Saturday, August 25, 2007
I am going on vacation! For the first time in 3 years, J and I are getting out of Dodge and spend sometime relaxing. It is the first time in 3 years that we have felt that we could spend money on playing. We are overdue for sabbath time. So we are taking the last week of the Summer to see the sites.
We plan to go to Montreal and Quebec City, Canada. Neither of us have ever been there. It isn't far but I believe it will be to a different culture. It will be a bit of a pilgrimage for me too. The Ursulines, the order I belonged to years ago, have a house there. It was the first house of the Order in North America, founded in 1639. They were the first community of women to come to North America. There is a small museum there. I hope I will be able to make contact with some of the sisters, that is if they speak English.
We hope to sample some French cuisine and most of all just relax with the slower pace that Canada often offers us frenetic Americans.
It is not for nothing that this Sunday's readings deal with the Sabbath. It is a time for rest and appreciating God's world. That we will do if we don't get caught up with having to see everything, or feeling we have to be somewhere "on time." We bid your prayers for us as we travel. We will carry you in our hearts. May you know a Sabbath's rest too.
Then I will return refreshed to begin my new work as Pastor of St. Luke's. What a treat!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I am trying to write a decidedly Lutheran sermon today for my new parish. I have been preaching the past few weeks in an Episcopal church and I spent yesterday at a very tenuous Episcopal clergy meeting, but now I must change gears. I must put away the breezy way I relate to Episcopalians and find ways to proclaim the gospel to those who hear the Gospel in the light of Luther. I never would have thought that there would so much difference. In fact, I am not sure that there is that much difference. My sermons at St. Luke’s have always been well received.
I have been corresponding with another Episcopal priest who did some of her training in a Lutheran church. She also acknowledged that there was not so much difference except that she felt uncomfortable. I wonder if that is what I am experiencing—discomfort rather than real difference. I do know that I feel right at home in the pulpit at St. Luke’s. The liturgy is becoming a bit more comfortable. Then what is it that makes me feel peculiar and inexperienced doing what I have done for the past 25 years?
Is it an overwhelming desire to succeed? No, I don’t think that is totally it. But I do know that there is some ego involved. Although the Episcopal Church is open and very broad about it acceptance of ideas, Lutherans seem to be much more “gathered” or “collected” in their theology. I think one of my drawbacks is being a bit more self-conscious about my theological task in the sermon. “Does my sermon address confessional issues for Lutherans?” is a question that I have to address for Lutherans that I do not have to do as an Episcopalian. It seems somewhat artificial at present, but it is a way I can guarantee to touch the Lutheran soul.
Meanwhile, I need to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church, both Lutheran and Episcopal. I need to not let the heaviness of the conflict in the Episcopal Church to rain on the parade of the Lutherans. Perhaps this is the hardest chore of all.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Someone referred to “square pegs in round holes” at Council meeting this week. I merely said, “No, it is just putting an Episcopalian in a Lutheran church. May be it is “square peg” me, in a round-hole parish, but there are definitely differences between my Episcopalian self and this Lutheran parish.
One of the differences I really see is the emphasis that is placed upon the Incarnation in Anglican spirituality and the place that salvation by grace alone in Lutheran spirituality. While much of what Anglicans believe is based on Lutheran grace, there is still more than a little Pelagian sense of works-righteousness that hangs around Episcopalians. But more than that is the tremendous emphasis that Anglicans tend to place on Christ becoming human that is so central to Anglicanism.
I have not heard many Lutheran sermons and the ones that I have heard are often heavily theological and are centered in the Cross of Christ. I do not wish to imply that Lutheran sermons center on the Crucifixion, and Episcopalians center on the Resurrection. That would be too facile indeed. But I do see that the place that the Incarnation has among Episcopalians colors how they see the purpose of the Cross and the Resurrection. I am not sure how Lutherans draw out the joy of the Christian life from Death and Resurrection of Jesus, I only know that they do, and it is different. One thing that Episcopalians need to hear that is common to Lutherans is how much God has done for them in the Cross and Resurrection, that the grace that is given is so utterly free and comes to us not because of anything we have done.
