Monday, October 09, 2006

"Evangelicals and Catholics Together"?

Ordinary Time

Well, more or less.

Everyone, we have a new blog friend. Best behavior, now.

SaintSimon writes Normal Life Adventure, which is about just the things you might suppose. He's a Church of England ordinand trainee reader in the charismatic tradition (like evangelicals, only happy), and active in a parish. Since Anglians like to "round out" the churchmanship of their priests, he's doing a placement in a local Anglo-Catholic parish, which seems pretty dead (franky!). It's probably not the best advertisement for an unfamiliar tradition, but it sounds like he's making the best of it. He's expressed warm appreciation for the content here and at Elizaphanian, and contributes thoughtfully to discussions.

I recently asked him to share his reflections on his placement, and with his kind permission, I'm reproducing his comment here as a discussion starter. He definately comes at this stuff from a different direction than I do! I'll offer my responses, and I'd like to know what y'all think as well.
You are right that I would classify myself as Evangelical. I would say Charismatic rather than Pentecostal as it is less denominational.

To be honest, I am struggling at the ‘Oxford Movement’ church.

This Sunday I was asked to carry a chalice. I was told off for being in the wrong place in the procession, implying seniority over the licensed readers. I caused comment when I stumbled slightly while carrying the chalice. I got a bit muddled as to who was taking the wine. But these are peripheral issues. My main problem is that it seems to erect so many barriers between God and his people. ...
Wow. I'm reminded of what Jesus said about the Law being for the people, and not the people for the Law. And wasn't there something about choosing the lowest place at table? Ritual acts have purposes, and anytime the purpose is forgotten or that purpose is so unabashedly unchristian, the acts need to be dropped - at least in that particular context. I guess I just want to go on the record saying - and this as a sacramentalist who believes strongly in the value of a proper and ordered liturgy - anytime a "mistake" in the liturgy is worth getting upset about, there is a big spiritual Problem in somebody. Nobody has any business organizing a procession according to "importance." That's just gross. Same thing with "commenting" about stumbling. You don't want to drop it, they don't want you to drop it. It's not worth "comment." Some people do indeed have some disordered values.

And about dropping the chalice? Or the Host? As Endo wrote, "it was to be trodden upon by men" that Jesus came into our lives. He's cool with that. He knew what he signed on for, to be frank. We ought never to be cavalier about the Mass, but failing to get the choreography just perfect isn't about respect or disrespect. And more importantly, it is blasphemous to make a show of respecting the Eucharistic Presence to the exclusion of respecting Christ's Presence in my brother. Full stop.
I also worry that the object of the faith has been diverted away from our Lord onto the various symbols. I resent having to bow to a man-made wooden altar when I have a living Lord. It feels idolatrous. I resent the altar rail, when the veil in the temple was torn at the crucifixion. I resent the vestments setting apart some members of the church and creating an outward beauty which seems so distant from scriptural exhortations to make inner beauty the priority. I resent the raising of the circular wafer – reminiscent of sun-worshipping paganism. Etc. etc.
The purpose of Christian symbols is to direct both heart and mind to the Lord. Honestly, I try to keep this so much in mind, that I'm not sure what it would feel like to be really meticulous about the liturgy and not consider it to be a way of loving Jesus well together as the people of God. If it's not that, it's just stupidity. Honestly.

A catholic/sacramental theology maintains that anamnesis, "remembrance" in the biblical sense is a kind of "making present again." It's a reenactment of God's saving act in the present that both brings the acts saving efficacy from the past into the now, and is an invocation for God to continue that saving action into the future. When the Church gathers around the Eucharist, we are joined with the hosts of heaven, the angels, martyrs and departed elect before throne of God. If you're a science fiction fan (I stole this from Alan), you might think of it as offering a wormhole between heaven and earth. The Church is gathered in both places, and divine power is mediated to the Church through the Eucharist. When one bows to the altar, one is bowing to Christ. No thing at all, and no one else.

The altar rail, from what I understand, was a medieval invention meant to keep out chickens. And probably people. I don't like it myself, and don't have a defense for it.

As far as the vestments are concerned, I see them as a kind of uniform, that helps make the celebrant's personage fade and the action take center stage. I see it as a form of reverence. If that's not what's going on in a particular setting, it should probably all be abandoned in that time and place.

