Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grownup church

When I was a child, I spoke and thought as a child. When I grew up, I put away these childish things...

As my friend Hannah said a couple years ago, Christian Radio are the only stations allowed to keep the same top 40 15 years later. If I land on one, I can still sing along to Jars of Clay and Silas Bald and Matt Redman. I grew up with these songs, with a praise band for youth group on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and sometimes at Wednesday night bible study.

Two and three times a week for 10 years has a shaping effect. A love of close harmony, and the ability to find a descant because the melodic line is boring after the 6th time through the chorus is only part of the result. The theology expressed in a lot of our traditional hymnody can be incredibly complex...and the reverse is also true. Unfortunately, much of Christian pop, especially that which makes it through church praise bands, are simple two or three verses of psalm and a chorus. Praise bands often turn worship into an odd sort of performance/concert, where it's not expected that the congregation participates, but they can sing along with the chorus. If they feel like it. Or they can enjoy the performance without engaging. And yes, that's comfortable. It's easy. It's inoffensive. Kinda like the expressed theology - participate, if you want to, and we're only going to present the easy/fun bits anyway.

For me, a praise band and powerpoint slides* pulls it out of being "church". It's fellowship, it's community building...but it's not a "real" service anymore. It was a big deal, being considered "old enough" to sit through a "real" church service rather than be shuffled off to children's church or youth group (again). To have enough reading comprehension to be expected that I could follow along in the bulletin, and read the words in the hymnal even if they were strange and old-fashioned. It's how I learned to read music, that following along with my mother, and how to sight read unfamiliar pieces. I learned that sermons and scripture should be challenging enough that taking notes was expected and space should be provided for it in the bulletin, even if the notes were angry commentaries about all the points I disagreed with. Being a grown up meant being engaged with, challenged by, and an active participant in the service, and that responsible adulthood meant you could manage to find the relevant page in the hymnal or the Bible, and follow along... or make the conscious decision not to.

Hanging out with church geeks means that my perspective on this tends to be skewed a bit more traditionalist and conservative. All my age cohort that I talk to agree with me - but we're all liturgy/religion geeks and very active in our churches, and so I know better than to think we're representative. We are constantly told we don't exist, at least.

Anyways, I went out to dinner with an old friend yesterday. She's a casual, cradle Catholic - probably at Mass about once a month. "You know you're desperate to go to Mass when you go to Youth Mass," she said, "not only because it's at 6p on Sunday and you've missed all the rest of the services, but because it's not really Mass. My Mass should not have guitars, a drum set, and powerpoint...You know who I see at Youth Mass? People our parents' age." She's right - mostly it's X-ers and Boomers, only sometimes with children or grandchildren in tow.

To a lot of baby boomers, growing up meant getting away from the staid, traditional church forms. Hey, look! We can do rock and roll and folk music in church and get away with it, because we're now in charge! Slides with cool graphics and lots of technology! The kids will like it! It's like eating ice cream for dinner. Things that were forbidden or frowned on are now permissible, because we're grownups and we're finally in charge. But I always feel like the 'praise & worship' services are very much like ice cream, sweet & without substance. They can be really nice, and there is a place for them - a campfire service should fall into that kind of easy, laid-back fun, but not my primary worship service. And for those of us who grew up with casualness, the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way, towards the legacy and tradition of the liturgy. What L was talking about, where she doesn't like these contemporary services either, made me realize that of the age distribution, you really are most likely to find my age cohort at the more 'traditional'-flavor services, up to and including the odd ducks like Evensong and Taize.

Being a person of faith in the world today is hard. Living my faith working toward the principles of grace, love, and justice cannot be broken down into trite phrases and good feelings, and my Sunday morning needs to equip me for working in the broken world, by giving me appropriate tools and renewing me with the depths of the waters of life. Shallow isn't going to cut it, and it offends me when it's assumed that the easy bits are all I can handle. Frequently, that's what the modern 'praise & worship' services come across as doing. Ours is a simple faith, but not an easy one.




*It seems like projectors end up going hand in hand with the praise bands, which is unfortunate. There are some very legitimate reasons to have and use a large screen and power point slides.  If only they weren't so frequently used as "so now no one has to ever crack a hymnal!"

Song of creation

...And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

I think this morning may have been the first time I read Genesis 1 aloud as an adult. And my now-trained ear could hear nothing but the melody and the refrain, the song of the creation of the world. Which means there has been a push to find the verses amidst the song of evening and morning. Thankfully, not that many people will be subjected to my bad poetry as most of y'all are out of town on vacation. Without me. *grins* I will probably come back and clean this up as time permits.

