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Holy Week 2010 Remainders

  • I’m hoping to get some Holy Week pictures of my own up some time, but in the mean time, I love this series of photos from the Boston Globe’s “The Big Picture” series, this one with images of Holy Week from around the world.
  • We held a Good Friday Wake again this year; I may still write some reflections on it, but our friend and diocesan Canon Charles LaFond, has already shared a description of the evening and his experience of it over on his blog, The View from Blackwater Bluff.
  • We baptized our daughter at the Vigil, which added a whole extra level of craziness to the weekend, but in the best possible way. Many people in the church, who had never seen her in any state other than cheerful smiles or peacefully asleep, were surprised to find that she can holler with the best of them, given sufficient cause.
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Miranda’s easy paper dove

For those who may be looking ahead, past Lent and Easter to Pentecost. Last year, each of my Sunday school classes made objects related to major symbols for the Holy Spirit – water, wind, fire, doves – and waved them energetically as I talked about each symbol in my sermon. We need to brainstorm a new plan for this year… we’ll have the Bishop and a bunch of confirmations – wonderful! I would love to just fill the high white ceiling space of our nave with these, in all colors… but there’s no easy way to do that. Maybe it will work for you!

Mirandas Easy Paper Dove (PDF download)

On the manner of Eucharistic sharing

Note: I actually wrote this way back in May and somehow never got around to posting it… but I keep pondering the question, & would love thoughts from others.

Experiencing the Eucharist in some settings outside my home parish recently has caused me to ponder ways to get the bread and cup to everyone. I’m pretty comfortable with the familiar model in which people in robes (clergy, LEMs) carry the bread and cup around to the laity, who are kneeling or standing along an altar rail or in a line or arc. But I’m aware that this practice reinforces the message that there are people who are privileged to dispense holy things, and others who are not – even more so if there’s an altar rail separating the hoi polloi from the holy folk. Most days this doesn’t bother me much, but I’m not terribly satisfied with it, either. How else can we do this? Continue reading ›

Emergent Episcopal worship in Boston

Recently, while in Boston for the Music that Makes Community conference (see my post about that wonderful experience here on my church blog), I took the opportunity to attend the Crossing – an emergent community based at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and led by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers and an able team of lay associates. This community shares distinctive, well-crafted liturgy – clearly within the Episcopal tradition, but with its own flavor. Having worshipped with them, I offer here my thoughts on a few of the key elements that give their worship its particular feel.  Continue reading ›

Tobias Haller on Truth and Tradition

Tobias Haller has a thoughtful post up over on his blog, In a Godward direction:

“Ideas are not true because they are old, though they may be old because they are true. The paradox is that how long a given idea has been around is of no use in proving its truth, and past staying-power is not cause for something to continue to stay.

Tradition is not self-certifying evidence of truth, but a testament to those who passed along what they believe to be true.

. . . in the long run, the truth itself — the dogma or theory — may remain relatively untouched, but be understood and expressed in new ways. The best and most vital doctrines — the deepest truths — are capable of such costume changes.”

Read the whole thing over on his blog. I’m thinking this over as I contemplate a post on when & why liturgical change should & shouldn’t happen.

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Getting our feet wet: Ideas for Maundy Thursday?

I’m working on this year’s Maundy Thursday order of service – combining existing customs here with some elements of a particularly effective Maundy service I attended a couple of years ago. I’m grappling with one significant logistical question: how to arrange the footwashing.

My basic parameters: It has to include as many people as possible, while still giving those who really really don’t want to do it a comfortable “out”; and it has to fulfill Jesus’ commandment on the subject: “You also ought to wash one another’s feet” – not, “your clergy…” or “your vestry should wash your feet,” which tends to reinforce hierarchy (through inversion, but still unmistakably) instead of mutuality. Oh, and it can’t be too elaborate or messy… 

What have you seen, or done, that worked well?

Survey Says . . .

