Friday, February 5, 2016

Church History, New Church and Jesus

A couple of years ago I had read Diarmaid MacColloch’s Christianity, The First 3,000 Years. I had taught church history since the 70’s but it was a limited idea of what happened in Christianity.  It had been very limited to western Christianity and totally irreverent to the broadness of how the story of Jesus was spread throughout the whole of the Middle East, Africa, India, China.  MacCulloch opened to a type of Christianity that had become a political control in Papal and Orthodoxy to a history of the Church of the East.  And if there is anything that faces us today it is the willingness for us to look hard to see how we have allowed Christianity throughout the world, (and it does not matter what religion) to dictate what Christianity that often has not based upon the person of Jesus except for those who are in that spiritual relationship of the Holy One. 

I must admit that I thought that Christianity came west in Europe early, but not for almost 500 to 800 years.  Christianity became a faith of the Middle East and even the Far East.  I had also the privilege of reading Philip Denkins, The Lost History of Christianity, a fascinating understanding of the first 1,000 years of Christianity of those that were not under the Roman/Orthodox Christianity that got lost. Those who were not Trinitarian were vaster and much more open to a way of understanding than what happened after the split between first Orthodoxy and the various Myaphysite Christianity that developed in the East, Egypt, Africa and finally to India.  

For many places throughout the world from the time of the 4th century, Christianity, especially in places where colonization from a culture quite different demanded specific behavior having to do the colonizing. From the time of Constantine used Christianity to control his Eastern Roman world.  But how Christianity became less a faith by those who used religion as a way of maintaining empires, Christianity became as much as a sociological element throughout centuries. Church leaders were as much political elements than faith leaders.  And we still see this in many churches of the world today.  We still see this kind of church leadership in Roman Catholicism, but we still see this kind of call from many within Anglicanism because it is the way that it has existed for centuries.

  By the development of America under the English, we certainly saw this in America with regards to the behavior of Native American peoples, demanding ways of living in order to be considered acceptable enough not to be imprisoned.  We can still see in the African understanding of Anglicanism, a Christianity that is more based on a manner of being that has less to do with the relationship with Christ and more if one lives like the Brits…or perhaps a type of British/Western European life style than faith. 
I am convinced that much of what was taught throughout the colonization of Anglicanism had less about faith but much about making a colony possible to run.  What happened as the US turned away from British colonialism, a new way of Christianity was developed that changed from old Anglicanism.  The removal of Church as a state religion changed the entire European concept as Christianity developed in the US. And yet, there is still considered that there are expectations of what Christianity by government of what has been expected even when this nation has had a type of difference.  We have more churches than any other in the world, and in many churches have no unity. 

I had a colonial church back in the 1980-90’s.  It had started in the 1690’s to meet the needs of the Piscataway Indians along the Potomac River, but the Native Americans were not interested. It became a small place where Anglicans came to support each other as they became a community.  It still is a solid parish that has tried to remind people that the faith in the story of Jesus.  It is simple. It continues to be a place of history. It also continues to be a place where on the banks of Washington, DC it sometimes continues to speak of what Jesus continues to remind the people, and the diocese that faith still gathers people to live the love and the liturgy of faith.

Even today, there are those in all of our Anglican churches we have different ways of understanding the place of Church as it speaks in its local environs. But it also has a way of describing how it speaks internationally.  For those Churches that are still national and political, all need to be aware of the way. Christianity often speaks the cultural expectations of those who observe their faith in an area.  At the same time, in those Churches that are less social or cultural entities, especially in places where Christianity has less to do with the cultural and more to do with the spiritual, that is by far more open to the person of Jesus. 

Personally, I believe that the Anglican Communion, because we have never tried to be a standardized Church, we have tried to respect the distinctions that come from being both social and spiritual.  If there is anything that the American’s relationship to start the Anglican Communion was to respect what had happened, but not to accept the national, social expectations of the faith.  It is part of the joy of the Anglican Communion to be all over the scene, but not without respect.
Our Christian requirements as some levels will always be from the actions of Jesus.  I do not deny that the problems that face the Churches of those African nations that are in violence with religions they face.  At the same time, I do not believe that the issues of violence against LGBTQ issues that we have chosen to repudiate in our own era. It is an issue of Jesus’ love for others and acceptance of people who have been treated with disrespect and fear.  For half a century, life in the US has made moves that will eventually be seen in loving rather that fear. 

But in the inner part of the faith, in that scary, spiritual part every Christian is invited is to ask the difficult questions: am I afraid of what God is calling us all to do? Am I willing to ask the difficult questions of human sexuality has to do with Christianity today?  Am I willing to find that being whole in the name of Jesus has more to do with teaching me how to love others no matter their calling?  Can what others have named as Christianity really speak what Jesus called from his own people?  Was what Jesus doing to call the 1st century Jerusalem to open his Jewish people to return what the prophetic embrace of the God no matter what the ethnicity was beginning to edge out the people of the Temple? 

