Tuesday, February 23, 2010


In preparation for our Lenten Book study, I have been re-reading Resident Aliens. I think I read it the first time back in 1996. Though it had a certain shock value on that first read, now I take for granted much of the perspective of Hauerwas and Willimon.

Resident Aliens is largely about the cultural shifts of the last 40 years. The Church is no longer protected or promoted by western culture. The Church no longer “owns” Sunday. Sabbath is a concept that has been largely lost. Physical plants built for settled neighborhoods are populated by a communities of transients. How does the Church, built for a day gone by, adapt to remain faithful in the present? Maybe the compromised role of the Church in society was not a good thing anyway? Did we build an institution to the detriment of forming followers of Jesus? These are important questions.

There is one image from the preface that strikes me of being of supreme importance. It is the follower of Jesus as a lonely alien, living in a world consumed by concerns that conflict with covenant faithfulness. Isolation and loneliness devolve into self-righteousness or self-hate. Christians live in supportive relationships, marked by countless reminders that we are not alone. God is with us. Friendship is not, therefore, accidental to the Christian life. (pg 13)

If we are to answer our several callings, if we are to practice faithfulness, if we are to be the people of God in this world, it will be together in community.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


There are numerous methods of meditation that exist within Christian tradition. Some rely upon words or phrases from scripture to focus the attention. This type of prayer is generally know as lectio divina. It is about praying with the Bible. Others make use of a sacred word for repetition, that might be scriptural but not necessarily so, to dispense with distractions. This is generally referred to as “Centering Prayer.”

This Lent, I find myself attracted to a form of prayer put forth by St. Ignatius of Loyola. This type of prayer is about calling to mind a scene and becoming a participant in that scene. Using the scriptures makes sense, but isn’t required. It is possible to picture an event in Church history, or an event from the life of a particular saint. Through entering the scene, the supplicant is brought to a deeper experience of the theological significance of an event. This type of meditation can yield a deeper, personal connection that leads to direction.

Here is a a brief framework to begin an exploration of the methodology of St. Ignatius. Twenty minutes should prove a good start.

1-Begin with a brief prayer of intention and invocation of God’s assistance. Using the same prayer over a season is ideal. It should become familiar and facilitate your entrance into the meditation. “God of grace open my heart and mind to you. Visit me this day that I may know your presence and follow where you lead.”

2-Choose a scene related to your desire for the meditation. I am in a process of self-examination, so I am visualizing Peter and Jesus beside the lake, post-resurrection, when Jesus instructs Peter to “Feed my sheep.” Soak up the scene. What do you see? What other senses are employed? Visualize it and place yourself within it.

3-What is offered you in this scene? What grabs you and seems to be for you? How do you relate to the other characters present? Is one of them speaking to you? What do you do with the experience? I engage with Jesus’ connection of loving him and tending his sheep. I plumb the personal depths of what that means for me.

4-Close with the Lord’s Prayer.

This outline is only a starting point, loosely based on my read of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I am certain there are better explications and formats. My only desire is to offer a simple approach to exploration of this method of meditation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I love Ash Wednesday. That may sound like a strange statement to make about the day that marks the beginning of Lent. It is a stark day that invokes themes most of us would rather avoid.

We begin with the Collect for Ash Wednesday:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Phrases like, “lamenting our sins” and “acknowledging our wretchedness” do not create the warm religious feeling most of us think the Gospel embodies. The readings shine a light on religious hypocrisy. The liturgical centerpiece of the day is the imposition of ashes with the reminder of the transitory nature of human life. So what could I possibly love about this observance?

I love the challenge of the day to get honest and real. What proclivities do I possess that are about displacing God, and seeking to be my own god? Is this not the nature of sin, the violation of relationship with God and one another, by seeking to occupy space that is not mine? Are most of my sinful predilections not tied to my denial of my own finitude and the reality of death of the body?

This day is not about being bad. It is about the creative, redemptive love of God, who beckons us near. I need to get honest and real to answer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lenten Book Study

St. Columba’s has a venerable tradition of doing a couple of annual book studies. The Lenten study is by far the most well subscribed. It is always an interesting and rewarding time of study, conversation and spiritual companionship focused on matters of substance.

Choosing a book is no easy task. There are significant considerations. The book should be accessible. It should be of an appropriate length to be substantial, but not too long. It could be about Lent, or about broader themes of history, scripture, or Church.

This year we are going to examine a text that is more about the role of Church and believers in our moment in history. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony is a provocative look at the changing place of Church in the western world. Written a little over 20 years ago, it has a timely quality about it. The reader will see the ways authors, Hauerwas and Willimon, have influenced more current works on the subject. At heart, Resident Aliens forces the reader to consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus in our time.

If you are able, I hope you will plan to attend. If not, or if you are reading this on the blog, read and comment. We can discuss via the blog. As part of my own discipline, I will try to have a weekly post about the book.

Resident Aliens

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Amos House

St. Columba’s has engaged a new outreach partner this year. Amos House is a very impressive program located in Providence that offers a wealth of resources to the homeless and those in need. Amos House offers housing, food, job training, life-stabilization, prescription drugs, and computer courses. Amos House even operates a professional catering service, staffed by program participants, that caters many events for the Diocese of Rhode Island.

In addition to our outreach and diocesan connections, Amos House is served by a talented Vice President, Linda Watkins. Linda is the daughter of our own Bill Watkins. Linda will be with us on Sunday to preach at each service. She is a a powerful servant of Jesus, and will share with us the Gospel work that happens at Amos House.

To discover more about Amos House, come Sunday and have a look at their website.

Amos House