Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dear Anonymous Poster

It sounds like you're having a really bad night. I shouldn't have let you get to me. Please email me off-blog if there is something you'd like me to pray about or help you with. I certainly understand stress - lately I've been really down, too.

You sound like you have a lot of ideas and have really had some valuable life experience. I would recommend that you create a blog to post your thoughts and let the world see things your way. Indeed, blogger is a wonderful invention that allows each of us to have our own little space in which to share our personal take on things. On Feminary, I talk about the things that are affecting me right now, and I welcome people to read and take from it what they will. But I will rarely feel the need to defend myself, since these are just my own thoughts about the world and certainly nobody has to agree with me for me to feel good about them. They are good because they are mine - they are a record of my journey, which I am living as authentically as I can, with God's help.

It's only polite to create your own blog to post the long essays that you are writing on mine. Please feel free to use my posts as your starting point to write about topics on your blog. I would take this as a compliment. I would also be fine for you to post in my comments the links to your blog, where you may feel free to talk as long as you like in response to the things that I say.

If you need assistance with creating your blog, blogger has a very easy-to-use help section.
Blessings upon you - and hooray for freedom of speech!

The Feminarian

Dear Friends Who Blog

Have you been hit by a Blog Pest? I sure have.

Some freaky person has been reading my months-old posts and writing vehemently about them. Wow, what wasted venom! When a person starts writing first of all about something so old and second of all fills their post with false assumptions about me, why in the world would I care to read such a thing?

Weird-o. Whatever happened to manners? I guess being able to be anonymous makes the heart bold.

Well, here's my final word. This is my blog, not yours. If you don't like what I say, you can post a sentence or two, sure. But seriously, don't write more than I wrote in the original post. Get your own blog to spew in.

Feminary is my world. Love it or leave it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

'Cause I'm a wooooooooman

Why can't we be smart?
Why is our passion mistrusted?
Why is our judgement questioned?
Why is our speaking out judged?

Why do we have to be nicer?
Why do we have to be more sentimental?
Why do we have to accept less?
Why aren't we allowed to be angry?
Why can't we call it as we see it?

Why do we have to like children?
Why can't we prefer science?
Or hiking?
Or a career?
Or a debate?

Why aren't men ever called bitchy?
Or feminazis?
Why does expressing your opinon make you a traitor to your gender?

Why do people say the name of my blog with disdain?
Why do people roll their eyes when they hear we have a women's concerns committee?

A Memorial Day Prayer

By Rev. Dick Kozelka (ret)
First Congregational Church of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN.

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history --
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you
in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your lovingkindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
[though we sometimes feel that low]
and without fear
[though we are often anxious].
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things' going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

Friday, May 27, 2005

A lament

Let us pray for…

Those among our community who have lost loved ones to sudden and violent death.

Those with us who live in fear.

Those who are without employment, food, shelter, or family.

Those who suffer from disease, addiction, chronic pain, mental illness, or impending death.

Those among us who are depressed.

Those who have lost hope.

Those who feel themselves rejected or despised.

Those with broken hearts.

Bring us, O Lord, into the pain of our sisters and brothers around us
That the wide circle of our support
May somehow hold all the tears
May somehow quell the fears
May somehow mend us and bring us closer to one another and to you.

Grant us grace to see the other’s hurt
Cry the other’s lament
Wrench with the other’s grief
Consume the other’s sorrow
Until it is no more the other’s
But it is lost in the prayers and the love of the body.

Bring healing where it can be brought
Bring comfort where it cannot
Bring patience for another day
Of waiting for the raw wound to close.

Cry with us, O Lord
Do not cease to hear us
Do not turn away from us
Do not lose patience with us
Remember when you were one of us
The fragility you took on
The rejection you bore
The loss you felt
The tears you wept
Remember the ones who came to you for healing
And the ones you raised from death

We ask not for a fix
Or an answer
Or even an end
Just cry with us
Just be one of us again
Just allow us to be human
And frail and weak and rejected
And break with us
Ride the waves with us
Point the way home
And we will get there someday

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No internship for me

I had such an amazing experience yesterday working with my peers in creating a worship service. Somehow...with the Spirit's help no doubt...we all came together and we spoke the same language. For one incredible hour it just clicked - I didn't even mind the praise choruses!

