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What I’m reading: On “The pious fellowship”

“A culture of stalwart respectability builds an impenetrable wall against truth-telling. In most mainline churches people drop out, at least for a while, when life gets messy. An impending divorce, an adulterous affair, chronic depression, a job layoff, a child in trouble with the law: all these commonplace occurrences drive people from the church just when they most need the grace of the sacraments and support of the community. Pastors find themselves tracking down the lost sheep. And why do they disappear? Because the missing members are ashamed or confused, fearful that their neighbor might “judge” them or think ill of their failures as spouses, parents, and solid citizens. Someone might even think them guilty of sin. When Bonhoeffer asserts “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner,” he goes on to observe that as a consequence of this suffocating pretension “everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.”

Go in Peace: The Art of Hearing Confession, Julia Gatta and Martin L. Smith, p.6-7

Worshipping as the whole body of Christ

I was trying out a new search engine the other day. Actually, it was a digital library, and it is pretty cool. You should check it out. It’s part of the Digital Library Project, and is called HathiTrust Digital Library, and it has some great texts available. As I was satiating my curiosity about their holdings, by searching for random topics, I did a search for the term “Anglican.” One of the texts that popped up was Anglican Church Architecture  with some remarks upon ecclesiastical furniture by James Barr, architect, published in 1842.

As I skimmed it’s pages, my eye was caught by an earlier illustration. It was a floor plan, and a good example of some common elements one is likely to see in village churches in England.  Take a look:

Haseley Church, Oxon.
Haseley Church, Oxon.

I wonder what you notice about the lay out?

When I looked at it, the first thing I took note of was the tower, and the porch which serves as a main entrance to the church building. I noted that the font is located at the entrance of of the church, and that the pews are shorter at that side of the nave to accommodate it. I noticed that the vestry (vesting room, not the group of people that we name by the term) was sort of tacked on, seemingly as an afterthought. The position of the reading pew (B) right in front of the pulpit (C) struck me as interesting, but indicative of a particular time frame; my understanding is that the clerk would sit there and lead responses during the service.  Then I noticed the pews that were sideways at the front of the church, around the pulpit. But there were also pews running sideways in the chancel area. Generally speaking (assuming there aren’t transepts) pews oriented that way tend to indicate the presence of a choir. But, in my experience, the choir is almost always seated in the chancel area. So where would the choir sit here?

Then I noticed it on the key. Letter H. Referring to the pews in the chancel. Do you see it? Children’s seats.

Now, when I brought this up to Anna, she had the same initial thought that I did: perhaps they had a boys choir. But then I thought that it would make more sense, even if it was a boys choir, to actually refer to it as the boys choir or even just choir. Also, the word children has always been inclusive of both sexes, so add to that the fact that at this date the Church of England would not have had children’s choirs consisting of boys and girls. So, could it be that the chancel area was reserved for the seating of children?

What would be the possible benefits of this?

Folks who study congregational development and children nearly universally suggest that children sit toward the front during the service so that they can see the action. Perhaps that was part of it. Sitting in the chancel would’ve given the children a good view of what happened in both the liturgy of the word and during communion. There may have been another benefit, in that, while they would be able to hear the sermon because of their proximity, being positioned behind the preacher may have made the noise from fidgeting and the occasional whispered comment less likely to carry into the nave.

Still, I was curious. I had never heard of or seen anything like this before. So, I started to dig a bit. I ran across another, modern text: Buildings, Faith and Worship: The Liturgical Arrangement of Anglican Churches 1600-1900. I searched this book, and found several references to children. In discussing the design and renovation of congregations in England during the 19th century, he notes that of the parishes in this region “Most had seating for the congregation provided by open benches rather than box pews; some had stalled chancels but for children rather than choristers [...]” (page xxiii). In another text, I saw reference to a parish church that was renovated in in the 1680′s and put small box pews in the chancel for children.

All of this makes me wonder what our past might be able to tell us about our future of incorporating all ages in our worship.

 

Diversity’s Limits at Dartmouth | The Living Church

Dartmouth exposes their own ignorance, and demonstrates that in the realm of supposedly competing rights and goods, the ones that make or leave us most comfortable inevitably win out.

Randall Balmer details the sad situation:

“The president of Dartmouth, also a good and decent man, rescinded Tentatenga’s appointment as dean of the Tucker Foundation on August 14. He apparently thought — mistakenly, it turns out — that he was striking a blow against homophobia, but instead he succumbed to specious arguments tinged with racism.