If what we are seeing another church emerging in the world today, it is a church that needs both to be willing to go back to be faithful to our origins, but at the same time to reject those things that have kept us from being the honest and not demanding of others.  I do not believe that the only thing the Church can be for the future is to be judgmental.  Jesus’ call to his people was for them to call themselves not to be judgmental of others.  If there is something for the future for the Anglican Communion it is for us to talk, share, and respect one another even when don’t agree.  It is the conversation that will continue our love for Jesus.   If there is anything that will continue us as a Communion.  We cannot discipline one another; we cannot demand of others.  All we can do is keep up the conversation. If there are those who are too frightened to talk, then Christ is not present.  If there is anything that we must be willing to do, it will be NOT to ignore, but be willing to continue to ask the difficult questions that Jesus always did. But always done with respect.

For some of our Churches the place where Women, LGBTQ, Catholics, Evangelicals, all provide difficulties for some cultures for discussion.  For some who have been unwilling to even give acknowledgement that women are more than prepared to share their faith in both intelligence and ability make it so difficult to realize what Jesus shared in the women of the Church in the 1st century.  With that for those places in the Communion, we can no longer just ignore their abilities.

I am especially filled with the efforts that are being made by our TEC Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry.  His life will always be a powerful statement not only in our nations of TEC, but he will also be one so ready to put himself in the arms of Jesus daily.  Evangelical but Catholic. But Evangelical and Catholic while part of history must not determine the structure of the future.  We need perhaps to be less stone church and more open to being people who want to share Jesus with those who have never known the person and spiritual life.  We are not a Church of illness, although at one point I was worried that we were.  Today I am more convinced here in Fort Worth that we are beginning to see a Church for the future… a Church that will look to living the life of Jesus daily, momentarily.  We have the possibility to think outside of what has always been so that our Christianity may speak more of what Jesus called us to do.  It will be the honesty that comes from asking the hard questions.  But more importantly it is a Christianity that call us out of what we have always done in order to love others…even the ones who find fault with us.  I do not fear what others fear.  Jesus has always taught how much I am loved just as I am and calls me to love others the way they have found Jesus loving them.  When we get to that kind of Christianity, when others know the love of God, the world will be changed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

And Why Did We March?

This is something I wrote back in August while coming home from the commemorations of  Jon Daniel's life and the events of Selma.  But it was not so much about Jon as it was about what has happened in the past 50 years.

And why did we march?
        Was it just an adolescent lark?
Hope and Youth incarnate in colors
         so foreign --- so alike?
Dreams of a land so lush
         or a rush
To claim the righteousness of lives
         not branded with sourness of age?

Hope is the liquor
          that addicts youth
To visions so attainable  in the fresh-eyed, 
          just beyond reach,
Overwhelming the soul.
          Set on paths to live long.
Battle, like moths to lamps...yet
            strange to elder myopia
Rooted in a future of the Holy
            only to find denial in new generations holding
            such visions uncouth.

And why did we risk?
            For life itself---to make possible
             a generation to dream of a life without us.
Requiacat en Pacem 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church: What we are and what we are not.

I have been trying to figure out how to respond both what has been happening to the Anglican Communion, what is happening in my own diocese and what has been happening in my life.  I have been in the conversation about the Anglican Covenant for many years and watched how this attempt by those with a rather Anglo-Catholic understanding trying to bring a type of standardizing to the Anglican Communion that we have never been. Even the Church of England refused to accept the Anglican Covenant as developing a 'curica' in the Anglican Communion. The refusal of the CoE to accept the Covenant brought the resignation of ABC Rowan Williams because he did not have the support of many of the dioceses of his own Church, a very UK understanding of how political leadership there.  

 The purpose of the Anglican Communion has always been to recognize a history from our British/Celtic experience, the post/Reformation understanding that included married clergy, and an understanding that we do not necessarily embrace the same theological backgrounds, but that it was our worship that has reinforced our faith for 1500 years.

The meeting of the Primates of the various presiding bishops in Cambridge this past week was better than we could have imagined since 2003 and the election of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.  +Gene was refused invitation to the Lambeth gathering of bishops because he was gay.  There are bishops in parts of Africa and Middle Eastern parts of the world still treat LGBTQ people as criminal. Our Episcopal Church has made a opening to understand not only with our country, for the last 50 years we have gradually opened our church to what a type of anti-LGBTQ has been passed as a type of sinful maintenance of people who follow only heterosexual marriage.