But today I learned that there is not "space" for me to be part of the ongoing creation of such experiences. They offered to meet me to tell me why but I cannot. My heart is broken. I just wanted to do what God's given me to do. I wanted to serve and to share my gifts.

Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much. I wish I weren't so intelligent and opinionated too. I wish I wasn't so talented and passionate. I wish I could just be a normal person.

But I am not. And what I am is incredibly threatening. And very hard to work with.

I took great comfort that when I told my mother about my interview she said she and my aunt have the same problem. People tell her all the time, "You can't be so open and honest with people."

My family - my mom's side at +-least - is just candid. We- +are open books
so+-rry +my cat is lying all ov+-er the keyboard. Bless her. She always come -s when I am crying.

What an incredi------------------ble thing. +++---------more kitty love

I am candid and opinionated and passionate and smart and I want so badly to use what I have got to show other people the way to God.

For the next year at least, it's going to have to be on the blog, I suppose.

Please, may I ask you not to send me comments about God's other plans for me, or about how I would have been good and it's their loss, or even about 66666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666 the cat is going evil on me.

You know what I mean. Sometimes that doesn't help. But if you have pain - if the people of God have somehow stunted your growth, or made your gifts feel unwelcome, or made yourself feel inappropriate, then I want to hear it. Tell me your story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

God showed up

Oh, wow, you guys...the chapel service was amazing! I can't believe how Spirit-filled it was...when just yesterday afternoon we were an anxious, fearful group of wannabes. But it worked! It was one of the best services I've ever attended.

It is truly amazing what can be done with a group of people who are serious about worship. Every last bit was intentional, theologically considered...every person contributing was thoughtful, humble, and ever so talented. People did everything from bake communion bread (yum!) to dance the Sanctus (wow!) to play the accordian (!!!).

People really responded to the reading. I think it hit home for a lot of us, since we're in the midst of wrapping up all the papers and tests that come with the end of quarter. There were "amen"s and they even laughed at the jokes! What a wonderful gift it was to me to be able to share this Word with my peers.

If only every chapel could be that way. If I get this internship, I'll do my best to make sure it is.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Christian Alliance for Progress


I just finished 5 hours of take home exam. Ugh, ugh, ugh. That was tiring. Suffice to say my paper on sacramental theology as experienced in Christian initiation rites (aka the paper about baptism) will not be completed today.

On a positive note, I can now identify most of the funny clothes priests wear, including the pointy hat.

And yes, when I got the word "mitre", I wrote "pointy hat". Sorry, after five hours, I was getting a little punchy.

But all this is to say that I have two things to share. The first is that I got an email from the aforementioned group (in the title), asking me to promote them because I am "already on the front lines." Wow, I'm such a celebrity.

Since flattery gets you everywhere, I'm doing my part and posting the link to their site up there. Also, here is a letter that they want people to sign. I have not yet signed it. I am not sure I agree with absolutely everything in it, and I need to mull it over. Also, here is a link to a flash movie they've made about evil Republicans. Well I'm all about that. But my dumb sound on the computer randomly goes out, so I have to wait and watch it later. Let me know how it is. Do these people seem like wackos to you?

The Jacksonville Declaration:
Flash Movie – Sneak Peek:

OK, I promised two things, and the other is a special treat for ya'll, my dear buddies. I'm going to post something I wrote for my class' chapel presentation. It's on Wednesday, so if you're a Fuller person, just come to chapel and see it (reading it doesn't have the same effect as hearing it read). It's about life in seminary...but I think you'll get that.

The Journey
The Postulant
Voices 1, 2, & 3

1, 2, 3: Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

The Postulant: Here I am, Lord. Send me. The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. May it be done to me according to your Word.