I'm pretty sure the Host is elevated because that's reminiscent of Christ being lifted up upon the cross, in turn reminiscent of Moses lifting up the broze serpent in the wilderness.
Also, although the popularity should never be the test of sound doctrine, why is there only 5 people in the congregation [not including the service team] on Sunday and Wednesday night? If reverence is the focus of the church’s worship, surely the first reverence is to actually turn up?
Ooo, burn. :0)
However, there is some good stuff – the way for the gospel reading the Bible is carried in procession to the centre of the church and the congregation stands to hear it – we need more reverence of the Bible in our church. And if I am OK with this, perhaps I can extend it to other things? But even so, surely reverence of the Bible consists primarily in doing it rather than just parading it around.
Again, definately, and I like your consideration of that. Liturgy is about enacting - performing - the faith in anticipation that it will give rise to further performances outside the liturgical setting. You know, like out there in the world.
I came to this church with a genuine desire to be open minded, and to learn, and to find out for myself rather than relying on prejudices passed down to me from my family background. For this reason I will be having a meeting later with the Sacristan who is keen on all his stuff and will explain its meanings to me. I still feel there is an opportunity for me to get under the skin of this thing and understand where it is coming from. I really don’t want to criticise something that is a true or at least acceptable expression of the faith. I don’t want to criticise anything that is genuinely given by God. Neither do I wish to teach as doctrines of God traditions of men that fly in the face of God’s intention. (Matt 15v9)
Sounds like that won't be a problem. Anybody want to chime in?


byron smith said...

Great post and interesting comments from your friend. Coming from a tradition probably closer to his than yours (though with elements of both), I appreciate the interaction. Keep it up. Looking forward to hearing more comments.

Jared Cramer said...

as someone who has lived in three different traditions (conservative christian, charismatic and broad church anglican), i would say that each fellowship has it's own traditions and all of those traditions have their own strengths and weaknesses.

conservatives worship the bible and neglect christ present in the church

charismatics rigorously engage an ecstatic emotional spirituality that many simply cannot connect to, with the result that they feel like they must not be real christians because they're not "on fire."

broad church anglicanism can use the idea of "broad" as an excuse to not pursue truth and radical christian living.

churches that use symbols always have the danger of neglecting christ in our brother or sister (as you so keenly pointed out)

churches that reject symbols run the risk of denying the incarnation and the truth that god is indeed present in our physical world. or, they just replace the christian symbols with other symbols, without considering the theological implications (powerpoint, anyone?)

this is one of the strong reasons why, in the end, i believe so strongly in a catholic approach to christianity. anglo-catholics keep charismatics honest. evangelicals keep broad church people honest. we need the voices of other christian traditions because of what they teach us about the depth of the riches of god and the theologically flacid singular approaches to him that some people prefer.

did i just say flacid.

oh bother.

SaintSimon said...

I feel very privileged to be quoted by Kyle - thank you!

Minor correction - I am a trainee Reader, rather than an Ordinand.

Reading interpretations of one's own blog quoted elsewhere is scarey, and makes you realise how powerful words are, especially when written rather han spoken since this loses intonation.

I feel Kyle has written most strongly about the things I siad were peripheral. The 'telling off' for various things was done in a friendly, almost tongue in cheek manner, bearing in mind that I am there as a trainee and need to be told when I have got it wrong. I don't think I have been 'judged' as a person for the errors. It's just that in my background we would not have got as far as developing rules on these things and it seems petty to have them.

I am no Greek scholar, but I heard a sermon on 'anamnesis' that translated it as 'bringing to mind who you are', ie remembering who i am in Christ.

I feel that the wroding of the Liturgy (at least as used in the Oxford Movement church I refer to, makes it clear that we are making a memorial of Christ's death which happened once for all. I don't see it as a timeless continuum in the way Kyle describes, it is a more discrete event although it echoes through time. Ancient Israel ate sacrificial lambs that were not Christ but were a picture of him, looking forwards in time. Today we eat bread and drink wine that is not Christ but is a picture of him, looking back in time. Israel particpited in him [unknowingly] by faith, we participate in him [knowingly] by faith.

Vestments - i understand how people feel they make the personage fade. I keep getting told that they make you invisible. But is this what we should be doing? Granted, "He must increase and I must decrease", but we don't want to be like Saul - small in his own eyes. We are the redeemed - sons of God, brothers of Christ, Princes and rulers in the Kingdom. I don't feel I was redeemed to be hidden. And looking at the Bible, both in the OT and the NT the prophet or apostle's character and personality is clearly visible in his writing. This is also incarnational - fully human and fully divine.

My position at present is very close to Jared. We need all the bracnhes of the church together to fully be the body of Christ. none on their own do the job. When God created dogs, he didn't just do 'dog' - he did alsation, poodle, chihuahua, husky, wolf, fox, dingo, daschund, rottweiler, terrier, labrador.... Similarly 'church' includes anglican, methodist, house church, charismatic, brethren, high, low, formal, informal, Kyle, me. Variety should not be confused with schism.

i really must go back to hydraulic engineering before my boss sees me doing this...

Expax said...

Thats one heck of a post. By far one the best that has been produced within the past year. Well done. Well done.

And the dudes statements, well I totally can feel you there. I felt very similar the first time I had to carry the chalice. Also know about getting way critiqued for not lighting the candles fast enough or to slow. Or lighting the candles even in the wrong order. Hehe I remember the one where I got the most critique was when I accidently said "Go in peace to love and serve our God" instead of saying "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

SaintSimon said...

Following the above conversation, I visited the Elizaphanian blog [Follow Kyle's link in his sidebar] and read the "Tearing down the curtain" post. It is really well worth a read in the contxt of this discussion. I have extracted the following paragraph, but please read it in the original blog to get the sense.