As Christians, we are not dealing with a liberal/conservative issue.  We are, like Christianity, in other issues have had to look at social issues in the light of what Jesus did in his own era.  Jesus in the 1st century tried to get Jews to see what was happening in Jerusalem to open the world to what the God of Israel had always been open to people who were no longer Jews.  It was type of Judaism that had become by the 1st century one that became ethnically essential following the return of those of the Exile rather that for the message that God love was more important. It is not surprising that the bitterness that came after the Babylonian Exile developed through the bitterness that came between Pharisee/Sadducee division. It is interesting that Jesus who came from Nazareth did not follow the conservatism of Judaism of Jerusalem.  Was Jesus' teaching upset both the Pharisees AND the Sadducees of his age that brought his death?  It has never been understood.  But it was the Romans who killed him because he was easily dusted away rather than Judaism to deal with issues of the era.

We, in this country, have seen similar division.  In the 18th century there was an understanding of people of color in ways that Anglo people saw themselves as being brighter, smarter, God-blessed. We allowed our theology to support a type of color or cultural vision that was never of Christ.  We allowed Christian theology, whether it was Episcopal or any denomination, to support slavery in this nation long after the British Church finally undid slavery in the UK.  If you have never seen the film Traces of the Trade and the participation of the DeWolf family, its slave trade in the 18th and 19th century on slavery and their continued participation in their participation in the Episcopal Church. (Yes, Jim DeWolf was THAT family) It is time to understand that the Church allowed a brutal financial participation that was contrary to goodness.  But as a Church we have seen how this understanding was begun to be seen as not just a vile understanding of racism, we have embraced our own call by Christ to know that racism, to refute it, for white people to own and confess our participation in racism and embrace forgiveness.

A similar issue has developed over the past 50 years in The Episcopal Church (TEC) about the LGBTQ issue.  There had never been a difference between what has been between violent or pederasty and the loving development of people who have found love of same sex.  Those who are most afraid of violent same-sex abuse is more likely to include those who love among their own sex rather than appreciate the call of same-sex lovers.

That violent same sex abuse is a totally different understanding behavior has not been understood psychologically for centuries.  The abuse in military, prisons, even in the societies in which anger is at the center of ways of debasing others especially by male is deeply offensive.  Sexual misconduct then becomes a way to control others.

Back in the early '90's I had a seminarian intern when I was in the Diocese of Washington.  He was already a priest but he had been sent from Uganda to study at VTS.  He was a remarkably bright man but was very uncomfortable about talking about gay issues at the seminary.  Talking about anything about sex was just taboo in his nation.  In Uganda in the 1800's the very British bishop of the beginning of the colonial church lost his life and with many young men by a king of the area who took part in sexual abuse of the people of the Church. The martyrdom is recognized by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics as the center of Christianity.  But they have not looked at European development of Catholic and Anglican participation in the political participation at taking over African areas.  It is not surprising that the people of that part of Africa still see the behavior of their king's sex abuse as violence.  But because the discussion of sexual behavior of any kind makes it impossible for them to see that people who are gay can be seen as something other than sexual abuse. It is also interesting that the inundation by Africa by HIV/AIDS is also seen as something that is not to be discussed.  It is not surprising that the Primates of Africa still find it difficult to speak honestly about what is threatening them.  It is easier to find difficulty with TEC, Canada, NZ, Australia, and in nations that are willing to discuss such issues that have less to do with some 'sexual propriety' and have more to do with what is happening with what is sexual behavior in their countries.

What we have seen over last in western society is a type of looking at what really happens, and are seeing that what is loving is at the center of loving people.  It was the kind of thing that Jesus tried to teach in his own era about what was loving by people who were not necessarily Jews.  Jesus called people to live honestly and how to live honoring God's participation with all.  And if there has happened anything in our Church's understanding of Jesus' Movement, we are calling from ourselves is to speak the truth about how we live our lives together.

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has not dismissed primates who have misused their authority.  He is not taking us out of the Anglican Communion because the primates who have never understood their own place in the Communion.  We have a PB who understands that as Christians still are called to call a world to the mission of Jesus that has always been at the center of our Anglican Communion. His own history as an African American and is deeply embracing of a faith that is calling Christianity to a living out not the social values, but the living out the deep call to know the ability to own the sinfulness of ancient ideas so that we can embrace will call us to understand how we have behaved sinfully in the face of racism, sexism, attitudes towards women,  religionism, just so that we don't have to be afraid. When we have been called by Jesus we have always been freed to embrace the goodness that allows us to not be be afraid when we are trying to greater.  But please God, we will continue to learn just what joy that we are being able to what we can for those places to hear the same joy that we are learning.

