Human microphone: liturgy and pedagogy

By Donald Schell

Just what concrete steps should we take to make a new economic system that’s NOT-

- ruled by a few

- economically unjust

- chronically violent


- religiously legitimated ?

Occupy Wall Street? Actually these four eerily familiar bullet points are Marcus Borg’s description of the ‘four central features’ of ‘the ancient domination system,’ that prophetic voices in the Bible - among them the Deuteronomic code, all the writing prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus, and St. Paul - consistently protest.

Still it’s easy to imagine a contemporary chorus of voices - the human microphone - echoing a leader phrase by phrase as s/he calls out these four ancient marks of economic tyranny at any of the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy gatherings around the country. Where it gets really eerie is the steady complaint in the banking industry and among established politicians that this is protest without program.

Is there some good reason Biblical prophets don’t offer programs and proposals to improve things?

Why didn’t they offer administrative corrections and proposals to regulate the king or fat bulls of Bashan, procedural corrections for the Roman provincial governor, clear wage and profit sharing demands to vineyard owners, or legislative proposals to pass on to the Roman Senate? Could it be that they trusted or hoped the Spirit would work through people’s heightened discontent and utopian vision of what might be? Did they believe there could be intrinsic, sustained power (and inspiration) when people see and reject a system gone wrong and glimpse, how ever faintly, what justice might look like? Could the weak and lowly actually inherit the earth?

In my last piece at the Café, “Like Repeating Fifth Grade,” I quoted a first-time visitor to Episcopal liturgy who’d told a priest colleague that our text-driven, reading together means of achieving liturgical solidarity felt like going back to fifth grade, and I offered my wish or hope to that experience, speaking as a liturgist and Christian educator,

"In the 'how' of liturgy planning (and space design), I'd like us to give serious attention to the radical improvement of singing that happens when people are facing other people, and to encourage the affective power in praying that's evident when we can see feeling on the faces of others formed in God's image."

Among several useful responses and reflections to that Café piece, Dave Paisley wrote –

“So how come most churches are regimented rows of pews that just face forward, focused on the altar? Really, how many people come to church for a music lesson? Gregorian chant? Obscure arrangements of 15th century hymns? These are the acquired tastes of multi-generational Anglo-catholic ascetics that just don't translate well to the "real world". . . .As for atomization - think of your average football game or rock concert - people there don't socialize with their neighbors, but they feel a strong sense of community and can walk away from the event feeling like they were part of something fantastic without ever having exchanged more than an "excuse me" with their neighbors as they stepped past them on their way to the bathroom. Until the church gets out from under the outdated pomp & circumstance it's pretty much doomed to be a relic of a bygone era. Apparently it's OK to be avant-garde socially, but hillbilly backwards in every other respect.”

I appreciate Dave Paisley’s offer (and wake-up call) on behalf of immediate, cultural relevance. If we’re going to depart from pervasive norms, we’ve got to have some good idea of where deviance will take us, we’ve got to have some sense of what we’re doing together, and we’ve got to know how a new practice takes on the familiarity that makes ritual actually work.

What is familiar and makes sense to us? What are our rituals of solidarity? It seems to me that church and broader society have quite different answers, so the descriptions

Dave offered has me wondering what we can learn from lecture hall, football game, and rock concert about our common humanity, and what in our humanity might ask different kinds of practices for formative expression. I have to admit that I get restless and skeptical in lecture format teaching (or liturgy), that I don’t attend or watch football games, and then I’ve been to two rock concerts in my life. So, Dave’s nailed me on sharing ‘the acquired tastes of multi-generational Anglo-Catholic ascetics.’ I happily admit that I loved those black and white photos of mass at Christ Church, New Haven Derek Olsen posted in his Episcopal Café story on church ethos. And it’s accurate coming and going - I am also grateful that our church manages to be (more or less) “avant-garde socially and hillbilly backwards in every other respect.”

I do worry that electronic media when I’ve seen it used plays to our isolation and (like print media but more so) imposes an external authority over a gathering. So, back to Occupy Wall Street, I’ve been excited to watch and listen to video of human microphones. The call and echo ritual of the Occupy gatherings around the country was invented as a way around a new generation of civic ordinances gutting the Constitution’s protection of public assembly and protest speech.

City ordinances against demonstrations using megaphones or P.A. Systems without special permits are intended to limit free speech. It’s sad, but there’s nothing new or interesting there. History gives us a long list of tactics to the same end - censorship, exile, crucifixion, torture, intimidation, police standing ‘unable’ to control a mob, media silence.

But what did the political and logistical demands of communicating in an unlicensed assembly produce? A practical solution that forges strong cohesion, and perhaps a kind of communion among group members.

Two articles on the human microphone phenomenon offer a neat, contradictory opinion guide without either noticing that we’re talking about how liturgy and all ritual assemblies work.

Richard Kim wrote “We are all human microphones now,” for The Nation – it’s his appreciative response to hearing and watching human microphone.

And L.E. Dyer wrote ‘”Human Microphone” tactic: Scary or just Moronic?” from a near-opposite, dismissive (or concerned) perspective.

For liturgist or Christian educator, familiar questions in planning rite or learning re-echo with these voices in the street. With the human microphone we make forced discoveries. No-tech communication methods throw new light on what kinds of communication and what rituals establish solidarity. And, though I think she’s misread what’s the holy anarchy and hopes for organic consensus making in the Occupy movement, Dyer raises useful questions

- do ritual voice and action inevitably lead to group-think?
- is the fellow-feeling of protest a precursor to violence?
- how can creativity and new thinking emerge in a highly structured group setting (like a liturgy)?

The questions aren’t new. They were common concerns in the Roman Empire where urgent need for control looked to prevent any emerging troublesome solidarity among conquered peoples. They’re the reasons that drumming was banned with the slaves in the Southern U.S. and they were the impetus that birthed the dance forms of Capoeira that veiled martial and spiritual training from slave owners in Brazil. Group work and group solidarity CAN birth freedom as St. Paul implies saying, “We have the mind of Christ” and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Dyer’s critique is based in the reality that any ritual repetition that numbs the mind and steels the heart can and probably will eventually erupt in atrocity. Even seventy years later watching poor quality black and white tapes of Hitler’s Nuremberg Rallies, I feel conflicting body responses and wonder how something can be both morally gut-wrenching and compellingly spine-tingling at once. Programmed, manipulated solidarity that kills critical thinking and conscience makes a dangerous tool in the hands of a destructive leader, whether the result is mob rag against a scapegoated enemy or mass suicide, Jim Jones’s followers obediently heeding the P.A. amplified command to drink poisoned Kool-Aid.

But ritually forged solidarity can go somewhere quite different, because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” What difference in leadership and in participation turn liturgy (or public ritual like the human microphone) into a jazz-like creative process capable of revealing and loosing love, beauty, and discovery? That discovery process, ritual forging a common mind that blesses freedom, is the common inspiration for mass at Christ Church, New Haven and the Eucharist for OccupyBoston , and both liturgies share with the rest of the Occupy movement foundational learning processes that give us language (music, gesture, and sound), selfhood, and one another.

