Tag Archives: community

sabrina’s quest, part 2

Today was my third week at Church of the Good Shepherd (a part of the ACNA), and I enjoyed it immensely.  I am finally getting used to the flow of the liturgy, although I don’t hope to have much else memorized soon.  In this post I’ll touch on some of the things I really appreciate about the Anglican way.  There are heavier, theological issues at hand, but I am not well equipped to discuss those issues yet, as I have just recently begun studying the Anglican tradition.  The following are some aspects that relate to me, according to my spiritual personality.

What resonates with me the most can be boiled down to one broad category, which I will unpack as we go along:

Anglican liturgy.

I realize that all churches have their own sort of liturgy.  The churches with which I am most familiar all have unwritten, informal liturgies.  There is singing, perhaps scripture reading, prayer, more singing, maybe a “greeting” time sermon, an offertory somewhere in there, announcements somewhere in there too,  and more singing, and then dismissal. Communion is mostly likely a monthly occasion.  All good and well, but there is a vast contrast between this liturgy and Anglican liturgy.

In the informal liturgical setting, the congregation participates little.  We sing, we greet others.  But we mostly just take things in through hearing (singing, preaching), and perhaps through observing words on a screen or bulletin, or reading scripture.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, nothing at all.  I do wonder, however, what kind of picture we are painting of community, as a crowd that just sits and listens, and this is where Anglican liturgy comes in.

Anglican liturgy is formal, and written, currently taken from the Book of Common Prayer.  There are songs and hymns, of course. There are four scripture readings in which the church participates by thanking God together after the scripture is read.  There are antiphonal prayers.  There are congregational prayers of petition and confession.  The Nicene Creed is recited together.  There is sitting, there is standing (and shifting to face the Gospel book [or cross] when the Gospel scripture for that Sunday is read), and there is kneeling for the petition and confession, with an opportunity for both individual (space for silent prayer) and corporate petition and confession.  In a word, Anglican liturgy is interactive.  To me, this speaks more of community, more of action.

There are also perks in a written liturgy for a visual learner like me.  I can read the prayers as they are written, as I listen to them being prayed.  What’s more (and I am not implying that unwritten prayers are inferior), some of the most beautiful prayers I’ve heard were written down first.  As an avid reader and amateur writer, I always look for beauty in words.

Within the Anglican liturgy, there is a crescendo that sounds differently than it does in informal liturgical settings.  In the latter, the preacher and sermon are the focal point of the service.  In Anglican liturgy, the entire service builds up to the crescendo that is communion (or, Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, etc.).  The sermon is not neglected, but this shift of emphasis is intriguing to me.  I wonder about all the weight that is put on preachers to make them into a type of celebrity, while communion is only celebrated once a month.

This leads to the question…why do you go to church?  Is it for the preacher’s sermon?  Or something else?

That is for another blog, another day, friend.

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I’m Sorry cards

Working a retail job one Saturday afternoon, I helped a woman move her walker from her car to inside the store.

After I pointed her to the greeting cards, and set the walker down so she could sit in it while perusing the cards, she asked me if there were any “I’m sorry cards.”

“Uhm, I don’t think so, but I’ll look.”  I knew I had never seen any inside this store.

Bible bookstore.  Wouldn’t this place carry I’m Sorry cards?  (You’d think.)

After my search come up dry, the woman began to tell me that she had come looking specifically for an I’m Sorry card, and proceeded to tell me why.  As she opted for the Thank You cards and enlisted my help in finding just the right one, she got further into her story, and began to weep tears of regret (2 Corinthians 7 came to mind, particularly verse 10).  Unsure of what to do or say, I ran (well, not literally, but almost) to a tissue box, took it, returned to the woman and offered her the box.  She took quite a few tissues, as is to be expected.

An older woman, just out of surgery from the VA hospital, in search of an I’m Sorry card. Coming up dry.  Crying her eyes out.  She was really sorry, and didn’t have the right card.  I was beginning to feel sorry, myself.