If there has been anything in our Diocese of Fort Worth, we are seeing a major change in our diocese in the past 6 months. We are living out a Christianity that this diocese has not been able to live out a Christianity for the past 35 years because it was so fearful what Christ's life has call it to.  Now our diocese is growing.  The parish we attend has grown by 24% in the past 6 months. Our school is growing.  We are going to have to add more services and most likely are going to have to add room while we are still in court with the Iker crowd who is losing population.  The clergy of the TEC diocese is not bothering about what the Iker crowd is blowing off about.  We are talking about a what a new era not just needs from Jesus, but what we are seeing in the history of Christianity can remind us what Jesus was about.  We are less calling us to say that Christianity is the only religion.  We are seeing from those who are faithful Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist,  and other faiths to have many of the same things that Jesus taught us.  We need to find in that goodness a way to begin the conversations that will open us to the love that our faiths call from us.  

Our faith is the new way of what it means to love God...the God that continues to teach us, to draw from us and teaches us that fear is not something we need to live out.  Our PB, Michael Curry is leading us. As clergy we need to be willing to live that loss of fear to live the life of the Jesus Movement we will be the type leadership for the Church.  But what we are seeing here in Ft. Worth is a group of clergy and especially lay leadership are a group of people who have said we are followers of Jesus.  We are ready to live what Jesus is call out of us and it is awesome.  If there is a future for the people of TEC is because we refuse to be afraid any longer.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, New Head, a New Life

This is the first time I have tried to write since I went down with a brain tumor on the 9th of December.  The surgery was on the 14th and for a few days I couldn't even speak following what the neurosurgeon pulled out some of the tumor.  It was as much a problem to try make my head to try to explain what was going on inside my head.  For several days I thought I was explaining what I thought was in my head, but there was really not much pain.  I just felt that I had 2 heads.  There was numbness on the left but not real pain.  As the past 2 weeks have gone on, I have finally been working out at a Rehabilitation Hospital and I am now in better physical condition than I have been in the past 20 years.

Tomorrow I go home for a week and do outpatient work.  Next week I will meet with an Oncologist  as well with the Neurosurgeon to see what more needs to be done.  Most likely there will be chemo.  I don't know how long that will be or whether there will be radiology.  But if what they have already done with almost no pain, or illness, I can't complain.

What I am finding is just as much difficulty is trying to use my new computer and the Windows 10 that was before a tumor so I guess my having to deal with something new that pushes me each day to think a bit more.  It sort of feels like there is less in my brain to get in the way of computer stuff and have a whole new way to orient to my computer. I find a positive way of coming to this new computer with a new way of relating to my computer that I would normally just find as a computer one more pain.  But this morning I am finding an opening to something quite open, something embracing technological that I would not normally have done.

The relationship of God has been one that has so cradled me in a way I haven't known in years.  It is a time that I would never have is something I have believed.  But this is a time of an experience of friends, family and spiritual closeness that is on so many levels that I am still unable to even explain how close and how I have known God's presence.  It is both transencendent and immanent all at the same time.  Is it merely medication?  It is being able to know that God in humanity and Creation is doing stuff in my life that I have not known.  Am I more than usual? No, but I feel nicer than I have in a number of years.

I will begin to write theology again now.  I will begin to take on the things that those writers like Diarmaid MacCulloch, Diana Butler Bass, and other people who are beginning to describe faith that are willing to address the goodness that the God who has always been able to reach so much more outside what the Church has often tried to demand what the Church has demanded rather than what God wants.

If there is a new world that faith does demand of us for the future, the Church is being faced with a way of knowing what it means to claim that what is good and holy.  It may not look like what Christianity has dealt with for the past 1000 years.  It may look like a way of who we are in the face of what people from different faiths that allows us to hear how people who find how that holiness speaks finally to all.  The more that I have seen in the health of people both in the medical world no matter what their faith brings to them, they are willing to make sure that the goodness for whatever reason they call me to think and live in a way that embraces world in a way that I have never thought of.  It is a type of faith.  It isn't so simple to just let God do God's thing.  It is a participation in a way of life that is much grander that I would have allowed myself.

I do hope those who read my blog these days feel free to hop on what I say now.  I will appreciate for people to have ideas different from mine to put their stuff in comments.  It is a new age.  It is a new way to look at the goodness of all that still speaks of the goodness of the Holy that is still so very much available.  The goodness however it makes itself available to us and that is all that is important.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Martin of Tours and St. Martin in the Fields: A Patronal Feast

The patronal feast is always a special date for every congregation.  I tried to find out how we got named St. Martin’s in the Field and so far haven’t found out.  (As we come close to our 50th anniversary in a couple of years, it might be interesting for those who know that story to put it in print.)  

Usually the saint for which a congregation is named is important to the spirit of a parish and for us here at St. Martin’s that is true.  But the name of St. Martin’s in the Fields is also the name of an important parish in the heart of London in Trafalgar Square that may have figured in the naming of our parish. Often parishes get named after parishes in 'old country'.  So I did some
checking. I am a classical music aficionado and am used to hearing music from the Academy of St. Martin’s of the Field, one of the finest music schools of the UK. I knew it started from a parish in London, so I decided to do a bit of study on that congregation.  

