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The Fragmented Society
Last Saturday on Facebook, a friend posted a link to the Op-Ed The Fragmented Society by David Brooks
Here is the comment I shared:
It is interesting to read this after watching the United Methodist Church struggle with many issues at their General Conference. At one point I watched a live video stream of 'worship at the margins'. This came to mind when I read your comment about moving to the margins.
It sounds like Brooks and Levin have strange views about the nature of identity, cohesion, and the restrictions placed on people whose identity is at the margins. It sounds like Brooks and Levin focus too much on economic and geographic identity.
It seems like we as Christians, need to follow Jesus to the margins of society, eat with tax collectors or their modern day equivalents, no matter what marginalizes them, listen and learn from those at the margins so that we can truly welcome them and show them God's Love.
In a discussion in a religious group on Facebook, the topic of online sacraments came up. It was quickly dismissed as “Worst. Idea. Ever.” by many of the participants and one person asked, “doesn't an ‘online sacrament’ limit the concept of a community of faith”?
I added several comments:
When we talk about an outward and visible sign, perhaps we should be asking if that sign needs to be face to face, or if being visible online counts. Perhaps we need to ask if inward grace can be communicated electronically as well as in the spoken voice or in a silent prayer.
A friend of mine is being ordained to the Diaconate soon. The service will take place a couple thousand miles away. As much as I would like to be, I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit. If I could join in electronically, that would be wonderful.
Another friend of mine is mourning the death of her grandmother. I talked with her sister about whether she could join in via Skype.
As a professional online community builder, it feels the other way around to me. an online sacrament broadens the concept of a community of faith. As a person who prays for many of the people in this group and for whom many people in this group have prayed, this online group is an important part of my community of faith.
I think another aspect of this, which is why I think it may be important not to dismiss to quickly or easily, is that it helps get church out of the box. I view online sacraments similar to how I think of #AshesToGo and #FlashCompline
Sons of Confederate Veterans
In one group a person expressed concern about allowing the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use the church he attends. I responded,
I don't think there is an easy answer. I like the sign, The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. I like the mission of the church as it is described in our Catechism, "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."
How do we welcome the descendants of Confederate soliders? How do we wecome the descendants of Union soldiers? How do we welcome the descendants of slaves? How do we welcome pacificists?
The Confederate soldiers and their descendants are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, created in God's image, and loved by God.
How do we show God's love to them and to descendants of slaves at the same time? It seems bigger than something I can do, but then again, so does God's love.
Four times throughout the year, the church celebrates Ember Days, the days when postulants to the priesthood write letters to their bishops talking about their journey. The latest ember days were last week. I am not a postulant and I am not writing this to my bishops, but instead I am writing about those parts of my journey that I can share publicly.
One thing I’ve been writing a bit about recently, is the idea of countering the negative messages online with something different, something positive. I’ve been trying to do this with poetry, and a few other people have been taking this up. I’ve been trying to do this with focusing on sharing God’s love with one another as opposed to the ever present advertising encouraging us to get more stuff. Perhaps I can get more people to write about their spiritual journeys, and not just their latest trip to some resort as well.
For me, the past three months have been all over the place. During Lent, my devotions were strong. During April, I managed to write a poem a day. Holy Week and Easter were very special times for me, and I strongly felt God’s love during the time of Easter, and gained a deeper sense of mystery as I visited a Greek Orthodox Church during their Holy Week.
My sense of mission and ministry has grown during the past three months as I went to the Missional Voices Conference in Virginia, and various events related to Ministry Networks and a Regional Convocation in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
Recently, however, things have gotten incredibly difficult. There have been several deaths recently; friends and parents of friends. There have been people in incredibly painful damaged relationships. The news seems to be all the more filled with victories of greed over compassion. Respecting people’s privacy, I won’t say any more than that.
There has been too much work to do and too little time to recuperate. As I think of songs and hymns, they aren’t songs of joy, they are songs of endurance. “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go”… “When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll”.
At other times, the songs that have played in song track of my mind have been joyful hymns of praise. It is easy to seek to serve God and love one’s neighbor during such times, but in the midst of pain and sadness I have serious doubts about my abilities.
As I think of the pains and sadness of those who wrote the hymns I mentioned, of people struggling to get by, homeless in America, refugees from Syria who no longer have a country to call home, to the sufferings of Christ on cross, I know that my own pains and sadness are small, but to me, they still hurt and feel large.
I’ve always loved the phrase, “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread”. Yet at a recent event a priest made a comment about how Christ made himself known to his disciples by showing his wounds. My wounds do not heal, like the wounds of Christ. They don’t even compare. Yet the priest was suggesting it is showing vulnerability that is important, and I feel horribly vulnerable right now.
This isn’t a positive message countering negative messages. This is a painfully real message countering the unaware messages.
“As the deer pants for streams of water…”
It has been a difficult few weeks. There is so much I need to write about, and so little time. So, I’ll put down some of the thoughts here, and perhaps find time later to come back and explore them.
Recently, I downloaded the poetry of George Herbert, John Keats, Robert Browning, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from Librivox onto a USB stick that I’ve been listening to during my commute. There is so much to write about there.
I should probably do a blog post just on the Herbert Poems. One of which is “Love Bade me Welcome”. For me it harkens back to the poetry conference at Yale Divinity School a little over a year ago, which was a very important event for me. It also makes me think of the hymn, “Oh love that will not let me go” which in many ways has been carrying me for the past few days.
Another poem by George Herbert I’ve been listening to is Mary Magdalene. It mixes together in my mind with “I don’t know how to love him” sung by the character of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ, Superstar. All of this set against the month of May and the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of May.
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of last week were Ember Days, a time in which postulants to the priest hood write letters to their bishops talking about their spiritual journey. There’s a lot of blog material there as well.
Next week, the Ministry Networks of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will be gathering at The Commons, and I have a blog post I need to get done for that as soon as possible.
Also, my ex-mother-in-law passed away the other night. One of my daughters wrote about the passing of her grandmother. I remember years ago taking a class in grief and talking about complex, ambiguous, and disenfranchised grief. There’s a lot to write about there as well.
Running through all of this is my own emotional state, how it relates to my faith, how it relates to my family, how it relates to people I try to care for and how it relates to people trying to care for me. And, there’s poetry that needs to be written.
There’s a lot to write about.