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Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Category: General Notes (page 1 of 13)

BBC News – Vegetative patient Scott Routley says ‘I’m not in pain’

More of the stories we tell to make ourselves feel better in difficult situations, or to relieve us of responsibility, are stripped away every day. –JBH

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain.

It’s the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.

His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting.

via BBC News – Vegetative patient Scott Routley says ‘I’m not in pain’.

Thoughts for the Small Church Ministry Conference: Engaging 20 & 30 somethings in the Church

Below are the notes which formed the foundation of my opening remarks for the panel discussion on engaging twenty and thirty-somethings in the congregation. I will be posting more resources as links at the end of this post over the coming days (as well as linking to some of the resources I mentioned but did not provide earlier), and I hope we can have an exchange of some practical ideas that small congregations have tried. I believe the principles I’ve mentioned in my notes are important, but we need to hear about examples where they’ve been put into practice.

Also, this was primarily written via dictation software, and I’m still finding typos, so if you see one, please let me know so that I can correct this version.

So, please share your thoughts, stories and ideas, and critique away!
-JBH+

I’ve been asked to speak about ways of engaging young adults–twenty and thirty-somethings1–in the congregation. From one perspective it makes perfect sense for me to present on this topic, since I’m 31 years old and I’m used to being on the younger end of meetings, events, and congregations in the Episcopal Church. When I started seminary at Sewanee, I was the youngest seminarian, and I think I was still the youngest seminarian when I graduated three years later.

For quite a while, my wife and I were the youngest people outside of the children’s ministry in our congregations.

On the other hand something we have to keep in mind about young adults who attend church, and in particular those who are in ministry positions, whether lay or ordained, is that we’re pretty odd. What I mean to say is that we are not exactly representative of our demographic. So if you want to know how to attract an abstract young adult who is not a churchgoer and whose life is more representative of the entire age group, then it’s not the best strategy.2

But, thankfully, there are no abstract human beings, there are only individual human beings who have an innate need to connect with other human beings over shared interest, experience and need.

Some people might identify based upon their age, others might identify based upon a common interest, or the fact that they went to the same college, or they have children the same age–even though they are a number of years apart in age themselves.

It leaves us with the reality that targeted evangelism–at least based upon something as broad as age cohort–rarely works in a cut and dry manner.  People are too diverse, their interests too disparate, their gifts unique.  Because of this reality, we never really know how ministries we begin will speak to the needs of our congregation and community.

For example, a friend of mine told me about a ministry a priest in Chattanooga had started a number of years ago that attracted a number of twenty and thirty somethings–a “bluegrass Mass.” This priest was later called to a congregation in Virginia, in part because of his strong ministry to young adults. He started something similar in Virginia, and the service attracted mostly people in their fifties and sixties.

Another, less stark example, is that of a large Episcopal/Anglican congregation in South Carolina that sought to address the dearth of young adults in their congregation by starting a contemporary service in the “less formal” environment of their parish hall. After an initial period in which the warnings of the naysayers proved true, and hardly any twenty-somethings appeared at what was billed as the “twenty-something” service, they hired someone with a good deal of experience in youth and young adult ministry. After some time, they did indeed attract some twenty somethings, and thirty and forty and fifty somethings.  Eventually their age spread looked like this3:

This shows that what was envisioned as the “twenty-something” service, was actually a service that appealed to a wide array of folks of different ages. It did indeed attract a cross section of people who’s average age was lower than the traditional service, but I guarantee there were a number of twenty-somethings attending that traditional service. When we do ministry, we should try to do it well and be ready for who God sends. Our task is to reach out to and to welcome all sorts and conditions of people.

Because evangelism and incorporation take place as part of connection and relationship, it makes sense to start with the people you have and figure out how they can connect with the people outside your doors. What sorts of shared experiences, interests, concerns, and values do they have in common with the broader community?

This is why I’m thankful that this topic is focused on engaging young adults in the congregation, which I take to be primarily about focusing on the people who are in, or who are only a few steps removed from, our congregations. From this point of engagement, I think we can draw some inspiration for ways of reaching out to others, but we begin here, within our communities.