Pondering this situation much later, I wondered if the lack of I’m Sorry cards  pointed to a much larger problem in Christendom. (At this point, this is where you may want to stop reading if you do not wish to unravel different thoughts and attempt tying them together.  I am quite capable of making my own head hurt, along with yours.) Perhaps we have lost the art of saying “I’m sorry” and truly meaning it.  Maybe we have treated “repentance” too flippantly for the sake of keeping on a serene holy mask that would fool anyone, letting pride sit on our hearts, slowly eating away, just like a lazy worm.

After doing a preliminary search for Apology cards, I discovered that they are quite difficult to locate and obtain, although they do exist.  Then a random piece of trivia came to me, a piece that I had probably read in one of hundreds (thousands?) of books I’ve flipped through (the problem with working with books year after year is that one can arbitrarily come up with little pieces of information, and have little recollection of how that information got into one’s brain).  The piece of information in my brain said something like:  constantly saying “I’m sorry”  reflects a low image of oneself.  Call it “low self-esteem” (self-esteem would be a whole ‘nother blog post, so I’ll avoid becoming side-tracked).

Hm.  If this is how people think, no WONDER Apology cards are hard to find.

Although, that piece of information is quite legitimate in some aspects.  I could see situations in which that would be very applicable, to which I will leave to your imagination.  But flip the coin.  Wouldn’t that also be indicative of pride?  Apologizing more than necessary to avoid punishment?   Saying three little words to sweep it all under the rug and say, All gone now.  Done.  No worries.

“I am sorry.”  Those three words have certainly depreciated.

As people in general, it would be nice if more could truly say, “I’m sorry.”

But take it back to the Bible bookstore.  How many books would you find on, say,  conflict resolution, community life, repentance, reconciliation?  Not many.  How many books would you find on Becoming a Better Version of oneself?  Too many.  As followers of Christ, we have to learn to live with each other, not just one person (myself, yourself).  That means having to say, “I’m sorry” and not just saying it.  None of us is better than the other, and none of us are above screwing up.  We need to show others what “I’m sorry” means.  (Check out 2 Corinthians and Philippians, just to name a couple of resources on living as family in the kingdom.)

P.S. Just so we’re clear, I am far from having this whole thing down.

P.P.S. I think apology cards are only the beginning, but they need to be more easily found.

P.P.P.S I am not surprised that apology cards were nowhere to be found in that store, and difficult to be found anywhere else.  After all, [insert dry tone here] according to Joel Osteen, aren’t you supposed to be Activating Your Faith and Achieving Your Dreams?  Come, now.  Who has time for I’m Sorry cards?  Think positive.

P.P.P.P.S.  Forgiveness deserves a separate blog post, too.

Fin.

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i got nothing

Nothing really new or novel, that is.  Sorry to disappoint you, friends.

I’ve been housesitting this week, so it’s just me with two dogs and two birds.  I talk to them, because there is no one else with whom to carry on conversations, even though I’m doing all the talking. 

And then it dawned on me – I do not think I am the loner I sometimes claim to be.  I might be okay with being a loner for one or two days, but after that, it’s not good.  I crave interaction, even though I’m predominantly an introvert (which means I must work at expressing myself verbally), and I watch television so I can hear other voices.  And after a couple more days of not interacting with anyone else, I easily fall into a hermit style of living, which keeps me inside the house (and reluctant to be social).  I could fall, dead, on the floor, and no one would notice, except for the dogs.  Sad.

I think what Jack on LOST said is true; if we don’t live together, we’ll die alone.

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emerging…emergent…what?

(Some words that come to mind…

hip.  artsy.  social justice/gospel.  organic.  indie music.  missional.  grassroots.  relationship.  velvet elvis. community.  tony jones.  hippie.  candles.  theology.  dialogical sermons.  art.  food & good wine.  shaping of things to come.  lots of meals together. mars hill.    intentional community.  context.  yuppie.  tradition.  non-traditional.  questions, lots of them.  alan hirsch.  exploration. emergent village.  brian mclaren.  culture.  blue like jazz.  experience.  green.  intellectual.  creative.  sensory.  dialogue.  rob bell.  mark driscoll.   generous orthodoxy.

