Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Herons and Rosehips

I've been getting a little exercise in the evenings. There's no good excuse, here in Davis. Living on the side of a hill, as I did in Berkeley, made any evening stroll a good way to wear down my elbow joints. But it's flat here, and there are bike paths that wind all through my neighborhood. I couldn't ask for a more pleasant way to get out of the house.

There's a perfect time to do it, too, just after supper, when the heat of the day is chased away, but the sun is still glowing enough orange that I can still see the birds and the trees clearly. This is when the birds are active, and I love to watch them fly and sing, even if I don't recognize them. Just like I don't know any of the trees and bushes. All I know is that there's that one bird with red in the front, and another brown one with black stripes. And I see them sitting in the cedar-like shrub, or that tree with the purple flowers.

It's nothing like spending summers at camp in northwestern Ontario. Out there I knew how many families of Grebes lived in the bay behind my cabin, by the way they called to each other. There I could play tag with the loons, paddling alone in the early morning when the lake was like glass. The loon would dive as I approached, come to the surface a dozen or so canoe lengths ahead of me, and tilt it's head back to see me. And then dive when I got close again. I remember finding a Great Blue Heron slowly pacing the back dock, him fishing, shooting his long bill through the surface of the clear water, me motionless, in still time. I knew all the trees, the birch from the poplar and the cedar from the pine. I made rose-hip tea from the bush outside my cabin door. I felt at home there. I belonged there.

Still getting to know this new place, I got out the Davis Bike map after supper tonight, just to see if there was any paths nearby that I've been missing. I thought I knew all the trails nearby the duplex pretty well, but I found one that I didn't recognize. I must have passed it a dozen times, without ever seeing it for what it was. I thought it was just part of a short loop that would bring me back to where I'd already been.

But this path didn't turn back on itself. It went straight to a part of the neighborhood I've never seen before. I was pleased to find West Pond there. It's a wildlife sanctuary. But I didn't really care to find a wildlife sanctuary. Instead, I was surprised to find some joy and happiness.

The joy came from finding rosehips by the path. There were grebes in the pond. And the sign said that Great Blue Herons will spend the winter here. I felt some happiness because I found that even here, this far away from northwestern Ontario, there are creatures I know. It's like running into old friends far away from home.

I might not feel at ease here in Davis yet, but I am glad to find that there might be a little bit of home here with me.


Opinion Piece on Religion and Meaning

An opinion piece on religion and meaning for post-boomers. I've said similar things to boomers, and they tend not to believe me. Feels good to be somewhat vindicated:

"In fact, many young Christians come to church to get asylum from this worldliness. Infinitely more than the megachurch's 'stuff,' my generation wants religion. We want everything our parents didn't, and that seems increasingly to be summed up in the word 'meaning.'"

Read the rest here: | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Viewpoints:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A New Associate Priest at St. Martin's, Davis

It's official.

In the bulletin today, I read in the masthead that the Rev. Preston Parsons is now an Associate Priest (the equivalent of honourary assistant in Canada) at St. Martin's, Davis.

That priest is me, and that parish is a lovely place that I love more and more every time I go.

I think this will work out very well.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Praying In

Driving back from Berkeley tonight, away from the mild breezes of the East Bay and into the warm dry winds of the central valley, I felt a little lonely.

This is not only because Karen is away this week, presenting a paper at a conference in Montreal, but also because I had spent some time tonight with some good friends. I was invited back to Nichols, the apartment complex where Karen and I lived during four years of graduate school. There was a barbecue planned, and I love barbecues, just as I love my friends at seminary. So I headed back to Berkeley.

It's odd, isn't it, that spending time with such close friends could make a person feel so forlorn. These are friends I have traveled to conferences with, friends with whom I have shared countless glasses of wine, beer, and scotch. These are friends who have shared their frustration and loss with me. They are people to whom I have looked for comfort. These are good friends, so I liked sitting there at the barbecue, grilling steak and sausages, enjoying a moment that felt so familiar. I've grilled like that so many times, and it was like I was putting on my favorite sweater again, me smiling as I overhear conversations about picky professors, me talking about baseball with one of the Muller boys. It was just like I remembered it, and it was like nothing had changed.

