30 October 2005

Trick or Teat!

Reading Weak (sic)

As Reading Week draws to a close, I am tying up all the loose school ends before classes start tomorrow.

This morning I attended an Episcopal church in Berkeley that regularly uses the 1928 Prayer Book. Now, we revised in 1979, so the use of it is particularly stunning. Since my grandfather left after the revision and started his own church, I heard 1928 with some regularity until he died a few years ago.

But you gotta love some of that old stuff in there. I mean,

The Churching of Women?!?!?!?!: A Liturgy for the purification or "churching" of women after childbirth, together with the presentation in church of the child. The rite is based on scriptural sources, especially the ritual purification of Mary and Presentation of Christ in Luke 2:22-38. Following the title in the Sarum use, Cranmer called the 1549 rite "The Order of the Purification of Women." In 1552 and later it became "The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth," commonly called the "Churching of Women." The 1979 Prayer Book, avoiding any hint of ritual impurity, replaces the older rite with "A Thanksgiving for the Birth of Adoption of a Child." The rite is to take place within the Sunday liturgy, after the intercessions, soon after the birth or adoption. In this service, parents and other family members come to the Church with the newly born or adiopted child "to be welcomed by the congregation and to give thanks to Almighty God" (BCP 439).

Let me tell you; it don't sound so sweet when you read it from the '28 book.

What I'm reading: Evangelical Feminism by Pamela D.H. Cochran. It is really moving me forward in thinking about a possible thesis dealing with spiritual vs. structural authority within the Churches, and wanting to get the word out that evangelical communities have more variation in theology than most mainline Protestants acknowledge.

25 October 2005

Fundamental Problem

It's not going to be popular, but I've a beef with y'all thinking Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are the same thing, and the arrogrant dismissal of this vibrant and rapidly growing segment of American Christianity. If you think you might have made this mistake, gather 'round for a history lesson and some soapboxin'.

At the time of World War II, we could probably suffice it to say that there existed one mega-group: Fundamentalist-Evangelicals. After World War II, Higher Criticism spread through theological scholarship. The young'ns of the FE tradition (Jim Wallis and friends) wanted to get their hands on it, but the older generation (Charles Fuller and friends) didn't budge from their traditional curriculum. Eventually, an unofficial split occurred - the young generation, sometimes called Progressive Evangelicals, sought their higher degrees from conservative mainline denominations and returned to their tradition forever changed. There are many sources available that shed light on the struggle of the early 1970's between these two groups, mostly convention records and scholarly articles.

One big result of this split was that we got some terms redefined. Whereas for the more traditional lot, "biblical inerrancy" covered historical truth and a lack of attention to cultural constraints upon biblical writers, the new "biblical inerrancy" of the progressive evangelicals, was something different. To them it meant that the bible was still the highest authority, but there were more nuances in what truth it covered. You can guess what these were. They still used the word "inerrancy," but it meant something markedly different than the earlier definition. You can still see this today.

Another result (this one is important for all those weilding the word "fundamentalist") is that people like my husband, raised Evangelical Free, do not respond to or identify with the word "fundamentalist." My theory is that this is a direct result of the leaders of the 1970's who wanted to distinguish themselves from their forbears and did so by relaying a strong distinction between the two terms. Whether you think there is a clear distinction or not, we should acknowledge that the community we're attempting to describe sees one. If you want to talk about someone, make sure to get their name right.

I've been getting irked because around here, "fundamentalist" is a synonym for "conservative and religious." This may be the result of complex circumstances, but I doubt it. I think it is plain old ignorance or belittling of the "other."

I have my own issues with the conservative theologies of my husband's tradition and others I would call "Evangelical," but I know that in order to communicate my problems to them, I have to understand them on their own terms. Ever been called a relativist? a revisionist? a whiny liberal? Didn't really make you want to enter into dialogue, did it? I pick up on a lot of intolerance within the Episcopal Church for those of Evangelical persuasion, and it makes people come off hopelessly arrogant. Anyone ever peruse the Mystery Worshipper on shipoffools.com? Many of these narratives are funny, but I found the Willow Creek review typical of the arrogance I'm describing. The reviewer spends a morning at the Chicago mega-church among 3,000 attendees and reflects: "
These folks came to a show. As I said, we didn't sing, we didn't confess or profess anything, no prayer, no interaction, nada. Before you point out to me that something must be good about Willow Creek since their services are so well attended, I admit I don't understand what the vast numbers are getting out of all this." The reviewer rates the experience as a "1" out of 10 and goes on to lament the coffee for purchase, the lack of liturgy, and the lack of racial diversity.

