Is the Church Crazy Enough?
Many have been talking about how to make the Church more relevant to our lives in the 21st century. The latest statistics show that the Episcopal Church’s membership is shrinking 3% per year since 2006. Not to excuse this, but most of the major denominations are showing this same trend. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, currently meeting in Indianapolis, noting this, is seeking to spend time on structural reform with Resolution C001. This resolution begins by affirming that the “Holy Spirit is urging the Episcopal Church to re-imagine itself grounded in our rich heritage and open to our creative future,” based on the Five Marks of Mission. These five marks aren’t new. They were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990:
~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
~ To respond to human need by loving service
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The crux of these marks exemplifies the baptismal covenant, which we affirm often in our liturgies. It is likely that this resolution will lead to a task force consisting of those currently not in leadership positions in the Church as clergy or lay. It will most likely call for a three year study leading to the creation of a plan to reform the Episcopal Church’s governance, structure, administration and program.
Maybe what we need is not a re-formation of the Church, but a re-engagement and re-commitment to what the life of the baptized means…and an emphasis on the doing instead of talking about it.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, spoke at Saturday’s convention, challenging them to become “crazy Christians [because] sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us.” He added, “We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God --- like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.”
We need to re-imagine and re-commit ourselves to the Way of Jesus—to be centered and motivated by Love and not structure. While vacationing on Maui this week, Chuck and I visited the Sacred Garden, a prayer garden for all faiths. I purchased a bracelet inscribed with the words, “An open heart is the path to love.” Jesus’ life modeled this phrase most certainly. Can we be crazy enough to open our hearts to allow the Spirit to help us dream God’s dream? Can we let go of our fear of statistics and trust where the Spirit might lead us to serve? Can this crazy world become a place of peace and justice because of the actions of some crazy Christians---maybe some from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church?
Sometimes people, friends, or not, ask me why I go to church. They seem to be surprised that I spend so much time to sing, take care of the web — or other task.
For them, in the sort of tornado that their life could be, with the kids and following them to sporting events, to college or high school, shopping, the responsibilities of their jobs, the banks, the “this and that”...they don't always see the importance to go to church or they tell me they don't have time.
All what is perceived by some of us as a perpetual, but necessary " noise ” where we lose ourselves in daily activities and responsibilities, does not leave a lot of room for spirituality.
But at the occasion of a drama, a loss, a natural catastrophe, we stop and have a second look at what is really important and how small we are, and how lucky we are in any case, and how we should be grateful for everyday that God gives us.
Our kids and us, we are swallowed by this vortex of videos, screens and other disturbances that make the usual environment of a today normal American family.
Murders, sex, violence, wars, kidnapping, riots, vulgarity are all over the place, at any time. And we hear so many mixed messages all day, every day. And we are somehow supposed to, really have to, transmit some values to our kids because it is our job. We do our best, yes our best.
Even if our kids are grown-up and living their lives far away, even if we live alone, even if we are not alone but deeply lonely, we still face this disturbing environment.
Even if we are really happy just because the light of the day is so beautiful, or because there is a bird singing on the branch of a blooming tree, or because pain is fading away. Just happy.
Even because of that and certainly other reasons, yours.
About me, I need to be in a place where other human beings share with me the need to open our heart to the Love of Christ, the need to just stop for a little while and pray, and be in the light of a candle, and feel the emotions of the music provoked by the choir and the organ.
I need the church to be with other human beings, (my relationship with God is personal). Of course I enjoy the readings and the permanent discovery of the Jesus’ teachings, but I know, deep within myself, that the most important thing for me is to take this time to be with you and meet you all, because I need your smile, your eyes and your silhouette. I need your voices that speak about life, the real life. Not the one of the soap operas. I need to know if I can be a little helpful to you if you need it.
So if I do not go to the church, I can’t be with you all. Don’t think that Facebook would replace this hug that can make all the difference to somebody. I don't speak to the telephone but through it.
This is why I go to the church, and especially to St Peter's almost every Sunday: for this Christian Love that unites us. The church is the place where time slows down and where you open your heart. Thank you for being with me every week.
Thank you for being with me every week.
The other day, our grandson, Nicholas, evidently spoke to his mother in a less than respectful way. When he was reprimanded for it, he responded by saying, “But, Mommy, God gave me my mouth!” Ah yes...Knowing my daughter… After she chuckled to herself, she would have proceeded to explain that God also expects us to use what God has given us in responsible ways. Thankfully, we have the option in this country to express our opinions. But I do wonder why some people forget to put a filter on their mouths when they are in the public forum. Our fascination with all forms of social media (for the record, I am a fan), makes me wonder why we need to tell all--sometimes in language that seems to be only about the one delivering the message, i.e. their own exploitation. That kind of rhetoric can follow someone around forever in the cyberworld. And we all know that. Even the TV networks are requesting more leniency from the FCC to allow more coarse language in programming, making the job of parents and teachers even more difficult in setting boundaries for appropriate speech in social situations.Where is this all going??
Our country offers us the freedom of speech. God gave us free will ---along with minds to make choices. My answer to my grandson will always be to use them both.
The Church in 2012
It is well-known that Sunday attendance in churches in this century has continued to decline. We can give a long list of reasons. When many of us were children, going to church every Sunday was a pattern of life. Today, it’s just one of many weekend options. The church community, to some extent, has been replaced by secular communities and clubs. And while these other groups may teach children and youth about ethical behavior and the positives of community life, God is not the focus.
Is the present culture leading us to an even more self-focused society?
a link for meditation
We have discovered the Center for Action and Contemplation website, where you can sign up to receive a Daily Meditation by e-mail. We find these exceptional meditations very meaningful, particularly during this season of Advent. You can access this site, and these meditations, at www.cacradicalgrace.org. Just enter your Email Address in the right-hand column, click on Choose a list, and select Daily meditations. You’ll be happy to know that outside of the Daily Meditation, you will not receive any other e-mails from this organization unless you choose other lists.
Barbara and Ed Lovely
For me, the Advent season is also about taking some moments to notice things that we may take for granted. This morning, I saw the landscape in a new way -- through my mother's eyes. While waiting in an office, she observed our area's brown rolling hills and remarked on their beauty. Framed by leafless trees, branches stretched heavenward, the view for me then became holy as I took in the detail. How often we give such a scene a passing glance without appreciating what is really there to enjoy in God's creation. I have also noticed my husband's tender care for my mother during these past days in this first week of Advent. His attentiveness to her well-being and humor with her exemplifies for me the importance of taking time to build relationships and certainly to maintain and care for those we have. May we all continue to open our eyes to the ways that God is present to us in creation and through each other. --Adele+
When my children were small, anytime we had to travel more than an hour from home, the conversation in the car was peppered with the question, “How much longer until we get there?” Time is not easily explained to young children. And the notion of waiting for anything is lost on most. The preparations for Christmas, while exciting, bring forth from children (and all of us!) the longing for Christmas joy and the celebrations that accompany it.
Advent’s waiting season points out that our culture thrives on instant gratification. The four weeks of Sundays force us to slow the pace, savor the days and wait in patience for the gratifying presence of the Holy Child, who came to fill the world with Love.
This page is dedicated to the expression of opinions from the clergy but also from you parishioners. This is the place where your words can be heard in the respect of others of course. Do not hesitate to submit your reactions or questions/opinions. Thank you for visiting.