Aldon Hynes's blog

Starting a New Semester

And so it begins, my second semester of seminary. I am filled with anticipatory excitement and mild trepidation. What will I learn this semester? How will it apply to my life and lives of the communities I’m part of? What opportunities will I have to participate and perhaps even help shape discussions around renewal in a post-establishment church? Or, will the classes be dry presentations of specific viewpoints preparing M.Div students for to take the General Ordination Examination?

I am currently in the Online Certificate of Theological Studies program at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It is a program for “those people who are seeking spiritual enrichment or who might be thinking about coming to seminary, but want to try out a few classes first.” It is eight courses long, so at the end of this semester, I will be half way through and could finish next January.

As I get a feel for the commitments of the program, in terms of time, and money, I am leaning towards doing the low residency Masters of Divinity program. I could complete that program in the summer of 2021.

I have slowly been growing into my identity as a seminarian; perhaps more precisely described as an online bi-vocational seminarian; working full time while I go to seminary online.

It isn’t clear where this will lead. Will I end up being invited to take the GOEs? Is there an ecclesiastical organization that might consider me for ordination? I do not know. Instead, I’m trying to live in the moment of being a seminarian and sharing my experiences right now.

And right now, these experiences are drawing me closer to God, bringing me joy, and hopefully helping me better serve the communities I am part of.

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Martin Luther King Weekend Reflection

This Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, I am spending some time reading Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or A Nightmare by James Cone.

In it, he talks about the motto of the AME church: "God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother" and that the AME bishops in 1896 said "When these sentiments are universal in theory and practice then the mission of the distinct colored organization will cease."

In 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on Meet the Press saying

“I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours if not the most segregated hours in Christian America”.

For this Martin Luther King, Jr. day, perhaps we can combine the two to say one of the shameful tragedies of our nation is that sentiment that all men and women are our brothers and sisters is still not yet universal in theory and practice.

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Epiphany, Theophany, Old Christmas, and Priests Forever

It is the midnight of Christmas in the old calendar, celebrated by Orthodox Christians. It is bitter cold outside, three degrees the last time I checked, and the furnace is working overtime. There is a commotion, a bright star shining, angels singing, all in my soul, and I, a lowly shepherd am confused and frightened and trying to figure out what it all means.

Saturday was Epiphany, Three Kings Day for the western church. On the front door to our house, we chalked “20 + C + M + B + 18”. I posted a picture on Facebook, including a prayer to go along with it

The three Wise Men,
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar

followed the star of God’s Son who became human
two thousand
and eighteen years ago.
May Christ bless our home
and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

In the morning, I went to a local Orthodox church to join in the celebration of the Feast of the Theophany. As we said the creed, “I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church”, I thought about being baptized and confirmed Congregationalist, received into the Episcopal Church, and worshiping with the Orthodox. I looked at the young boy in the pew in front of me and prayed for him. Had someone prayed for me, the same way when I was young? Had someone else prayed for that person in a similar way? Is there a hidden apostolic succession that ties us together throughout the ages?

As we approached the blessing of the waters, small children ran around, joyful at the expectation of Christmas and at getting splashed with holy water. Women holding onto tradition filled their jars with holy water for the year. I rejoiced in the ample holy water splashed on me at the end of the service and wished I had a jar I could bring home some holy water for my family. A young boy gave me an ice cube from the holy water that he said I should take home to my mother. I carefully tucked it in my coat pocket until I could get in the car and put it in an empty cup.

In the evening, I returned with my daughter for Vespers. At the end of the service, the priest marked us with holy oil, myrrh, or Myron. I savored its smell as I drove my daughter to her grandparents’ house; the chrism of confirmation after the water of baptism. I did not know that Myron was another name for the holy oil. My middle name is Myron. May I too be used by the Holy Spirit to sanctify and consecrate.

I went to bed early and read for a bit more. I am reading “A Priest Forever” by The Rev. Carter Heyward. At times I’ve been sharing quotes from the book on Facebook. This evening, a few quotes jumped out at me. “Any attempt to postpone justice is a sign of weak faith.” A few pages later, she talks about Kairos, God’s time. “Kairos cannot be calculated by clocks, calendars, or conventions. Kairos bursts without warning into chronos”.

I seek to live into Kairos. I experience it when I pray in various churches and monasteries. I experience it when I partake in sacraments. There are moments of Kairos in family life or while spending time with people in need.

My thoughts go back to “A Priest Forever” and I think about excuses that have been given for not welcoming certain people into certain ecclesiastical ordination processes; wrong gender, too old, there’s already too many priests, impediments of health, finances, or family, all of which sound like the excuses for a lack of faith in pursuing God’s justice.

Mine is not a great cause, easily understandable, like Carter Heyward’s quest for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, but it feels like it is of the same essence. It is about renewal. It is about “looking ahead to a future with even more novel forms of ordained ministry” to use the words of a resolution from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Annual Convention.

The star continues to burn bright in my heart. Kairos has burst in and we are all shepherds at the manger, children running around the church on Christmas Eve, aspirants to holy orders, and priests forever. Amen.