I’ve seen now a number of references to a study conducted by LifeWays Research claiming that the “unchurched prefer cathedrals to contemporary church designs” (as the LifeWays report/press release put it), or that unchurched people prefer “traditional” churches to “contemporary” ones.  Often, this study is used as confirmation by those who prefer “traditional” church architecture themselves, while more interesting discussions center on speculations as to why this preference might be.  But the before we can understand that, we need to understand what the survey really tells us.

The framing in the study results made me suspicious. “Traditional” and “contemporary” are words that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So probably the first useful piece of context for this study is that LifeWays Research is primarily associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The next question is, what do they actually mean by “traditional” and “contemporary” and how did they determine these preferences? I dug up the original report, and the slightly more informative powerpoint deck, which you too can get from the LifeWays site. Only don’t, because I’ve already waded through them so that you don’t have to. Which you should thank me for, because the PowerPoint deck is like a case study in how not to present survey data.

Here’s how the survey actually asked about preferences in church architecture: Continue reading ›

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Epiphany Baptisms

The New York Times had an interesting article recently, describing the Russian Orthodox practice of “Epiphany Baptisms”, which apparently involves cutting a cross-shaped hole in the ice on a river or lake, and then taking a plunge in:

“Monday was Russian Orthodox Epiphany, and roughly 30,000 Muscovites lined up to dunk themselves in icy rivers and ponds, city officials said. The annual ritual baptism, which is believed to wash away sins, is enjoying a boisterous revival after being banished to villages during the Soviet era.

This seems like an interesting religious/aesetic version of the same impulse behind the swedish sauna and the tradition of “polar bear clubs” in various cold climates. I’m curious about the origins of this practice, and also generally in the idea that this would be an annual recurring practice.

There also seems to be a increasing level of Russian nationalism associated with the icy plunge:

These days, it is a ritual with high production values. Several sites in Moscow were furnished with no-slip carpeting, heated tents and supervisors with megaphones. Politicians have seized on it as a photo opportunity; the theatrical ultranationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky took his plunge this year at Bottomless Lake, a Moscow River tributary, flanked by 15-foot tubes of fluorescent light.

‘It has become a show — not only that, but a patriotic show,’ said Boris F. Dubin, a sociologist with Moscow’s Levada Center. The immersion ritual satisfies a public hunger, he said, for ‘something that is truly Russian, ancient, real. For what distinguishes us from other people.’ “

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Liturgy for church committee meetings

If liturgy is public work, and vestry and committee meetings are where some of the work of the church gets done, then why do we run our church meetings using more of the rituals of commerce and government than rituals of the church?

Charles Olsen of the Alban Institute offers some suggestions for Ways to Pray in a [Church] Board Meeting. Here’s an excerpt:

Resistance to infusing the work of a board with prayer tends to come from the conviction that “there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place”—that worship belongs to Sunday and sanctuary and prayer belongs to worship. But an inspirational moment in a meeting does wonders in loosening the strings of resistance, and those inspirational moments will come once worshipful work is attempted. Let the only rule be “meetings are worship.” All else will flow to and from that fountain. Then we can drink from its fullness!

Some interesting ideas here. Maybe we should develop an Order for Vestry (and other!) meetings. We could even have a new supplemental book, the Book of Regular Meetings, perhaps? A Worship committee seems like a good place to start. Other ideas?

(Via Episcopal Cafe.)

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Talitha cumi

One of my favorite things about the nave at my church is the “Talitha Cumi” window. Mark’s story of Jesus’ raising a twelve-year-old girl from death is one of my favorite Gospel stories. And this is a wonderful image, presented in deep, rich colors: Jesus stands over the little girl, holding her hand, while her anxious parents kneel at the foot of the bed. I’ve loved this window since my first visit to the church, and I have an excellent view of it from my seat on the deacon side of the front of the church.

This morning, during the sermon, my eyes wandered over to that window. And lo! it was transformed. This particular day, this particular moment, the rising sun was shining right through Jesus. His face was almost too bright to look at. Continue reading ›