The earliest date on that parish is 1222.  It kind of puts our history in a bit of perspective, doesn’t it?  It was built in the fields between Westminster Abby and the Diocese of London and in the 13th century there was a bit of a kerfuffle about to whom the parish belonged —the Abby or the Bishop of London. (Sounds a bit familiar, huh?)  Now, that church is in the center of London in Trafalgar Square in what is considered the center of London.  It has been a church for the homeless for centuries, a place where 'the doors are never closed.' 

Our parish was named a little less than 50 years ago, and it would not surprise me because of the lovely fields around us.  But like the London church, we are quickly becoming the center of a lively community, no longer out in the country where we were just within the lifetime of many of us. When I started teaching here in Keller in 1967, I can assure you there was nothing here BUT fields! 

 Another little piece of information I found was that a distant cousin of mine was the organist at St. Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square.  I can no longer just find that my presence here at St. Martin’s is just a matter of serendipity.

The Saint Martin for whom both Trafalgar Square and here in Keller/Southlake is named is one of the early Christian spiritual powerhouses.  Martin was born in the early 4th century in Hungary, the son of a member of the Roman Imperial Horse Guard.  He spent his childhood near Pavia, Italy and at the age of 10 attended the Christian community there. There was a certain amount of mobility at that time as there is today. 

Against his parent’s wishes he became a catechumen, much as the Emperor Constantine had done.  At the age of 15 he was drafted into the cavalry and stationed in France.  The military at that time was as much the agent of public works for the empire as it was a fighting arm. They built roads, towns and aqueducts.
When Martin was 18, he met a man who had too little clothing to keep him warm.  With his military sword, Martin cut his lush military cloak in half and gave it to the man.  That night Martin dreamed that the man who had received the cloak was Christ.  He had been touched by the spirit of God. The next morning, he went to the priest and asked to be baptized.  Not long after his baptism there was a threat of war by local Gallic chieftains.  Martin went to his military commander and said he was a ‘soldier for Christ and he could not fight.’  He was arrested for cowardice.  He offered himself to be placed on the front lines and help his colleagues, but said he would not carry a sword. The military threat dissolved and Martin was dismissed from the army in France.  

Martin set himself up as a hermit on an island off the Italian/French coast.  Soon he came into contact with  Hilary of Poitier, the earliest bishop of the area, and attached himself as a hermit.  Martin became a monk before the idea of monasticism was very well developed.  Others, men and women, flocked to him for advice and direction. 

Christianity was still new in the area and it was difficult to find those who could lead.  The people of Tours needed a bishop.  They knew that Martin would not accept the position so they invited him to tend to someone who was ill in Tours. The people of Tours wanted to press him into service as bishop. Martin tried to escape by hiding among the geese, but the geese gave him away. And to this day, Martin is considered the patron of geese. The herald of hospitality among the Celtic people has always been the goose.

Martin was consecrated as the bishop of Tours in 371.  But instead of being housed in the bishops’ palace, he chose to live in the caves across the river from the city where many new Christians came to live with him. The Abby of Tours grew up there and became a center of learning and remarkable devotion in which all were welcome. Martin founded monasteries and parishes throughout that part of France.  And through this time of the
“Dark Ages” these monasteries became the centers of education for England and Europe after the fall of Roman Empire.

The mark of hospitality of Tours was one that was absorbed into Benedictine spirituality some 250 years later, and it has characterized the lives of those who followed in the spirit of Martin of Tours. We really do not know much about the life of Martin per se, but he was a soldier who refused to
fight.  He understood the meaning of Christ’s peace.  It is not the way we think of Christianity today, but perhaps it is a part of Christianity that perhaps we need to recapture. 

He was a man who preferred to follow Christ by being a monk, but was pressed into service to the whole of Christian community to serve in leadership.  He was called to serve Christ not the way HE wanted but in a manner that was needed.  He stood firm in Trinitarian theology at a time when the Emperor was touting Arianism.  Yet he did not believe in the wars that were fostered to root out those who did not believe the way he did.  He was outspoken in his opposition of the institution of the death penalty for those who were convicted of heresy.  He was an icon for peace and hospitality at a time when unrest was beginning to infect various parts of western Europe.  The Abby of Tours, Marmoutier  and Liege and  the various convents
founded by him became the refuges for pilgrims in the age of pilgrimage and marked the highway systems of what is now France, northern Italy and Spain. 

So what do we have to take from our patron today?  Martin, as a person, was a person who personally took his faith seriously.  His personal relationship with God in Christ moved him to center on service, kindness and living out the peace he saw in Christ.  The manner of his living informed his theology and vice versa.  Wealth and position were not for him.  He stood for what he understood was the way that Christ had taught and he ministered in that light. Conscientious objection was not centered in fear.  It was a clear conviction to fight was singularly opposed to the values of Christ.  It is ironic that he became the patron of the military in the 19th century with his firm conviction about peace.