But the conversation turned, after the grilling was done and as the sun was setting, toward next year's class schedule and who was moving into my old apartment. And suddenly I knew that things were not just as they had always been. I've moved to Davis, they remain in Berkeley. I will begin a new job in September, just as they are beginning another year of classes. For my friends things will be rehearsed and familiar, while I will start something fresh and unfamiliar. It was difficult to know in my heart now, what I already knew in my head. My life has changed, and it will never be just as it was on all those other mild evenings in the Nichols courtyard.

I wish I could write something, about God, or reconciliation, or how Jesus knows this feeling too. But it would be too facile to finish this one up neatly. It's not a neat ending, but a messy one, of confused feelings of loss and thanksgiving, of hope and desolation.

And I find that I am not praying to God for a wish to be granted, but in difficulty; in the middle of a hard time of aridity, and change.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Backyard Gardening

Karen and I have begun gardening for the first time. It's been a good experience so far, sharing the chores like watering and feeding. Though Karen does all the work that involves stooping, I try to at least be out there doing what work I can, as a go-fer and offering words of encouragement.

We have been very excited about the watermelon that Karen and Ian planted while Ian was visiting. The watermelon was the only plant that did well in our original soil. We are novice gardeners, so we figured we'd just put the plants in the soil that was there.

Well, none of the herbs grew at all. I stripped the basils for a meal I was preparing one night, and they stood like small nude bamboo shoots for weeks after that. Nothing wanted to grow. Only the watermelon, which shot out two long vines, was happy at all.

So we made our way to Ace Hardware, where they were very helpful. Sharon, Ace Hardware worker and gardener, told us to use some soil conditioner. Turns out soil conditioner is just a fancy name for chicken shit, by the way. But what good advice!

It made a tremendous difference. The basil is no longer naked, the tomatoes are flowering and showing their fruits, and the hot peppers are smiling widely.

And the watermellon showed it's appreciation by offering us it's first little round mellon.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Why I Believe in Miracles

I got in a little trouble the other day. I got in trouble because I said that I believe in miracles.

We were talking about a specific miracle, the miracle of Jesus' walking on water. I said that I believed it, not because we have some irrefutable evidence, but because I would rather live in a world where Jesus is a man who is recognisable to his followers, but who is also God incarnate and the Lord of all things. I would rather believe, than not believe.

The response was, "people don't just walk on water. So how can we believe Jesus did?"

This line of reasoning is troubling to me, despite the fact that the conversation was with a retired seminary professor. This is a criteria that's been around for a while; if I can't recognise it from my own experience, then I have no way of knowing if the story under scrutiny happened or not. So, because I don't have enough evidence at hand, I cannot believe that Jesus walked on the water.

But we have very little evidence of Jesus' miracles, apart from the testimony of the writers of the gospel. For many of us this is pretty good evidence, especially if you can allow that the evangelists were neither dumber than us or liars. All four evangelists tell the story of Jesus walking on the water. They thought this was a pretty important event.

But we have no evidence that is unquestionable. We have no police tape, we have no surveillance footage. Geraldo wasn't there shooting for Fox News. We have no personal experience of seeing anyone walking on water. Like my critic said, we've just never seen it before.

But this is not a good enough solution to this particular problem, the problem of believability. Very little of what we read in the gospels is believable, really. And if we have trouble believing in the walking on water episode, try the incarnation. Or the resurrection. These are infinitely more difficult doctrines. And, like walking on the water, we have no tangible evidence of these events, either.

The search for irrefutable evidence is simply wrong-headed. We'll never find it. So is calling these stories myths, where, as the argument goes, veracity is beside the point. So is searching for some strange meteorological, physiological, or psychological event that explains everything. These last two are another way of saying that there was no miracle, and that Jesus probably never did walk on the water in a miraculous way.

