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


TKP said...

Hey friend,
May your semester finish well. The seminary students around here look fairly wasted.

There's an interesting little conversation on my blog right now about homosexuality and I thought you might want to contribute. Hope to see you there.

Stasi said...


We just started a new quarter!

LutheranChik said...

The church you visited sounds much like my church. We are literally next to a hayfield out in some especially God-forsaken (so to speak) corner of our rural county...but that isolation is something of a blessing, because our congregation is not burdened by having to conform to what they think church should be. We have such an incredibly empowered laity -- when our pastor goes on vacation, we never have to hire a supply of our people is an almost-ordained individual with a dispensation from our bishop to celebrate the Eucharist; she, another layperson who graduated from a synodical lay training program, another individual and myself (we just started the same program) take turns preaching the sermon on the pastor's "away" Sundays. We've done some really neat, innovative things with our confirmation program, which has almost 20 kids involved to varying degrees. It's a good place to be.