Monday, July 26, 2010

Outdoor Service and Parish Picnic

We have been trying to have an outdoor service at St. Columba’s for the last several years, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. This past Sunday everything came together and it worked. We had a huge crowd, too big to fit in the church. Special thanks to our parish life committee, Duane and Paula Sousa for hosting and all those who brought food or helped with clean-up. It was a great event because we gathered, and were ready to share in the fun.

The Gospel text for Sunday included the Lord’s Prayer from Luke. The focus of the sermon was the prayer. You can watch the sermon via the YouTube player at the bottom of this page.

One of my points had to do with “our daily bread.” In one sense, Jesus is talking about what we need for physical life, and encouraging us to trust God with those real needs. I think Jesus is talking about more than the physical realm. In the New Testament, bread is not just bread, but also a sign of God’s presence. It is Eucharist, Jesus’ ongoing, spiritually-sustaining presence in the sacramental community.

We started our Sunday with the Eucharist, the official celebration of Jesus’ presence in our midst. The picnic followed. It was a celebration of the presence of Jesus in our midst as well. When the community assembles, Jesus is with us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Read

When I travel, I like to read historical fiction set in the place I plan to visit. Since I was to be in the U. K., Wolf Hall seemed a good choice. It turned out to be a great choice.

Author, Hilary Mantel approaches the turbulent time of Henry VIII through the eyes of those around him, most particularly Thomas Cromwell. Having some knowledge of English history around the reign of Henry VIII, I was able to enjoy Mantel’s marvelous development of characters like Cromwell, Wolsey and Cranmer. Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn leap off the page and spring to life. The novel gives the reader an appreciation for the humanity of those who would forever alter the course of England and Christianity.

Wolf Hall is well-researched and captures the confusion and nuances of the debates and the times. While we may never grasp with absolute certainty the complete motivation of the various individuals involved, Mantel presents the individuals in a credible fashion. One is left with a sense of complex people, living in a complex time, seeking to secure a vision of the future.

In a way, Wolf Hall made me appreciate the present. We are complex. Our world is complex. The future is out there, and there are competing visions for it.

I love a good read. For me, a good read always frames more questions. The debates in Wolf Hall are about the nature of marriage, Church, state, Catholic and Protestant. The answers to those questions shaped the world in which we live. What are the questions, we face, that will alter the course of history for the next 500 years?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I did on my Summer Holiday

Having just returned from three weeks in the U.K., I am still processing much of the experience. Part of the holiday was pure leisure and touring, but a significant piece of it, about a week, was trailing after the vicar of St. John's Wood, the Rev’d Anders Bergquist. Last summer, I hosted Fr. Bergquist for a week to explore the Episcopal Church. My week at St. John’s Wood was the culmination of our reciprocal visits. It was that work that has provided much food for thought.

There are a fair number of similarities between our respective parish churches. The churches are roughly of similar vintages. The casual observer recognizes the shared roots of worship forms. While St. John’s Wood is much more ethnically diverse, the demographics around age are similar. Both churches are fortunate to have attractive buildings, but St. John’s Wood is situated in an urban area, while St. Columba’s is in a more bucolic setting.

One major difference, one that has serious implications for ministry, is the concept of a parish. Fr. Bergquist took me for a long walk on my first day. We actually walked much of the parish boundaries. I daresay most Americans think of the words parish and church as roughly interchangeable, meaning a building or group of people dedicated to a finite religious community. Fr. Bergquist has responsibilities to those who live within the confines of his parish, even if they are not part of his church.

The assumptions related to boundaries have interesting implications. On the one hand, focused boundaries are the stuff of community, and foster a sense of responsibility and communicate expectations about belonging. Boundaries create identification, definition and norms that grow out of core values. Boundaries are important.

Boundaries can obviously be barriers to engagement and interaction. Boundaries run amok are not useful parameters, but are closed doors. Maybe, it is a matter of degree.

One stop I particularly enjoyed was an after-school program. The kids there spanned many neighborhoods. They were of many races and religious backgrounds. Fr. Bergquist takes a keen interest in the place, because it is a place in his parish where so many different members of his parish gather.

Can our parishes be more?