There were 3,000 people there! Since this review they have moved into an 8,000 person auditorium. I know you may think, I don't care if there were 80,000 people there, it's not for me. Believe me, I understand. But I think there is something ridiculous about walking into this place and not trying to learn something. This is the attitude I get a lot. There are all these complaints: our churches are empty, our churches are too white, our churches are boring, our churches don't have good youth ministry, our churches don't have good singles ministry. Our churches won't grow. But then we walk into huge churches with vibrant life and activities for all ages, and we don't stop and wonder what they have to teach us.

If we keep dismissing things that don't look like us, we're going to keep looking like us and never change. If worship is what we do as Episcopalians, if that is what we offer rather than easy theology or rigid doctrine, than our worship needs to start speaking to the actual population. Until then, it's gonna be you and me who dig Rite II and our grandparents. When they die, then what? I have issues with Willow Creek's position on homosexuality, but there are some things that really peek my interest: their leadership conferences are attended nation-wide by satellite and they include both secular and religious leadership figures in their training. They ordain women and give them full inclusion within Church life. Not to mention their churches are FULL.

I do not wish to advocate jumping on the mega-church bandwagon. I do not wish to advocate conservative theology. But I want people to know Jesus. My life is better because I do, and I think some others out there could really gain some hope for truth, justice, peace, and a way of life. I think we are willfully blind if we refuse to learn from those who believe something differently than we do. Conservatives don't have to be the only ones with full churches of eager Christians. If you believe that, what does that say about your own theology?

*dismounts soapbox, stares into space*

23 October 2005

The Angels Visited the Farm Workers

Pretend someone on the street stops you, says they are a BIG fan of yours because they saw you do the thing in your life you are most proud of. You are flattered and find you have a few minutes to chat with this person. Then this person asks you to list your top 5 good qualities. What are they?

Then, once you've listed them and you two are standing there smiling at each other, this person asks you to relate your shining qualities to the war in Iraq.

How do you feel? Do you have an answer prepared - have you ever thought about it?

Last night I went to the presentation of the first Non-violence award to Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers movement, friend of Cesar Chavez. There to interview her for the award was Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, nothing short of the rock star of independent media and a brilliant journalist. I sat in a great church in Oakland, was warmly welcomed by a great pastor, and grinned at my privilege to observe the conversation between these two women.

In all of Amy's interviews she asks the person to relate their claim to fame to the current war in Iraq. I love this part.

Dolores said that her involvement with growers and migrant workers always involved getting the growers to see their laborers as human beings. Many times the first big victory with growers and owners was to get them to provide toilets in the fields for their workers to use. What person do you know who doesn't need a toilet? It is this, she said, that she can relate to the war in Iraq. We do not see those we bomb as people, at least not the kind of people we are. They must be something less than us; otherwise, how could we bomb them? Would we bomb our grandmothers or our children? She put it another way when she said, I doubt we'd put bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq if the people were white.

Though it was Amy and her stardom that took me there, it was the pastor who left the most lasting impression on me. She reminded us that the angels went first to farm workers tell the news that the savior was born. She said that the new baby had no good housing (sleeping with livestock) and no medical care (rested in a trough). She asked that we remember that those without housing or medical care are the ones who are Christ to us in this world. When you cared for the least of these... I took those words home in my heart.

21 October 2005

"It simply mystified most worshippers."

Here in seminary world, this is an example of a recommended book. For most this little blue-and-white beauty has no meaning whatsoever, but for those of us on a road towards the other side of the altar, its food for thought. My disclaimer: some of it is boring. My exhortation: it may assist you in examining some of why you do what you do when you do the worship-thing. It is also one more step in my demystification process, and translation of Episcopalese into the vernacular. You know, the vernacular? The language people can actually understand, the language our churches fought so hard to use, and now leave at the door as they turn off their cell phones and take their last gulp of coffee. No giggling, please. We are now in the House of the Lord. Be sure to grab all 7 required worship books and the leaflet as you come in. Be sure to flip through them desperately finding your place while trying to have conversation with God. Be sure not to mess up because everyone is watching. In case you're nervous, here's what some guy says NOT to do...

