participation
Linear, Progressive music/Ambient sound, chill track
No sacrament or symbol/sacramental, sacrament-ish

And here's the books:
Geoffrey Cuming, A History of Anglican Liturgy
Pamela W. Darling, New Wine: The Story of Women Transforming...Episcopal Church
Leonel Mitchell, Prayer Shapes Believing (BCP commentary)
Charles Price and Louis Weil, Liturgy for Living
Weil, A Theology of Worship
Robert Prichard, A History of the Epis Church
Ibid, Readings from History of Epis Church
Timothy F. Sedgwick, Sacramental Ethics
Ibid, The Christian Moral Life
Ibid (ed.), The Crisis in Moral Theology in the Epis Church
"The study of Anglicanism" by Sykes, Booty and Knight
"Richard Hooker: Prophet of Anglicanism" by Secor

Monday, April 04, 2005

Moralistic Theraputic Deism

Sorry not to have time for a proper entry, but I wanted to point you to this story about a new book that's come out:

I heard the authors at a conference and it's pretty convincing stuff.