 Hospitality was also part of how he saw his commitment in community. Those places which he founded became places where people in need could find welcome no matter their situation.  He refused to find fault with those with whom he disagreed.  He would not malign those who held different ideas of faith but required those who followed him to offer generosity despite the differences.  He was a bishop who did not garner power or use his authority to demean others.  He led by humble example.
Saints are not necessarily remarkable men and women.  They are plain ordinary people who face their lives with a single mindedness centered on Jesus.  They give us a vision of how we can face the things in our lives with the kind of vision that Jesus had.  The early saints have some wonderful stories (we call it hagiography) told about them that may or may not be factual, but they are true to the character of their gifts.  What I see in Martin is the greatness of the person, but also what has followed in the institutions that have been raised up in his name.  All over Europe, institutions were raised up
under the influence of Martin of Tours.  They became the hospitals, the monasteries, the places of higher education especially in France and the stops of cordiality on the pilgrim ways to Compostella in Spain, to Rome and even to the Holy Lands.  Even St. Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, founded some 800 years after Martin’s life, has a tradition of being a place of education and hospitality to the homeless, ‘never closing its doors’. 

The kind of peace that Martin lived is the kind of peace that we too can live here at our St. Martin’s.  And while we remember Martin of Tours as a soldier, he was a soldier who called for the laying down of arms in the name of Jesus.  He was a bishop who laid down his raiment so that the poor could be clothed.  He was a saint that spoke quite theologically but refused to demand the expelling of others if they believed
differently.  These are all qualities that we, here in Keller/Southlake, can call from ourselves as we conform to the life of our patron.  It is the way that we celebrate his life with our own.  Even in the youth of our foundation—50 years is not a very long time in the story of Christ, we stand in an ancient tradition as it is reformed into the newness of faith today.  We stand upon the shoulders of a humble man, a faithful man, a peaceful man who followed in the ways of Jesus.  And we stand upon the stones of monasteries and dioceses of Europe, built also as a place of hospitality, peace and education.  And we should be able to see that we being tended by the saint even without knowing it.

So how do we continue the tradition for a new era?  How will we maintain the charisma of our patron for a new age? 

1.     Let us claim a code that calls us to non-violence as a part of our core.

2.     Let us contribute the education of Christian values in for all ages.

3.     Let us demand from ourselves a type of humility that allows this community to go out to others and invite them to share Christ with us.

4.     Let us always offer the kind of welcome that allows for differences.  Hospitality is not just radical, it is part of our DNA! It comes from the heart of our namesake.


Martin dared to live the life of Christ and it changed the face of Europe.  St. Martin in the Fields, now in Trafalgar Square some 800 years ago helped to change the fabric of British society.  Can we begin to think of what it might mean a millennium from now here in North Tarrant County?  We may be the center of Dalworth then and our fields filled with ways for others to know of Christ.  This building probably won’t be here, but the spirit of Martin can still be lived in what we have begun here.  We stand in a tradition, a remarkable heritage, but it isn’t just history we promote.  The remarkable ways that we have to continue these values and will continue throughout the generations ahead will continue to promote the values we have absorbed and embrace. 

I invite you to make the new paths to Christ as did Martin 1,800 years ago.  AMEN

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Of Truth, Witnesses to History and Windows 10

I have a new computer with Windows 10.  I can't quite tell if the problems with Windows 10 are a part of the program or the fact that the new HP has a touch pad that I can't turn off.  But so far I have erased my prose much to my consternation and which undoes much of the quietude that celebrating the mass at the early service this morning offered.  I am also about to attend a clergy conference, the first in several years.  Add to that the funeral of a friend on Sat., the visit at my former parish in the Diocese of Washington last week and the incredible service at the National Cathedral with the dedication of the image of Jonathan Daniels in the narthex. 

Prayer shapes our believing, so we say in the Episcopal Church. How we pray helps me come to a greater understanding of how God acts in my life, and this can be for good or ill.  But the various exercises we do throughout the week also shape our believing.  There is part of me that is likely to relegate issues with the new computer to the realm of the holy--or at least the unintelligible.  I am thankful that I learned I can cuss at God like a Jew and I have no trouble of doing the same to Microsoft or Hewitt-Packard.  The blue air just fills my room and only the cats have to avoid it.

But learning to post on my blog with all these new tools do have something to
do with faith.  I do not put my trust in HP, I do put my trust in a loving God that has ushered me about the country the past couple of weeks allowing me to catch up with friends that I haven't seen in a while and who have shared their walk in Christ's light.  And so I come to a recalcitrant computer as a newbie and yet I touch on the love of those from my past.  I guess that is the nature of one's 70's.  The old is constantly touching the new or perhaps it is the new that is touching the old that makes one's life so interesting. 