Our humanity and individual experience is born from call and imitate, repetition, repetition, call and imitate, repetition, repetition, repetition, issues in discovery, freedom, autonomy. We watched it again when our new grandson discovered the communicating power of imitation (leading and following both), sticking out his tongue. The stage passed so quickly, and not so many months later were excitedly cataloguing his words. But speech and communication in relationship follows the same learning and formational pattern. I love the memory of how my eldest daughter back from college and baking cookies in the kitchen found herself teaching her baby brother not to touch the hot oven door. I walked in just as she said, “hot!” reaching her hand out toward the oven door, but drawing it back abruptly before she did touch. “Hot!” our youngest repeated, his first word, or actually the twentieth iteration of the same first word. They’d been repeating the revelatory sound and gesture back and forth to waves of laughter. “Don’t bother us, Dad,” she said, “We’re communicating.”

Imitation and repetition had led them into the joyful communion of discovering not just a first word but also his discovery of how language worked and a shared glimpse of language opening to rich human relationship. Ritually, they rejoiced to linger in their discovery, joyfully watching it deepen and grow.

Ritual speech or music-making birth human communion and take us to their source, the discovery point of communication. BUT solidarity often issues in violence. What difference in leadership or in the assembly or in the practice takes ritual toward freedom and moral courage? Isn’t imitation the path to mindless conformity? How does the imitation of Christ foster and bless our individual personhood? What kind of leader and what kind of group make this a practice of freedom and joy rather than a practice of readily manipulated, violence-prone elation? Consider how jazz happens (and for that matter how some parts of Baroque music happened in their time). It shows us the foundational building blocks of learning and that learning happens where the joining together of Spirit makes us fully human. I don’t think any of us have wholly satisfactory answers, but we can begin by noticing where solidarity issues in freedom and compassion and creativity and noticing where it issues in the opposite.

Holding the question of discernment (or method) in mind, let’s return to Marcus Borg’s description of the Bible’s repudiation of the ancient system of economic domination to ask how we listen to the human microphone to find the challenges and inspirations that won’t make sustaining corrections to a system that’s steadily widening the circle of poverty. Might the human microphone help us hear and feel how mirroring with voice and body, we take the Beatitudes to heart? Is the power of God actually manifest in the voice of the poor, the hungry and thirsty, and the mourning?

The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is President of All Saints Company.

Jesus and Abba

by Deirdre Good

Inspite of the fact that scholars since 1988 have made it clear that Abba isn't Daddy, preachers and theologians continue to assert confidently that Jesus' address to God reflects a unique relationship, that of child to parent. This unique relationship, they argue, is central to Jesus' teaching and distinct from Judaism. But is "Abba" indeed a unique way to address God and what else might it imply?

Mark's Gospel preserves the one occasion when Jesus addresses God as "Abba." In Mark's account of Gethsemane Jesus prays to be delivered from arrest, torture, and the crucifixion. "Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Now in Matthew and Luke's versions of Jesus' prayer to God in Gethsemane, Jesus begins the prayer by saying, "My Father…" (Matthew 26:39) and "Father…" (Luke 22:42). In both cases, Jesus addresses God either in the nominative as an address to God (Matthew) or in the vocative as direct address (Luke). Each version uses language of the gospel to which it belongs. Matthew's language connects to the version of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father, which art in heaven.." (Matt 6:11) and Luke's echoes the version of the Lord's Prayer in Luke 6:3, "Father…" In both cases, the Aramaic word "Abba" and it's Greek equivalent, "Father" found in Mark has entirely disappeared.

So only Mark's gospel preserves the intimacy of Jesus' address to God as "Abba" and this address occurs only in Gethsemane. No other gospel indicates that Jesus prays to God in this way. And Mark's gospel has no version of the Lord's Prayer.

We can agree that only Mark conveys Jesus' use of Aramaic. Now if we assume that Mark's Gospel is the first to be written, and that Matthew and Luke used Mark in the composition of their gospels, then we can see at least two features of Jesus' Aramaic words in Mark: whenever Jesus uses Aramaic, the words are translated into Greek presumably for the sake of Mark's listeners who were not familiar with Aramaic. And in Matthew and Luke's versions of these same stories, Jesus words are recorded only in Greek. If they were ever spoken in Aramaic, hardly a trace remains in Matthew and Luke.

When Jesus heals the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, he grasps her hand and says, "Talitha koumi" which Mark translates immediately as "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" (Mark 5:41). Matthew 9:25 and Luke 8:54 do not record Jesus' Aramaic words, if there were any. Similarly, Jesus' healing word to the man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment is "Ephphatha!" to which Mark adds, "That is, Be opened!" (Mark 7:34). Any Aramaic words are absent from a parallel passage in Matthew 15:30 and the episode is unrecorded in Luke.

Both Matthew and Mark however render slightly different versions of Jesus' cry from the cross in Aramaic, " Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani!" which they translate as "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46). In both gospels, people who hear Jesus' words in Aramaic mistakenly think he is calling Elijah. They didn't have the benefit of Mark's or Matthew's renditions because they were living, not hearing, the gospel. And they didn't hear Psalm 22.

So whether in healings, or in a prayer for deliverance, or a cry of despair, Mark's gospel preserves and translates Jesus' Aramaic exclamations. Except for Matthew's account of Jesus' last words, when Matthew, Luke and John report these healings or events, Mark's Aramaic words are eliminated or simply not mentioned.

The fact that Mark translates Jesus' Aramaic speech is worth noting. Think about Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane for a minute. Is it likely that Jesus uttered a bilingual prayer in Gethsemane using both Aramaic and Greek in the opening petition? Probably not. But Mark renders the scene by keeping the strangeness, even the magical character of the Aramaic at the same time as translating the foreign words into Greek. So he moves hearers from the unknown language of Aramaic to the more universally known one, Greek. And Mark translates "Abba" not as "Daddy" but as "Father!"

Now when Jesus addresses God as "Father," Jesus joins his petition for deliverance to those of other Jews in his time e.g. Sirach 23:1,4; and Wisdom 14,3. In 4Q372 1:16, the "Joseph prayer," Joseph calls God "my Father" and pleads that God would save him from the hands of the Gentiles. So to argue that no contemporary Jewish prayer contains this form of address for God is to ignore the evidence. Jesus is a devout Jew whose prayer language fits with his time and place.

Further, to argue that Jesus' use of "Abba" is unique is simply not true. On two occasions in his letters, Romans 8:15 and Gal 4:6, Paul describes "Abba, Father!" as the cry of newly adopted believers calling on a relationship to God they can now claim as their own. Paul's letters predate the gospels. The cry "Abba, Father!" recorded by Paul expresses the ecstatic speech of those newly adopted into the faith from a Gentile background in Asia Minor or elsewhere. It seems unconnected to Jesus' petition for deliverance at Gethsemane. On the lips of Paul's addressees, it is the cry of outsiders becoming insiders, perhaps as they take part in a ritual signaling transference, not an insider praying for escape from something awful about to happen.

