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January 9, 2017, 11:32 AM

Social, Structural, Local

The annual meeting is this month, on the 22nd.  As noted elsewhere, (besides having only one service that day at 9:30 AM), this is a very important time in the life of the parish because we do a number of things that can only be at this once-a-year meeting: elections are held for new Vestry members and delegates to diocesan convention, the 2017 budget will be presented, and we briefly review the previous year and take a look ahead at the coming year (as well as enjoy our usual pitch-in fare).

I do not want to give too much away, but I think I would like to have folks think a bit before the meeting about the implications of the factors that influence our common life and ministry among each other and in Columbus.  As I have mentioned now a number of times, the Church is in a position it has never been in before.  We are not the center of the universe as we once were, even though we are still acting as if we were.  The Church continues to see steep decline as a result of trying to play catch-up and St. Paul’s is no exception.

I have lately realized that there are three factors - societal, systemic, and local - that affect how we move forward.  There is not much we can do about the societal influence of fewer and fewer people claiming affiliation with any faith tradition other than being faithful to who God has called us to be as the Episcopal Church.  But that means being very clear in what it means (and does not mean) to be the Episcopal Church that was begun in this town nearly 150 years ago.

What I mean by the systemic influence is specifically the institution of the Episcopal Church.  Our liturgy is grounded in the earliest Church, rich in meaning and spiritual depth.  But we are also bound by institutional constraints.  The liturgy is determined by the Church at a particular point in time, in this case in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  But this is 2017, nearly forty years since the last revision of the Prayer Book.  As a tradition that is larger than a parish or diocese, we are not structured to readily adapt to changes with the speed that current societal influences demand, hence having us continue to operate as if we are from a bygone generation.

Finally, there is the local influence, and by that I mean the Church itself in this place and time, the people and the leadership: you, the Vestry, me.  It is a question of whether we will be visionary (we might call it prophetic) or if we will fall back on the staid “we’ve always done it this way” meme.  We are doing good ministry now, but if that is all we do, if we do nothing more than what we are doing at this moment, but not anything that will make the gospel resonate with those who come after us, in two generations, when ninety-percent of those of us here right now will be gone, so will be this Church right along with us.

Among other things, the annual meeting is a time for looking forward.  Please put some thought into these influencing factors before the annual meeting so we can, together and with renewed vitality, embrace our mission of proclaiming by word and example the good news of God in Christ.  See you on the 22nd.

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December 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

Advent, Christmas...and Santa

As Advent gives way to Christmas, sometime it’s nice just to have a little reminder about the real meaning of our preparations and celebrations:

Kneeling Santa Prayer

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of his bed,
"Dear Father, " he prayed, "Be with me tonight.
There's much work to do and my schedule is tight.
My sack will hold toys to grant all kids' wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.
I can do all these things, Lord, only through You.
I just need your blessing, then it's easy to do.
I do this only to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.
So to all of my friends, lest Your glory I rob,
Please, Lord, remind them who gave me this job."

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October 31, 2016, 6:00 AM

No Separation of Praying and Living

As we wind the Church year down (ending on November 26), thoughts turn inward and reflective as the fall light dims and temperatures beckon firelight.  A constant theme in Jesus’ preaching, especially in Luke’s gospel, is the nearness of the kingdom of God - it is “within you,” we are told.  In other words, God is present, not just in the monumental events that shape human history, but in even the most menial daily tasks unseen by the eyes of culture and history, from the epitome of humility that Jesus demonstrated by his acceptance of the cross to washing a cup.  We see that theme played out again and again in Christian traditions from traditional English to the “earthy” Celtic.

John Keble (1792-1866), Anglican priest and a founder of the Oxford Movement (or the “Tractarians”) who was noted for his devoting to recalling the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage, wrote:

The trivial round, the common task,

Would furnish all we ought to ask;

Room to deny ourselves; a road

To bring us, daily, nearer God.

Seek we no more; content with these,

Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease,

As Heaven shall bid them, come and go;

The secret this of Rest below.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love

Fit us for perfect rest above;

And help us, this and every day,

To live more nearly as we pray.