Of Practices Not Recommended (page 62) :

In general, the ceremonial suggested in this book is less complex than that which became customary in many parishes over the last hundred years. Part of this is due to a deliberate simplification --in an effort to make the main lines of the liturgy stand out more clearly-- and part of it to recovery of more ancient practice, which often times amounts to the same thing.

The following practices are specifically not recommended:

a. The censing of the cross before the censing of the altar at the beginning of the liturgy, and the censing of the priest immediately after it. Instead, the oldest practice of censing the altar only is recommended.

b. The "offering" or lifting up of the bread and up by the priest at the offertory -- with or without the prayers which accompany this action in the Roman Missal. Our liturgy has recovered the tradition that it is the function of the deacon to prepare the table, and that it is the eucharistic prayer which offers the gifts to God.

c. Blessing the water to be added to the wine. This practice, which involves a "mystical" understanding of the purpose of the water, came into being after the original meaning --which was a gesture of temperance-- had been forgotten.

d. Joining the hands at every occurrence of the name of Jesus in the eucharistic prayer. The practice of bowing the head at the mention of this name does not necessitate the joining of the hands.

e. Extending, raising, and then joining the hands at the words which follow the Sanctus and Benedictus. This gesture dates from a period when the canon or eucharistic prayer was considered to begin at this point, and was deliberate attempt to indicate a new beginning. Today we have again learned that the prayer begins with the Sursum corda and preface.

f. Elevating the bread and cup after the words of institution.

g. The use of multiple signs of the cross during the eucharistic prayer.

h. Placing a small amount of the consecrated bread in the chalice (the "commixture"). Though retained in the Roman rite, its meaning is not self-evident, and can be explained in several ways. It simply mystified most worshippers.

i. Making the sign of the cross over the communicants with the consecrated bread before putting it in their hands.

j. Making the sign of the cross at the end of the Gloria in excelsis and of the creed, and at the words, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Unlike the sign of the cross at the beginning of the liturgy, and at certain other points, where it helps to explicate what is done and said, these three began as popular devotions. While there can be no objection to individuals crossing themselves when devotion prompts, the invariable use of these three by all present in the chancel suggests that they are required.
There is, however, more to be said about the use of the cross at "Blessed is he." The Sanctus (with Benedictus) is a part of virtually all Christian liturgies, both eastern and western. In no liturgy, save that of Rome from the 11th century, was a sign of the cross prescribed at this point. The reason for it, Roman scholars have determined, lies somewhere between superstitious fear in the face of Christ's presence under the forms of bread and wine and an outright misinterpretation of the text, the word "blessed" being applied to the worshippers rather than to Christ. The Roman rite has therefore dropped the signing at this point. It is suggested that Episcopalians do the same.

k. The wearing of a biretta during any part of the liturgy, including outdoor processions.

l. "Co-presiding" at the liturgy. This is a recently introduced practice, in which the presedential functions are alternated between two priests in such a manner as to allow each to proclaim an approximate equal amount of the liturgical text. Behind the practice one suspects a lingering medieval notion that a priest cannot be said to participate in a liturgy as a priest without being given words to say.
It should be noted that neither the rubrics (guidelines) of the Prayer Book nor the historic tradition of the church know anything of such a practice, nor do worshippers deserve to have their attention focused on guessing who is to speak next. The proper way for a second priest to participate in the liturgy as a priest is to function as a concelebrating presbyter.

These are just the opinions of the author for priests who are directing the liturgies of their parishes, but I thought they were good food for thought. Here at CDSP it is Reading Week (read: Fall Break, no classes for one week) and I am kicking it off by opening some of the books I've had to avoid the past few weeks. My favorite part of this section is: "It simply mystified most worshippers." I could use this is many worship situations in the Episcopal Church! We'll see how much I can overuse it before I'm ordained, and then how much after.

20 October 2005

Seminary Game

How many words can you make with the word SEMINARY?

mine resin yearn near year yarn ear ire
mines semi is ram say yin nay ye
sin mar rams says yarns years nays ires
men mars yearns resins rains yams siren my mire mires main mains rein reins ryes rye
Mary Sine rain same yam ran yes amen
sea in me miry a earn earns I
rinse sir rim rims aim aimer air airs
amen amens misery rise sire anise *what else you got?