So it might be better to say that Jesus' address of God as "Abba" is distinctive rather than unique. It is part and parcel of the religious prayer language of Jesus' day. What makes it distinctive is that it reflects language Jesus used that Mark regards as secret, and perhaps even magical. As such, it needs to be translated into Greek every time Jesus uses it. How extraordinary it is that so many interpreters cling to "Abba" as indicating Jesus' unique relationship to God in mysterious language from which gospel writers seek to escape!

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. An American citizen, she grew up in Kenya and keeps the blog On Not Being a Sausage.

Doing Christ: incarnation and liturgy

by Christopher Evans

Historians and theologians sometimes argue that a catholic emphasis is on seeing God and an evangelical or Reformation emphasis is on hearing God. Both arguments may be partly true, though Luther’s retaining of the elevation at Wittenberg muddies this overly drawn distinction every bit as much as do Benedictine monks at prayer. After all, any good Benedictine-type would point out that both are actually catholic. And where iconoclasm did not take hold of the Reformers, God’s Visible Word as sacrament remained central to proclamation. And have you seen the St. Mary’s Church altarpiece in Wittenberg? We Anglicans on the other hand had to recover from spastic fits of image hatred. Our praying reformed the excesses in time.

To hear the Word, Christ Jesus, and to see the Word, Christ Jesus, are of the whole and of proclamation. They are one. The Reformer’s emphasized one more than the other, but that is not unusual to larger catholic tradition either. Time and context always play a part in highlighting one or another catholic emphasis in prayer.

Our time, in my opinion, requires highlighting a full-sensory experience in the face of a technologized reduction of life to sight and sound. In our time, the Incarnation is at stake, not only in icon or proclamation, but in flesh and blood and clay and dust. Comfort with grinding poverty and ecological devastation are the most acute facets of our capitulation to a docetic Christology quite at home with a technologized society focused on sight, sound, production, consumption, use, and usefulness.

Our Christian failure to attend to our relatedness to the entirety of the cosmos through, with, and in Emmanuel-Incarnate-Word, Christ Jesus, has roots in our failure to attend to the full-sensory experience of the Incarnation at prayer. In attending to the Incarnation at prayer, our senses are renewed to experience all of creation as God’s dwelling place. We may even be surprised to find ourselves drawn to reverence and attend to grass, and earthworms, and one another. Veneration, after all, is not only intended for icons or Saints who have passed into the heart of Christ, but is a stance toward all life and “being-with” [1]: all life barely, sentient, and conscious and all “being-with,” mineral, vegetable, animal…, angel.

So I want to draw our attention to skin, if you will. On Sunday mornings when I am able to suspend my spousal duties at my partner’s parish to attend my own parish, I look forward to the censing of the Gospel Book processed into the middle of the congregation. I close my eyes for just a second and breathe in deeply the smells of myrrh and frankincense. The sweet bitter pungent smoke announces every bit as much as the Sanctus, Christ Jesus—and by means of His Person the Persons Three, present and showing up explicitly, coming among us in cloud and fire to meet the entire people of God in the mystery of smell as much as resonance of sound. And when I bow reverently at “The Holy Gospel according to Saint…,,” I respond in spine and clasped hands to the One Who makes them for attention and reverence.

At Holy Communion, as I raise the chunk of bread cupped in my hands ever so carefully and attentively and reverently to bring Jesus to my lips, I smell the goodness of the Lord, the goodness of the One Who Is With Us And Causes Us To Be With warm and yeasty with crusts. And I remember that, no, actually, we do live by Bread alone, for God so attends to our creatureliness that God in Christ Jesus, by Whom alone we live, has so identified with us as to meet us as creatures and give himself to us now as bread, as creature still. I am reminded of that ditty attributed to Elizabeth I or John Donne. “Is” and “as” are powerful words.[2]

In the Incarnation, God brings together what we would divide in our desire to flee the flesh, our desire to be other than creatures, our sin.[3] In the Incarnation, God is with creatureliness, and through, with, and in the Second Person, with each and every created.[4] In Christ, God meets us on the margins of Godself, if you will and enters into life with us. The cosmos, the entire creation is brought into God’s own life in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. And through the Left and Right Hands of the Father, each and all existing too is icon, Book, and yes, Christ-dimensioned symmetry if we but pay attention even through all of the mess and sin and death.

The paradox is that the Incarnation leads us to embrace of our creaturehood, and by that embrace, that comfort with being skin, grace works in us the divine relating precisely through flesh and blood and clay and dust. Ss. Irenaeus and Athanasius glimpsed this so long ago as the paradox and joy of the Incarnation. Yet this happens not through miserable hatred or a spiritualizing angelism of human being or triumphant escape of flesh, but precisely through embrace of our created existence and loving of all life and “being- with.”

And so I lick the last crumb of Jesus from my palm in preparation for the sweet, sticky wine. And bringing the cup to my lips, I touch the garment, the very goodness of Christ.

We are not just eyes and ears, something for which technology can easily account and turn to use. We are noses, and taste buds, and nerve endings where the brain extends into our skin and our skin touches the cerebrum to make indeed the “body’s mind compound.” [5] Our senses demand liturgy, theo-poetry, full sensory encounter. Such encounter is contrary to a socio-economy that reduces everything to use and usefulness. I’m reminded of the woman with nard. She knows liturgy.

Liturgy at its best not only gives us a vision of God through colorful clothing and paraments and postures and gestures meant for our seeing the Lord, and liturgy at its best not only gives us the hearing of God through words and singing. Liturgy brings us to encounter with God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and by means of this One of all created existence.

We smell, taste, and touch God too. Liturgy, if it be Christian, concerns itself with the fullness of all created, for it concerns itself of encounter with the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ, the Person in Whom by particularity as human being, the whole of heaven is come to meet the creation and all of the cosmos is brought to Father in high priestly representation. God chooses to bless all of creation through the particularity of this Human One, and in this One, through all of humanity. We might like to think us special then? A chosen people set apart. But lest we forget our humble relatedness, we are reminded again and again in Scripture that God chooses the particular one and ones not for ourselves but to bless the whole, to witness to the Word among each and all in the fullness of createdness, among every creature and their kind. Imagine when we shall meet with awe and reverence other conscious beings, not out in the far reaches of space, but here on our shared earth? Imagine ourselves good elder siblings to the many varied-conscious creatures of earth: crows, dolphins, gray parrots, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, elephants, and more?

So this encounter leads us not further into a sanctuary of escape, but into a cosmos where the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch of creatures each and all is intended to declare a God who meets us through flesh and blood and clay and dust. God became human being, not that we might lord it over one another or other creatures, but that we might witness to God’s blessing each and all in word and image and deed.