The question at hand is not about tangible evidence. Nor is the solution to say, one way or another, that nothing special really happened. The question is rather this; what kind of a world do we live in if these events, incarnation, miracles, and resurrection did take place? If this is the question, about what these events might say about the world we live in, then the stories are much more compelling. If God did enter into the world, and take on all flesh in the incarnation, then there is hope for us. Because I am not offered a psychological solution to an embodied problem. I am offered an embodied solution to the problems of living in a body that sins. The promise of the miracles is not just amazement, but that Jesus is Lord of the creation that I live in each day. The promise of the resurrection is not that I will feel better about suffering, but that this suffering will be transformed into glory, and that eternal life is real, in this real body, that I really live in every day.

This world, the world of our redemption and glorification through the God-man, is the world that the gospels are telling me I am living in. Why would I want to believe anything else?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Day at the Game

Karen and I drove into Oakland today, for a special event at McAfee Coliseum. It was Barry Zito figurine day. We lined up early to make sure that we would get a free figurine, and we were not disappointed. You can see Karen above, proudly holding the unopened box, figurine inside.

It's amazing to think that in our few years here in America, both Karen and I have become such big baseball fans. After all, we are Canadians in a country where the Canadian national anthem is not even worth a decent performance, a performance like the Star Spangled Banner gets every game. When the Toronto Blue Jays are in town, Oh Canada is only worth a pre-recorded organ version that sounds like it was taped at the municipal hockey rink in Red Deer Alberta, haltingly played by the part-time organist from the local United Church.

Yet despite our questionable national origin, we are such big fans that we can now carry on conversations with other baseball nuts about things like pitch-counts and slugging percentages.

But my love for baseball did not begin with a love for the major drama that happens on the field. Like any other baseball fan, I love ninth inning heroics and a well executed double-play. But it's the rest of the game that I first loved, and still do.

Like today. We sat in the left-field bleachers, where the hard-core fans sit. We don't go often enough to be considered hard-core, like the guy who is always wearing that green hockey mask, or the elderly, stick thin man in the tight black pants and Buddy Holly glasses, dancing with his pom-poms to a song only he can hear. We're not that serious. But we are regular enough to catch small pieces of the other action, all the minor drama that happens off the field. This is the drama I love to watch.

This drama comes in the polite rejection of the balding man, sitting in the row front of us, by the woman who is more interested in someone else. She's more interested in the guy who doesn't get high fives from his friends, but high twos, because he only has a pinky and a thumb on his left hand. So all his friends hold thier three middle fingers down, leaving only their pinkys and thumbs up, when their right hand meets his left.

I love to watch how the gulls begin to fly when the bottom of the ninth inning comes around, knowing that they will soon be able to attack all those half-eaten hotdogs and peanut shells, because the game is almost over and the fans are about to leave. Even today, when the game went into extra innings, the gulls picked up on this, too. They only dappled the field with their shadows when they heard loud cheering, the kind of cheering you hear when a game was just won by the home team.

I love calling Joe, Julie and Grace, good friends who are A's fans but far away from Oakland, and telling them I'm at the game. (I love calling Jane, too, but not today. She's the biggest Barry Zito fan I know, and I was afraid she would be jealous of my figurine.)

I love that a seven-year old boy gave me his last peanut.

I love the fact that the elderly lady who was hit in the leg with a foul ball, got a souvenir baseball to take home. It wasn't the foul ball that hit her, despite the the chant from the crowd, "give-her-the-ball, give-her-the-ball." The man who got that foul ball, on the rebound off her shin, wouldn't do it. But she got another ball from an emissary from the left-field bleachers. He had collected a ball caught during batting practice, and presented her with that one. She turned to us all and gave a happy thumbs-up.