It’s because of this idea of starting with your community, with who you are as a congregation, that I believe many attempts at targeted evangelism fail. Targeted incorporation or engagement will also fail, if by that we mean starting a program or ministry for a particular group based upon a generalized understanding of what young adults, children, parents, seniors or anyone else wants, as seen from the perspective of others.

My goal is to set the stage, provide context for the discussion of how to engage people in their twenties and thirties in the congregation and present some ideas and principals for conversation. first in some broad brush strokes I’m going to talk a little bit about where we are in our culture and in our church. Time necessitates that these are statements are brief, so I’ve included more information and resources in your handout. Because of this, I’m just going to make some claims and statements that I won’t necessarily back up in my remarks, but which will be supported by your materials or the suggested reading.

My comments are not intended to cover every circumstance for every individual experience, but instead to put forward the general idea of what I see as our context, our challenges and our opportunities, and specific ways to engage young adults, which our panel can agree with, expand on, critique, as well as offer their own insights from their experiences.
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  1. I should note, however, that it only seems to be in the church that we speak about thirty-somethings as “young adults.” Consider popular culture. The predominant age of FBI & Secret Service Agents (among others) in popular shows is thirty-something, and their youth isn’t commented upon, in part because they aren’t considered particularly young. Society at large could often be said to be “youth obsessed,” but I think our perceptions of age in the church are often skewed, and this has a detrimental impact on our ministry. []
  2. The biggest single determining factor of whether a young adult in their 20’s and 30’s attends church is whether they are married and secondly, whether they have children. If not, they are unlikely to attend, and given rising ages of marriage and parenting, as well as the increasing numbers of people who choose not to marry, there’s a larger issue here for the church to deal with. []
  3. Ross Lindsay, Building a Church to Last, p. 110, preview available here: http://goo.gl/EqDp6 []

On hypersensitivity and the need to differentiate

Earlier tonight I purchased a book on my Kindle on the Articles of Religion. It was written in the late 80’s by Oliver O’Donovan, who teaches Theology at Cambridge University, but was re-issued in 2011. Thus far I’ve found it a very well written and helpful book. So helpful, in fact, that I wanted to share it with some friends of mine. I waited until I was back on the computer and then I visited Amazon to get the information on the book, as well as the link, to send to my friends. Then, something caught my eye as I read the book description:

The circled portion caught my eye as I skimmed because “sic” in parentheses, and usually italicized, is used to indicate a non-standard or archaic spelling, error etc… I’m a historian–or at least, I’m trained in the study of history–so I found a long time ago that it was too tedious to use this for all but the most archaic or glaring of errors. It’s meant to call attention to something that the reader might otherwise consider a typo after all, so it makes little sense to use it when every other word in a quote would need it, or when every quote in the paper would have to have it trailing along behind. But I digress.

This caught my eye primarily for two reasons. First, there is no obvious error in the text that requires the use of “sic” and secondly, it is followed by an exclamation mark. Whoever typed this description was intent on calling attention to the the use of mankind in the quote, and wanted to call attention to it as something “archaic” or offensive. In other words, they didn’t want to be associated with it in any way–how horrible! (SIC !).

At first I assumed some Amazon employee had gotten a little too worked up when typing out the product description, and I started to look for ways to contact them, just because I didn’t think the product description was an appropriate place to find an editorial use of a grammatical tool. When everything I found seemed to indicate that the description was the responsibility of the publisher, I thought I’d check out another source for information on the book, so I moseyed over to Google Books, and what should I find on the product page?

It seems clear by now that this publisher has someone with a proverbial chip on their shoulder about supposedly non-inclusive terms. The exclamation point makes me feel they were less ignorant than they were partisan.