In the concentrated form of encounter with the Incarnate One in liturgy, our senses are open to Christ’s Presence at work hiddenly in general society and all of creation. And we are called to Name Christ there and “do” Christ. Only by incense, can I recognize Christ in the smell of aged piss that covers the alley behind my parish, urging attention to and reverence for beloveds without a place to lay their heads. Only by meeting Christ in the sanctuary in the fullness of frankincense and color and bread am I nourished to encounter all of creation as sanctuary, God’s dwelling place, God’s home. Only by encounter of the Incarnation at prayer am I strengthened to engage with worldliness, in Church or general society, in myself and in others, all that would destroy flesh, all that would denigrate creatures, all that would deny that in Christ Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit each and all of us are related to God.

[1] From the works of Douglass John Hall. I recently started reading Hall for the first time and found we shared insights about creatureliness, God’s self-identification with us, and God’s going all the way for us in the Incarnation.
[2] I owe this insight to Alvin Kimmel’s work on Martin Luther.
[3] See Luther’s Lectures on Genesis.
[4] See the work of George Tinker.
[5] Christopher Evans, “Scar Tissue,” Unpublished manuscript.

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

Rummage Sale Spirituality

By Kathy Staudt

I’ve never been a big fan of church fundraisers, but for various reasons I’ve spent the past few months helping organize a rummage sale at church. To my surprise, the process has been something of a spiritual practice for me and I think for others involved: A spiritual practice, i.e. something we do that helps us to be more open to the Holy Spirit at work in our common life, and to become more and more available to God.

Like many congregations, we had some history to challenge us in this area: for years, the women’s group of the founding congregation had run a monthly “opportunity shop” -- it dwindled in the late 1990’s when it became clear that there was not a sufficient critical mass of women in the new generation who could devote the huge amounts of during-the-day time required for the monthly sorting and pricing. If that was the only way to do a rummage sale, then the times for such events has simply passed. But after many years’ hiatus, some newer members had become established members, and wondered why we couldn’t have a rummage sale? Their experience of rummage sales came out of church experience in West Africa. A few of the “op shop” women were still willing to pass on some of their wisdom and to give generously of time-- a lot of daytime hours -- for this one event. So the challenge was to pass on the wisdom and still share ownership of new ways of doing this. It could not “belong” to just one small group, or it would be too much work. So we made it about participation: open to anyone: People could participate by coming to sort and price for an hour or two or by working on a Monday holiday, or by coming in the evening the night before the sale. There were still people who worked longer hours than others, but it was like the parable of the laborers in the vineyard: everyone who participated contributed something, and the rewards were the same for all. Meanwhile, energy grew around the emerging “rummage sale committee” and many of the women of the church -- now representing the many cultural backgrounds in our congregation -- began to offer time, cooking, ideas. Planning meetings started to happen - boisterous and disorganized by my own standards, but ultimately kind of fun.

Now, none of what we were doing looked particularly spiritual: the process involved organizational meetings, dickering over who was supposed to do publicity and how it should be done; navigating potential “turf wars,” and in our multicultural congregation, making sure we were really “hearing” each other, addressing perceived slights before they escalated, giving everyone a voice. We did pretty well -- not perfectly-- at this. There was tension sometimes, and there was also some hilarity: (I never knew how much the phrase “white elephant” belonged to my northern “yankee” tradition -- my Southern US and west African sisters were mystified by the term until I was able to show them how it applied to some of the more outrageous pieces of household junk we received!) Everyone will have feedback about what didn’t work, and I’ll chalk those up to “lessons learned” for another time. But my sense is that at the end of the event we all felt we had done something good together, and for the church. To quote some wise words of our friend the Rev. Rondesia Jarrett, “Everybody got fed. No one got hurt.” Not a bad mantra for any family event.

The other thing a rummage sale offers is what I’d call the “ministry of stuff.” Knowing it was happening allowed me to finally bite the bullet and clean out my closets and it has been great to lighten the load of stuff in my household. (the books, alas, will have to await another year). Some of what we sold included the possessions of people who had died-- a chance for widows and widowers to let go of those things and give them to the church. We spent hours and hours sorting through people’s stuff, a ministry in itself -- and deciding how to price and organize and present and publicize. There was potential controversy in all of these steps- - and it took a lot of good will for newcomers and old timers to work it out together. But we did. The process of pricing and sorting creates its own little women’s culture, where the things create stories: “Oh, that’s a dress I made of silk I bought in Japan in the 1970’s.” “Now there’s a clever gadget: I never thought of that before. . . “ etc. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re buying these plates: I really used to enjoy them when I did more entertaining!”

The day of the sale, people from the neighborhood came by, as well as people from all over the county who had seen our ad. A young adult woman from the neighborhood recalled Girl Scout meetings and community events from her childhood that happened in our building and shared a sense of “coming home.” Others remembered the “op shop” at our church building years before, and wondered if we were bringing it back. Meanwhile, Spanish-speaking members of the congregation came to shop and help interpret if necessary -- and reminded us that another year we should do a lot more advertising in Spanish because that’s who lives around here. All of this reminded us of where we are located in this community. I was glad of what some people saw when they came: - a multi-racial, cross-cultural community, working together and getting along. I hope there was a gospel word in just the way we were together.

When it was all over, the clothes went to a local clothes closet for the homeless, and the leftovers from the bake sale will go into lunch bags for the community shelter week: further reminders of how we are connected to our local community.

We made some money, too - a little over $1500 after expenses. I was glad of that and already reflecting on how to do better next time. But for me the experience was about working together in community. The fact that it was “for the church” was the bond: And in much of what we were doing here, we were learning how to be together, trying to be, truly the “church of Our Saviour” -- which is also the name of our parish. We may do better next time. But this time through, we worked together to make something good happen in our neighborhood, and we did it well. And I for one learned something about the nitty-gritty of loving one another, navigating interpersonal, intercultural challenges because deep down what draws us all here is the desire to be a part of a common life. Perhaps this will shape us. Perhaps our neighbors saw it, too. That is my hope and my prayer.

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

Communicating your parish ethos

By Derek Olsen

A clergy friend, Robert Hendrickson at Christ Church New Haven, has been doing some artwork for his church and putting the results up on Facebook. I can say without qualification that he’s got more artistic sense in his little finger than I have in my whole body because these things are terrific. Simple, restrained, black-and-white photos with just a splash of muted color, these images from parish worship are paired with tag-lines that are clever—ironic, even, as their main target is the young-to-hipster set for whom irony is a native tongue.

The reason why I think these posters are so great is because they do such an effective job at communicating the parish ethos.

smoking_section.jpgWhere we participate in corporate worship and the experience that we find there has a major effect on our experience of the Christian life with God and shapes our theology and spirituality. Yes, we all use the Book of Common Prayer, but the question is how we use it. How do we embody the texts of our liturgy? How do we clothe it? How do we own and incarnate the words and phrases to bring them to life in the peculiar particularities in which we live our lives?

The ethos or “character” of a place is a combination of factors. It seems to me that a classic description of the old English Anglo-Catholic stronghold, All Saints Margaret Street, was one attempt to define a community’s ethos: “Music by Mozart, Decor by Comper; Choreography by Fortescue; but, my dear boy, libretto by Cranmer.”