This is why I like baseball. For the the game, yes. But more-so for the friendship, and above all, for the drama that takes place in the bleachers.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

St. Augustine on Truth, Reason, and Rest

I often hear, in the church, arguments for being silent before God. That silence is often regarded as the only way we can begin to understand God, because God is a great mystery and that the only appropriate response to this mystery is quietude.

This, though, is not the position taken by the great completive thinkers within ancient Christianity, despite the fact that they do defend the mystery of God. Take, for example, this quote from St Augustine:

"Return within yourself. In the inward [person] dwells truth. If you find that you are by nature mutable, transcend yourself."

We see here St. Augustine's depth of insight into how we come to know the truth; the truth is something that dwells within us. We turn to the inward person because the outward person is mutable and changing, subject to the spiral of death. The inward person, which is lasting, is what is most like truth. This is where truth resides; in what is not subject to change, because what is true is everlasting.

St. Augustine urges us even to transcend our ability to reason:

"But remember in doing so that you must also transcend yourself even as a reasoning soul."

Why must we transcend our reason? Is reason not a gift from God? Is reason not the way we come to know what is true? Is this not the task of the theologian, to reason about God? St. Augustine continues,

"Make for the place where the light of reason is kindled."

This is why we must transcend the reasoning soul, because human reason finds it's origin in the heavenly places. Reason is necessary, but only the way in which we look for what is true:

"What does every good reasoner attain but truth? And yet truth is not reached by reasoning, but is itself the goal of all who reason."

The reasoning person is on a search, a search for what is true. This is, to some degree, the theological task: to think long and hard about what is true. But what St. Augustine is so importantly pointing out here, is that though the goal of human thinking is to attain the truth, the truth is not reached by the human effort of reasoning. The truth remains outside the confines of the carnal human mind.

"There is an agreableness than which there can be no greater. Agree, then, with it. Confess that you are not as it is. It has to do no seeking, but you reach it by seeking, not in space, but by a diposition of mind, so that the inward man may agree with the indwelling truth in a pleasure that is not law and carnal but supremely spiritual."

For St. Augustine we do not begin with silence before God. We begin with reason, and thinking, and searching for the truth. But the way in which we find truth is by pressing upon the limits of our mind, through reasoning, until we break through into the place where "the light of our reason is kindled," where we no longer reason but find rest in what is true, and we discover the one who makes us reasonable persons. And when we reach this place, we recognise not only our own limited ability, but also the rightness and agreeableness of what is true.

This is when we find silence, after the quest for what is true. And this is where we find our rest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Walls of Jerusalem

I promised some sermons, so here is one that I preached a little while ago at All Saint's Chapel at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It was preached at the International Student's liturgy, and the readings were from Nehemiah and Matthew. I post it because the gospel is the same one we heard last Sunday, and because I think this still has some relevence for the Anglican Communion.


I fly home to Winnipeg a couple of times a year. When the pilot tips the wing, and the sky is clear, you can see the flatness of the prairies stretching to the horizon. It's like a well ordered patchwork quilt of highway, neat plots of farmland, and the straight rows worked by the farmer.

And it's as if we are all on that airplane, all of us with a window seat. And we're watching a farmer driving his tractor during spring seeding. The farmer is driving his tractor on the highway, not an unusual sight in itself. But we are confused to see that the farmer is leaving a narrow trail of seeds behind him. On the highway.

And we wonder – Is the farmer asleep at the wheel? Because he surely isn’t doing this on purpose.

Well he’s not asleep, because the farmer has now pulled onto the gravel shoulder of the highway. And now the farmer is putting seeds on that gravel. And the farmer turns his tractor into the ditch, the weedy strip between the good soil and the highway.
And he is proceeding to drop seeds all over the ditch. And finally, after fully seeding the highway, the shoulder of the highway, and the ditch – the farmer only now begins to seed the dark earth where his seeds will grow into a viable harvest in the fall.

If this sounds like odd farming practice, it is.

