Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Thoughts from London 3

The Compass Rose meeting which I am attending is kind enough not to start until 9am. This means that I have had time to visit one of my favorite Churches, All Saints Margaret Street. I managed to get to Evensong and Benediction on Sunday and to Morning Prayer and Mass for the past couple of days.

All Saints is very firmly a child of the Tractarian Movement – that nineteenth century wave or high church worship and radical social action which swept Victorian England. In London, as in US cities, churches were often planted in area of great need. Slum living was a reality in every major city. There was little hope and disease was rife.

Today at All Saints morning mass is accompanied by the snoring of a couple of folks who are sleeping in the back of the church because they have nowhere else to sleep.

Benediction is a service which has fallen out of favor in many places. It is ridiculously formal and centers on what is called The Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Basically consecrated bread is placed in a holder called a monstrance and eventually, during the service, attendees receive a blessing with the sacrament.

Intellectually I find the whole thing bizarre but attending the service nearly always moves me deeply. There is something about simple adoration which we do not get to do very much. We are all busy and our worship runs to a schedule. Adoration and wonder is a slower project.

We talk a lot about telling stories and when we take time for adoration we are telling a consistent story. Whether it is through a formalized service or an informal act and time in adoration we are putting ourselves in right perspective with God. If we can allow God’s beauty and splendour to literally take our breath away we might begin to understand our place in God’s kingdom.

We are those who are invited in to a place which by any other measure we have no place to claim a right to. We are those who are invited in, not just as guests but as beloved children. I think I like Benediction because it gives me nothing else to do but consider this, to revel in this, to wonder in this.

If we are to tell our story we have to allow our story to be true for us. Adoration is a fundamental part of our humanity but it is not rational or, really, controllable. In our logical and carefully controlled lives adoration is not something we find easy, it makes us vulnerable and out of our own control. Through it though, we find a voice which is not seeking simple sense, but is infused with holiness. This is our story and our song.

Thoughts from London 2

On the Tube train this morning I was looking at the advertising. The one that caught my eye said, “Are you making excuses not to quit your current job” followed by, “let number one look after number one.” I am on my way to morning prayer and mass so it is with a note if a stark contrast which I write. “Let God look after number oneashnumber one nurtures and tends God’s world.” Well, that is sort of what the Lords Prayer says.
In the context of attending a meeting of an international Anglican body this is a tough call. Almost everyone here is wealthy, white and privileged. Two of the largest Episcopal churches in the USA are here. St Martins, Houston and Christ Church (yes us), both have multi million dollar budgets.
Yesterday we heard Richard Chartres, Bishop of London speak. I asked a question about how he would assess the difference in mission and Evangelism opportunities in the very different landscapes.of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. The answer boiled down to a global conversation.
Face to face conversations are costly. Practically we have to spend money to get somewhere or to invite someone to join us. But.more than that, we cannot turn a real person off. We have to put aside our supposition of difference and engage in out commonality. This is hard because the only thing we Cana really rely on in thst moment is that God is in both of us Andis already looking after us. We need to turn our time and energy to each other.
Thinking back to that advert, perhaps the question we need to ask is whether we are making excuses not to begin conversation, not to undertake the urgent work of the Kingdom. This is not a call for an employment agency. We are the Church. We are already joined, like it or not, by a common table and a common baptism. One Lord, one faith, one Church.
The fields are ripe for harvest. The fallacy of our individual independence has, at some point, to give way to a deep knowledge of our interdependence and our calling as sons and daughters, adopted in love and grace, and called to familiarity and community.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Thoughts from London

I am in London at the annual Compass Rose Society meeting. We are meeting in the same room where the General Synod of the Church of England convenes but this is a group of folk who come together annually. Most are from America, Canada and Hong Kong. All have a passion for the Anglican Communion around the world and its workings.

If you do not know much about the Anglican Communion it is worth taking a look around on the Internet. The Episcopal Church in the USA is the official branch of the Anglican Communion in the United States. We are bound together by common roots in the Church of England. Our liturgy and tradition are recognizable all across the world.

We are, however, very different people with very different stories around the Communion. From the affluent Churches of the USA (no matter how we complain about the struggles of our smaller churches) to the Anglican Church in Sudan whose theological college is the size of a large living room and who lack even basic books to educate their new priests.

In the American Church we got a bit mired down in our own arguments – and these conversations continue both nationally an internationally – but they must be conversations and not antagonatistic virtriole and anger. We are all the Body of Christ. As we emerge from our self-imposed dysfuntion we are turning our minds to mission and it is worth noting that so are our brothers and sisters around the world.

We have to consider the story we are telling as a community around the world. It might be easier for us simply to talk to those who are close to us, who agree with us, whose culture is similar enough for us not to feel uncomfortable and awkward when we even enter the room. But this it not the narrative which we are a part of. The narrative which God has called the the Anglican Communion to is much broader – that is that we all serve one Lord, that we all live lives in a Christlike manner, that we are all bound by an ancient tradition but that we do not all think alike, look alike and we certainly do not all agree.

Re-engaging with the Anglican Communion gives us possiblities for the sort of story telling which values the other and seeks commonality and not discord. This is a strange thing in our world. It cannot be bought but it is profoundly appealing.