19 October 2005

(Yet) Another Word from Our Sponsors

Preces: Brief responsive prayers which are often based on verses of scripture, especially the Psalter (Psalms). The Book of Common Prayer includes such versicles and responses after the Lords’ Prayer in Morning Prayer (pages 55, 97-98) and Evening Prayer (pages 67-68, 121-122), which are also known as suffrages. The Book of Common Prayer offices (Morning and Evening Prayer) also have opening preces (see S33 and S58 in Hymnal 1982).

Inside My Studio

At the RevGalBlogPals site, they posted the famous questions asked on Inside the Actor's Studio. I am posting mine here. What's inside your studio?

1. What is your favorite word? “eeeeeexcellent”

2. What is your least favorite word? formation

3. What turns you on, creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Desperation and dissatisfaction transformed into innovation, networking, and justice

4. What turns you off? Knowing what a ciborium and maniple are

5. What is your favorite curse word? “I’ve-got-a-notion-to-say-pumphandle!” courtesy of my great-grandmother

6. What sound or noise do you love? Those made by the ever-talented Bobbie McFerrin

7. What sound or noise do you hate? The chewing and smacking of the open-mouth eater

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Cosmetologist, professor, writer, magazine editor

9. What profession would you not like to do? Claims adjustor, collections specialist

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Like my Afro pick?

16 October 2005

The Femergency Broadcast System

15 October 2005

Wanna Chat?

I've opened a Yahoo Group for all Episcopal Seminary Students who'd like a network for swapping resources, having discussions, and generally be connected to one another. I'm hoping that through this Group I can understand how my seminary experience is different from those across the country, for better or worse. I emailed contact people at each seminary and Yale and Harvard Divinity Schools to get the word out. And, now at 1 pm on Saturday, I am starting the weekend homework. Yikes! If you are an interested seminary student, subscribe at episcopalseminarystudents-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

14 October 2005


I have come to understand in myself that when I commit to an institution, I have committed above everything to think critically about that institution, push its boundaries for weak points and strengths. I felt this way about marriage, the Church, and this nation. Before I discovered the beauty and distinct spirits of the United States, I couldn't be much more than saracastic and apathetic about it and its leaders. Oh, a sex scandal. Huh. What's on the other channel? Ooo, tsk tsk, Mr. Secretary of Yada Da, you shouldn't have dipped into that little insider trading bit. And then I read Howard Zinn, and in that tightly wrapped journal of American life, A People's History of the United States, I came to appreciate my country. Not for the reasons the establishment would have me appreciate it, but for others. And in that growing love, I came to feel very passionately about injustices committed within it, and atrocities that pass for normal life. Howard Zinn reminded me, and continues to remind me, that there is nothing more patriotic than using our civil right to speak out against tyranny. On Democracy Now today, I saw Michael Eric Dyson's stirring address at the Unvarnished Truth Awards in D.C. He pleaded that above all we take care to speak the truth in our own communities.

I've never struggled to be a company man anywhere else but in the Episcopal Church. You can find me heartily joining in the rants against the Bush administration, educational disparities in this country, the War on Drugs, the prison system, healthcare. But when my agnostic friends would start in on the church, it got a lot more nuanced, sticky even. I still believe that Jesus said the highest most important things that have been said, and that the Church can be the revolving door of response to him.

So, in light of my history of bitching about the establishment in its many forms I should have expected the onslaught of institutional criticisms I've formed since arriving here. However, despite all I learned from Zinn, my own criticisms seem to threaten my one institutional loyalty. Let the schizophrenic internal dialogue begin.

I had to come here to work through this flawed institution, because without a keener eye I would be of no help to the Church. I have so far breezed through my experiences fingering all those things which "just gotta go" -- stodgy solemn chapel, secondary reading material which would seek to glorify Anglicanism over and above whatever its stated purpose, term-dropping without definition or conscious decisions to be inclusive. In the midst of all these, though, my more tender criticism were not far behind, and now I am faced with the prospect of being knee-deep in the rubble of a deconstruction without much of any idea how I'd like to put it back together again.