In the heart of the darkness
blew the wind of creation
Breath of God before all things
Stiring the waters

The dark and the light
two halves of a whole
One shall be called Day
The other is Night

And there was Evening
And there was Morning
A new day

The dome of the sky
o'er the dome of the water
In all the shades of blue
that are not yet seen

And there was Evening
And there was Morning
A new day

Land out of the deep
Desert, field, moor, mountain
Green with fruit, grain,
Roots into virgin earth

And there was Evening
And there was Morning
a new day

The sun to rule day
the moon to govern night
and the stars in their courses
Gaze upon the creation, created

And there was Evening
And there was Morning
a new day

Levaithan arises through seas
stunning new-made trout
and eagles explore the air
Robins trill first song

And there was Evening
And there was Morning
a new day

Blessed are beasts wild and tame
Who walk, run, crawl, fly
All creation in the image of God
Singing the oldest of songs

For there was Evening
and there was Morning
A new day

Until the ends of this world
and the dawn of the next
there shall always be
Evening
Morning
A new day.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bread of life

I am a giant food geek.

It's more than just being a foodie, enjoying good food and interesting flavor combinations and cooking in my kitchen*. It's the science involved, thinking about structures and matrices and chemical reactions. I love delving into the whys of cooking and baking.

This is good, given that having gone gluten-free, my baking had to change. For several years, I pretty much didn't. If I wanted baked goods, it was purchased, or a mix. Last fall, I finally had collected enough of the odd flours necessary to start experiments, and I knew that the quality of recipes had increased greatly since my first tries 5 years ago. So I started playing. I've missed bread, but more, I've missed cakes and cookies and other chocolate delivery methods. I started learning the properties off all these odd flours that I collected, the protein-heavy ones, the pure starches, the nut flours. I started figuring out what I like in my baked goods, what can substitute in a pinch, how flavors meld or not. Also, doing a lot of flourless baking. Because why bother with substitutions?

I will say - best thing about GF baking? Never having to worry about overdeveloping the gluten. Stir and knead until the texture is right, but don't worry about how long that takes.

My priest approached me at the beginning of Lent, having seen an article at Christian Century about a quest for a common loaf of communion bread. Could we do that? I looked at the ingredient list (and of course was missing one, as per usual for a new recipe) and said I'd try.

Now the thing about that article and its accompanying recipe is that it was put together by people who are neither professional bakers or people for whom comprehensive allergen/diet awareness is a thing. It is for me, as it's a hospitality issue - can I feed my friends if they come over for dinner? and so they use honey and call the recipe vegan (sub light molasses or sorghum). It's hard to find garbanzo flour outside of just the Mexican grocery - but chickpea flour is in every Middle Eastern or Indian grocery in town, as well as at my local supermarket.

So, taking it apart - ground chia and pysillium husk are your egg-equivalents. Chickpea is the depth and nuttiness. Sweet rice is your graininess. Tapioca is your binding starch and air-bubble structure. Cornmeal and chia give the scaffolding to build the structure around. Molasses and maple syrup add sugars to feed the yeast** and to leaven the taste. Salt makes tastes pop.

This is a giant loaf. We'll see if it works - the base recipe is ok, but I've made some changes (flax for chia, molasses for honey). The goal is that by next week, for Holy Week, the entire congregation can take and eat from a common loaf.





Edited to add:
So the base recipe serves about 100-120 for communion. Don't substitute flax for chia.

One of my fellow parishioners asked why we had to have this special bread, why not bake for the majority and have the special people stuff off to the side. It took me aback, partially because why would I bake communion bread, the core of our Episcopal worship service, that I can't eat? Also, it felt like he was placing boundaries around who he would break bread with, based on diet, at our very inclusive church, even though I'm certain he didn't mean it that way.

I found it affirming that our priest had asked that this be done, and that I do it. Those are separate items. The church (universal) has an ugly history of dictating that "special" communion be done off to the side, not part of the main ritual or loaf, for "special" people, creating a second, minority class in what should be the unity of the church. This bread is an attempt to bridge that, being as allergen and diet sensitive as we can make it, so that the unity of the community at the table can be maintained and supported. I was honored that she asked me to make it, because otherwise, I have this wealth of knowledge that mostly goes to make bread for my individual household. I believe that supporting us as a community happens with the hospitality of the table, and I am happy to do what I can to not have anyone excluded because they cannot partake.


*you know you're an adult when: I love my new range! I have a 5 burner gas cooktop and an electric double oven and it has all these bells and whistles, and it makes things go!

**yeast makes it deadly for one of my friends. We may start experimenting with this as a quick bread, because baking soda/powder are less problematic.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Holy EULA

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

0. Definitions

"Baptism" refers to the overall rite of Holy Baptism, defined as sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of the Church, as well as section three of this EULA

"Celebrant" is the leader of the service, a person having previously accepted this EULA

"God" is the Christian God, as framed by law and statute laid down in the Hebrew texts and Apostle's Creed. For purposes of this EULA, God is also defined as Trinitarian (Three-in-one), in the parts of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. God d.b.a. YHWH. "Rebellion" is defined as going against the will of God. "Evil" is defined as that which is against the will of God. God the Son (Jesus Christ) is considered for these purposes as having salvatory power, saving later defined persons from the temptations of rebellion and evil.