It’s fair to say that an ethos is a combination of:

• Architecture
• Music
• Ceremonial
• Liturgy
• Decoration
• Attitude and Execution of the Liturgy by the Clergy
• Attitude and Execution of the Liturgy by the Congregation

The last two cannot be overlooked. Reverent, pompous, attentive, energetic, bored, sloppy: it’s remarkable how one community can project a completely different ethos from another even when many of the other elements are the same.

After hearing and participating in “worship wars” for well over a decade, I think such discussions often fail by being too narrowly focused. That is,christ-church-ad.jpg people argue over music, liturgy, and ceremonial. But more often I think what they really intend is the overall package—the ethos of a worshipping community—and considering elements in abstraction can’t grapple fully with the issue of ethos.

The posters communicate an ethos. The black-and-white shots depict worship that is traditional—very traditional—yet the faces in the photos and the “voices” of the tag-lines are young. The ethos communicated is of a parish that worships well, that cares deeply about its liturgy and the traditions that inform it. It’s traditional, but not traditionalist; it takes God seriously, and itself a little less seriously.

In and amongst the photos of silver and smoke, we are invited to a mystery. Not so it can be explained away or talked to death—but that we can dive within it and find at the center of the mystery the key to our longing.

(From the comments - here is a link to all the ads. ~ed.)

Derek Olsen recently finished his Ph.D. in New Testament at Emory University. He has taught seminary courses in biblical studies, preaching, and liturgics; he currently resides in Maryland. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X/Y dad appear at Haligweorc.

Learning from silence

By Maria Evans

"I believe in the sun even if it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent."

~~Author unknown, allegedly found on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany which was a hiding place during the Holocaust.

Just north of my driveway, in a little rectangular tongue of my pasture, is an incredibly large and stately cottonwood tree--about 70-80 feet tall. Once upon a time there must have been other trees near it--it is not entirely straight but cants about 20 degrees to the east--but it presently stands alone in its magnificently imperfect beauty. One of the greatest joys in my remote country "home in the hayfield" is hearing the distinct flapping of my granddaddy cottonwood tree. I have a couple of smaller ones in other parts of my pasture, but they are not particularly close to the house. In the years I have lived here, it's served occasionally as both a home to Baltimore orioles, and a singles bar for un-mated male mockingbirds who carried on well past midnight. But its primary function in life has been simply to make the wonderful heavenly applause that only a cottonwood tree can make.

The waning days of fall always bring an auditory sadness to my day-to-day life. Each spring begins a cycle of sound to my world. The first cottony dusting of the seeds on my truck reminds me the leaves will be sprouting soon, and I start to train my ears to hear them. The first day the leaves have developed enough to be heard is always a joyful day in my life, no matter what tasks I have before me. Summer brings the constant companionship of its leafy song--so constant (the wind ALWAYS blows in Northeast Missouri) that I almost forget it's there. But it's fall--as the leaves begin to thin out and drop--that reminds me the most of the sound it makes.

Cottonwoods don't drop their leaves all at once. My tree undergoes a roughly five week process of leafy alopecia, getting thinner and thinner, green first mixed with yellow and then brown, my driveway turning browner and browner from the leaves. As it wanes, it seems the remaining leaves get louder and louder as they vigorously flap more openly without their neighbors--or is it my hearing that has become more and more keen?--until the day comes I step outside and hear nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Every year, that silence grips my heart. What if for some reason it dies over the winter? What if we have one of those late season tornadoes we are known for and it crashes to the ground, or into my garage, or even my house? I simply cannot do without the noise of my cottonwood tree.

I have come to changing the conversation of this silence in the last couple of years to take away my fear. When that fearful moment begins to tighten around my rib cage, I have started to loosen that grip with a single thought: Advent is coming.

One of the things I appreciate about the wisdom of our liturgical calendar is that it contains two seasons of planned silence--Advent and Lent. Both seasons remind me of a very important piece of the Biblical cycle of
Creation-->Sin-->Repentance-->Restoration/Resurrection --that for things to be reborn, they must often die to themselves. That we don't get to choose the nature of the restoration. That we will be given enough to make it through this time of silence. That what springs forth in the new season will most likely be better than we could have imagined or chosen for ourselves. That it is precisely when things seem the deadest is when the most diligent work of restoration is taking place. My cottonwood tree is not uncomfortable with its silence. I am.

The waning of Time after Pentecost is the perfect time for us to, like the slow five week thinning process of my cottonwood tree, ease into the silence of Advent with anticipation despite the dread. If we only focus on the dread, we deafen ourselves to the tiny stirrings of life inside the womb of Advent. I remind myself that when my cottonwood tree is silent, much is taking place in its outermost limbs, beneath the scaly plates of the little brown buds at their tips, and before long, those buds will swell to bursting and re-open. Even when I imagine my worst case scenario--what if my tree meets its demise?--I hear a voice asking me, "When you can no longer hear the rustle of the cottonwood leaves, what tree will you hear, that you've never heard before?"

What might God tell each of us in the silence, that we've never heard before, because the noise of the familiar was too comforting?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Excommunication of Truth

By James R. Mathes

In an online story published by The Wall Street Journal, titled “Twenty-first Century Excommunication,” and accompanied by a video interview of the reporter, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, the recent property disputes of The Episcopal Church were grossly mischaracterized. I have served as the Episcopal bishop of San Diego for almost seven years, and in that capacity dealt with three congregations in which the ordained leaders and their followers attempted to leave the Episcopal Church with parish property. In these dealings, I was threatened with death and told I will go to hell by those who claim to love Jesus more than I do. Other colleagues have had similar experiences, from death threats to being spit at during church services. Ms. Hemingway would have you believe that the animus we have received is about scriptural interpretation, but make no mistake: this is about power.

To fully understand this situation, it is important to grasp the canonical (i.e. legal) structure of The Episcopal Church. Parishes are creations of the diocese in which they are situated, in some cases deriving their tax exempt status because they are an irrevocable part of the diocese. As a condition of ordination, clergy vow obedience to their bishop. Congregations begin as mission churches under the direct supervision and financial support of the bishop with property held by the diocese. When such a church becomes a parish, by vote of diocesan legislature, the congregation pledges to be subordinate to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church as well as the constitution and canons of the diocese. After becoming a parish, they may incorporate under the religious incorporation statutes of the state in which the congregation is situated. The diocese will usually transfer title to real property to the parish at that time to be held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

When individuals purported to alienate property which had be given to The Episcopal Church, I was bound by my fiduciary role as a bishop to prevent that from happening. Because The Episcopal Church, like so many others, follows state laws of incorporation, I had no alternative but to file suit in civil court to remedy the matter. This is analogous to a landlord finally going to civil court to gain relief from a non-paying renter or an owner using legal means to deal with a squatter. Thus, those leaving The Episcopal Church were catalysts of these law suits by breaking their solemn vows and by attempting to seize property they had no right to possess.