Esther DeWaal noted in The Celtic Way of Prayer that the Celts “learned that there was no separation of praying and living.”  She offers a glimpse of this inseparableness from an ancient source:

God with me lying down,

God with me rising up,

God with me in each ray of light,

Nor I a ray of joy without Him,

     Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,

Christ with me waking,

Christ with me watching,

Every day and night,

     Every day and night.

God with me protecting,

The Lord with me directing,

The Spirit with me strengthening,

For ever and for evermore,

     Ever and evermore, Amen.

            Chief if Chiefs.  Amen.

Fall’s dimming light and a beckoning fire summon to deeper reflection of the kingdom of God within.  There is no separation of praying and living, nothing too monumental or too trivial to honor God if done in “earthy” faith.




August 31, 2016, 12:00 AM

I am clueless about social media, but maybe you can help me out here.

I am clueless when it comes to social media.  Until last month, I was not on any type of social media, including Facebook.  Even now, I’m still trying to figure it all out and what I want to be on social media for and how I can use it for something other than telling people where I have lunch on a given day. 

As I’ve noted a number of times in various forums recently, we are not just moving toward, but are already in, a post-institutional era in the Church in which a rapidly growing number of people claim no affiliation with any faith tradition.  After millennia, the Church in a position it has never been in before and few leaders in the Church know to respond, imperiling the Church’s mission.  So, I’ve done a ton of study about social media lately and even met with the diocesan communications guru to help me through the questions because what my study revealed is that I am missing a monumental opportunity for St. Paul’s and the gospel by not being on social media.  (This, by the way, is also part of the reason why I’m taking the Marketing 101 class at Ivy Tech this fall semester.)

Within a few hours of creating my Facebook page, I started getting all kinds of friend requests.  I wasn’t expecting to “go live” just yet, not until I got a better handle on it, so here is what I posted for the time being (you can go check out the Page): “Glad to be getting so many friend requests, but I have no idea what I'm doing!  I'm working with a diocesan person this morning to get a handle on all this social media stuff, especially because I want to do so much more than just tell you what I had for lunch (yea - or is it yay? - Chipotle!).  Actually, maybe you can help me with this.  I want to focus on something like "God moments" or providing a different vision for life from all the fear-mongering and violence we see every day.  I'm open to ideas - but guess I gotta friend you before I can get such feedback.  Stay tuned.”

So…I remain clueless, but maybe you can help me out.  What do you think social media, and in particular my use of social media, should be, especially for the Church and the gospel?




August 1, 2016, 9:02 AM

A different vision: living wildly for God

Living wildly for God.  I write this during my week at Waycross, the theme for the week being living wildly for God; that is, in the midst of so much that would seem so contrary to what God envisioned for God’s human creation - all the fear and greed and hate and violence that seems to be becoming so much more the norm than the exception - that we do something wild for God an offer a different vision.

One of the activities I had the campers do was to build a human modern sculpture, an abstract piece of living art that came out of the memory verse for the day: Acts 4:1, 4 - When they were all gathered together in one place, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The point being, if they are able to all come together in one place (at Waycross) and be brave enough to stand up on front of the rest of camp and cooperate (love one another) enough to build that sculpture, they can do the same thing anywhere they go and thus offer the world a vision of cooperation and courage and love.

That is the value of doing things like this with young people: they are the ones coming behind us to lead.  But it is our job to lead them, so there is really no difference for any of us who claim the Christian faith as the basis for our life’s work.  Things like the recent shootings in Orlando and Dallas, the massacre in Nice, France, the increasing threat from heroin and meth even in Columbus, and countless other such events are beyond comprehension and are at a level we have never seen before.  It calls for us to look at that and ask ourselves what our faith compels us to do.  I mean, how wild would it be when someone spews venom toward another person or is doing something to tear this world down for us to take a cue from the campers at Waycross and build a living piece of art that says, “We will cooperate with one another; we will have the courage to stand where there is injustice or violence; when hate seems to be winning the day, we will offer this world a different vision and love as we have been loved by God”?

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