BUT, what does seem the same is the need for pastoral care. St. Luke’s has been without a pastor for two years. In the memory of members of the congregation, the parish has gone 18 years without a regular pastor. They did not want to do that again, so an Episcopalian may be good enough. The pastoral work is the same. It is the being willing to listen. It is the willingness to be present and available to not just the parish community but the whole town. It is being the person who works with other churches in the town or their representative at civic events. It is the willingness to laugh when faced with odds that seem to overwhelm and the consolation when there are no words at all that will suffice. These aspects are the same no matter the theology or doctrine. It is what I call the “being there” Christianity that speaks of the Jesus of the Scripture.
This parish seems to have a great deal of respect for the position of “Pastor”. The deference made in the title is not one to be ignored. It feels like a throw-back to days when “Father” was spoken with awe in Episcopal Churches rather than with the kind of folksy familiarity that it is today. “Mother” has never quite caught on with me. I have been comfortable with being called by my Christian name, but “Pastor” has nice ring to it. It speaks more of what I do than what I am. This may be from a Lutheran sense of ordination, but I like it.
The hot topic among the Lutherans about this “Together in Mission” is the historic episcopate. I know that there are those Anglo-Catholics who believe that this is the be all and end all of Episcopal understanding of the episcopacy. I do not subscribe to the historic “laying on of hands from one bishop to the next” as the evidence of the validity of episcopal orders. It is the handing on of the Faith that is implied in that action of the laying on of hands that is important to me. I am not the only Episcopalian that thinks that way. I am also beginning to think that episcopal orders may be conferred for a time too, but I know that I would not get very far in the Episcopal world with that view. I wonder about those who are made bishop who clearly don’t belong there—and find that they are better suited for pastoral work than ecclesial. I think we may have made too much of the ontological issue and not enough of the realistic issue of the action of our spiritual gifts. But this is part of the growing edge of our two communions. And yet I know that there is a change that comes with ordination. I am not sure exactly what kind of change that does come, but there is a grace that comes with the office of priest that I cannot explain.
There will be constant comments like these over the next few years. I invite any who might wish to comment to do so. The journey for Together in Mission is for all to celebrate, not just Episcopalians and Lutherans.
Monday, August 6, 2007
When I began this blog, I took the name from the words of ++Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church for the title. She was speaking of the moratorium on the election of LGBTQ bishops in a partnered relationship. It has been a difficult season for the Episcopal Church but one that has probably caused the most serious discussion in the whole of the Church that I have ever known. Ultimately this season of discussion and dialog on such things as the House of Deputies list serve and in the blogosphere will serve us well as we pick up the loose ends of the attempts to split the Church. The Episcopal Church will survive intact, perhaps a bit smaller, but with the same life and vigor. We will continue to be a faith for people who question openly and who see that actions and belief are part of the same coin.
But now this title has come to have new meaning. I have just been called to the pastorate of a small Lutheran Church ELCA in Sidney, NY. It is part of the new efforts between our two denominations to expand our ministry. Clergy in either tradition can work in the other’s church without having to change loyalties. “Together in Mission” is a covenant to learn from the Episcopal and Lutheran ELCA churches’ gifts and while not uniting our churches, allows for a broader understanding of faith for both traditions.
I have been, for the last 3 year not permitted to take even Sunday supply in my own diocese because my bishop and I are at odds. It isn’t a matter of disobedience; it is a matter of the way that I believe he has handled some things that do not reflect well on the Episcopal Church and on Christianity. It has been a painful time. At the same time it has been a season filled with grace—the grace of being able to trust in God at a level I have never known, and the grace of friendships that have been stalwart and true. I am humbled in gratitude all that has been given me.