And that is what is so odd about this parable. The sower of seeds seemingly wastes his time, sowing seeds where he already knows they will not grow. He is sowing seeds where, even if they do grow a little, they will not come to bear fruit.

It's safe to say that this parable, a story about casting seeds on the path, on rocky ground, and among the thorns, is not about good farming practice.

Jesus says as much in the passage we heard today, “the explanation of the parable of the sower,” though to call this passage an explanation seems terribly optimistic; the explanation is as cryptic as the parable itself. What this word of the kingdom is, exactly,
remains unclear to us. But we do know that the seed is this mysterious word of the kingdom, and that the word takes root when it is received and understood in the heart. But the word can fail through distraction, persecution, and misunderstanding. It would seem that some people get it and understand this word of the kingdom, and others don’t.

It is a story from an early Christian community struggling with a basic question.

For this early community knew a Christ that offered the Word of the Kingdom to many different people. And the scandal was that though many Jews received this Messiah, many others did not. And adding insult to injury, even some Gentiles were receiving Jesus, and inheriting a promise that was not even made to them.

It was like Matthew's community was reading a map that had thick black lines, the thick black lines of the walls of their city of faith. But looking up from that map they found that the walls were crumbling. Their community was taking a different shape than they thought it would.

The same question behind this parable continues to be asked today, because it has roots in the fact that we so often simply do not understand each other. The same question that so many within the church are asking about others in the church, the question behind the parable: “Why is it that those who are so close to us just don’t understand what we understand?” This is a question being asked all over the communion.

And so this parable, and the explanation of this parable, offers a solution: some are able to hear and understand. Others are not. This is not a statement meant to demonize one part of the society that this community lived in. It is simply description of the world that the disciples knew, and that we know. Some got what the community preached, and others did not.

But I would like for us to take the time, before we look at what it is that some get and others don’t, to see the oddness of this story. Because it is a truly odd story about an odd divine agent. A sower who strangely continues to waste time sowing where nothing will be reaped, a divine agent that curiously, and lovingly wastes time, offering gifts that he knows will not be received.

This is not a story about farming, but a parable about radical generosity.

Let’s take a moment and turn to the story of Nehemiah that we heard just now, because it will also shed some light on some of the problems presented to the church. Turning to Nehemiah, we see a different kind of story, from a different time. Nehemiah is working in the Royal court of Persia. The Hebrew people have been scattered in exile, but are now in the process of returning home. The rebuilding of Jerusalem has begun, but the project is unfinished. The temple has been rebuilt, but there is another shame felt by Nehemiah and the Judahites. Their city, Jerusalem, has no wall.

So Nehemiah goes home to Jerusalem, and begins to build the wall, a necessary step in building not just the city, but also a differentiated society and culture. Nehemiah goes home to both rebuild and preserve the unique character of the city and people of Jerusalem, and to end the shame of a city without walls.

These two stories, the parable of the sower and his radical generosity, and the story of the building of the walls that preserve the identity of Jerusalem, represent to us some of the challenges and temptations offered to the church, two possible directions during times of change and crisis.

There is the temptation on all fronts to build the walls of our city, walls that preserve the distinct character of a certain viewpoint, or preserve a certain identity by separating ourselves from the conflicting identities of others. There is the temptation to continue reading a bad map, without seeing that the walls between us in this church are already rubble, and that we are in relationship with those outside our walls, whether we like it or not.

My hope is that we have a bad map of an ancient city, where the protecting walls are drawn with thick black lines. My hope is that upon arrival at that city, we find that the map was wrong, that the walls fell down long ago, and are nothing more than piles of rubble, still marking ancient jurisdictions but without being a barrier to entrance or departure.

Yet I hope that we are still hesitant in drawing new maps of what the city of our faith should look like. Nor do I hope that we build our walls to match our maps.

I guess I like the idea of a church with crumbling walls, and no budget for upkeep, with strangers entering, friends leaving, and people speaking in ways I don’t understand.