(very quickly, on top of one another)
1: Theology
2: Anthropology
3: Christology
2: Sotierology
3: Ecclesiology
1: Eschatology
The Postulant: Credo
3: Spiritual Formation
1: Spiritual Disciplines
2: Spiritual Journey
3: Spirituality
The Postulant: Pursuit of wholeness
2: Community
3: Small groups
1: Servant leadership
2: Seeker sensitive
3: Authentic
1: Emergent
The Postulant: Praxis
2: Engaging culture
1: Exegeting culture
3: Electronic culture
1: Wired world
3: Post-Modern
2: Post-Evangelical
1: Post-Denominational
The Postulant: Spectacle
2: Consumerism
1: Theo-capitalism
3: Globalization
2: Imperialism
1: God’s politics
The Postulant: Justice
1: Missiology
3: Diversity
2: Sensitivity
3: Tolerance
1: Pluralism
The Postulant: Ecumenical
1: Youth
2: Marriage
3: Family
2: At-risk
1: Reconciliation
2: Healing
3: Recovery
The Postulant: Liberation
3: Patriarchy
2: Feminism
1: Maturity
2: Integration
3: Transformation
1, 2, 3: Discipleship.

The Postulant:
I have devoted my energies to the study of the scriptures,
Study, teaching, and writing have always been my delight.
I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were before me;
And my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

1: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

3: Who determined its measurements – surely you know!

2: Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,
Or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

1, 2, 3: Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?

The Postulant:
I am of small account; how shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven;
I perceive that this is but a chasing after the wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation
And those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.
What must we do to do the works God requires?

2: The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

1: These people draw near with their mouths
And honor God with their lips
While their hearts are far from him
I hate, I despise your festivals,
I take no delight in your solemn assemblies
Take away from me the noise of your songs!

3: But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

2: He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

The Postulant:
Those who love their life lose it
Those who hate their life in this world
Will keep it for eternal life

2: Come unto me, all you who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
God has hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and has revealed them to infants;
Do not occupy yourself with great matters,
Or with things that are too hard for you.

3: Too much learning is driving you insane!

The Postulant:
May God grant me to speak with judgment, and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received; for he is the guide even of wisdom and the corrector of the wise. For both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill. For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible.

1: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
And you will know the truth,
And the truth will make you free.

3: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
A man is a slave to whatever controls him
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

2: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you;
Abide in my love.

The Postulant:
The seed must die to bear much fruit.
Now this is eternal life…

3: (not merely a life that is eternal in duration, but primarily something different from the natural life of man)

The Postulant: …that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

2: (know not just information or facts, but know from experiencing someone in relationship)

1: Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

The Postulant:
If we live, we live to the Lord
And if we die, we die to the Lord
So then, whether we live
Or whether we die
We are the Lord’s.

Movies, movies, movies

Did you see it yet? I thought it was fine. I wasn't expecting fireworks, just a decent movie, which I got. It made me want to watch ep 4 again.

If you don't know what I'm talking about...well you will tomorrow when the weekend's takes are broadcast.

Yesterday we went to see Dominion, which is the Exorcist prequel directed by Calvin College alum (and writer of Last Temptation) Paul Schraeder. According to J, it was leaps and bounds better than the Renny Harlin version that came out a couple months ago (long ugly story behind this film). I didn't see that one.

Long story short, I enjoyed it quite a bit, because it was extremely theologically astute, and good/God wins in the end, which is so rare to see these days. It's not really a horror film, it's more like a 2-hour Jonathan Edwards sermon. :) Let me take the liberty of recommending it. Be warned: it's boring (the guy next to me snored loudly through it) and not unlike sitting through a lecture. But I'm always so fascinated when someone puts people of faith (or of shaky faith) on film and actually gets it right.