A week ago Friday, J and I flew to Baltimore-Washington Airport and were met by J's seminary roommate and her husband, also a classmate.  This was a part of this summer's 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels which I have talked about in various posts on The Selma Tales.  But catching up with friends, those who also attended our wedding in May, was delightful. We were lay, bishops, priests and deacons but that wasn't what mattered. We talked about the old days and the new days with the same kind of joy.  We still talked about hopes for the future often realizing that we would not see their
realization.  To me that is what friendship really is--those with whom one can remember the past and yet still image for a time we can barely see and most likely won't.  

On Sunday morning we met people from my old parish for breakfast.  I saw the parents I had known now being grandparents, the children I had taught now being parents themselves and women whose marriages I
had blessed, celebrating their lives with one another as widows.  Returning is bitter-sweet yet powerful.  For one woman I had buried her husband when she had a young son, but that day brought me her grandson (about the same age as her son was back then) and asked me to bless him.  What an awesome moment for me.

As I was walking up the way to my old church, no one really knew I was coming, I met a former warden.  We embraced.  She too had a grandchild in tow who read the Epistle.  The ancient parish was continuing to do what it has done for over 300 years...teaching the next generation how to know of Christ.  Thankfully, the parish has a new organ. The one we had when I was there was known to make some rude noises upon occasion--usually when we had important guest.  God always offers humility at a time when we want pride.

At coffee hour we caught up with those multitudes that we had known together, remembered those who had died in the bosom of the parish and those who had moved to other places nourished by the community of the time.  That too is what friendship means: carrying on the traditions and faith that is borne of
communal love and care.  By the time we broke up the 'coffee hour', we had little time to brave DC traffic to get to the Cathedral for the Evensong.  Much has happened in 20 years to the traffic patterns, and we were stuck in DC central without maps.  It seems that DC on various map programs on phones are blocked.  We had to resort to rolling down our windows and ASKING people! What an amazing thing!  Human contact in the process of making a pilgrimage??!  

We got there in time to find parking.  In the little place that used to be called the "Herb Cottage" we found our parish seminarian from Fort Worth.  It was
good to find Lisa studying but waiting for us.  She is doing her internship at the Cathedral.  What an awesome experience.  But she will always be spoiled by that experience.  Nothing in the Episcopal Church, much less the Diocese of Fort Worth will EVER be like the National Cathedral.  But that is true about every parish and every position in our Church.  

The National Cathedral is the most like the cathedrals of England and Europe.  It does not have a parish attached as do other diocesan cathedrals.  The architecture provides the awe of the medieval world that we in the Americas never experienced.  But there are always things that are uniquely American such as the moon rock in one of the stained glass windows or the faces in the statuary that remind us of our particular part of the Christian kingdom.  The service of Evensong is something that is not celebrated much in our part of the Anglican Communion anymore.  The UK does a better job most of the time.  But not last week. The Choir was incredible.  The service of
Evensong was done with such simple honor, in the warmth of the quire, but with the dignitaries which brought such solemnity to the marking the sainthood of an American seminarian who gave up is life to save another at the age of 26. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeferts Schori, blessed the statue. Bishop Mariann Budde presided. And Dr. Harvey Guthrie, a professor of Jon and Judy's and the dean of EDS when I was there, preached. And once again he found the Gospel in Hebrew scripture and rattled cages to remind us that God continues to speak through ancient words.

 Judy and I have been witnesses to history.  That is both a blessing and a curse.  But looking back 50 years at a time when Christianity has been both its greatest and yet at its worst, we still have stories to tell of a God who is with us and whose glory can still be experienced.  

Saturday I attended the funeral of a Baptist friend.  Arnold and Barbara were the first people I had gotten to know when I spent a bit of time at a Baptist church in Dallas last year when I did not feel comfortable in my own diocese.  Barbara sat next to me in choir and Arnold, who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, had been missionaries in the early 80's in Korea.  We had common stories to share.  And Arnold was able to still discuss points of Church History with me.  He also shared his little book of the experience of a military coup in South Korea that ultimately meant that he would return to Korea to testify in the revelations of military misconduct.  He was so revered by the Korean people that Korean dignitaries were sent to celebrate in the funeral service.  Most who knew Arnold here in TX knew a nice dottering old man.  The people of Korea knew a courageous man who had sheltered the college aged children of their town, who had interviewed lower members of the military in order to understand the truth of coup, and who had spoken the truth to the people of Korea.  Alzheimer's was not the memory of the people of Korea. So the liturgy celebrated not only the hope of the future of Arnold in heaven, it carried the truth to shape the faith of future generations.

Bearing witness to history is often seen by the young as those who are 'stuck in the past'.  But what I have seen over the past weeks is not that at all.  I have seen those who have lived one reality challenge those who would rather avoid truth than embrace it.  There is a temptation to continue to reconstruct truth than observe its real consequence.  And while it seems easier to ignore those places where the truth has been uncomfortable, or even 
frightening, there can never be health when we build on histories that are not rooted in it.  

