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September 20, 2010



Many thanks for your response. I am hoping some others will comment.

The exercise of writing that letter to you seems to have jogged something loose in my thinking. Or maybe it jogged an answer to prayer. Perhaps these thoughts will help someone else.

I went dutifully to church on Sunday, arriving unusually early, so had the sanctuary to myself. I sat half-meditating, simply looking around, when the first question came:

Question: Why do you want to belong to a church anyway? (Especially if it's one you're going to keep fighting with.)

Response: I want to be part of a community that is at least trying to pay attention to God and that isn't fundamentalist or evangelical or antithetical to my deepest sense of what life and worship are about.

Next question: Well, you got that. Why do you keep thinking you have to agree with them?

Shazam! Suddenly it dawned on me--I don't have to believe anything or agree with anyone. It's a matter of directionality rather than specifics. The believing is irrelevant as long as the community is at least doing its best to be faithful to something (God) beyond the secular. I want to be around people, and this is the group that's here. Like me, they are dear, flawed people doing what they can in the way they can, molecules in the body of God.

I realized in that instant that I could see Episcopalianism (or Buddhism, or Judaism, or...) as a pattern of ideas I can look at but don't need to agree with. It has at its core the same hunger for meaning and the sacred that I feel, and that can be enough. It's the directionality that matters more than the details.

So I can continue to attend service, reciting only the first line of the creed, not singing the hymns or saying responses that violate my sense of the true--but every once in a while, there will be something we can sing or recite together, which I will notice keenly and for which I will be grateful.

This blog has helped keep me sane during this long struggle, letting me know that others share my understandings and are asking the same questions. I only wish that Houston weren't such an impossible commute, should you decide to try a Goyim-for-God meeting! But if you ever head for this part of the country, please message me at the Facebook address you have. I'd drive quite a distance to say thank you in person!

Steven Giovantelo

Let me give another perspective--or perhaps, to borrow a Monty Python phrase, "and now for something completely different..."

I am a recently retired Episc. priest (age 63) who was mostly in moderately liberal 'high' liturgical churches in inner city neighborhoods over 30-some years. I am in Indianapolis.

Now that I am retired, I have had the opportunity to visit parishes in this State and in the neighboring states of Illinois and Ohio,

What troubles me is the opposite of excessive Christocentric preaching or evangelical rigid biblical orthodoxy which I haven't heard much of.
Rather it is the fact that regardless of how 'high or low' or liberal/conservative the parish and its liturgy/service is, everywhere I've been the "The Peace" [be with you] after the Absolution has taken on the dimension of a 'seventh inning liturgical stretch' while folks hardly exchange the Peace of Christ but rather catch up on such subjects as

* I heard your wife had gall bladder surgery...how is she doing?

* Where do you want to go for brunch after the Service?

* Are you volunteering for the church yard sale?

*Congratulations! I hear you became a grandparent last week.

Almost everywhere, this continues for at least three to four (!) minutes of non stop jabber while everyone runs in and out of the aisles hugging their friends. In three instances, I've observed visitors and prospective possible new members look puzzled and even a bit scared. In two instances, folks dashed out the door before the Offertory.

I think the excessive huggy/kissy atmosphere is a lethal turn off to any new prospective visitor who may not even know what the heck is going on let alone the theological significance of "The Peace" from a liturgical perspective.

Why do the clergy have to run down the aisles hugging and greeting everyone other than the person who may be next to them at the altar?

It may say in the Book of Common Prayer (P. 360) that "The Ministers and People may greet one another in the name of the Lord" but social chit chat and raucous loud blabbing seem to be the order of the day and anything BUT 'the peace of Christ.'

That distortion and adultery (in the sense of 'misuse') of the historical/theological/liturgical dimension of "The Peace" seems to have become a universal which has contributed to the trivialization of liturgy at best, making the experience boring and uncomfortable at worst.

I never thought of myself as a rigid traditionalist; however I'm at a point of wanting to preach a sermon and indirectly entitle it "Kill the Peace!" It has gotten out of hand from what the liturgical reformers with the current Book of Common Prayer intended when it was restored to The Liturgy with the 1979 revision of The Book of Common Prayer.

"The Peace" has been transformed over forty years of use in Sunday worship into a liturgical 'commercial" before The Offertory.

Steve Giovangelo +

Footnote: While I have no connection with the school for ministry in Ambler, PA (Trinity) there was a time when Nashotah House near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin turned out many socially progressive Anglo catholic clergy and solid parish priests who were compassionate pastors. Although I am not an alumnus, I was fortunate to visit there during my seminary years and attend several lectures in liturgy, scripture and church history. This was in the 'stone age' of the early 1970's. They had a superb faculty.

Many of my colleagues who are also retired (and some, deceased) went to Nashotah in "the old days" when there were many more progressive Anglo catholic clergy. I don't know what has happened to that place but clearly a rigid orthodoxy has transformed that seminary so much that no less than four of my long time clergy friends/colleagues who are graduates of Nashotah, have revised their Wills and removed bequests to the place intentionally.

Nunna Yo Bidness

Great post, DC. Should your 'Goyim for God' study groups get started, I recommend using "Daily Devotions for Individuals & Families" (BCP p 136-140) rather than MP or EP. The devotions are based on the Daily Office, extremely adaptable (practically everything can be substituted), and exactly one page long, each.

@Steven, whenever I visit a parish (which hasn't happened in a long time now, for reasons that are similar to but distinct from DC's discomforts) the quality of the Peace is one of the points on which I render judgment. Contrary to your concerns, I consider it a bad sign if everybody doesn't hug everybody because it tells me that these people are clearly NOT at peace with one another.

That said, I often think that it would be telling and theologically instructive to begin the Peace by calling up two parties who are known to be in conflict with one another over something (could be supporters of rival schools or football teams, or vestry members who voted at odds with each other in the last budget meeting) and asking THEM to make peace with one another. Demonstrate the Peace of Christ in front of the people of Christ. Then, the peace of the Lord be always with you and also with you and you and you and...

D. C. Toedt III

That's a great suggestion, Nunna - thanks!

Steven Giovangelo

I can appreciate Nunna's suggestion regarding the Peace if it was really taken to heart (e.g. her suggestion that the vestry members at odds with one another over a budget meeting make peace in front of the congregation). Of course actually DOING what we are saying theologically and expressing it intentionally are two different things. Most folks would be terrified. I still think running around and hugging everyone isn't neccesary. Steve

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