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Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, New Years 2018 and the Perpetual New Year

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit. Happy New Year. A new month begins. A new year begins. I’ve often written blog posts starting with Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit remember a childhood idea that doing this would bring good luck for the year. I’ve often celebrated the new year with champagne toasts, herring, lentils, or other things thought to bring wealth and good luck for the coming year.

Last night, my wife and I went to dinner at a neighbor’s house. After dinner, we came home, and I went to bed not much later than usual, and I awoke this morning, not much later than usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social construct of time. Last night was New Year’s Eve in the Western Roman calendar, coming on the last day of the final month, the tenth month, December, not counting the months added for the Emperors, Julius and Augustus , and before the first month, January, named for the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions.

It was not New Year’s Eve in other calendars, like the Hebrew calendar, the Persian calendar, or various Asian lunar calendars. In reality, any moment, every moment, can be viewed as the beginning of a new year.

Yet even this is based on the idea of time as dimension that we move sequentially through, that what is past is past and what is yet to come, is yet to come. It is as if we are walking along a path and think of what has disappeared beneath the horizon behind us has ceased to exist and what is coming up on the path ahead of us doesn’t exist until we see it.

In the Christian Gospel of John, we find some interesting thoughts about Jesus and time. “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’” Does something special happen to us when we celebrate the Eucharist or when we pray? Do you become part of an event that goes beyond time and location, joining a heavenly crowd? If we pray without ceasing, as 1 Thessalonians 5:16 calls us to, are we ceaselessly participating in something beyond space and time?

Where does this leave us when it comes to New Year’s resolutions? Is every moment a moment of new resolutions? What can we resolve for the new year, for the new us, moment after moment? I’ve always like the resolution, “to live each moment more fully and more lovingly than the previous”. I’ve often failed at this, but it remains a great goal.

Where does this leave us as we try to discover, as we try to live into, the future that already is, into God’s loving dream for all of us?

1 John 3:2 comes to mind:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Yet this raises an interesting question. If we are all going to be like God, to a certain level, especially if we apply some elementary math like the commutative and associative properties, then we are going to be like one another. In what ways am I going to be like the homeless man fighting addictions and other mental health issues? In what ways am I going to be like one of the first lesbian priests ordained, or a professor of black liberation theology? In what ways am I going to be like a conservative voter?

How does exploring this change who I am? How does it relate to living each moment more fully and more lovingly than the previous?

I guess these are aspects of my resolution for this coming year. I’m starting off by reading “A Priest Forever” by Carter Heyward. I hope to read a bit of “Martin & Malcolm & America: A dream or a Nightmare” by James Cone. Perhaps I can add in some writings from indigenous people here in America and around the world as well copies of various street newspapers.

How do we take this further in changing our daily media diet? What ideas, resolutions, or resources do you have?

Deconstructing the Established White Christmas: Homelessness, Immigration, and Pain

“I need help,” the old man said. He had come to the Homeless Memorial Service and was looking for food, shelter, and comfort. It had been a long day and I suspect all of us wanted to get home to dinner. He had been saying the same thing for probably half an hour as we tried to get him to head up to the soup kitchen for dinner and then return to the warming station at the church afterwards. After telling his story several times and describing the extent of his few belongings we finally got him on his feet and heading towards the door. He had a 2018 calendar because he was hopeful for 2018.

The day before, I had been to a Blue Christmas service at another church. I prayed for my friends and family members who have lived on the streets. A couple have their own apartments now. Another is in jail after getting into a fight.

I prayed for my friends and family who have been fighting illness. Some have fought cancer this year and are doing well. Others are still in the middle of that fight. Some have died. I prayed for those who have pain yet to be diagnosed. Some are at home. Others are in hospitals or rehabilitation centers.

I prayed for those who have been separated from their families this year. Those U.S. citizens who have seen their hard working tax paying parents deported under new administration policies. Those U.S. citizens who have seen their parents take sanctuary in local churches to avoid deportation.

A vigil outside of one church particularly stuck in my memory. The church was a Spanish speaking Pentecostalist church in a rough part of town. Years ago, when that part of town was where the wealthy lived, it had been a beautiful mainline Protestant church. Some of the stained glass windows survive. Others are now covered with plywood.

On Facebook, a friend with OCD posted about his torments, questioning whether the Episcopal church was Christian enough. Many criticised his post while others offered prayers or tried to help people understand what OCD is really like.

I have just finished my first semester of seminary and I am missing my classmates and my readings. I’ve been thinking a lot about post establishment Christianity and if we can learn anything from post colonial theory. I’ve struggled with how theory and praxis intersect and I think there is something in these experiences to be explored.

Last night, I listened to an An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. I think about the “subalterns”, those suffering outside the existing power structures. Mostly, I exist fairly comfortably within the power structures, although there are places where I struggle or have been rejected by the power structures.

This evening, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The established churches will sing beautiful carols. Some will have incense. I will be there, thinking not only of God becoming human and living with us, but of God becoming a subaltern. Fleeing to Egypt from the power structures, coming back from Egypt leading to a conflict with the power structures that resulted in crucifixion.

If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, walk with the homeless man saying, “I need help”. It is a modern vernacular translation of “Lord have mercy”. Pray with those struggling with pain and illness. Confront the political and ecclesiastical power structures. Most importantly, keep your eyes open for where the subaltern Christ has been born around you. O come, let us adore him.

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