I long for truth to triumph in the Church worldwide.  I long for the time when God, no matter how God is named, can be embraced despite differences.  I stand as a witness that it can happen.  I have known it in my own life.  I have shared it with others so they too can live in the freedom of the truth.  And this is the gospel I teach--that the Truth will set us free.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Selma Tales: Montgomery and Selma III

On the way to Selma we went through Montgomery.  One of our pilgrims, Richard Morrisroe, the former Roman Catholic priest who was shot with Jonathan Daniels in Hayneville, took the bus microphone and as we passed the hospital, he told of his harrowing experience after the shooting.  He lay on the ground in front of the cash store at least a half an hour bleeding before anyone was allowed to tend to him. He was transported to a hospital in Montgomery in the hearse that carried Jon's body.  He lay in a corridor without care for some hours before a Roman Catholic priest was able to
The Cash Store in Hayneville, AL
find a doctor who would tend to him.  Finally, it took 11 hours of surgery to save his life. I believe that Richard was in hospital for almost 6 months after that.  He was permanently marked by this incident.  He subsequently left the priesthood, became a civil rights lawyer, married a woman of color and has two wonderful children, one who is named Jonathan and several grandchildren.

I had met Richard on several other venues celebrating the life of Jon over the years.  He is mainly a quiet, thoughtful person.  He is still a strong Catholic, and I think finds himself rather bemused by the fact that he has been a part of the life of an Episcopal saint.  Later, in NH, I would hear him say that he knew Jon 'eight days in life and fifty years in death'.  He has been a ready witness to the death of Jonathan, willing to share this pilgrimage even though it was difficult.  

We arrived in Selma at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  There is now a National Parks Historical Center on the corner across
from the famed bridge.  Many of the pilgrims walked the bridge. It was a hot day and Judy and I opted not to.  We had done that before.  For several in the group that was quite meaningful and empowering. There was not much time to linger because we had been invited to lunch at St, Paul's Episcopal Church.

St. Paul's closed its doors to the marchers 50 years ago.  The Episcopal members of the march gathered on the steps of the church and praying that the doors and hearts of the people
would be opened.  Later, through the spring semester,  Judy and Jon would attend the parish taking with them children from the projects in which they were staying.  They were treated to really crude comments from 'good' members of the parish.  There was even discussion of destroying the chalice after the Black children received communion.  Judy, Jon, the children and few other African-Americans were only allowed to sit on the back row. Over the altar in the church are the words "He is risen, He is not here." But the group could only see a portion of the phrase..."He is not here." And agreed. 

The present rector of St. Paul's hasn't been there a year, but he was so welcoming.  They prepared a lovely luncheon and then spoke of the change of heart that the parish had come to. Several of the older members reminisced, but I had a hard time staying present. I realized that the deep Southern Alabama drawl still carries the weight of racism for me.  It took all I could to listen to the veiled excuses for their behavior 50 years ago.  It was hard to stand in forgiveness, and yet I knew that was where the heart of my pilgrimage was.  This pilgrimage wasn't about Jon; it was about me, about how privilege has changed me for good or ill.  

I had to step out of the remembrances for a bit just to catch
my breath. And when I returned the rector was making a presentation to Judy in the name of Jon for helping the parish grow.  A lovely trophy was presented.  It was the first time I have seen Judy awarded anything or even acknowledged for her work in Selma.  She has so often gotten lost in the mystique of Jon that people didn't realize the work she did.  Most of the photographs of Jon that are part of his story were taken by Judy and yet she is never given credit for them.  They now are copyrighted by others.  
EDS Pilgrimage 2015

We returned to Montgomery and went to the Civil Rights monument.  It is a simple fountain in the center of the city's government complex.  Designed by Maya Lin, the architect of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC.  There is a constant
sheen of water that flows over the names of the Civil Rights Martyrs.  Some of the pilgrims went to one of the churches, but I sat in the evening with a young priest I had met on facebook.  We talked of ministry and the needs of the Church in the wake of the racial issues that still face us.  

The bus was quiet on the way back. Later I heard that the trip to the church was quite a spiritual time for those who went.  I was still trying to reconcile my emotions in the face of the racism that I was still feeling and working through what that kind of exclusion says about us as Church.  

Even now, some weeks after the trip, I am still trying to allow myself to touch those hidden places in myself--I do not
believe that I find racism in me but I did find a growing dissatisfaction with the kind of privilege that I represent simply because of my skin.  I know that it has offered me things that I have not deserved simply because of the color of my skin.  It sets up barriers that I have worked hard to to tear down and yet at times it seems that not enough has been removed for us to know how to trust one another.  And so in my seventies I feel that 'separate' state that continues to break my heart. And yet I cannot give lucha continua...