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New National Cathedral dean: We are a ‘pragmatic, evolving tradition’

New National Cathedral dean: We are a ‘pragmatic, evolving tradition’

The newly selected dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Canon Gary Hall, believes that mainline churches face “a crisis of credibility.” He writes in the Washington Post:

For those especially under 40, the Episcopal Church (and its companion churches and faith traditions) no longer seems a credible place in which to engage God, learn to pray or to give ourselves in ministry. We seem, to those outside us, exclusive and opaque.

Those of us who love the traditions (and habits) of institutional Christianity might feel somewhat wounded by the seeming disinterest in the practices we have come to live by. But if the Episcopal Church is to thrive in the 21st century, it must do three things. It must develop a clear, missional identity. It must project that identity outward and invite people into it. And it must take seriously the needs and concerns of those who come toward us and adapt to the new life and energy they bring.

Does that mean that we will no longer continue to worship in our stately Anglican ways? Of course not. But it does mean that we will need to find new modes of liturgical, musical, and theological expression to complement the great traditional strengths we already have. And this is not new behavior for Anglicans. Queen Elizabeth I forged a pragmatic consensus between Catholics and Protestants in 1559. Bishop William White of Pennsylvania led the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church to a uniquely American way of governance in 1789. The church opened itself up to the sacramental ministries of women bishops, priests and deacons in 1976. We have always been a pragmatic, evolving tradition.

Read the entire column here.

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Weiwen Ng

Josh – when you say the “stateliness fetish” has to go, that’s exactly how I feel.

Again, that doesn’t mean we need to tear up all the ’82 Hymnals. We don’t need to change the way everyone worships overnight. We need room for experimentation imo.

I do not agree that our obsession with our way of worship is the principal challenge we need to confront. Actually, I think that mainline Christianity may have multiple challenges – and we just might be on a secular decline. I don’t know that it’s wise to identify any single issue as the key to reviving membership. Rather, I think we should do what we can. It just happens that I think we should attempt to create services that are more contemporary, while at the same time preserving that which is beautiful in our current traditions.

Bill Dilworth

“…I am tired of seeing everyone, older folks included, coming to Table looking like their cat just died.”

If this is an observation of yours about how people look when they come up for Communion, might I suggest you try not looking at them? People are very vulnerable at the rail, and in general it’s a good idea not to be scrutinizing them, much less critiquing their demeanor. I know that stopping paying attention to other communicants on their way to, from, or at the altar rail was a blessing for me.

Josh Magda

I am grateful that you have a home that is a blessing, Clint. Like you said, you have seen way too many that do not know how to have fun. It is these that I am concerned with. I just left my parish over my inability to experience blessing, after sticking it out for over a year- of course there are only 2 or 3 other options here. In my former home, there were hundreds of Episcopal parishes, that combined ancient and modern in nourishing ways. This, I think, is the future.

IT

Heh, Clint, you make me smile. My wife is a thurifer and a verger. I do the barbeque. On a Sunday night we may both smell of smoke but hers is nicer. 🙂

Greg said, “Being Christian *should be* a counter-cultural choice” which reminds me of the book by the physicist Richard Feynman, what do you care what other people think?” At some level, the best thing that can happen to Christianity is to disestablish it from the culture. Put on your sandal, say your message, and see where you go!

Susa Forsburg

IT

Heh, Clint, you make me smile. My wife is a thurifer and a verger. I do the barbeque. On a Sunday night we may both smell of smoke but hers is nicer. 🙂

Greg said, “Being Christian *should be* a counter-cultural choice” which reminds me of the book by the physicist Richard Feynman, what do you care what other people think?” At some level, the best thing that can happen to Christianity is to disestablish it from the culture. Put on your sandal, say your message, and see where you go!

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