Showing posts with label church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CHURCH, ATTENDANCE, CHRISTIANITY

Since my blog has been very much neglected, the few who still read probably don't know that I stopped attending church about two years ago. The physical struggle was just too much. Since I'd been a church-goer all my life, what surprised me was that I didn't miss church at all except for the hymns. I very much enjoyed congregational singing.

I pray at home and meet God in my house and in my heart, and that seems enough for now. I try (and often fail) to live out the heart of the Gospel, which is love, as Jesus preached in the Two Great Commandments:
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
and the Golden Rule:
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus was only ever a Jew. He was born a Jew, and he died a Jew. His teachings are rooted in the Hebrew Bible, and he never intended to found a religion. One of my touchstone verses in the Hebrew Bible is Micah 6:8:
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?
Love, kindness, and humility are what Christianity is about, or it is nothing to me.

Monday, November 28, 2016

ON GOING TO CHURCH AND NOT


The quote below is from At Home in the World: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Rosemary Radford Ruether.  The book is out of print, but I have ordered a used copy. Rmj at Adventus quoted the words at his blog, and I borrowed them.
Merton: I do wonder at times if the Church is real at all. I believe it, you know. But I wonder if I am nuts to do so. Am I part of a great big hoax? I don’t explain myself as well as I would like to: there is a real sense of and confidence in an underlying reality, the presence of Christ in the world which I don’t doubt for an instant. But is that presence where we are all saying it is? We are all pointing (in various directions), and my dreadful feeling is that we are all pointing wrong.
Yes, I suspect we are getting it wrong.  This past April, I stopped going to church altogether, because of pain due to a bad back which limited my activity.  I've been a lifelong churchgoer, though I changed denominations, but I found I didn't miss church attendance, which surprised me greatly.

Looking back now, I remember thinking about church, "What are we doing, and why are we doing this?"  Now I'm wondering if it was habit more than anything else that kept me going for so long.  Also, when I was involved in several ministries in my church, it all seemed to make more sense, but, as my health deteriorated, and I gradually eased out of ministry, I began questioning. As long as I was busy in the church, it seemed fine.

I read the Scripture passages for the day from the Lectionary and say my prayers at home; I'm immensely grateful for the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  The 1979 version in modern English retains some of the grandeur and flavor of Thomas Cranmer's beautiful but simple language in the older version and includes at least some prayers in the old language.  My faith in the teachings of Jesus as a way to live my life remains firm, as does my faith in God, although my concept of who God is and how God relates to me is much less certain.  My one true certainty is God is love, or God is not my God.

Having said that, I have no idea how to get church right, except a vague idea that perhaps the Christian church ought to be poor and on the fringes of society and not so much about elaborate buildings.  It appears churches may get to such a place by force, as attendance drops and funding dries up.  I still believe Christian community is important, but I am open to the idea that community can take many forms outside the traditional gathering in a building.

In no way do I mean to disparage my parish church community; the rector is a fine man, and the members of the parish are good people who obviously live the Gospel as best they can.  I doubt that I'd find a better church anywhere nearby, and I'm certainly not looking.

I'm enormously grateful for my religious upbringing; the family I grew up in, with the exception of my maternal grandmother, was not especially devout, though my mother attended church regularly. Somehow the Christian teachings in my schools stayed with me for a great part of my life, though my practice and theology evolved over the years.  Being brought up in the church through religious schooling seems not to be what it once was.  All my grown grandchildren who attended Catholic schools from an early age do not regularly attend church. Their families were not especially devout, but, either the teachings in the schools have changed, or they just didn't persuade my grandchildren that church attendance was important.

All that being said, if I could, I'd very likely attend church during Advent, the season of waiting and expectancy for the coming of the Kingdom of God, which is right now and not yet.  I will very much miss my favorite service of the entire church year, the Christmas Eve service, when we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, in the form of a baby, born of a woman in a humble shelter for animals.

Now, I take my community where I find it, and I found my sermon for the First Sunday in Advent at Adventus, by my friend Rmj.
Advent is about preparing for the coming, again.  Christmas is about the coming that has already happened.  Advent reminds us to wake up, look around, see a world that needs what is coming, what has come, and who came, and what happened after that.  We start over again, to end in four weeks with what we anticipated this time; and still we are surprised by it.  Christmas is about the same thing every year, and every year we need to see again that what we waited for, what we are waiting for, is already here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"RELIGION SHOULDN'T BE THIS HARD"

Religion shouldn’t be this hard.

An assembly that exists to help people shouldn’t be so willing to hurt people — by declaring them worthless, unacceptable, undesirable or strangers at the gate.
....

Church should be a safe place — safe to be oneself, safe to make one’s confession, safe to love whoever one feels called to love, safe to imagine more, safe to fail. Instead, church often is a dangerous place, where people feel guarded, self-protective, hemmed in by tradition and expectation, required to obey rules.
Tom Ehrich has served as a priest in the Episcopal Church for 36 years, so I expect he knows a thing or two, though I know of some who have served as pastors even longer, and they still don't understand.  The entire column is excellent, and I highly recommend reading it in its entirety.  Ehrich's website is Morning Walk Media.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

'...IN STILLNESS AND SILENCE..."