I refuse to see this experience as an upgrade in my club membership, but I also refuse to see it as a four year bitch session. I remember that my loyalty to Christ is loyalty to justice, love, and mercy. I want to know how to think more distinctly about institutions, their function and potential.

I can say with safety that I am no longer a Company Man. But I am here to learn more about this company. I will not merely assimilate, but commit to interact in a meaningful way, and not lodge my frustrations that they might harden my heart, but express them that I might release them.

Sarum Rite. Liturgy based on practices at the cathedral of Salisbury, England. Sarum is the Latin name for Salisbury. The Synod of Whitby (664) decided for Roman rather than Celtic liturgical usage, but British books still contained non-Roman elements. Secular cathedrals were strengthened after the Norman Conquest, and stronger centers influenced surrounding areas. The 1549 Prayer Book mentions uses of Salisbury, Hereford, Bangor, York, and Lincoln. These were not different rites but variations in words or actions or placement within the Roman rite. Consuetudinarium, or the book of customs, of Salisbury was earlier attributed to Osmud, Bishop of Sarum, 1078-1099, and founder of the cathedral at Old Sarum. The Salisbury use was therefore called Sarum Rite. It is now associated with Richard le Poore, bishop 1217-1228, who moved the see to Salisbury and initiated construction of a new cathedral. Later books (Ordinal, Customary, and "New" Ordinal) gave greater definition to the use. Because of the convenience of these books and the reputation of Salisbury as a model, this use spread over much of the British Isles. In March 1543 the Salisbury Breviary was imposed upon the whole Province of Canterbury. It is generally the use of Salisbury that is the source of medieval materials retained in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

13 October 2005

Welcome to the Clubhouse

My Episcopal Dictionary arrived today. With this book, I begin my own (public) demystification process. Behold, the clubhouse leaks its secret code into cyberspace through this tiny sieve.

Ready? Go.

1. Host (Eucharistic): The consecrated bread of the eucharist. The term is from the Latin hostia, "victim." Use of the term reflects an undertanding of the eucharist in the sacrificial terms relative to Christ's death on the cross. The term is also extended to mean the bread or wafers to be consecrated at the eucharist. The individual wafers of the eucharist may be referred to as "hosts." Many parishes use a large host that is broken by the celebrant at the fraction. This "Priest's Host" may be decorated with Christian symbols that are pressed into the large wafer. It is typically placed on the paten prior to the service when the chalice is vested. The smaller "hosts" that will be distributed to the people are placed in a ciborium and placed on the paten with the "Priest's Host" when the altar is prepared before the Great Thanksgiving at the eucharist.

From that definition alone, I must include some follow-up definitions:
2. fraction --> Fraction Anthem: The anthem at the fraction, sometimes called the confractorium, a term borrowed from the Ambrosian rite. The BCP prints two anthem but permits others. Rite 1 prints both Pascha nostrum (Christ our Passover) (adapted from a similar anthem in the 1549 Prayer Book) and Agnus Dei (O Lamb of God). It allows either of both or another suitable tanthem. Rite 2 prints only "Christ our Passover" (BCP p364). Another suitable anthem may be used in place of or in addition to the printed one. The Book of Occasional Services gives fifteen anthems for various seasons and occasions. Several fo these anthems are set to tmusic in responsiviely or in unison. In many places the choir or a cantor sings the anthem, sometimes responsively with the people, while the presider breaks the bread.

3. ciborium: (1) a container or box with a lid for eucharistic wafer bread. It is usually of silver or another precious metal. THe ciborium, which may resemble a chalice or cup, has been used instead of the plate-like paten for the administration of the consecrated bread at the eucharist. Unfortunately, the chalice-like ciborium was lacking in symbolic relation to the bread, and the character of teh eucharist as meal was obscured. The ciborium is not more typically used as a container for bread wafers that will be consecrated at the eucharist. It may be one of the vessels placed on teh credence table for use in the service. A ciborium may be used when teh people's offerings of bread and wine are presented and placed on the altar prior ot the Great Thanksgiving. A ciborium may also be used as a container for consecrated bread and placed in the tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. (2)Also, a ciborium is a canopy of stone, wood, metal or fabric that is suspended over the altar. This canopy, also known as a baldachino, rests on four pillars or columns.