I have nothing against inclusive or expansive language, but stuff like this is just silly. It falls into the use of the term “sic” as a form of ridicule (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic), and makes one wonder if the person has read many books published before the late 90’s. Which brings me to my other point. This must’ve been ideologically motivated. Who else would think that the use of the term “mankind” was archaic enough to be highlighted in such a way? And thisis something I have against inclusive language: it has been presented as a natural change in the way people speak and communicate. There’s a line that expresses my observations on the topic well: “Language changes that must be imposed, never naturally arose.”

Until next time, keep ridiculing and distancing yourselves from people you disagree with, even if you have to thrust your opinion on everyone who happens to visit a random web page for which you wrote copy. Three cheers for manImeanHumankind.

The Role of Choice and Destiny: An Intro to Flight of Blue (By A.E. Howard)

Introduction:

A cursed traffic light. A rip in the fabric of the world. A possum sorcerer injured on a quest for revenge.
Kai and Ellie embark on a journey to return the sorcerer to his home. Entangled in events that could destroy the world, Kai must choose whether to accept the role he was born to play, but isn’t sure he wants.

So is the core tension at the heart of Flight of Blue explained. Will Kai embrace the role–or this one particular role–he was born to play, or will he choose another path. What will the repercussions of his choices be; for himself, for his friends?

Tonight’s guest post is brought to you by A.E. Howard, better known–to me–as my wife! I’m very excited and happy to be able to host this post to help introduce more of you to Flight of Blue, her new novel. This labor of love–and I can attest to the labor, having been a novel widower off and on for months ;-)–is now available for purchase in paper back or ebook form from Amazon. Tonight and tomorrow a group of people who are interested in the book, many of whom have read and enjoyed advance copies (including me!) will be hosting blog posts and interviews on their sites trying to get the word out.

I encourage you to check out this fantastic book, and not just because I think the author is amazing, intelligent and beautiful (she is my wife after all) but because it’s a good book. As I wrote in my review:

Flight of Blue is an engaging and fun read. The characters are believable and the dialogue is funny. While a good representative of the genre, I did not find the work derivative or predictable and found myself laughing at times, even in the midst of suspenseful events. The weaving of multiple layers of emotion was very skillful. Do yourself a favor and read it, or pass it along to someone you know who’s in the mood for a good read.

And now, a word on the role of choice and destiny.

Guest Post:

 

Flight of Blue coverKai sighed. “It seems I have no choice.”

“You always have a choice. You still have a choice: you can choose not to go. In fact, if you want to go, you must choose that, for I will not take anyone unwillingly into the Realm of Darkness.”

Shadrach straightened up and appraised Kai, waiting for a response.

“I’ll go. Serina needs me, and so, I’ll go.” He felt elated and heavy-hearted all at the same time.

Earlier in the story, Kai discovered that he was born into a role that no one had held for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. And with this discovery comes a certain level of obligation. Kai feels that he no longer has a choice in his life, that he has to do the things laid out for him to do.

But his mentors continue to point out to him that he must willingly accept the role in order to be effective in fulfilling it, but also that he does have a choice. He might have been born into the role, but he doesn’t have to step into it.

I felt it was important to maintain this distinction because it seems all too often both in fantasy worlds and in our own, we find characters or people sort of weighed down with the feeling that they have no choice. Somehow they’re stuck with their lot in the world, or some job they’ve been thrust into, and now that’s it. But I think it’s important to realize that we always have a choice.

Launch Party Central Post on A.E. Howard’s Blog

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About the New Historicism

[Incedentally, the New Historicism isn’t all that “new” anymore.]

I recently ran across this interesting post on the New Historicism on the Religiosity blog.  Below are some of my thoughts in response:

Michel Foucault. One of the major influences on New Historicism

I was trained in New Historicism as an undergraduate, as that was the dominant school of thought in my history department. However, the primary take away that was emphasized there, was that “history is everything,” i.e. a historian shouldn’t limit oneself only to evidence that has traditionally been the realm of historians. Instead, it’s perfectly alright, even imperative, that historians look at, for example, the music of an era, or its popular literature. While it’s true that the New Historicism tends to reject meta-narratives, following the general postmodern drift away from them, the corollary of that–which I take as a very positive thing–is that the New Historicism takes the particular much more seriously, and appropriately so, in my opinion. It’s interesting that he links this tendency against universalizing to conservatism… as a traditionalist conservative (but fundamentally *not* a modern tea party type conservative), that may be one reason I like it.  I don’t think it negates the ability to draw conclusions about trends, etc… it just means that those theories are taken with a grain of salt, and the weight is toward viewing a particular time as largely peculiar in itself.