"Church" refers to the total of those who have pledged themselves to the service of God (previously defined). "Congregants" are a physical gathering in one place for the purpose of witnessing the legal binding nature of Baptism, as a "Congregation."

"Sacrament" - one of the binding rites of God

"Candidate" - the person or persons seeking the Sacrament of Baptism. Children (those under 13) may be candidates provided a congregant is willing to serve as personal representative and speaker for said child, while also promising to personally assist child in fulfilling the EULA terms as set out henceforth until said child reaches his or her majority, at which time the personal representative will maintain the responsibilities set out in section 2 of this agreement.

"Apostles' Creed" -  7th c. statement of belief, predated by the older "Roman Creed." Please refer to creeds.net or other similar source. Minor variations in text have no bearing.

This EULA uses "they" as it's gender-neutral pronoun.

1. Renunciation and Acceptance

By accepting the Sacrament of Baptism, Candidate renounces those forces of evil and rebellion in the world, including, but not limited to, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, envy, gluttony, worship of idols, murder, dishonesty, theft, blasphemy. Candidate also agrees that in turning from evil, they are turning toward the love of God, acknowledge the salvatory power of God the Son, trusting that it will be sufficient, and that they will obey the will of God, as set forth in the understanding of the church. (This understanding is considered to be evolving and various, and definitions are somewhat slippery. The Church recommends study, thought, and prayer as guidance, as well as membership in a Congregation for further illumination of the Will of God.) Children may have a representative speak on their behalf. Candidates may ascribe to the principles of the Apostles Creed as statement of the beliefs of the Church.

2. Witnessing

Congregants affirm that they acknowledge the Candidates' renunciation. They, as the representative body of the Church are bound with the responsibility to assist Candidates in fulfilling parts 1-3 of this EULA. This is a personal and corporate responsibility.

3. Baptism

Candidate agrees to the use of water in this cleanliness ritual by celebrant, washing away the old and creating the candidate as a member of the congregation. Said water shall be applied to the candidate by sprinkling (a few droplets), by pouring over candidates head, or by immersing candidate fully in water prepared by celebrant. Celebrant invokes this EULA and the witnessing of God Tripartite, and by agreeing to this application of water, Candidate agrees to all terms and conditions herein.

4.  Redemption

God, as author of this EULA, acknowledges that with the completion of section 3, Candidate is a Child of God and this relationship cannot be dissolved. God's portion of this contract involves acknowledging the impossibility of Candidate maintaining sections 1-3, and therefore requesting only that Candidate try. God agrees to accept Candidate, always and forever, in all circumstances, even unto and past death of the corporeal form of Candidate. God may, at any time, invoke this EULA as God sees fit, using whatever methodology God decides is appropriate to remind Candidate that said EULA is in effect.

5. Termination

This agreement shall not expire nor can it be broken by either party. Candidate may choose to not abide by the terms of the contract; however, God maintains the right to invoke this EULA at any time. This contract is legally binding in all jurisdictions which acknowledge it's validity, physical and ephemeral. Negation is not possible, and termination is non-existent, even after candidate looses corporeal form. By having agreed to section 3, or having it agreed to on a child's behalf (children must confirm contract terms upon reaching age of reason [13] or their legal majority), the application of water in section 3 is eternal, even if candidate leaves congregation or no longer ascribe to belief in the principles of the Church, and thus redemption terms of this contract are assured.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Centrality of Grace

Sometimes, I'm not a particularly good Episcopalian. Actually, *frequently* I'm not a good Episcopalian. I spent way too many years of formation in the Protestant wings of the Church to ever feel very comfortable with the half-and-half theology that is the charism of my denomination. And it works. Much of our strength is in our inclusivity, and it is part of what gives us joy, that we are all, no matter our history or our views, members of the Body of Christ. Yay, go team!

But some times, I am reminded of the core of my faith is different than much of my community. Because the tradition I come from, and the center of my relationship with God in Christ, is in grace. 

Nadia Bloz-Weber was on NPR's On Being this morning, and having to interupt in the interview for church, I downloaded the podcasts. She's an ELCA pastor, and my heart remembers with longing and joy my life in that denomination, and how the faith of that community fits with my own. In the interview, she talks about the centrality of the doctrine of sinner and saint - that we are all both simultaneously the greatest of sinners and saints of God. That God's grace is sufficient, God is all-knowing and unknowable and *still* that grace is enough.