More subtly what this means – and what I am now beginning to properly recognise – is that Jesus is shifting the locus of worship. The Temple form of worship is vertical and hierarchical, with God at the summit. Jesus says, wherever two or three gather in my name, there am I in the midst. The form of worship – most supremely exemplified in the eucharist – is now horizontal, a gathering. God is immanent, incarnate, in the midst. Transcendence is still there but it has been transformed, reshaped, in line with Christ’s intentions. We see the image of God in our neighbour, the face of Christ in the person whom we are alongside.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the guyw as right when he spoke of raising the wafer as reminiscent of sun-worshipping paganism. I think that it was when the (western) church moved north and encountered the German tribes it began to adopt "aspects" of their religions so that they could connect better with the christian liturgy. Raising the wafer, the alter-rails, and various other rituals eventually became adopted by the Western church as a whole. The East doesn't have the same procession.

At least, that's how I understand it.

Eyrezer said...

I think a practical reason for the raising of the host was also from when the priest and altar faced away from the people. A high elevation allowed the congregation to actually see the host, and particularly when the laity very infrequently actually received communion, it became the high point of the liturgy for them.

If looked at solely on that basis it may be somewhat anacronistic, similar, I believe as to the bell ringing at the same time. With the liturgy conducted in Latin, the laity didn't necessarily know what was going on and the sound was like a signal "Pay attention now".

On the altar rail, like some others here, I am glad to see it go in most of our churches (I'm a RC).

Kyle said...

Thanks, Byron, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jared, I find it a little telling that you're happy to use equivocal language when outlining the weaknesses of a broad church tradition, but not those of the others. "Broad church anglicanism can" while conservatives and charismatics do. :0) I'm certainly no cheerleader for any of the above, but I don't think that anybody in those traditions is necessarily doomed to live them out as they are at their worst. Point taken, however.

SaintSimon, thanks for your responses and clarifications; I do enjoy this. I'm glad that I misunderstood the strength behind 'telling off'; I was feeling quite bad for you in the whole situation! I think I make such a big deal out of it, because that's the kind of stuff (particularly when it's done uncharitably) that folks are dealing with when they to talk about such things detracting from the actual life and worship of the community. I see that those matters are peripheral to the whole thing, but since they aren't irrelevant, I was pleased to address them. :0)

While that's a valid interpretation of anamnesis, it doesn't seem to take a long view of biblical 'remembrance' which is about invocation as well as corporate identity. It seems to me that both Israel was and the Church is in a powerful sense consituted by remembrances, such that it's a present act of power rather than just thinking about things that happened.

Haha, and of course we differ on Eucharistic theology altogether; while I think your description of the Passover is accurate, more than that goes into the New Testament Eucharist, thinking here in particular about John 6.

I also appreciate the points you and Jared make about the balance of different churchmanships, and used to believe in it myself. I think it's possible that the C of E may have some balance in these, but in my experience of mainline TpEcusa, other churchmanships were so maligned that I don't think many people allowed themselves to be "balanced." I think the right way is a deep catholicity that takes responsibility for integrating the true and life giving aspects that have been segregated into these different traditions. Outside of that, I think the traditions themselves can just die.

Thanks, Ben. Remember the scene in Luther when he jostles the chalice? Freaky.

Humbug, Mike. I've really only seen such a claim in a Jack Chick tract. Do we know when the "wafer" was introduced to the Mass? I'm all about worshipping the bread-god, but just because its round doesn't necessarily mean that it's got anything to do with the sun. Or Germans. :-D

Cheers, Eyrezer.

+ Alan said...

Good stuff. Very interesting internal struggles there. I was also going to say - this is exactly why our liturgy is as it is in vbcc - faithful but not too rigid, a healthy mix of organic/freeform and liturgical order. I think it's alive and that's different than what he's describing. I would agree, if it has become something like that, just stop please.

Anonymous said...

I'm just saying what I read in my little Early Church history survey books... it made sense to me, damnit, Kyle!

Anonymous said...

I just saw those silly Jack Chick cartoons.


stc said...

A provocative post, and I agree with most of what you said. Re the vestments:

As far as the vestments are concerned, I see them as a kind of uniform, that helps make the celebrant's personage fade and the action take center stage.

Whether that is their purpose, I don't know. But that certainly isn't their effect. If you want to minimize how much attention is paid to you, dress like everyone else. If you dress differently, you are always - always! - going to call attention to yourself.

And, in this case, draw attention away from what people should be focussing on.

Kyle said...

I guess I just like people to be responsible for what they choose to focus on. The liturgy might be a performance, but it's not a spectator sport.

Jared Cramer said...

Wow, that's strange.

My intention when writing my comment was to use similar language for all, noting that each tradition can have those weaknesses.

Freudian slip I suppose.

Damn Freud.

Kyle said...

Yes, I was pretty sure that's what you had intended. :-D