…when I think “emerging”  or “emergent” church)

Many people simply classify the emerging (or emergent) church as those who were unhappy with their previous traditional churches, gathering around to complain about the state of the more fundamental church.  It sure seems that way many times, and many times that is true, but sometimes it is not.  Some genuinely want to contextualize (speaking the language of the immediate context/culture)  the gospel to reach those otherwise not reached by the good news, while still upholding scriptural truths (this would be more descriptive of the emerging church), while some want to go beyond that and become more inclusive of the different denominations/sects of Christianity (including Orthodoxy and Catholicism – this would be more descriptive of the “emergent” church).  From now on in this post, I will use “emerging” and “emergent” differently, in accordance with those descriptions.

What first drew me into the emerging church was the whole “missional” aspect.  I liked the idea that the church body spent intentionally spent time within the community to reach the people of the community, and were constantly donating their time, effort, finances, and talent to reach the needy (spiritually, physically, emotionally needy), essentially “doing missions” locally, as well as internationally.  This was in contrast to a church I had attended for most of my life (at the time), which was constantly seeking to draw people into the church, instead of being the hands and feet of Christ to those outside the church.

Another thing that drew me in was the appreciation for the arts.  I had grown tired of people in the church settling for mediocre sound and visuals, just because it had a “Christian” label.  And not only that, but this emerging church had its own artists and musicians who shared their work with everyone else in the body.

Of course, I liked the candles and the ambiance on Sunday mornings, the emphasis on sharing meals together and all that.  Always a plus in my book.  Plus, I enjoyed hanging around people who asked questions, were not afraid of drinking a bit of wine or beer, and generally looked cool.  Perhaps not the best of motives, but let’s call it icing on the cake, shall we?

Emerging churches are basically known for the above, whilst, for the most part, remaining pretty orthodox in doctrine (Reformed, Baptist).  Mars Hill Church, founded by Mark Driscoll, is doctrinally sound while still remaining culturally relevant in its immediate context (to a point…see my thoughts toward the end).  There are even churches that fall in the “in between” category of emerging/emergent.  Pastor Mark has a nifty little video to help explain it better than I can.

The emergent churches are similar, but their doctrine is more liberal, they are more “post-modern” in feel, have a loathing for anything systematic, and they tend to be more pluralistic and extremely integrative.  Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy would help you understand that a little better (you may come away from that book more confused…ha!).  The long subtitle reads: Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentliast/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished Christian. Mark Driscoll used to be part of The Emergent Village (McLaren is one of the founders, I believe, or even the main founder), but then later chose not to associate himself with them, as they begun to stray away from essential foundational doctrine (such as the inspiration of scripture, and the sovereignty of God).

Just for the record, I see nothing wrong with diminishing the number of labels people tend to use, and I think that’s one of McLaren’s main goals.  He probably wouldn’t advocate the usage of the emergent/emerging labels.  But once you get to the nitty gritty of essential doctrinal differences, it’s simply impossible to combine them all and have a happy, universal church faithful to scripture.  It’s dangerous to think that Baptists can be Catholics, too.  Mark Driscoll used to be part of The Emergent Village (McLaren is one of the founders, I believe, or even the main founder), but then later chose not to associate himself with them, as they begun to stray away from essential foundational doctrine (such as the inspiration of scripture, and the sovereignty of God).

So, some closing thoughts.  I don’t thing anything is wrong with contextualization in general.  I’m all for the missional and contextual and the community aspects of the emerging church, but it’s often too easy overemphasize contextualization and use it as an excuse to participate in cultural activities that would be contrary to scripture, or as an excuse not to pursue holiness.  Discernment is always in order, yes?  It’s also interesting that the word “missional” has just recently (within the past ten years or so) become a buzzword among the Christian circle.  Shouldn’t all Christians strive to be “missional”?  And what about the community thing?  Shouldn’t all believers seek community?  We are family, after all.

There you go, curious friends.  That’s my take on the ol’ trend.  I’m by no means an expert, so feel free to add your thoughts if you think mine incomplete, and please watch Pastor Mark’s video on the different streams of the emerging church – it’s quite helpful and concise.

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