What is particularly regrettable about Ms. Hemingway’s piece is confusion about the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which is easily remedied with a simple visit to the Anglican Communion’s official website. There you will find every diocese of The Episcopal Church in their cycle of prayer; you will not find The Anglican Church in North American on that list. This is not to say they do not need our prayers. It is simply an indicator of who is an Anglican and who has merely appropriated the label. You will not find Missouri Synod Lutherans there either. Thus, The Episcopal Church remains a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. Despite Ms. Hemingway’s interpretations, our leader (called a primate), the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a participant in the Meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion; Robert Duncan, the leader of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, is not. At our last House of Bishops meeting, a gathering of all bishops of The Episcopal Church, we were visited by the primates of Japan and Central Africa. Like an eclectic extended family, we have our differences, but we regularly gather together.

Ms. Hemingway suggests that The Episcopal Church is depriving these departing Episcopalians of a relationship to Anglican bishops and foreign dioceses. Oddly, these individuals claim to desire a relationship with a bishop of their own choosing. But bishops are those who by definition maintain order and oversight over the church. To put it in historical terms, this is rather like choosing to secede from the nation when the current leadership is not to your liking. Thus, when the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church urges her colleagues not to provide aid and comfort to those who would undermine our church, she has history on her side.

In the final analysis, no one has been excommunicated; rather some individuals have left our church. On their way out, they have tried to take what does not belong to them and, in an unimaginative attempt to cover their unseemly behavior, they have pointed the finger at their victim, The Episcopal Church. The Wall Street Journal and Ms. Hemingway have either been duped or shown a stunning lack of care in reporting. The only thing in this story that has been excommunicated is the truth.

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

ed. note
Who is in full communion? from Anglicans Online

Tinkering our way into oblivion? Theory U

By Linda Grenz

The trend lines for attendance, membership and finances in the Episcopal Church continue to show declines. Some of the changes are simply due to demographics – our attendance trends largely follow the rise (Baby Boomers) and fall (Busters) of the Anglo US population. One place we have failed to keep pace is in serving people of color – the fastest growing portion of the US population – which is the primary reason why our percentage share of the population is falling.

Many of the changes we are discussing in the church now are a natural result of those population shifts. In the 1950-60’s we built churches, education wings, programs and services to meet the needs of all those families with young children. That growth rippled through the system: dioceses and the church-wide organization expanded along with parishes. But when the population boom ended, we failed to adjust our systems. The end result is that the current members have to work harder and give more to maintain a church life that no longer fits their situation and fails to attract newcomers. Programs to “fix” the problem demand even more time and money – and many fail to produce the hoped for results. Eventually some people give up and leave. Others stay but are exhausted and dispirited – poignantly expressed in the comment: “Church feels like just another job.” Dedicated clergy and laity fail to find the depth of spiritual life or the engagement in God’s mission that they desire.

Organizational systems theory says that a system is designed to produce what it is producing. If you like what the system is producing but want to “improve it,” tinkering with the system enables you to produce a better result . . . faster, better, cheaper. But if you don’t like what the system is producing, you have to change the system.

A crisis generally is what motivates us to change. But the question is: Will we change the system or tinker with it? Others may have a different answer, but I’m not satisfied with producing more of what we are now producing (exhausted, dispirited members, declining numbers and spiritual vitality). . .even if we can do it faster, better, and cheaper! Restructuring will get us efficiencies, but it won’t get us a different end result.

Most organizations react to a crisis – what Otto Scharmer in Theory U calls a Level 1 response. The “voice of judgment” rises during this stage. The second level he identifies is redesigning – changing the underlying structure and process (that’s what is now being discussed on the HoD/B listserv). The “voice of cynicism” is the dominant blocking factor at this stage. And this is where most organizations stop – they re-organize or they re-structure and about 70% of them fail to transform their organization. If we stop at reorganizing and restructuring, it will simply enable us to continue producing the same thing faster, better, cheaper.

If we want to get a different result (and I, at least, do), we need to go deeper. Reframing is the third level. This level changes our thinking, not just our organizational structure or processes. It requires letting go of our habitual ways of seeing and thinking and reframing – this is where the “voice of fear” becomes loudest. Fear because, if we do that, we need to look seriously at questions like:

• Where is God at work in the world around us and, if we had no structures or ways of being the church already in mind, what would we create to align ourselves with and participate in doing God’s mission?

• Who are we, who do we say Jesus is and how does that shape how we live and “are church?”

• Is a legislative convention the way we must or should make decisions? Or might there be a whole other way of building a collaborative decision-making process?

• Are dioceses an essential organizational structure for us to be the church? Or might there be another way to organize ourselves to do mission?

• Are bishops or a Presiding Bishop or priests, or paid staff, etc. essential for us to be the church?

• Are church buildings, as we currently envision them, essential or the best way for us to create sacred space for people to worship and…?

One exercise I suggest to churches is to write down everything you do, look at each item and ask: If we stopped doing this, would we still be the church?

After “letting go” of our assumptions, our notions, our understanding of how to be church, we get to the bottom of the U, where we need to re-generate – go to the place of core purpose and ask: Where does our commitment come from? What is the ground/source of our existence? In the faith community, that means we stop, retreat, reflect and reconnect with God. Scharmer calls that place “presencing” – shifting our perception from what was in the past to the Source of a future possibility that is emerging. This is what we call, “discerning God’s will for us.”

Then, and only then, can we begin to live into that emerging future: co-creating new thinking and principles, co-creating new core activities and process and finally co-creating new structures and practices. Scharmer calls this process Theory U because the first three steps take us down through a process of shedding old ways of thinking and being to a focus on our core purpose and establishing a common commitment and then back up through three parallel steps of re-creating.

This process is designed to transform secular organizations – but it is really the faith community’s process, translated into business language. Over two decades of research in the field of organizational systems theory affirms what we, in the church, have always known: that when we are willing to follow Moses out of Egypt (that which oppresses us) and go through the wilderness where we learn to discern and follow God’s leading, we will get to the Promised Land. We know that on a personal level – and spiritual directors help us go through that process. We know it on a communal level and we repeatedly tell that story of letting go, dying, relying on God, following The Way and discovering new life.

Practioners of organizational systems theory (like Scharmer in Theory U) might have fancy names for it, but I think it is simply telling our story and using our DNA to transform organizations. We would do well to follow in this way rather than just looking at restructuring or, worse yet, spending our energy on giving voice to judgment, cynicism and fear.

This is a pivotal moment in the life of the Episcopal Church. We have the power to choose life. God did not allow the Israelites to blame others for their captivity in Babylon. God’s Word to them is also God’s Word to us: “get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.” (Exekiel 18:31b-32)

The Rev. Linda L. Grenz is publisher and CEO of LeaderResources. Her DMin project on using organizational systems theory and spiritual practices to transform church systems includes an online course to help congregations and groups implement a process that integrates systems theory and traditional spiritual practices.

