Boldly going where no theologian has gone before

Follow the adventures of Bosco Peters as he essays the brave new field of virtual sacraments:

Baptism, immersion into the Christian community, the body of Christ, and hence into the nature of God the Holy Trinity may have some internet equivalents – for example, being welcomed into a moderated group. But my own current position would be to shy away from, for example, having a virtual baptism of a second life avatar. Similarly, I would currently steer away from eucharist and other sacraments in the virtual world. Sacraments are outward and visible signs – the virtual world is still very much at the inner and invisible level.

I do not, however, agree with those who deprecate the experience of community that the web engenders. It appears to me that the internet can model an understanding of community that is beyond the physically present-and-visible precisely in a way that Christians have been verbalising for centuries. Christians can experience support and challenge online in a way not possible previously. The Carthusian model, of separate individuals (hermits) experiencing community whilst being physically separate, provides an understanding and a precedent for what many Christians are experiencing.

Prayerful support, the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily Prayer), even lighting virtual candles are amongst the positive experiences available and whilst not sacraments, provide a framework and experience that complements and enhances the sacramental experience of the physically gathered Christian community.

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The sacramental divide

David Heim, executive editor of the Christian Century, makes this interesting observation after serving as a hospital chaplain:

I’ve been doing some chaplaincy work in a hospital, and have been struck by this difference between the patients: When you ask a Protestant patient what you can do for him, he’s likely to say, “You can pray for me.” Ask a Catholic and she’s likely to say, “I’d like to have communion.”

No big surprise there, perhaps. But it’s still interesting in light of the fact that Lutherans and Episcopalians and other non-Roman Catholics often think of themselves as a sacramental people who believe Christ is mediated through the sacraments in a special, objective way.

. . .

Yet a few days of ministry in any hospital brings home this truth: Catholics are sacramental in a way that is profoundly different from the way Protestants are sacramental. If a hospital patient asks the chaplain for communion, the chaplain can be 99 percent certain that the patient is Roman Catholic. Lutherans, Presbyterians and other Christians may say that they give equal weight to word and sacrament or that communion is a central part of their faith, but how many, when they go into the hospital, ask for the sacrament?

I find myself admiring the Catholics’ tenacity in requesting the sacrament—the way they firmly and clearly insist on bringing the rituals of their faith inside the walls of the medical establishment. At the same time, I find myself wondering in old-fashioned Protestant fashion about whether the sacrament is being consumed in a way that detaches it from the word. These are ancient questions—but still live ones.

Read it all here.

When you last met a hospital chaplain, what did you ask for? If you have served as a hospital chaplain (that means you, Marshall), did you notice this divide?

Same-sex weddings in the heartland

CNN reports on how everything has changed for same sex couples in Iowa.

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Learning to pray

The Right Way to Pray

from the New York Times

The Brooklyn Tabernacle, a 3,500-seat evangelical prayer palace in downtown Brooklyn, was built in 1918 as one of the largest and grandest vaudeville houses in North America. It is still a hot ticket. Its youngish, racially diverse congregation packs the pews each week to praise God and bask in the sounds of a Grammy-winning 250-voice gospel choir. But the tabernacle is more than just a popular church. It is also a destination for evangelicals from all around the United States and beyond, laymen and ministers alike, who come as acolytes to study prayer.

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Parishes ignoring archbishops of Canterbury & York

In the UK, the Chalice may be returning to the people

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Churches make prayer beads for troops

Beads link prayers
Women create strands of comfort for troops

From Tulsa World

Strewn across a large table are clear bags filled with beads in multiple shades of blue, purple, green and red. Every Thursday, a group of about six to eight women at St. Luke's Episcopal Church sits around the table and strings the beads together to make prayer beads to send to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Thanksgiving Prayers

Happy Thanksgiving!

Families and Friends gather for the big meal, and you find yourself called upon to offer the Grace before the feast. Do the words roll off your tongue easily, or do you awkwardly find your way through a prayer like Ben Stiller's character in "Meet the Parents"?

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Churches offer Blue Christmas services

While the Advent and Christmas seasons can offer hope, joy and peace, they can also stir feelings of sadness and depression in part because we all mourn the loss of loved ones and can feel these losses profoundly in this time of year. Churches across the country are offering what have become known as "Blue Christmas" services for those who have experienced loss.