Our acceptance of others into our community is an expression of grace, our response to God asking us to leave our judgements at the door, as God sees each as they are and who are we to judge? God meets all people where they are. But I miss the centrality and explicitness of the doctrine of grace in my faith community, because it is so central to my own understanding of who we should be as a Christian community and as individual people of Christ.

We are, as the body of Christ, both the instruments of grace and the objects of it. And I needed that reminder, that God knows me as I am, as I was created to be, and there is grace enough for that person. That I have a place, a calling, and that even if I screw this up royally, there is grace. Always enough and more.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Joy & Grief

The Church is the community of Christ, and as a community, we are called to support each other in life's joys and griefs.

This used to be done by the women's groups at church, the wives and widows who we knew as the church ladies, who became the little old church ladies.* It was meal support and emergency childcare and hand holding and bringing food for celebrations, because the community cared.

That support is changing as times are changing. My grandparents had two support networks - family and church, and one or the other could step up. These days, the communities to which we belong and who we can call on are as varied as the congregants, but the issues are still there and the church should be one of the basic community pillars of a support network, esp in times of need. Some times those needs are from joys, some times from grief, some times from medical necessity.

Part of how we're changing is the type of support. We're not just thinking of the women involved, but their husbands/partners/family as also in need of emotional and physical care. Meal delivery is now coordinated through the internet. We're moving to care packages as the instant "we're thinking of you," rather than a prayer shawl.

This is a relatively long lead up to asking for some help with brainstorming.
-What are the life events that you think should be included in this kind of support?
-What would you, personally, like to see in such a care package?

Example: Major Surgery
- small booklet of suggested readings/psalms/prayers
- chocolate
- snack bars
- trashy bestseller
- aromatherapy candle
- microwave relaxing warm wrap (the fancy version of the sock with rice)
- prayer shawl

What are your ideas?

I'll eventually collate everything together for lists for various packages, and have some things common to all of them.

*Expect another post on them later this week

Thursday, March 28, 2013

At vigil

Lord, may we watch and pray with thee this night, holding in our hearts both the tragedy of the morrow and the joy of Easter morning. Aid our willing spirits in our vigils and save us from the trials of this world now and forevermore. In thy name we pray. Amen. Taking a brief break from sewing the hems on new church linens for sunday morning. And my shift is almost up. I'll be back at 7:30 for mass and then a day of curch cleaning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Memento homo: quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris.

From dust we are made, to dust we shall return.

Ash Wednesday is about our mortality, the fleeting nature of life, and the need for humility and perspective in our lives.

And in the voice of the priest, I also hear the words of Carl Sagan, for we are made of star stuff. One day, the makings of stars we shall be again.

See the majesty and grandeur and power of the Lord.

We are made of the dust scattered at the beginning of time, spread among all the worlds that have been and shall be.

And God so loved us, the creations of dust, that God sent a Christ, that God cares enough about us to ask us to repent and return to the Lord, that the opportunity for reconciliation is eternally created.

See the grace and compassion and love of our God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

on baptism

Raise up a child in the way he should go...

I'm reminded yet again this evening that I was not raised in a mainline Protestant denomination. I picked up "A Sacramental Life" at the library last week and started reading it tonight. I almost immediately ran up against an assumption that I've seen repeatedly - Christian churches believe that the christian life begins at baptism, or that it is impossible to be a christian without being baptized.

Every time, that assumption brings me up short, because that is very definitely not what I was raised to believe. Heck, it doesn't apply to most of the evangelical movement. Christianity is about accepting Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Billy Graham converted a heck of a lot of people with those famous altar calls, and he wasn't the only one. Baptism is the outward acknowledgement of the inward moving of the Holy Spirit. Life in the church may begin with the sacrament, but being a Christian, salvation from sin and death, isn't dependant upon getting doused with water. It's important, because community is important. It is only in community that we can break bread together.

And I run into the mainline view yet again. It is the stated theology of my church. It is something that I struggle with every time it comes up. I'll be over here, looking at it again.

in the mean time, I'm computerless this week, which also means short of keyboard and spell check...forgive the errors.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A drabble

The subtitle of this blog is "religion, geekdom, and the occasional intersection of the two."

This is one of those intersection points.

A subset of geekdom is fandom - the realm of people who like/appreciate a specific example or creator. Lost. NASCAR. Firefly. Cardinals. Jane Austen. These all are creators of narratives, stories that catch us, and often make us delve into endless speculations of "what if?" and "what were they really thinking?" (If you think this is limited to those book people, don't get a sports fan started about what might have happened if the ball had been caught/dropped.)

Occasionally, those of us who delve into the world of what if write it down, and that's called fanfiction. This is one of those times. And yes, there is a whole lot of Bible fanfic out there - God left us with a lot of gaps and room in the margins, then made us a people who tell stories. Thus, the Midrash, and of a much lesser quality, this.