And then I came home and watched The Passion of Joan of Arc, which J thinks might be the best film of all time, and I might just agree with him. It was quite outstanding. It's a silent film from the 1920's, that was thought to be lost in a fire. A crappy version hobbled together from reshoots and 2nd takes was all that survived, and even that film was considered genius. Then they found an original Danish print in 1981 in a closet in a Norweigan mental institution. Miraculous story. And it's quite the work of art. Very wrenching, and what a portrayal of a saint!

OK, I am supposed to be writing a paper, so better go.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Are we at all surprised?

So now it turns out that the reason I've heard nothing about this internship is because they can't decide what to do with me. They don't know if I would fit with their team. I'm liturgical, I'm well-trained and studied in theology of worship, and I'm really passionate. These are all things unique to me within this potential group of worship leaders.

I'm like some sort of pariah in the evangelical world. The things I hold dear are so terrifying. And the fact that I speak out about them, and don't allow people to settle, really bothers some. It really invigorates others. I want to do more of the latter, and find a way to love those in the former group.

I don't want to betray myself, but I can be more diplomatic in my approach. I hope that I have the opportunity to show that I can work well with these people, even if I am the odd woman out.

Most of all, I have what I feel is this great big gift that I'm dying to give to the seminary, if only they'll just accept it from me. But are they ready to go where I want to - where God could - take them?

We must be patient. Wait and see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Baaaaa, baaaaa

The Feminarian is sheepish.

Turns out they've contacted no one yet about the internship.

Not getting the hopes back up, but my hissy fit yesterday was a little premature.

Hey, at least I can just repost it when the time comes!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Femmy hangs her head

I am so fucking depressed right now. I'm not getting this chapel internship and I wanted it so bad. It would have been such an outstanding way to practice my work. What I think is my Kingdom work, which is putting together liturgy. It was to be on a team that planned every chapel for the year. I wanted it so much, I tried so hard, I prayed so hard. It seemed perfect. It seemed created just for me.

But I had so many big ideas, and I think I scared them. Or they just thought I was nuts. Anyway, I didn't get it. Obviously it wasn't created just for me. I feel like I'm too Anglican for them. Or maybe I just care too much about worship. It's threatening to have someone come in who believes wholeheartedly in the way her church does things. That's not going to work for chapel at a seminary with 100 denominations represented.

It's true, it is not. I was not right for it. I've also heard that priority was given to those graduating, and to people who already were involved with chapel. Both of which make sense.

But I would have done such a good job, and I cared so much! My heart and soul were really in it. Ugh. I've spent most of the day holding back tears. Which couldn't be held back during the Eucharist I attended this morning. *sigh*

Did you know that today is St. Dunstan's day, a guy who would make a great patron saint of Fuller's Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts. He was an artist and a scholar and a musician. Really cool guy.

Now I am in class and today the mime is speaking. Heh, heh, that's kind of a funny sentence. Can it get any worse?

No, I can’t be upset about the mime; in fact, he's an outstanding teacher. He's more interesting than just about anyone and he's damn inspirational, especially when talking about the arts in worship.

But today his talk about everyone's gifting being used and made manifest is just reminding me how this door to my gift has been slammed in my face.

I'm seriously self-indulging right now. I need to stop. I'm going to listen to the mime now.

O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan with skill in music and the working of metals, and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal: Teach us, we pray, to see in you the source of all our talents, and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship and the advancement of true religion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Why Fuller...

Someone suggested that my recent problems with my peers was due to the fact that I've decided not to attend an Episcopal seminary. And it's true that there are a lot of things I'd get from Episcopal Seminary. But it's also true that the people at Fuller with whom I'm disagreeing are the Episcopalians. With others, we can at least see one another's point of view, even when we disagree. In fact, I get into much livelier debates with non-Episcopalians. The people from my denomination tend to roll their eyes at me or just tell me I'm wrong or just assume I'm too young to know whereof I speak.

All of which could be true. But that's another story.

