Sunday, January 14, 2007

MLK Sunday

Today Liz and I vested and sang in the choir at St. Mary’s. The service was for the commemoration of MLK day, although we appropriately used the regular propers (for Epiphhany II). Janet had asked us to sing with the choir because she wanted explicitly to have more white faces in the choir for MLK day.

Dr. Johnson once remarked that anyone who read Richardson for the story would hang themselves. I might say that the remark applies, mutatis mutandis, to anyone who goes to St. Mary’s for the liturgy. But I love St. Mary’s and the people there – as I have for nearly fifty years. So I won’t comment on the particulars of the service.

I have spent a lot of time reading blogs recently – and very rarely posting comments. I mostly read Father Jake and Jonathan Hagger, but I regularly check out Tobias Haller, Mark Harris, and Jim Naughton, as well as others.
If I ever get serious about posting, I’ll start including links, and all that.

When I got home from church this afternoon, I found an interesting post and thread at MadPriest’s – The Planetary Mass. I actually listened to it, and found it wanting. Stripped of the pretentiousness, the music reminded me of the Eucharist at the charismatic conference in Brighton that Liz and I attended – only I think that was better – the music leader was Graham Kendrick – his music is at least singable, even though the lyrics are completely empty.
In the comment thread, Grandmère Mimi mentioned (1) that she was tired of being at the church this weekend, (2) that her vestry term was expiring, (3) that her parish was going to do the Alpha course for its Lenten discipline, (4) that she has no alternative Episcopal church in her part of southern Louisiana.

In response to that thread, I have these thoughts: First, I know little of the Alpha course, but I have been repelled by everything I have heard of it. I think that it most likely puts too much emphasis on the personal and not enough on the corporate response aspects of our faith. That would fit with Dennis ‘s characterization in the thread at MadPriest’s of Alpha as being evangelical in a particular way.

As an aside, on my first visit to London in July 1963 Rex and I went to church on Sunday at Holy Trinity, Brompton. I think Rex had been there before. It was the closest (C of E) church to our B&B in Egerton Gardens. This was long before Alpha. The service was dull – MP followed after a time by HC – I think, but am not sure, that the Litany came between. Hardly anyone stayed for the communion. Since that was over 46 years ago, the details are a little vague in my mind.

Another aside is in reference to the St. Bart’s connection. Last Sunday, Earl Kooperkamp preached at the Sunday evening “Emerge” service at St. Bart’s. Liz and I didn’t go, but we did go to that afternoon to Epiphany Vespers at Corpus Christi, always a lovely service with spectacular music. This coming Thursday, we’ll probably go to the opening assembly of Manhattan Together, an IAF organization, at St. Bart’s.

As long as I’m writing, I guess I’ll say a little about the current situation in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. At Jake’s the other day, a poster named Katherine said in reference to Bp. Katharine that “We don't have the same religion, she and I, and I much prefer honest disagreement to subterfuge.” I think that’s so, in sense Katherine means. However, I think the christian tent is big enough to contain the beliefs of Katherine (although I have to guess at them) as well as the beliefs of Bp. Katharine. I know, though, that there are many in the “reasserter” camp who believe the tent is in fact not big enough.

For decades, I have been saying that one of the biggest causes of harm in the world is the notion of true religion, with it’s concomitant notion that there is a “false” religion to guard and even fight against. I have also been convinced that we need to take account at least of those of other faiths. A god who condemns the majority of those who have ever lived is a completely unacceptable idea. I think that Bishop Spong, among others, is correct when he says that “Christianity must change.” I believe it is changing, and that we don’t yet know how it is going to end up. And it is inevitable that many are resisting the change. As Tobias pointed out in one or another thread the other day, the church changes very slowly, but it does change.

This so far excessively warm January in New York serves to remind me that the world is moving headlong into an environmental crisis that makes our troubles in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion seem trivial.

I notice that I keep neglecting to mention the presenting issue facing TEC -- justice for GLBT people. I am a gay man who has been faithfully married (to Liz, my wife) for over thirty years. For almost 15 years before that, I was in a marriage like relationship with Rex -- we called it "lovers" then. During that whole time I have been a member of St. Mary's. I don't talk much about my life as a gay man, perhaps that is not a good thing. I also don't talk much about what it has been like to be married, faithful to Liz, and gay. St. Mary's has consistently been supportive of gay people. It's really not an issue at our church -- if there is an issue, it is getting the parish to take notice of what is going on in the rest of the church -- since we are in a poor neighborhood, we have other justice issues on our minds most of the time. But for us, it is clearly a justice issue. We march in the annual Gay Pride parade in New York, and usually the majority of our marchers are not gay.

Maybe I'll say more later.



MadPriest said...

Thanks Allen.

But I must point out one little untruth in your post.

The nearest church to your B&B was, in fact, the Brompton Oratory, nowadays the Latin Mass enclave of RC in London.

Morningsider said...

Sorry MadPriest,I know that the Brompton Oratory is nearer and I almost wrote "the nearest C of E church." However, I needed to leave something for you to pounce on, given your Newman picture and all.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Allen, this post of yours is the second "Wow!" reading I have seen this morning, and it's only 8:25 AM. The first was Bishop Paul Marshall's letter posted, in full, at MadPriest's place.

This "true religion" v. "false religion" is nonsense, as you say, and causes harm. What are the guardians of the "pure Christian faith" so afraid of?

I'm going to talk again to my rector about the Alpha series, now that I know a bit more about it, but I doubt that what I say will stop it from happening.

I have attended a Sunday evening service at St. Bart's in New York some years ago. As I remember, it was an informal sort of charismatic service.

By the way, I did go to church after all on Sunday and returned, yet again, in the afternoon for our music series performance by a jazz quartet from New Orleans. They were wonderful. Listening to their music was the most fruitful time spent at my church this past weekend.

Josh Oxley said...

Having been linked over here by Mad Priest, I have to say this was quite a wonderful post. Including the bit on true religion, which I think is an issue the church is trying to wrestle with right now.

Though I don't think the change Bishop Spong advocated is the direction to move in... that man stretches the term Christian, for me, almost beyond that wide and expansive tent.

Good thoughts, all in all. I'm also intrigued by your comments on your life as a gay married man as well, and hope you'll indeed say more later.

Grace and peace.

Morningsider said...

I'm overwhelmed by the "wow" reaction -- as I suggested over at MadPriest's I think it's sort of a rambling post and my ideas in it are not developed.

As I reread it, I am also appalled by the typos. I'll have to do some copyediting.

I trust your church can survive Alpha. Mimi.


Morningsider said...

Thanks for your comments.

I chose my words about Bishop Spong carefully -- I think his critique of the church needs to be taken very seriously, but that does not mean he has all the right answers (or perhaps he doesn't have any of the right answers.) But I do think that he has many of the right questions.

I will indeed be saying more later.


Anonymous said...

One more discovery in the progressive episcoblogoverse, and, Allen, this lives up to the generally high quality of writing and thinking in the E. Bverse. Thanks.