What will happen with the Tucker Foundation? I’m typically a glass-is-half-full guy, but in this instance I’m not sanguine. The administration will appoint a task force, which, after a decent interval, will recommend that Tucker cede its religious bearings to the various affiliated chaplaincies and thereby rid the college of the “divisive” influence of religion on campus. At precisely the moment when Dartmouth needs to hear voices of conscience to help us navigate the shoals of diversity and globalism in the twenty-first century, the college will designate a student-services type as administrator. Then, sadly, the one place on campus that “educates Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice” will be diminished.”

James Tengatenga, the Anglican bishop of Southern Malawi, will not be the next chaplain and dean of the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College; the offer was extended and then later rescinded this summer. What does this unfortunate episode tell us about the limits of diversity at an elite liberal ar…

Read it all: Diversity’s Limits at Dartmouth | The Living Church

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Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

Thank you to the Telegraph for answering this question.

I wouldn’t mind that hanging on a wall, but I wouldn’t wear it…

Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

A large plate worn at Prince George’s christening by Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, was a giant clasp holding his robe together

Read it all: Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

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$20,000 Bathtub And $482,000 Closets Are Just Tip Of German Catholic Iceberg

What is it about the Roman Catholic Church in Germany… corruption was worse there before the Reformation too. Interesting that it’s the Pope trying to reform it this time…

“BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized the German public.But Tebartz-van Elst, 52, is only the latest German clergyman to run into trouble since Pope Francis took the helm of the Roman Catholic Church. Francis temporarily suspended the bishop on Wednesday while a church commission investigates the expenditures on the $42 million residence complex.As the new pontiff tries to reform the way the church does business, German dioceses, which reportedly include the world’s wealthiest in Cologne, are chafing under the new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle.“Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of We Are Church, an organization advocating Catholic Church reform. “There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.”Since becoming pope, Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all “vanity, arrogance and pride” and humbly serve the poorest in society. Under Francis, priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but a scandal.”

BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized…

Read it all: $20,000 Bathtub And $482,000 Closets Are Just Tip Of German Catholic Iceberg

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Halloween and the Power of Evil | First Things

I couldn’t put it much better than commenter KAS did:

“In many cases, these dilemmas could be solved if evangelicals understood the ecclesial significance of such holidays (holy days) and celebrated them accordingly. Halloween means something entirely different when observed in tandem with All Saints Day (which, in turn, is richer alongside All Souls Day).

The evangelical problem is that such the culture has de-linked such holidays from the liturgical calendar and there is, for them as well, no liturgical tradition to fall back on. To cite another example, my evangelical friends act for all intents and purposes as if Christmas begins and ends on December 25th. Those in liturgical traditions anticipate the arrival of Christmas during Advent and treat it as a 12-day festival concluding on Epiphany — and with other mini-feasts embedded in the calendar.

It is somewhat amusing to me, then, that evangelicals often decry secularization.”

There are big banners hanging over the streets of our local business district, announcing a Spooktacular celebration on Halloween. I wonder whether the local Evangelicalsthere are three congregations…

Read it all: Halloween and the Power of Evil | First Things

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What’s in a name? Christians, Muslims and the worship of the One God

Thank you Dr. Volf. I get tired of how often I have to have this conversation. Proof, again and again that reading comprehension or understanding simple concepts cannot be assumed. And as to Mohler… this indicates he’s better suited to the role of a talking head on radio and certain news outlets than the president of an academic institution. And how presumptuous is it for him to tell these Christian communities of not only much older lineage, but which have endured such persecution, to change their practices because he thinks they’re confusing? To paraphrase someone… if a person is foolish in a very little, they will also be foolish in much….

“Surprisingly, Malay Islamic hardliners find soul mates among some Christian theologians. R. Albert Mohler, the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, strenuously disagrees with the idea that it is appropriate for Christians to pray to “Allah” (as they do in some Malaysian churches). The key condition for Christians’ calling God “Allah” is that “Allah” must refer to the same God as is revealed in the Bible. But that is not the case, according to Mohler. He writes:

“From its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim – the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father. If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion … and worse?”