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Garrison Keillor reflects on the Baptismal Covenant

Garrison Keillor, noted author and the host of the Prairie Home Companion, attended Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco and offered his reflections in on the Baptismal Covenant, especially the call to renounced the evil powers of this world.

Social separation breeds contempt
There is no better place to learn the delicate ballet of social skill than in a big city

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Larger Protestant churches on gay/lesbian ordination

NewsOK, Oklahoma, looks at where the largest Protestant churches stand on gay and lesbian clergy:

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Jim Kelsey and the challenge of "baptismal living"

Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook and Fredrica Harris Thompsett quote Jim Kelsey, the late Bishop of Northern Michigan in an article about the ministry of the baptized for the Alban Institute:

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National day of prayer

It's the National Day of Prayer. Setting aside the debates about the day's constitutionality, et cetera, it's not a bad time to pray a few prayers from our beloved Book of Common Prayer.

What are your prayers today?

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Weddings for a fee?

Should ministers be paid for wedding ceremonies? What if these services are for nonmembers? Is this "charging for the sacraments"? What about the time offered to the couple in question above and beyond other duties? Where should the church draw the line, or the fee, on this question? The Sacramento Bee online has merely scratched the surface on a topic in need of some discussion:

Clergy pay for wedding -- or is it a gift? -- a sensitive topic

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Does preaching matter?

"GooglingGod" blog pointed us to the "PrayTell Blog" that mentions that the importance of preaching is a debatable question. What about you?

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Modern weddings threaten marriage?

Are modern weddings a threat to marriage? The BBC online quotes Giles Fraser's recent comments on the issue. What's your take?

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Saying prayers for civil unions

The Rev Canon Giles Fraser of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and Ruth Gledhill of The Times discuss impending legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to celebrate their civil partnerships with religious ceremonies in the United Kingdom.

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Congrats, Phyllis and Connie: gay marriage lands in New York

Gay couples have begun getting married in New York.

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No wine for you

The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix has announced that it his policy that the wine consecrated during Mass is no longer to be shared among the laity present. Reaction has been pretty uniformly negative in Catholic circles.

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Where should the bread of heaven be made?

Most Episcopalians open their hands and receive the "body of Christ, the bread of heaven" on a weekly basis. But not many of us know much about the actual bread pressed into our palm. It turns out, the for congregations that purchase their wafers rather than make them, the majority of the wafers say something interesting about the Church as a business.

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Six questions for supporters of marriage equality

The Rev. Lisa Cressman, assistant priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Basswood Grove, MN, answers were selected from all the responses by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star-Tribune when the paper asked Six questions for supporters of marriage equality. How would you answer?

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Presiding Bishop on communion and baptism: 'Don't separate them.'

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori believes that the sacraments of communion and baptism should not be separated. At a townhall meeting in North Carolina a few months ago, she said, "If we're aware that there are people coming to the table who have not been baptized, it's time to do something.

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Baptism now, Communion in a minute

"On call" baptism.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori dropped this phrase in video taped remarks on the issue of Communion without Baptism, and frequent Cafe commenter Jonathan Grieser picked it up. He writes:

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Scrapping infant baptism?

Blogging at Lord, Open Thou Our Lips, the Rev. Chris Arnold says the pre-General Convention conversation about sacramental issues such as the nature of confirmation and the practice of offering Communion to people who have not yet been baptized has got him rethinking the question of infant baptism. He writes:

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'Big Rich Texas' maven offers baptism tips

The third season of the Style Network's reality show "Big Rich Texas" launched last month, and lest we assume that the country club set doesn't have a spiritual side, Leslie, one of the show's stars, offers tips for a stylish baptism in this video (and she's not joking):

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Task force invites one-minute video meditations on marriage

The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage wants videos from Episcopalians throughout the church, says a recent news release from the church's office of public affairs:

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Doubts about the concept of Ashes to Go

Are Ashes To Go really such a great idea? The Rev.Michael Sniffen of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn is not sold:

Before you put on your gear and head out with the Lenten swat team, can we be real for a moment? I know you are chomping at the bit to "meet people where they are" at your local commuter hub, but please pause with me in the sacristy for just a second.

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Do people actually understand what is happening at the Eucharist?

I recently helped facilitated some focus groups in which some of the newer members of an Episcopal community said that they found the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist difficult to comprehend. They weren't saying that they didn't like it, just that they had a hard time understanding it.

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