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude:
On the contrary, from my experience, I know that Christian worship is often complacent, reinforcing tradition, focussed on maintenance and survival, bums on pews, money on the plate, rather than the redeeming, liberating power of being born anew in the Holy Spirit into the resurrection energy of Christ. (And a danger here is to think emotionalism equates with this experience – I’m writing about something far deeper and more disturbing)

I don’t think that what I’m trying to describe has been researched. Maybe it’s impossible to research because as I know from experience, it’s hard to talk about and describe to other people, the feelings, ideas, insights, intuitions, that can flow when, in stillness, silence and open-hearted contemplation you open yourself to the infinitely loving presence of the living God. In that space, resistance melts, dogma becomes irrelevant, and deep truth seems to grasp awareness. (My emphasis)
Read Colin's entire post.  It is excellent.  Colin is one of a group of six members of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition who will meet with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this coming Thursday for a conversation.  Since the discussion is confidential, Colin will not issue a report.  Pray that the conversation will bear good fruit.

I, too, find it difficult to describe the effect of the presence of God in my life, but Colin comes quite close in his words - so close that I felt a frisson.  And it's not that we suddenly become saintly in all we do and say, but the change of heart runs deep and changes how we think and view the world and each other.  For me, the best way I know to move forward in living the Gospel is to keep things simple and be mindful of the Two Great Commandments and the Golden Rule.
He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
(Matthew 27:32-40)
 
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 7:12) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

JOY IN THE LAND OF THE DANES


Church bells are now ringing for everyone, with no exceptions, in Denmark as the Parliament has approved a law allowing same-sex couples to get married in church ceremonies.

­On Thursday Danish lawmakers voted with 85 in favor and 24 against to change the country’s marriage laws wrapping up years of battle for the rights of gay and lesbian couples. The legislation was passed despite a strong campaign mounted by the far-Right Danish People’s Party.
I doubt that the folks in the far-Right Danish People's Party are joyful, but you can't please everyone.  C'est la vie.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BULLYING...WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

Please read the excellent post at Dirty Sexy Ministry on bullying.
Bullies don't exist.

At least that's the viewpoint held by some who think that the intentional harm they cause to others is just what happens in the course of a day's work or in the course of human relationships. And yes, we who live in community together do things to each other through thought and word and deed that hurt others.

Bullying, however, is another matter. Bullying by adults covers a range of behaviors from teasing which gets out of control (i.e. the person being teased has said or indicated that it's troubling, but the person doing the teasing refuses to stop) to serious criminal activity like verbal threats and physical assault.
I know adult teasers who don't get it that enough is enough. "Oh, it's just teasing," is the excuse. There is no excuse. When a person asks you to stop, just stop.
Bullies are a magnified example of how our own hurts and wounds can hurt and wound others. Most bullies don't see their actions as bullying; they may not even be aware of just how damaging their personal actions are to others. Perhaps a first step to healing may be admitting that there are bullies in both clergy and laity and, even more difficult, admitting that all of us are capable of bullying others. I've yet to meet a person that didn't have places in our self-image that were sensitive and lacking. I've yet to meet a person that didn't, on some level, have issues with authority and issues with misuing it at times. I've yet to meet a person who didn't crave acceptance and attention, and who didn't coerce someone to salve that craving.
I absolutely agree that we all need to examine ourselves for 'subtle and covert' signs of bullying, which is far easier to recognize in others than in ourselves. And yes, there's no denying that bullying happens in the church, at times with catastrophic consequences.

Read the entire post.

Friday, March 4, 2011

YOUNG IDEAS FOR THE CHURCH

The elderly priest, speaking to the younger priest, said, 'You had a good idea to replace the first four pews with plush bucket theater seats. It worked like a charm. The front of the church always fills first now.'

The young priest nodded, and the old priest continued, 'And you told me adding a little more beat to the music would bring young people back to church, so I supported you when you brought in that Rock 'n Roll Gospel Choir.

Now our services are consistently packed to the balcony.'

'Thank you, Father,' answered the young priest. 'I am pleased that you are open to the New Ideas of Youth.'

'All of these ideas have been well and good,' said the elderly priest, 'But I'm afraid you've gone too far with the Drive-thru Confessional.'

'But Father,' protested the young priest, 'my confessions and the donations have nearly doubled since I began that!'

'Yes,' replied the elderly priest, 'and I appreciate that.... But the flashing neon sign, 'Toot 'n Tell or Go to Hell' cannot stay on the church roof.'

Don't blame me. Blame Doug.

Friday, January 28, 2011

MIND THE GPS INSTRUCTIONS

From the heraldsun.com:
An ELDERLY British couple is recovering today after a faulty GPS system led them to crash into a 19th-century German church, causing $37,000 worth of damage.

The couple, who cannot be named under German data protection laws, were traveling Friday from Austria to France guided by their GPS system. The 76-year-old husband, who was driving, followed instructions to "turn right" but ended up hitting the chapel near Freundpolz, Bavaria.

The man and his 78-year-old wife were taken to the hospital suffering from shock and bruises, before returning by train to Britain.
....

Karl-Heinz Krueger, a passing motorist, told a local radio station, "The old man was more confused than the woman. He kept saying, It's the machine - it told me to turn this way, but I suddenly ran out of road."

This story is NOT funny. Do NOT laugh.

I confess I laughed, but it's not my fault. It's Andrew Gern's fault for posting the link at The Lead.

I pray for quick healing for the couple's shock and bruises.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"CHURCHGOERS: THE DIFFERENT SORTS"


Click on the cartoon for the larger view.

From Dave Walker at The Cartoon Blog.

This CartoonChurch.com cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the Church Times.

Dave says:
You can see a larger and more readable version of this cartoon, along with republication information, here on the main site.

I will leave you to decide which of the sort of churchgoer you are.

This is the very first cartoon from the book The Exciting World of Churchgoing. If you start at page 1 and then give up this is the only cartoon you will see. It is also the first of a large batch of cartoons (ten) I will be uploading to the CartoonChurch site over the next while or two. There will be one a day, or perhaps two a day if I am keen or none a day if I am busy.