“The past is a foreign country.” –L. P. Hartley

Will Evangelicals’ Immigration Shift Mean Common Ground With Obama? – The Daily Beast

If the Obama team is looking for an issue that can “break the fever” of the conservative opposition, as the president puts it, then immigration reform might be shaping up to be the most obvious choice. Thanks to an emerging coalition of religious leaders, it might be the only issue where there is plausible common ground to be shared between the White House and the GOP base.

via Will Evangelicals’ Immigration Shift Mean Common Ground With Obama? – The Daily Beast.

Forced abortion sparks outrage, debate in China – CNN.com

Forced abortion sparks outrage, debate in China – CNN.com.

New Covenant Web Site

Though I’ve been a bit short on contributions lately, I am still one of the contributors to the Covenant web site, and will hopefully be more active again soon.

Despite my lack of participation of late, I want to direct folks’ attention to the redesigned Covenant site, now fully integrated with The Living Church.  Check it out.

Opening Charge and Prayer at the Tennessee House of Representatives this morning

I am grateful to Representative Debra Maggart for inviting me to give the opening invocation at the House of Representatives this morning.
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Thoughts after Convention

I’ve just returned home from the 180th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee. After the better part of two days spent in meetings, considering resolutions and hearing reports, I’m pretty much brain dead and for the most part am only doing the most necessary things (like reading stories to my 9 month old son) before bed. But, in the quiet this evening, as I reflected upon tomorrow’s gospel text and ordered my thoughts for my sermon and brief report on convention, my attention was caught by one of the old Prayer Books that sit on my shelf.  This one is a beautiful 1928 Book of Common Prayer printed in 1929 by Cambridge/James Pott & Company in New York. It has fantastic red under gold edging on the pages of india paper.  But it’s beauty isn’t the best thing about it.  It’s what’s inside this Prayer Book, which I picked up at an SPCK book sale while I was in seminary at the University of the South, School of Theology.

As with old Bibles, old prayer books become the repository of mementos and notes, cards printed with favorite hymns and hand written heartfelt prayers. As I flipped through its pages tonight, trying to still a mind that is still on over drive, I noticed the section of family prayers toward the end, it’s pages marked with the incidental dirt of hands pressed against them in prayer.  Obviously the owner of this prayer book had used these family prayers frequently, even marking certain ones with an x, presumably to indicate favorites: For Quiet Confidence, For Guidance, the first of two prayers for trustfulness, and finally the prayer for Joy in God’s Creation and For the Children.

Marking these pages were several sheets of paper including a Prayer for The United Nations Organization adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, and Acts of Devotion. Finally there was what seemed to be the most interesting piece, at least for the present, a prayer for the unemployed by the Bishop of New York, reproduced below:

A Prayer for Those in Need through

Unemployment


Set forth by the Bishop of New York
For Use in the Churches of the Diocese and
by the People in Their Homes

*

O Almighty God Who hast blessed the earth with all that is needful for the life of man, give Thy help and comfort to all who are in need and especially to those who are now suffering through unemployment; stir us to do our part for their aid and relief; help us to realize our responsibility for the injustices of our social and industrial life; fill us with the desire to purify our civilization and make it truly Christian that we may be delivered from the evils alike of grinding poverty and of excessive riches; lead us into the paths of simple and upright living; take from us the spirit of covetousness and give us the spirit of service; show us the way so to order our life as a nation that, receiving the just reward of honest labour, none may want, but each according to his need may share in Thy bountiful provision.

We ask this in the Name of Him Who came into this world to show us the way of justice and love, Thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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