Passover was coming up, and his followers came up to him and asked, "What do you want us to do to get ready for it?" He said, "Go into town and tell one of the guys there that the Teacher said he's coming to your house with his friends for Passover. His time is near." So they did, and they fixed the dinner up.
When it was time to eat, they all sat down together...and while they were eating, Jesus grabbed the loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he passed it around, "Take this and take a bite. This is my body."
Then he got some wine and thanked God that they had it, and he said, "Everybody take a drink. This wine is my blood and it makes a new agreement between God and everyone. Everyone can have some so that they can be forgiven of their sins. I'm telling you, I'm not going to drink this wine anymore until we can all be together again to drink it, when things are right again."

Post Poison

Venomous Venting or Healthy Processing?

Through a very helpful conversation this morning I became even more aware of the public nature of my blog for the CDSP community. My frustrations are, in theory, available for everyone in the semninary community to read.

Up until today I have regarded this is a blessing that comes with much repsonsibility. In other words, I must take good care to post what I think might be of some use to others, not direct ranting or general complaining.

"How is your semester going?" my friend asked.
"Great. I have a good outlet for dealing with the things that irk or confuse me so I can really appreciate the positive stuff."
"What's your outlet?"
"I blog," I grinned. "I can process my frustrations that way and get on with enjoying everything else."

She went on to suggest that our venting may not be healthy if we are squirting it back into the community. A private journal does not have the potential to adversely affect anyone else because it isn't being put into anyone else's psyche. A friend outside the community serves a similar healthy purpose.

Is my blog unhealthy? came the question. I cringed. I remember making the conscious decision to post frustrations and disconnects because I thought others may find commonality there and we might discover it isn't all in our heads. Neo-consciousness raising. And on a very small level, it has worked. I am in conversation with some people who've had similar reactions to the seminary experience and I'm trying to form some structures for future newbies in response to our experiences, alike and diverse.

In my opinion, there would be no point to having a blog if it didn't push some edges somewhere. I'm not on Xanga anymore, a website for what would otherwise be a mass email to friends and family: we went to church today, then out to lunch, then we gathered signatures for the kerry campaign, then we went to Kirksville for the weekend. At the same time, I don't want my frustrations to infect those who aren't frustrated.

There is a prophetic thing going on here. Not that I'm a prophet, but the sense is that someone who sees a problem risks making others as cranky as they are in the process of consciousness-raising. Maybe my fellow students would rather not hear my thoughts on the chapel experience and would rather go on their merry way enthralled with the learning curve. Am I making more of a mess than I am making connections?

I don't want to poison others with my crankiness, but I also don't want to miss an opportunity to dialogue and a convenient medium for that dialogue.

11 October 2005

Getting In, Club Episcopal

In my quest for a more helpful introduction to seminary for future students, I ordered an Episcopal Dictionary and have tucked all the good feedback I've gotten into a folder. I am thinking of taking an informal poll of students. Did you feel behind on anything when you arrived at seminary? Did you feel out of the loop in your own establishment? This kind of thing. I will post what I come up with.

My friend Stacie, currently living in Shanghai, has just left after being here for a couple days on her way back from seeing family in Kansas. It was so nice to have her all to myself for a few days after a few years of 30 minute visits over Christmas vacations. After being roommates for 2 of our college years, it finally felt like we were back in the groove. Fun to bum around the City a bit and show her Berkeley. I'm always interested in her reaction to my church stuff, but wasn't surprised at the lukewarm feelings about our Rite I eucharist she attended on campus Monday. (I was Lay Assisting for the first time.) It brings up resentments I have for a church whose language doesn't speak to my generation (somethingunderstood and others excepted).

The senior sermon today hammered this message home. The current issue of the New Yorker highlights a history of Ivy League institutions faced with unseemly student body demographics in the early 1900's. Since superior academic merit was fueling the onslaught of undesirables, the establishment altered the admission requirements (include a picture, state your race, parents' names of origin, personal essays for confirmation of character) in the quest for the ideal homogeny once again.
The article, entitled "Getting In," was a brilliant picture, from our homilist's perspective, of how awful we all can be, and he pressed us to examine whether these dynamics exist within our Church. Do we like to talk about filling the Church with the non-White, non rich, non well-educated but then find ourselves too attached to the mechanisms that ensure that dynamic in the first place? We know it's bad for us, he suggested, but we seem to do it anyway. His message spoke directly to my current struggles.