Mainly I wanted to say that after my class on Thursday, a person I'd never spoken to walked up to me and asked if we could meet for lunch or coffee, simply to chat about my viewpoint. He is Pentecostal and simply had never heard ideas like those that I spout. Also, he confessed that he didn't like his gut reactions to words like "liturgy" (must be dead, dull). Since I'm obviously obssessed and in love with my church, he wanted to find out how to reconcile that with what he's always thought about high church.

And that, my friends, is why I am at Fuller. Not only because I want to learn from others who have insights I never would have thought of, but also because I'm secretly an Anglican spy who's sent there to bring others over to "our side." So far, it's working quite well.

What's my counter-mission?

Friday, May 13, 2005


OK, I've decided to get serious about trying to publish my "Revelation". Anyone who's seen it has told me to, and most people I describe it to tell me to, and after the last reading several people told me they wanted it for their church. So I figure there might be interest.

I would think it would be the kind of thing that Emergent churches would like to do. Actually it's good for any church - the emergent and mainline snobs can enjoy it as a unique work of art, and the crazy fundamentalists can read it as part of prophecy conference. It's a win-win! Maybe I should be contacting the Left Behind juggernaut about this...

At any rate, I'm posting this b/c I thought someone who reads might have an idea of who I could strategically submit to. I don't want to waste my or publishers' time. And maybe nobody wants it. But it seems like this crazy end-times stuff just keeps getting more popular. So why not ride the bandwagon?

In all seriousness, I care a lot about my little play, a lot of work went into it, and a lot of good theology informed it. It's my secret weapon against the fundamentalists....maybe when they hear it artistically they'll realize it's full of metaphors....

Anyway, if anyone has any thoughts, I am all ears. And in case I haven't described it before on here, it's a Readers Theater of the entire book of Revelation. It has 7 cast members who pretty much read equal amounts of time (John, the narrator, a little more than the others). It is exactly from Scripture (NRSV) with nothing changed, added, or deleted. It takes about 1.5 hours to read, and believe it or not, it's pretty engaging - the time goes quickly.

I think even non-Christians can appreciate it because it's primarily presented as a work of poetry. It can be really simple with just the readers on stools, or it could be dramatized with dancers, mimes (!), video/slides, etc. Maybe I should tell the mastermime about it.

If you've seen it, help me out! What else to say? Do you think there's an audience for it?

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Here is something that I did not expect: I have more trouble agreeing with my fellow Episcopalians on campus than with those of different denominations. J keeps telling me I should have known, because what kind of Episcopalian would go to Fuller except an Evangelical one? (well there is me, but he seems to consider me the major exception to the rule, and I think he's right)

We actually had an argument in the Episcopal polity class about baptism! I mean, I'm sitting a few hours earlier in my baptism practicum and everybody is completely respecting everyone else - I am sitting there in a group from different mainline churches, and we all can come to perfect agreement on infant baptism, and even though they may not see baptism as doing what I see it doing, they think my way is "cool."

Then I go to the Episcopal class and these people don't understand infant baptism at all. I had to convince (which I didn't do at all) the people who were supposed to already agree! I was blown away. I mean, I had heard that this was still an issue, but do you know there are churches around here that will let you completely redo your baptism (though they call it anamnesis or "remembrance") as an adult?? How unbiblical to validate the mistaken belief that one's infant baptism somehow didn't count.

But the makeup of this group belies many prejudices. One person attends St. James Newport Beach, which is one of the churches now under the Anglican Province of Uganda (so he's not Episcopalian at all), one attends St. Lukes in La Crescenta, which belongs to the same organization as the splitters but they didn't split, and one has spent the last 10 years as "post-denominational" (bascially Evangelical) before God led her to the Episcopal church.

There there are three of us who are relatively new Episcopalians and are completely embracing that.

The thing I sense in all of these others is that they are somehow ashamed of who we are. I attended a service at St. Luke's and it was simply not Episcopal. We just didn't do anything any differently from the high church Presbyterian I used to attend. And I thought, where is my liturgy? My beautiful liturgy, the reason I love my church? And I also thought: huh, praise band and movie screens.