This is my hope because I want to look up from the maps we have, and see Hong Kong Chinese, Korean, Canadian, German, First Peoples, Phillipino, God help us even Republicans and Democrats, those of different ethical convictions, I want to look up and see us all worshipping together in Berkeley, California.

All of us living the question, “Why exactly is it that some people don’t understand what I understand?” Just as in the parable of the sower, I hope we can think that we are somehow better off following the example of the absurd generosity of that sower, wasting our time with those who we are quite sure will never quite share our understanding.

We can read this parable to give us some direction in how to be church, as I have here. But we need to be honest, and say that the community where this parable continued to be told was not struggling with the same things we are struggling with today.

They were not struggling with issues of morality, or ecclesial politics, or the enculturated reception of certain theological doctrines.

And so we return to that hanging question: what exactly is the Word of the Kingdom?

What the Word of the Kingdom was for that Matthean community, the word that some held tightly in their heart, while others let it fall away, or let it grow without care, was something more basic to our faith. It is the word that first breached the wall, the word that frees us. The word of the kingdom was the story of Jesus himself, the Holy one of Israel, the promised Messiah, who was crucified. The Word of the Kingdom was that this same Jesus, the same Holy One of Israel, the liberating Messiah, rose from the dead. That is what some got, and others didn’t get – the story of the crucified one, the risen one.

Those were the first faint lines on the map of what would become the church.

And this is where we should look if we are to draw these lines at all, around us or between us. We should be drawing the lines of a crumbled wall, walls not of protection or isolation but a wall that many might walk over and through.

The crumbled walls of a city of a radically generous people, of a people with a heart like the dark brown earth, a heart where we receive this Holy one of Israel, like a bride into the bed-chamber of a lasting marriage.

A people in fruitful union with the object of all their hopes and desires.

Because this is Christian unity: the holding tight of the Word of the Kingdom, our embrace of the crucified one, the risen one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Baby Priest": You're Gonna Have to Live With It

The title of the blog, "Baby Priest", is going to stay. It will stay at least for a while, despite the best efforts of the "Lynch" mob (you know who you are!).

But it does seem that some explanation is in order, because I'm not sure that many people are familiar with the expression, "baby priest." I didn't choose it because I think of myself as all that young. Nor did I choose it to be cute. I chose it because newly ordained priests are often called this, and not necessarily young priests. It is the ministry that is young, not the person. A sixty-year-old ordinand, if recently ordained, is a baby priest. When the expression is used, it is rarely in a context that implies anyone being cute. It is instead an expression that most often means "he's new at this, so give him some slack."

But the title will not last for ever. One is only a baby priest for so long. Look forward to "Toddler Priest," then maybe "Adolescent Priest," and maybe even one day "Crusty ol' Bastard Priest." You never know. ;-)


Sunday, July 10, 2005

On Bodies of Glory

Most of us know the story well - Adam and Eve are in the garden, the serpent tempts them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they eat. And they feel the need to get dressed.

I wonder why they do this. Why do they feel the need to get dressed? You would think, now that they know what is good and what is evil, they would go and crush the head of the tempting serpent. Instead they are confused by this knowledge, and they cover up something that is good.

I know I am ashamed often, of my growing gut, my receding hairline, my skinny legs. But these are signs of our fall, signs that my body is a dying body. But Adam and Eve have not been cursed yet. They have not been clothed with the garments of skin. Adam and Eve are covering incorrupt bodies. They are covering bodies of glory.

It seems that the knowledge of good and evil brings more confusion than it does clarity. This is true, isn't it; we write scores of books on ethics and moral theology, and so many of us disagree on fundamental issues. If we really did have clear knowledge of good and evil we would all just know what is good and what is evil, just like we know how to breathe. Instead, as a species, we are confused.