It strikes me that the Emerging Church workshop has been the only thing I've encountered at CDSP so far to address this concern with vigor and a plan. In talking with some others who are interested in the Emerging Church methods and taking Kinesis' concerns quite seriously, I hope to glean from it something that both Stacie and I would see fit to do on a Sunday night.

From the inside and the outside, I am experiencing the negative potential of Club Episcopal, and prophetic voices that would see the tide turn on these dynamics. I am learning that my seminary experience is not just the accumulation of knowledge and spiritual seafaring I thought it would be. It is also a process of intense evaluation: what is working (in the Church, in the seminary, in the chapel) and what isn't?

I think the seminary environment encourages this critical posture but I am wary of its destructive potential as well. I hope that these disconnects come to electrify me and not just electrocute me, so that they can be used for good. Hopefully it is the shock needed to turn on the light.

07 October 2005


Some of us just walked back to our apartments from a workshop on leading the Daily Office worships here at the seminary campus. It brought a lot to my mind about my orientation experience upon arrival here this Fall. I am currently being steeped in the very dark tea called Episcopal Church Culture.

We use so many terms that are disorienting to non-Epsicopalians or to really new ones (those who haven't been Episcopalian for ten years). We dabble in the Latin and the Greek; we borrow from Eastern and Western traditions, and, if you please, we like our terms old and fussy. It gives us a certain sanctified feeling. (I should give a nod to the ancients: It isn't just old for old's sake. So much of the old has incredible value, right? For example, as the incense rises through the santuary and your prayers go up mingling with it, you are using your nose to pray as well as your lips. But this post will not be an arrangement of ancient images meant to praise the Church. I want to focus not on how orienting our culture can be, but how disorienting.)

When my fellow first year students and I arrived in Berkeley for our upper-level enculturation process to begin, none of us knew exactly what version of the culture we would receive here, or how it would complement what we brought with us. Some of us came from Emerging Churches, some of us from Anglo-Catholic parishes, and some from evangelical community churches. There is such a wide variety of backgrounds we carry, it is hard to believe we start assuming much in common at all!

And yet, I did feel throughout orientation and our first weeks of classes that I was below average in the enculturation department. I am exploring whether I was made to feel this way by those around me, or whether I put this pressure on myself. I found some of my classmates were well-versed in liturgies called the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and could recognize a maniple if they saw one, but I sure as heck wasn't one of them. And some were unaware of the complete breadth of christological theology terms (Donatist, Montanist, Marcionist, Gnostic, Arian, Docetist, Monophysitic) floating through Christian history -- but I learned these a long time ago. In my first few worship classes I felt smacked by the Latin and Greek flying through the room without explanation or translation. Others felt completely at ease and wondered when we were going to get on with it.

How might our orientation experience reflect more deliberatley upon the complete sprawl of Episcopal knowledge represented in each incoming class, and how could we help each other learn and find needed information? Our Moving and Thriving on Holy Hill guide was helpful to enculturate to Berkeley, but what about the culture of our own Church? I find ECUSA much more complex a village! Are we unsure how to take a group of 40 students and poll what they know and don't know and point them in the right direction? Do the current students and faculty care to guide the new students (and one another) as they go? I have started imagining liturgical terms handouts in the orientation booklets, and an evening session set aside for those who've never spoken "Liturgy" in their lives. I envision more discussions initiated by instructors concerning how to articulate the history of heresy to our congregations. My model for this is my Greek instructor, who often integrates practical homiletic points and theological nuances with our text translations in a way that makes Intro to Greek a lot more than memorizing definite articles.

Something Understood pointed out simply that if you don't know something, just ask. Of course; this is not a 4 year Summer Camp where we are spoon-fed each theological bit we must digest. Yet I wonder -- what might be the pastoral posture of a seminary in these matters? In graduate studies, we acclimate to a new place and a new discipline. The classroom, to a great extant, holds the keys to the culture of the subject at hand. In seminary, though, it is a more complex assimilation of thought histories, practice histories, ethos histories, and the expectation upon us that when we depart our seminary experience, we will be the keepers of the theology, worship, and ethos for everyone else! If we think our student body experiences are broad and various, imagine our future congregations!

