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Out of the swamp and into the sanctuary

Out of the swamp and into the sanctuary

The Force: It’s not just for levitating X-Wing fighters and nervous droids out of the Dagobah quicksand anymore. Clergy and lay ministers throughout The Episcopal Church are finding new ways of using the powers of the Jedi to strengthen and support liturgy, pastoral care, social media and facilities management. When used for good, the Force is proving itself to be a powerful new tool in ministry.

The Reverend Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, has seen quantitative results in the work of his organization. “Our Jedi-trained customer service team uses the Force when people try to cancel their Forward Day by Day subscriptions. It really helps our retention rates.”

He also finds the Force helpful in his personal work: “I travel regularly. Using The Force really speeds my way through airport security. It helps with seat upgrades, too.”

@UnvirtuousAbbey has also discovered the Force’s powers of persuasion. While the much-loved social media voice uses the Force regularly “to lift people up,” @UnvirtuousAbbey admits “I also use it to mind-trick the men’s club breakfast into giving me more bacon.”

The Very Reverend Gary Hall, recently retired tenth Dean of Washington National Cathedral, which (an excellent example of Episcopal inclusiveness) is home perch to the famous Darth Vader gargoyle, says, “it’s not generally known that the cathedral hosts an emergent seeker’s Force liturgy every Sunday evening. We actually have a chapel decorated like Chalmun’s Cantina. Try the broasted wookie.”

(We’re wondering about the karaoke possibilities – Anglican hymns and plainchant competitions?)

“If someone uses comic sans in an email I feel a disturbance in the Force,” says Faith Rowold, communications officer for Episcopal Relief and Development, who also informs us, “the hex code of my light saber is #ef4135.”

The Reverend Patrick Sanders, Priest-in-Charge at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea in Gulfport, Mississippi, incorporates Jedi mind tricks in his ministry, “helping people find their gifts and use them for the expansion of the kingdom, all the while convincing them it was their idea all along.”

Father and son clergy in Oregon talk about the Force’s liturgical uses. The Reverend Bingham Powell, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Eugene, says, “the Force is particularly helpful in confessions and when distributing the Eucharist.”

The Reverend Powell’s father, the Right Reverend Neff Powell, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, adds, “the Force elevates the priest’s host during the Eucharistic prayer, and my arm for the pontifical blessing.”

In Tennessee, the Reverend Kira Schlesinger, Priest-in-Charge at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Lebanon, has found practical applications for her Jedi powers. “I used the Force to find the septic tank on our church property that hadn’t been pumped in 30 years.”

She also found them useful when two significant holy seasons coincided last month. “I used the Force during Holy Week to tweet about basketball while I was preaching.”

Two associate rectors of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va., both rely on the Force in their ministries:

“I use the Force to convince brides that they actually don’t want to have a unity candle in the wedding service (‘this is not the wedding custom you are looking for’),” says the Reverend Penny Nash. She also practices levitation: “I use it to raise the hem of vestments that were made for men.”

The Reverend Weston Mathews, also former contributing editor to the Episcopal Cafe, notes the importance of the Force in the larger, Church-wide context, for “defeating the dark side that is threatening to swallow the Episcopal Church.” His use of the Force for good he says “may surprise some of my seminary professors, like the Reverend Dr. J. Barney Hawkins IV, who nearly had me killed before an Imperial Tribunal.”

Father Mathews has had mixed results with Jedi mind tricks, and discusses their relative effectiveness in parish ministry:

“Jedi mind tricks work with people of all ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds and sexual orientations. Except cats. They hiss and scratch when you bless them with water for the Feast of St. Francis.

“Jedi mind tricks are super important for preaching and celebrating the Holy Eucharist on a variety of planets,” says Mathews, “with youth in the Redwoods of California, the men of 5F pod at the Richmond City Jail, Saturday night sung mass, Rite I, Rite II, Rite II family service and Celtic Evensong with Communion. I’ve learned not to use mind tricks with Vergers, though. The Force is too strong with them.”

In pastoral care, “Jedi mind tricks can be really helpful when I’m with people who are dying, in blessing newborn babies and their families, or when someone is homebound and needs Communion. Still working on mothers of brides, though. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.”

In the end, Father Mathews stresses, it really comes down to 1 Corinthians:

“Harnessing the Force, and using Jedi mind tricks for the good, does not work without love. Without love Jedi mind tricks are a noisy light saber and a clanging droid.”

The Force is as mysterious and uncontainable as it is transformative. We turned to Jesus of Nazareth (@JesusOfNaz316, on Twitter) for an authoritative theological and spiritual perspective.

“Most assuredly I say unto thee: ‘The Force blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Force.’”

How are you using the Force in your ministry?


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Paul Woodrum

This is funnier than the fishy April 1st story!

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