Yet I think the latter could be done effectively in the Episcopal Church (though I personally find them unnecessary and distracting). The thing that bothered me was throwing out the liturgy. Cancelling the epistle reading, our responsive statements, the corporate intercessions, even the greeting (which was "Good Evening" instead of "The Lord Be With You").

See we don't have to change who we are to attract people. I've been to several other Episcopal churches that are owning their identity and their gifts. They are not empty. This other service was empty.

The whole thing is just so frustrating. Now I am encountering the difficulty of being who I am at this seminary. And it's just so surprising that the troubles - the weirdness and the closedmindedness - are coming from my fellow Episcopalians. Days like these, I wish I were at Episcopal Seminary. No, actually, I wish I were at Fuller and was the only Episcopalian there. Sometimes that would be easier.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sacramental Theology

“For straightaway after they come up from the waters, they are led to the awesome table...where they taste of the Master's body and blood, and become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Since they have put on Christ himself, wherever they go they are like angels on earth, rivalling the brilliance of the rays of the sun.”
John Chrysostom, from a catechetical address delivered at Antioch during Lent c. 390 AD

Sorry I've been MIA for a few days, I've got a ton of papers to write. Writing a baptism rite (annotated) for my worship practicum, which will probably be my jumping-off point to writing a paper on sacramental theology for Episcopal polity. I'm really into this whole thing. It's such a different way from how I was raised. J says it's a different religion. It's definitely a very different way of understanding the Church and the definition of Christian.

“The difference between infant Baptism and believers' Baptism is easily exaggerated. Although in the latter the candidate can declare his faith, it may or may not reflect a true commitment. Far more important is the response of faith of the Church into which one is sacramentally incorporated by Baptism. This is true both for an adult and for an infant.”
Prayer Book Studies

It's about what the Church does. Actually, it's first about what God does, then about the Church's response. It's not really at all about the candidate doing anything.

So little of God's work in us and in the Church is about what we do. It serves us well to remember that.

But I must go write papers. That is the work I must do.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A Word from Brother Roger of Taize

Brother Roger

If, at each dawn, we were able to welcome the new day like a beginning of a new life... As the psalmist says, “Whoever advances toward God goes from one beginning to another.”

Do we realize that God buries our past in the heart of Christ, and is going to take care of our future? Were it possible to fathom our human heart, the surprising thing would be to discover there the longing, short-lived or long-lasting, for an invisible presence.

Although there may well be shocks and even upheavals in our lives, the Risen Christ is there. If Jesus had not lived among us, God would seem far away, unattainable. But, by his birth and his life on earth, Jesus let who God was shine through. God’s trust in human beings was so great that he hoped they would recognize him in a newborn baby and in a crucified man.

And if Christ were not risen, he would not be present today alongside us. He would remain one exceptional individual among others in the history of humanity. But it would not be possible to converse with him in prayer. He could not say to us, “When you are going through the harshest trials, I am present underneath your despair. And remember: I am also in the depths of your radiant hopes.” Christ does not only wait for us in light, in peace, in joy. He is also present in the distress of those who grope along to find a way out.

There can be moments when things look dark. But such obscurity is not pitch-darkness. It is not the dead of night. The light of Christ still penetrates it. Chase away fleeting troubles like a child blowing on a fallen leaf. Don’t cling to worries like a hand clutching the branch of a thorn bush; let go instead. Surrender to Christ whatever assails your heart.

Of course there are trials in every life; they can be very hard to bear. Peace of heart is as deep as the sea. Sometimes we may be agitated, like the sea when it is stirred up by a gust of wind. But this disturbance only affects the surface. Silent happiness, peace, remain close by and are so much greater. One of the things Christians are called to do is to welcome the joy of Easter, born at the heart of the seemingly greatest failure, the cross, and to be bearers of that joy.