Money, might and the name of God

How many Christians know what the opening of the Lord's Prayer--Hallowed be your name--really means? It's a prayer that owns up to a crisis, getting right into God's face. No wonder the early church devised the introduction "as our Savior Christ has commanded and taught us, we are bold to say," admitting that the prayer is so blatantly frank that we need reminding who gave us the right to pray it.

The crisis is that God's name, God's honor, reputation, integrity, has been disgraced by the infidelity of his own people. We have made God irrelevant, incredible or disgusting to millions of our fellow beings whose image of God has been deformed by our spiritual impotence and stupidities. Our dilute 'updated' version of Christianity has reduced God to a benign figure of fixed smiles, who doesn't do much except refrain from anything 'judgmental' that would interfere with our project of maintaining self-esteem. Or our vehement religiosity has projected a God who behaves amorally, or sanctions violence and displays favoritism. But what has most drastically stripped God's name of its holiness is our habit of taking the authority that belongs to the Creator alone and investing it in mere human institutions, the 'word of human hands'; the perennial sin of idolatry.

To cry, "Father, hallowed be your name" is a confession brought on by the crisis we have created through idolatry, and an urgent pledge to desacralize the institutions we have been falsely treating as sacred, and let God alone be holy. A lot of the current malaise in our own country and in the world today is a consequence of being forced to recognize that institutions we have been falsely treating as sacred are in fact only provisional, fallible human fabrications. I was struck the other day listening to one of the daily radio programs on economic affairs. A pundit high up in the affairs of the multi-national corporations used the word 'sacred' about 20 times in just a few minutes to describe the instruments and machinery of global capitalism. We have gotten to the point where questioning the ultimate validity of the transnational capitalist system and the authority of its secretive priesthood is the equivalent of blasphemy.

Now when the system is imploding here, and exploding there, there is frantic activity to shore up our faith in this 'divine' dispensation ruled by the corporate angels. It's too late to prevent us from seeing the idol has feet of clay, but the powers that be cannot allow doubts to spread about how much more of it is made of fragile base materials that could give way and bring everything crashing down. But only God is divine, only God's name is holy. Supposing capitalism as we know it today is only provisional, no more eternal than feudalism was, and that God's urgent will is for something better, something more just.

Then there is the crisis of American self-confidence, which may be a salutary crisis, very suited to give a fresh impetus to the Lord's prayer. Think how Americans have invested our own nationhood with a sacred character stolen from the name of God. We see how popular in some quarters is the delusion that the Constitution itself is a sacred, eternal revelation, rather than a great achievement of the 18th century, but one that has poten- tial flaws that are beginning to open up. The horror roiling the political scene shows the difficulty of admitting that this 'sacred revelation' can't guarantee that government won't lead us into a blind alley of prolonged political deadlock and impotence.

And if we 'hallow the name' of our own military might, sacrificing more of our resources on its altar than all the rest of the world spends on arms, if we depend on the myth that American might must be right this time, what happens when we simply don't know how to make up endings for our war stories any more? War is justified by made-up stories. It is not a divine mandate at all. What if we don't know how to end the stories spun by our costly prolonged foreign interventions?

To pray, 'hallowed be your name' is to appeal to God to help us restore to his name all the worship we have invested in, and the authority we have falsely attributed to fallible schemes of our own devising. Believers have been here before; Jesus in teaching us this prayer was reviving the words of the great prophet Ezekiel who trusted that God would re-sanctify his own name, which we have weakened and debased. "I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before your eyes." (36:23)

Martin L. Smith is a well-known spiri- tual writer and priest. He is the senior associate rector at St. Columba's, D.C.

A word on our seminaries: Consolidate!

By George Clifford

Fiscal constraints have prompted announcement of major program or organizational alliance changes at the Episcopal Divinity School, Seabury Western, General Theological Seminary, and Bexley Hall. Concurrently, the cost of seminary education continues to escalate, leaving many graduates with significant debt and discouraging some potential students from attending. Meanwhile, enrollment at the eleven seminaries affiliated with the Episcopal Church (TEC) has declined by 35% over the past five years.

The seminaries’ tactical moves and sad fiscal realities of theological education should encourage any Church, especially one like TEC that is in overall numerical decline, to reexamine its strategy for developing ordained leaders. The present strategy, with eleven affiliated seminaries that in a sadly misguided policy receive no direct TEC funding, has considerable underutilized capacity, unnecessary multiple geographical locations, and institutional identities determined more by nineteenth century rather than twenty-first century factors.

Because effective ministry and mission arguably depend more upon effective leadership than upon any other organizational factor, educating and forming the next generation of ordained leaders should be a top organizational priority for TEC. Although the legal and fiduciary relationships between TEC and its affiliated theological schools varies widely between schools, the primary mission of TEC affiliated seminaries from TEC’s perspective is to educate persons for ordained ministry in TEC; other missions, such as lay education, are important, but secondary. Theologically (though not necessarily legally), these affiliated schools are assets – as institutions, as holders of real property and endowments, as recipients of contributions from individuals, parishes, and dioceses –for supporting that visible branch of Christ's church known as TEC in ministry and mission.

One critical strategic issue for TEC is to how best utilize those assets in forming and educating new leaders. At least three divergent options are readily apparent.

First, attempt to maintain the status quo. The recent tactical moves by several seminaries – tactical from the strategic perspective of TEC and not the individual school – represent possible actions consistent with this option. This option values each school as an independent entity and is consistent with TEC’s drift toward a congregational and less connectional polity.

This option appears an almost certain dead end. The eleven schools may survive. But focusing on seminary survival represents an instrumental goal (establishing seminaries to educate clergy) becoming an end in itself (i.e., seminary self-preservation by adopting new missions or alliances). In the meantime, seminarians will continue to graduate with burdensome debt loads and need to serve in well-paid positions to be able to repay that debt (i.e., not serve small, poorly funded congregations). This bodes ill for TEC with its growing number of small congregations. Fifty years into TEC decline, this approach is not working; no reason exists to think that the future will be any different.

Second, TEC could close nine if not ten or even all eleven of its affiliated theological schools (given the various relationships with TEC, closure in some cases may simply connote ending TEC’s affiliation):

• To the maximum feasible extent, TEC would begin by fully (legally and financially) incorporating all eleven seminaries into the national church’s corporate structure, disaffiliating any seminary that refuses to agree and strongly encouraging bishops not to ordain subsequent M.Div. graduates from noncompliant schools. Retaking control of theological education expresses a revitalized sense of organizational health by focusing on an essential resource for mission success (leadership) and our connectional polity. This emulates both the positive elements of the control that the Roman Catholic Church exercises over its seminaries and the control many professions (medicine, law, dentistry, etc.) exercise over their professional schools through the accreditation process.

• Meanwhile, TEC should determine whether to have one or two theological schools and the location of the school(s). This move will substantially cut costs by eliminating most redundant overhead (administrators, e.g.), eliminating duplicative resources (basic libraries, e.g.), and improving resource utilization (physical fitness facilities and class size, e.g.). TEC might seize the opportunity to form an entirely new seminary using the assets of all eleven existing seminaries. One (or two) school will have a larger faculty, more varied course offerings, and build more connections between members of the next generation of leaders. A single seminary need not presume uniformity of theology or liturgical style. Controversies that once shaped seminary efforts to fill particular niches in the theological education market are now largely irrelevant.