So, SU brilliantly suggested we compile something ourselves as a gift to the community and its future members. I feel called to contribute to this process and invite any ideas to be posted or emailed to me. For any of those in seminary or who were once in seminary, what was particularly disorienting to you? What did your seminary not explain well? What were you forced to learn on your own? I hope that out of this collaboration will come a group of happy, relaxed first year students next year. :)

My thought in motion right now is the awareness that as a cradle Epsicopalian, I did not expect to know so little about my own tradition. Others who are newer to the church than I have amassed lists of resources and teachable spirits so that when questions arise it is not an unexpected feeling -- they know what to do. I anticipate, though, that other cradlers and old-timers will still have many questions, and I'd love to anticipate some for future students' peace of mind.

06 October 2005

American High Holy Days - Where Will You Be?

Now that we've talked to all our parents, I can post about the upcoming holidays. This will be the first set of American High Holy Days that we won't see our families at all.

What delights me:
I will not be eating turkey
I will not be decorating a tree or listening to bad christmas music
not buying crap
not wrapping crap
not driving between topeka, lawrence, kansas city, columbia, and st. louis
berkeley holidays weather

What deflates me:
no midnight mass with sisters
no christmas wine and meal with dad and s
no red-headed beautiful nephew running and laughing and grinning at me
not being there when the surprise orange gift is opened by dad
no rolling around at home feeling fat and going to movies with sisters and brothers

let's review:
what I will miss: the people
what I won't miss: everything else

In making my mental list, I remembered that the people aren't going anywhere. My parents are coming in November, my sister probably in December, and Matt's parents will probably come in the next few months, too. I get to go home for the baptism in November and see more family. These times are my new High Holy Days.

Through this and many other recent experiences, I am becoming a more relationship-oriented person, a people person. The old calendar-obsessive, anally-punctual, over-prepared, highlighter-wielding me is falling away, and as I shed the layers I am getting to know my real self. Shoot, today the lady at the Visitor's Center was 15 minutes late getting back from lunch, couldn't find her key for another five, and I was just happy to have the chance to talk to her. Sometimes I don't even recognize myself for my sickeningly good attitude. I would have hated me a few months ago. I would have been one of those west coast types who goes with the flow, isn't in too big a hurry, rolls with the punches. I can spot 'em a mile away. California is doing me good.

05 October 2005

Bildungsroman with Snap

Mirrormask is the best take on a coming of age story I've probably ever seen. If you enjoy a little tripped out dream sequences, masks and an Edward Gorey-feel, please take your seats at a theater near you.

Since coming to California, to seminary, and since marriage, I've noticed how much I'm being asked to swallow these entirely foreign surroundings and digest them healthily and with thanksgiving. I do have the occassional bout with hiccups in the form of cryptic dreams, frustrated phone calls to friends, and some off-the-wall journal entries. I need artistic outlets during times of drastic life change. I seek a reflection for myself in books, movies, and music, and during these times I am also vulnerable, so it becomes important to choose cautiously where to take refuge. Thank you, Jim Henson friends, for reminding me that Legally Blonde and My So-Called Life reruns aren't the only bildungsroman flavors available. My tummy feels better already.

01 October 2005

Book Bug

In my Anglican book there is a bug
who crept in there and died
who now is a two-dimensional thing

I wonder at my previous reader, how Senor Bug got smashed
was she as wearied as I am of Richard Hooker trash?
Did this "Sacramental Worship" page, where this bug lies decaying,
finally cause a slamming shut and accidental slaying?

I'm trying not to judge the killer, I'm trying to bite my tongue,
for I am not that into this, the reading's boring and long.
But it's one thing to slam it shut, and give it up to Jesus,
quite another to condemn an insect to this treatise!

I cannot help but to imagine, my poor six-legged friend
reading in his second life, all this history, first to end
for once its read, who would return to these silly didactic pages
and here's our bug in margain long, confined to it for all the ages!

I hope that heaven's not like this where cramped, we sit and listen
to Calvin, Luther, and Swedenborg enumerate their wisdom
if this poor bug's foreshadowing of all our evers after
I'm outa here! (*while slamming book and breaking into laughter*)