For a Season has been a way for me to keep in contact with friends and a place where I could work out my thoughts in a seemly manner of what was happening in my beloved Episcopal Church. This blog will continue to be that but will take on a decidedly Lutheran hue. My past year and a half I have supplied at ELCA congregations in the Southern Tier. I have found them exceptional folk, who take their faith seriously and intensely. I have begun to understand some of the humor of Garrison Kiellor when he speaks so fondly of Lutherans.
There are all kinds of comparisons that I can make on the two different traditions. Liturgically we are so alike that there is almost no difference—just enough that makes for the tongue to get tangled or to forget some part of the service. But culturally and theologically we are quite distinct. I will probably put my foot in my mouth with some regularity commenting on the differences between our churches but I will try to understand us both. All I do know is that if our two denominations do really merge we will be awesome! There is so much talent in both churches and many of the things that the Episcopalians fail in are Lutheran strengths and vice versa.
So I will attempt to bring together this wonderful opportunity of the Lutheranizing of Lauren with the joy of the Episcopalianizing of St. Luke’s. Please God, make this a blessed work.
Meanwhile I will hope that you readers will continue to comment, kid me, and offer insight to this season’s journey in to a “strange land.”
Friday, August 3, 2007
I have been on many pilgrimages because for me the Christian life is a journey. I have gone on planned retreat-like trips and some have been just happenstance. Most of the places have touched me in some way. I have gone to Canturbury, Santiago Compestela, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Taize, Little Gittings, Iona, Lindesfarne, and the pilgrimage of the Mississippi Martyrs near Selma, AL for the feast of Jonathan Daniels. I plan to visit the place where the Ursulines came to North America in Quebec at the end of the month and touch a bit of my past in the convent. All of these places held something of the connection between humanity and the Divine that makes them special. Some have held the remains of those who have gone before, the history and the faith upon which I stand. Some have just been “thin places” which my Celtic forbearers say are the narrows between heaven and earth. All of them have moved me.
The trips I have taken have varied. The ones that were designed to be “holy,” weren’t. There was the totally unscheduled, such as the trip to Little Gittings, the sight of a Protestant religious community in northern England which was delightful and light-hearted. The pilgrimage to Jon’s site of martyrdom with Judy was hard but healing after 41 years. And then there was Stonehenge that was never intended to be a place of pilgrimage but turned into such a profound experience of my forbearers attempting to touch the Divine --And then there was the walk through the church yard cemetery in Scotland where my family came from and feeling my past reach out to me.
At Compostela I was moved by the dished steps in the crypt where the feet of pilgrims have worn away the stone. The supplicants who walked on their knees to the Villa of Our Lady of Guadalupe humbled me with their piety. Iona and Lindesfarne both gripped me with the starkness of the life of those who founded Christianity for much of northern Europe. And Taize claimed the newness and the inclusivity of my faith with the lives of young people from all over the world.
I have not gone to the Holy Land. I thought of going there on sabbatical at one time but was afraid that the commercialization would gall me. Certainly the political situation has been off-putting for a number of years. Perhaps it is my vision of what those places are like that I don’t want disturbed by reality that keeps me from visiting the lands that Abraham and Sarah, our Lord and the apostles walked. If I went I would like to go with a Jewish archeologist who could help me separate the myth from reality. I do believe that the events of Jesus’ life are by far more mundane that the past 2000 years have told us.
What makes pilgrimage different from tourism? I am not sure except I don’t think I am too often a tourist. When I go places I want to drink deeply of the culture, the faith, the life of the people both past and present of a place. I am not one who eats at McDonalds when I travel. It is when I can talk and eat with those fellow travelers that I grow in my understanding of others and God. It is when I can participate in the festivals of a people whether they be Christian or some other faith, I feel God reaching out to me in the hearts those whose God has touched them too. There is a bond and we are one in Spirit. All life is a pilgrimage when seen this way.
For those who go, take pictures, write your feelings in a journal, stop and recall the smell, the light, and the people you meet, and let God do the rest. Yes, the trip will become apocryphal. You may remember more or less of what the journey was really like. But what will stay in your memory will be what God wants you to remember. Most of all go with an open mind and an open heart no matter where you go. God is always there, you know.