Religion

Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

What can we learn about the Three Self Movement today?

(This was written for a discussion in Christian History II and I thought I'd adapt it to be a blog post as well.)

The discussion of the Three Self Movement reminds me of Roland Allen whom some of my friends are very interested in. It led me to try and find out more information about Henry Venn, "honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873."

I am struck by the different approaches of Indigenisation that Venn supported, of having missionaries start the churches which would then be handed over to the indigenous people and Indigeneity which Groves and Allen supported of having the indigenous people start the churches themselves.

This raises for me the question of how we reach out to the “nones” of today. Are we trying to get them to return to the churches of the previous century? Are we trying to set up churches we will hand over to them? Or are we trying to help “nones” develop communities that meet their spiritual needs?

Vigil

Furtively we crept to the wake.
The room was dark and full of pictures.
We had hoped he would be the one
We had hoped that this would be the week
when we arrived at the capitol
with great fanfare,
but the crowds turned against us.
They gave him the death penalty,
executing him like a common criminal.

Now, we huddle in silence, sadness, shame, and fear.
Will they come for us next?

Suddenly, there’s a commotion.
One of the women has returned.
She says the body is missing.
Is this the final insult,
a desecration of his grave?
Another returns.
She has seen a vision.
She says he’s alive.

I am shaking;
terrified and overjoyed
with no way of understanding
what all this means.

Late Night Spiritual Wrestlemania

It's the middle of the night
Near the Indiana line
I'm pulling in a Christian station

The words of Richard Shindell’s song Next Best Western come to mind as I try to pull together some of my thoughts. Yesterday, I spent time going over some of my school work. I’ve been reading commentaries on the Gospel of John and about Christianity in the United States between the Revolution and the Civil war.

I received an email from a friend in the Episcopal Church about The Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism seeking feedback on anti-racism and racial reconciliation training document. I shared it with my classmates. The email reminded me of my many struggles with the Episcopal Church.

In the evening, I went to Vespers at the Orthodox Church. I love the Orthodox Church and the services have been very meaningful. It feels like some would like me to join the Orthodox Church. Others want me to remain in the Episcopal Church, and others just want me out of their hair.

In Christian History, we’ve been talking about the period in the United States between the Revolution and the Civil War. This has included how various churches dealt with slavery which is one of the reasons the racial reconciliation document was so pertinent right now. We also have been talking about how religious plurality helped shape American Christianity.

This led to a discussion of “Church Hopping”. People talked about the importance of making newcomers feel welcome. I am very aware of this as I look at my own experiences with different churches and ecclesiastical organizations. It also relates to a topic in New Testament, but I’ll save that for another time.

On Church Hopping, I wrote

It seems like the phrase ‘church shopping’ has a negative connotation, to use [one of my classmate’s] phrase, something that happens at the ‘surface level’. We talk about the importance of welcoming new comers, without being too aggressive.

Yet I wonder what it would be like if we thought of our visitors not as people ‘church shopping’ but people in a spiritual discernment process, for in truth that is an important part of what is going on beneath the surface when someone church shops.

In the middle of the night, I woke up from a strange dream which involved various employees of the Episcopal Church. It was unsettling and when sleep would not return, I got up and started writing. I wrote down my dream. I wrote some responses to the discussion forums for class. I wrote part of an email to a priest in the Orthodox Church about some of my struggles and I checked Facebook.

In a group of people struggling with their discernment journeys, a member posted about a challenging thing that recently happened in her life. She posted it in the middle of the night as well. In a group of Episcopalians another person posted about struggles with their discernment journey.

My mind drifted to Jacob wrestling with an angel. It feels a little bit like Wrestlemania this evening on Facebook for those of us on spiritual journeys.

In a different group, a member has been posting short videos as she starts her second Camino. She has large blisters. Jacob has an out of joint hip. As I head back to bed and see if sleep will return, Richard Shindell’s words come back to me.

At four a.m. on 80 East
It's in the nature of the beast
To wonder if there's something missing
I am wretched, I am tired
But the preacher is on fire
And I wish I could believe

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On Being a Postcolonial Mystic

Note: This is a forum post I wrote for my New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific class this week. We have been reading from Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel by Sandra S. Schneiders and from John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter.

I have greatly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Schneider and Carter for this week’s readings. I am very interested in Postcolonial readings of the sacred scriptures. Whose story is being told? Whose story isn’t being told? How are these stories being told in hidden rhetorical or encoded ways? As a twenty-first century progressive politician, I’m very conscious of ‘dog whistle politics’. Are there code words in the New Testament that we are overlooking? Are there code words that Jesus or the writers might have used, but been unaware of their coded meaning? I find it very helpful to ponder this.

Likewise, I’m very interested challenging binaries and false dichotomies. Was John writing about Jesus teachings as they applied to the Roman Empire? Was John writing about spirituality? Could this be a both/and instead of an either/or?

For me, this comes together in the idea of Jesus being fully human and fully divine. The politics of empire feels very much concerned with the fully human aspect of Jesus. How do we stand up together against oppression? The language of spirituality feels very much concerned with the fully divine aspect of Jesus. How do we experience unity with Jesus, especially at those times where he is absent and fully present at the same time?

Perhaps the most important question is the fusion of the two. How do we stand up together against oppression while being in union with Christ and all believers? Perhaps this is the challenge of the twenty-first century Postcolonial Mystic.

The Parable of Returning to Church

The kingdom of God is like a church on Easter morning. A person who had been struggling with many parts of her life felt a strong need to go to church even though she had not been in a long time and didn’t want to seem like one of those people that just go to church for appearances on Christmas and Easter. As she sat quietly in a pew regularly occupied by a church stalwart, members of the clergy, tired from the long Holy Week along with some of the most active participants in the church community looked askance at her and others coming on Easter after a long hiatus.

When a friend who had been praying for a long time for her saw her, she rushed up, filled with God’s love, and gave her a big hug. At coffee hour, they said down and shared many wonderful memories of Sunday School years ago where they learned the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

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