Rather than examining what Christians mean when they speak of “God’s Son” and what Muslims mean when they contest the claim that “God has a son,” as, for instance, Nicholas of Cusa has done in his Cribratio Alkorani, Mohler takes Christian and Muslim claims in their surface sense and concludes that Muslims and Christians worship two different gods. If so, then it would be confusing to designate them with the same name.

“Allah” and the Christian God

So should Christians reject “Allah” as a term for God? Should they insist that “Allah” is the Muslim god whereas Christians worship “the Father of Jesus Christ” or “the Lord God,” as Mark Durie claims? They should not.

**Allah is simply Arabic for “God,” just as Theos is Greek for “God” and Bog is Croatian for “God.” A slightly different way to make the same point is this: Allah,” like “God,” is not a proper name but a descriptive term. “Barack Obama” is a proper name; “the president” is a descriptive term. “Zeus” and “Hera” are proper names; theos (Greek for “god”) is a descriptive term. For the most part, we don’t translate proper names; “Obama” is “Obama” (transliterated) in all languages. We translate descriptive terms; “the president” is “predsjednik” in Croatian. “God” is Allah in Arabic and Allah is “God” in English.

Even more important than the meaning and the character of the word “Allah” is the millennia-long practice of Christians: “Arabic Christians and Arabic-speaking Jews since long before the time of Muhammad have used the name ‘Allah’ to refer to God … Thus all Arabic Christian Bible translations of John 3:16 say, ‘For Allah so loved the world …’” Up to this day, all Arabic Christians use “Allah” for God.

The Copts are a good example, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world going back to the first century. Living as they do in Egypt and speaking Arabic, they use “Allah” for God. Witness, for instance, what happens in a Coptic ceremony after a cross has been tattooed onto a wrist of an infant child as a sign of religious and ethnic identification in a predominantly Muslim and Arab society. The whole assembled congregation shouts “Allah!” Are they betraying Christian faith by that shout by invoking a foreign god? They are unmistakably affirming the Christian faith, and they are doing so by exclaiming the same word for God as their Muslim compatriots do.

The whole heated discussion about the proper designation for God is a bit futile. Those who insist that Christians and Muslims must use different designations for God generally think that the two groups worship different deities. But a different word for God, obviously, does not mean that God is different. You can use different words to refer to the same thing. Inversely, the mere fact that Muslims and Christians use the same word for God does not mean that their God is the same.”

Whether “Allah” can refer to the Christian God is not just a burning question in Malaysia; it drives relations between Islam and Christianity globally. There can be no shared future without a right answer.

Read it all: What’s in a name? Christians, Muslims and the worship of the One God –

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What About Malala’s Religion? – The Sisterhood

“As touching as Stewart’s interview with her was, and it was touching, it did overlook a big part of what makes Malala Malala, and that is her religion. Yousafzai is a Muslim, and sees the potential for reform within the context of Islam, and not, like other prominent feminists from Muslim countries, outside of it.
From The Jewish Daily Forward. The truth is, it is only from within that true reform can come to Muslim countries and regions. We should know from our own cultural experiences, that true change must be rooted in some aspect of the tradition to really hold on and flourish:

“Rafia Zakaria has a powerful essay on Al Jazeera America about why it is important that Yousafzai’s fans in the west don’t overlook the fact that Malala is a practicing Muslim. She says that for “Muslim girls and women around the world [her story] is more than just a tale of survival. … [It] is proof that feminism, or the desire for equality through education and empowerment, is not the terrain of any one culture or faith.”

Zakaria compares Yousafzai to Somali-born Dutch author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose memoir “Infidel,” about her journey from a repressive Muslim family in East Africa to the freedom she found in Netherlands, became a New York Times best-seller and turned her into an international celebrity. Hirsi Ali’s message was that Muslim women can only be free when they renounce their faith and cultures.

Yousafzai, on the other hand, offers a different model for reformation, one that better resembles the battles being waged by millions of Muslim girls, who long for emancipation too. “Their victories,” writes Zakaria, “lie not in renunciation but in resistance and reclamation of faith, culture and public space.” She ends her essay by urging Western feminists to take note of their blind spots that might lead them to believe that renunciation is the only way.”

Jon Stewart’s interview of Malala Yousafzai was touching but it missed an important point, her religion. Malala is Muslim, and sees the potential for reform within the context of Islam — not from…

Read it all: What About Malala’s Religion? – The Sisterhood

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