• TEC could then liquidate all marketable assets of the schools identified for closing and use those assets to fund the remaining school(s).

• TEC should fully fund tuition at its seminary for all TEC ordination track students. Funding theological education is less expensive than subsidizing clergy stipends in small churches enabling debt burdened new clergy to repay their education loans. By making seminary more financially accessible, TEC may also expand the number and quality of potential ordinands. Contributions from diocese, parishes, and individuals on a single school (or even two of them) will provide greater results for every dollar donated because of the efficiencies already noted. Funds realized from liquidating the marketable assets of the surplus schools will provide a substantial endowment for the remaining seminary (or two seminaries). This will help to shift the focus from institutional survival to preparing the next generation of TEC leaders.

• Non-ordination track TEC students and non-TEC students should pay tuition, generating a revenue stream for the seminary analogous to that out of state students produce for state universities. Similar to TEC funding seminary education for ordinands, parishes or dioceses will beneficially subsidize the cost of lay education programs sponsored by the theological school(s), investing in their volunteers and members. Individuals who want to pay tuition can do so indirectly through increased contributions to their sponsoring organization. Unlike tuition payments, such contributions may be tax deductible, emphasize good stewardship, highlight the value the Church places on its lay volunteers, emphasize the importance of theological education, and underscore TEC’s connectional nature.

Consolidating formal theological education in a single seminary (or even two seminaries) shifts the institutional paradigm from weakness to strength and from survival to mission. Mainline denominations that do not make this shift fight a losing rearguard action, trying to sustain a nineteenth century model in a twenty-first century world. Consolidation will produce unanticipated consequences, freeing the new TEC seminary from the fetters that bind its predecessors.

These broad proposals leave many important details unaddressed. For example, how will so many seminarians in a single area have meaningful opportunities for field education? Yet, by creating this institutional and pedagogical conflict and ferment, TEC will beneficially unleash great creativity focused on mission to aid in revitalizing and reinvigorating the Church. For example, developing a new school, or consolidating existing schools, will force careful consideration of questions such as: What are the critical curriculum and experiential elements in forming and educating ordained leaders? How can the school best incorporate those elements into its degree programs?

Third, TEC could close all eleven of its seminaries, modify the funding proposals outlined as part of the second option, and pay for its seminarians to attend theological schools that are independent or affiliated with another denomination. This option shifts the burden of operating theological schools to other organizations, but at what I deem an unacceptable cost, that is, losing control over the content and formative processes associated with developing ordained leaders in seminary.

I, for one, refuse to accept pessimists’ claim that TEC is in irreversible decline. And I am tired of tactical moves that only prolong but do not reverse decline. The fiscal plight of TEC seminaries provides a strategic opportunity for radical change. I find option two the most attractive, but perhaps a fourth, even better, option exists. Obviously, many deeply entrenched constituencies will oppose any radical restructuring. However, continuing business as usual bodes ill for the Church’s institutional future. If not these changes, what is the right strategic move? TEC can no longer afford to act as if theological education is the responsibility of seminaries and seminarians.

Time for conversation is short and the need for bold action is pressing. No plan is perfect. However, embarking on a new course while remaining open to the continuing movement of the Spirit seems preferable to staying on a course that seems certain to lead to failure.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

A Celtic pilgrimage

By Margaret M. Treadwell

It all started on a gray February day when I received an e-mail invitation from a colleague and clergyman to join his summer Celtic Pilgrimage, carefully planned and fine honed over the past 18 years. He wrote, "Tourists pass through a place and stay the same. Pilgrims pass through and they become different." A readiness for change washed over me and I hit an instant "yes" reply.

My first reward was a bibliography of suggested reading, which provided me with light in winter darkness. Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, John Philip Newell's Listening to the Heartbeat of God, Ian Bradley's Celtic Christianity and biography of St. Columba were among my highlights.

The pilgrimage itinerary, designed to trace the rise and decline of Celtic religion, began in Wales, moved 28 of us by bus and ferry to Ireland and Scotland, then ended in York, England. Monastic ruins, holy wells, ancient Celtic crosses, Iona Abbey, Durham and York Cathedrals came alive with historical significance under the tutelage of our superb guides. The guides suggested we ask two questions at each site, and a good friend asked me to return with my answer to the third:

1.What is it like to be in this place? What will you take away in your heart?
2. How is it different to experience this place with a group of pilgrims?
3. When did you first experience Jesus on the pilgrimage?

A heart takeaway occurred on the second day when we gathered around our first holy well at Penmon Priory, a coastal monastery founded by Seiriol in the 6th century on the island of Anglesey, Wales. The group became hushed as we approached the rock-protected well of clear, cold water hidden in a beautiful green vale. A clergy leader spoke about holy wells as the source of life for pagan Druids who built their communities near them to experience the womb of Mother Earth. Later, the Celts sought balance between the dark properties of water such as storms that destroy life and the light represented in holy wells where God shines in nature and the goodness of creation. This tension is reflected in their prayers and hymns, which we practiced on the bus from the Iona Worship Book for our daily worship services.

We then reflected on what water means to us individually. I recalled my near drowning terror at age 12 when at the last moment I was mercifully pulled from the darkness into air and light. Suddenly I realized on a deep emotional level a truth I have long known intellectually: Light can be fully appreciated only when we experience it in contrast to darkness.

Two pilgrims in particular gave me an opportunity to observe the balance of light and dark: One fractured an ankle requiring emergency room visits, a cast, and a wheelchair for the duration; another was hospitalized for three days. Both spoke about the pos- itive impact a community of fellow pilgrims had on their recovery. Observing their courage and humor despite intense pain offered us insight into the Celtic way of balancing the tension of opposites and strategies to promote that balance through our efforts to help.

I experienced Jesus for the first time in the most surprising way on the Island of Iona, known as a "thin place" between heaven and earth. I had not anticipated enjoying three pilgrims, a single father with his little girls ages 8 and 6, the exact ages of two granddaughters I adore but wouldn't invite on an adult two-week spiritual journey.

My plan to distance myself shattered when the 8-year-old began talking with me about her love of reading and memorization. She recited her lines from last Easter's pageant, when she insists to the soldiers that Jesus cannot have been killed "because I just saw him yesterday." His presence was palpable at that moment. During our last service at Whitby Abbey before pilgrimage's end she magnificently sang for us assembled wor- shipers, "To Everything There is a Season," culminating in the words, "Until we meet again may you keep safe in the gentle loving arms of God."

I had been slipping into tourist mode when a child, rising above the darkness of her parents' recent separation, taught me what it is to be a pilgrim. I came home changed by her faith in Jesus, who opens our eyes to new possibilities in others and ourselves.

Margaret M. "Peggy" Treadwell, LICSW, is a family, individual and couples therapist and teacher in private practice.

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