With a simple heart, almost a child’s soul, happy are they who say to Christ: Risen Christ, you see who I am. And you welcome me with what I am. My thirsting heart asks you: Christ Jesus, unify my desire and my thirst.

When we pray, even if our lips remain closed, our heart can be open before God. God’s voice makes itself understood - an inner voice, steeped in silence. We are awakened above all in prayer.

Even if we have very little faith, will we say to Christ: what do you expect of me? May we always remember this: the wellsprings of jubilation will never run dry when a heart that trusts goes from one beginning to another.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Theological Custody of Worship

This is a response to "Liturgy in the Age of Certainty" By Frank C. Senn [From Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1997. pp. 483-525.]

“Liturgy in the age of certainty served as a confessional symbol.” “The idea of worship as primary theology or living dogma.” “Patterns and acts of worship both express and form the beliefs of the worshipers.” “A lesson from this 'age of certainty' is the need for a theological custody of worship.”

What have I been saying all along?

We draw our theology, our ethics, our discipleship, our worldview – from our worship. Liturgist James White goes so far as to call Sacraments the “Third Testament.”[1] If you ask an Orthodox Christian what they believe about a theological point, they will read to you from their liturgy. They can’t explain it – they simply must do it (this doesn’t sound too different from the statements of artists).

People do not realize – because they have not been taught – how much they are formed by their worship. And if their worship is aesthetically poor, theologically lacking, historically ungrounded, or irresponsibly executed, then they find their faith shallow and meaningless.

This is why we must take our liturgy seriously; we must educate our congregations. Worship will shape them whether we like it or not, because in worship, particularly in the sacraments, God moves. And a person cannot encounter the living God without being changed.

Oh, God, let your Church take greater care of their liturgy! Our “theological custody of worship” is a sacred and holy duty. Forgive us for using the sacred rituals of your self-giving to further our own divisions and nurse our pride. Give us a humble spirit when approaching the hallowed ground where we commune with you. Let us strive to find each our own language, which allows us to get out of the way and through our liturgy accept the magnificent self-gifts you desire to give us. Amen.

[1] White, James F. Introduction to Christian Worship 3 ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 197.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It's a big day

Today I turn 30.

I kicked off 30 by sleeping. A lot. I plan to eat cake for breakfast, go get a Coffee Bean beverage, have lunch with my favorite professor, then maybe sushi for dinner. And more cake.

Today the sun in shining in South Pasadena, although it's hazy enough that I can't see the mountains. There is a funny little squirrel who likes to climb the trees right outside the office window and tease my cats. The mornings here are quiet, except for the parrots, whose screeches echo throughout our little town.

J threw me a wonderful dinner with several close friends on Saturday, then we came home to more friends and cake and balloons and champagne. It's the birthday so big it needs an after-party.

And today is mellow - have to go to classes, and do some homework. Probably won't have any celebration at work, for the first time in five years. They even threw me a party when I was a temp. But now there is really nobody to take charge of such an event so I won't have one, and that's really fine, except that I do miss my work friends.

Anyway, like I said, I'm mellow and very stream-of-consciousness. Maybe I'll go to Episcopal chapel at 10. I really enjoy it. Last week we did Rite I and for the first time in years the liturgy made me cry. I actually heard the words again, since I had to pay attention. They are beautiful. I can see why people had trouble letting them go.

It's a good day. I am glad that at this important birthday I am pursuing what I feel is my vocation. I'm not in a dead-end job and I'm not doing really anything I don't enjoy. I get to work on my passion most days and what a privilege that is! I love where I live. I am married to someone who keeps me sweet, who is my best friend, and who challenges me beyond belief. I have a little cat sitting on my hands as I type, with her front paws on my shoulder and her head nuzzling my chin. There's another pouting in the living room because she can't go outside.