This brings me to another body of glory that we know from scripture. When Jesus is resurrected, he undoes this original covering, this original hiding, this original concealment of things glorious. Jesus' acts after the crucifixion and prior to the ascension are acts of uncovering, acts of revelation, and the undoing of the curse of death.

But the body that Jesus uncovers is not just a body of glory. It is the incorrupt body of a man who has suffered. The body that Jesus reveals is one marked by the nail and the spear. Adam and Eve cover what is glorious and what is good. Jesus uncovers what is glorious and what is good, and what he shows us is his wounds. Jesus' glory is in this double revelation; that his is a body of glory, and that this body of glory knows suffering. And by this Jesus gives some clarity to at least one thing that confuses us. Jesus tells us, by this uncovering, that our scars and wounds can be good and glorious.

This is something that I recognise in myself, and perhaps you recognise it as well. When I reveal myself I show people the person I want people to think I am. I want people to think that I am smart and strong. I certainly do not want to show a man who has suffered. I want to uncover my glory without revealing my scars and wounds. I want to undo the mistake of Adam and Eve without following Jesus.

But my wounds are wounds of glory. Your scars are scars of glory. This is what Jesus offers to us in the resurrection: not just the undoing of sin and death, but triumph over suffering and the transformation of our very suffering into what is good and glorious.

Praise God.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Baby Priest": What's Up with That?

Ok friends, "Baby Priest" has not gone live yet, but a few of you know about it. But there is already some question about the title, "Baby Priest."

Against "Baby Priest" as a title:

Too cutesy, and Preston is not cutesy.

For "Baby Priest" as a title:

It's a common moniker given to the recently ordained, and really sums up the flavor of the site; these are the reflections of a recently ordained priest.

So, does it go or stay?


Gregory of Nazianzus and Yoda

I've finally gotten back to my thesis, and having spent some time on holidays and not working on it, I am seeing that my syntax can be, well, idiosyncratic.

I wonder if I have been watching too much Star Wars. Some of my sentences sound a little too much like Yoda, if he were to write about Gregory of Nazianzus. For example, in my stilted prose: "It is important to note that referring to oppositional images as they are presented rhetorically Gregory is." Compare this to Yoda's ESL: "When nine-hundred years old you reach, look so good you will not."

The similarity scares me. Somebody should hide my Star Wars DVD's.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Solemn Declaration 1893

It's been nearly two weeks since my ordination, and though what has happened has not sunk in completely, I have been reflecting some on what it means to be in an ordered ministry.

For one, I have mede some commitments that not all baptised Christians make. At both my diaconal ordination, and now at my priestly, I signed an oath in the form of the Solemn Declaration 1893. It is a document that dates from the first Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and it fills out some of the specifics of how I am bound to uphold the doctrine of the church, as Anglicans have recieved it. This is it, in full:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
WE, the Bishops, together with the Delegates from the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada, now assembled in the first General Synod, hereby make the following Solemn Declaration:
WE declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of the Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders; and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.
And we are determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth in The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England; together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.

If you are brave enough to read the whole thing, you will notice something that important to today's ecclesiastical polity: I, and every other ordained person in the Anglican Church of Canada, have personally declared a desire to remain in communion with the rest of the Anglican Communion. This was a commitment before I signed, but I have now taken this as an oath, signed and witnessed by the church.

Does this change how I feel about the communion? No. Will I take this oath seriously? Yes. Do all ordained ministers in the Canadian church take it seriously? Sadly, no. For me, this declaration fleshes out pretty clearly how exactly the priestly ministry is ordered, and as I am in this ordered ministry, it orders some of my basic commitments. To be honest, frameworks of this kind are helpful to me, in the practice of submittimg myself to the church that has called me out, and part of the continuing exercise of not changing the church, but of learning from her what she has to teach me. There is much yet to learn; let us pray that she is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Returning Home

Karen and I got home mid-afternoon yesterday, exhausted! Thanks so much to our friend Sabeth who picked us up at SFO. Karen thankfully was not as sick on our travel day as she was the day before.

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