I am truly blessed. It gives some pause to think about entering a fourth decade of life...but at least I've taken charge. I'm doing something worth doing for four more decades. That is good.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Outsider Perspectives

My friend who is a self-professed agnostic went to Mosaic a couple of times. He also visited another emergent church in LA called Tribe. He had an interesting perspective. He said that he didn't think either of the churches were for him (an "unbeliever") at all. They were, he said, for people who already were Christians but who wanted to do church in a way that made them feel creative, artistic, hip, and cool. From the outside, he nailed it - and the novelty didn't work on him because it was not for him.

I also must quote his best line of the night. When he asked how big Tribe was a few years ago, someone said 30 people, and when he asked out big now, someone said about 30 people. And he said: "Gee, it's not emerging very fast then, is it?"

Now I know, it's not about numbers - that's the last thing I care about when evaluating the church. But he wisely noted that if this were indeed something truly of God, wouldn't it be getting more popular? Wouldn't it be growing a little bit? Wouldn't it be emerging?

This morning I visited the most Spirit-filled little church. It is St. Barnabas in north Pasadena. It is a teeny weeny place with an older, mostly African-American congregation. You never know how these things may go. There was canned music playing when we arrived (almost first since we had the service time wrong), but it was very pretty. The first thing we noticed (and J cheered) was that the bulletin directed us to the hymnal and prayer book (instead of having everything laid out).

Just before we went to church, J was commenting to me that he likes using the prayer book most of all, more than a bulletin, more than projected liturgy, because in a book the liturgy is permanent. It has gravity, and it means something more to us because we have laid it down in this way. When liturgy flashes on a screen, it is gone in a moment, and (besides the computer program) there's no record of it having been there at all. A bulletin can be crumpled and thrown out. But a book - we respect books. We respect material enough to put it in books. We build libraries to hold books, and we pay money to purchase them, even though we could get them for free. Reading the liturgy out of a book means a lot. We should not neglect this, even in the face of our electronic culture.

But back to the service. A woman behind me touched my shoulder and greeted me, and I began to melt. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased to be there and so happy to see one another.

It began with the usual processional but something interesting happened--this tiny little place filled with organ and singing. Three choir members led us, but the congregation sang with gusto. They were older folks and several moved a bit slowly, but they were sincere and they were great singers. The rector is a warm, charismatic young man, who shares the heritage of the majority of those in his church. He led us into worship with a big smile and booming voice, and the congregation responded heartily. The readers helped illuminate the scripture. My eyes were wet when I heard the Gospel reading (fellow seminarians: when was the last time just hearing the words of Jesus made you cry?). The sermon was eloquent, given by one of my professors, and the rector referred to it repeatedly for the rest of the service, tying things together nicely.

We got to sing a lot in this service. The rector frequently led us in spontaneous worship: prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, and intercession. He gave many opportunities for "the body" (as he called us) to speak - prayer requests, announcements. It drew us together. I felt part of this body even though I knew no one. The passing of the peace was outstanding - it was small enough that everybody greeted everybody, and I got hugs and kisses...holy hugs and kisses.

Sharing the body and blood (they rang the bell for each!) was a family event. People were helped up to the altar, the priest called people by name when sharing the elements. We sang some more together. Rev. Anthony was as comfortable and meaningful when speaking the collect for purity as when talking about spiritual warfare. He simply lived and moved in God, in God's space. And the people there were God's family. They shared something intimate and deep with one another. It was a privilege.

Following the service we were invited to stay for sandwiches, which we did, and we spoke to the people. They were hospitable and loving. No matter what age, color, or gender, they served the stranger in their midst and they shared themselves sacrificially. We had to go too soon. They were starting to have a time of prayer through the Scriptures. It had been two hours and it had flown by.

I realized at the end that I'd had a smile on my face for this entire service. It was holy. It was full of God's spirit. It was so warm. It wasn't perfect, certainly, and there were probably things I could nitpick or have been distracted by. But God was there. God was communicating with me as I'd begged him to prior to the service starting. And it was all so real. People love to throw around this buzzword "authentic" - but this was the real deal. It was this church offering exactly what and who it was to God, with no apologies and the best it could do.

And God said that it was Good.