Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Let's pray not


Gay Bishop Predicts Anglican Split

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feast of St Michael and All Angels


Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Today is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels and is the patronal feast of St Michael's Episcopal Church in Waynesboro. In the earliest days of the church, the congregation needed a patron (usually wealthy widows) to provide a place to worship and to support them financially. Before Emperor Constantine converted the Empire to Christianity, the churches met in homes and were protected by their citizen patrons. As churches were able to exist on their own, patronage continued but more in the spiritual sense. Churches were founded and named under the patronage of a saint or Christ. These churches no longer needed citizen patrons to protect and support them, but they continued with spiritual patrons to spiritually protect and support. Churches have special celebrations on the Feast day of their patron. St Michael's celebrates on Sept. 29, King of Peace in Kingsland, GA celebrates their patronal feast on Christ the King Sunday, and the Church of the Holy Comforter (Holy Spirit) celebrates their patronal feast on Pentecost, to name some examples.

We even have patronage in our names. Long ago, a person was named according the date they were born. If I were born on December 26 (which I wasn't), my parents would naturally name me Stephen, for Dec. 26 is his feast day. If I was a girl and born on August 15, my parents might have named me Mary. This is where "patron" saints come in. What is your name? What is the name of your church? Who are your patrons? Even if your name is not of a common "saint," many traditions encourage the taking of a name and putting oneself under the patronage of a saint. Whose life would you like to emulate?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Study Suggests Religion Increases Crime


An interesting study from the Journal of Religion and Society has suggested that the United States, because of its high percentage of religious adherents, has higher crime rates than any other developed nation. The study, entitled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies"(what a title) correlates disbelief in evolution with higher crime. While the article has interesting moments, there are certainly too many variables in cultural differences, governments, law, and history among others that influence crime rates and overall societal health. To boil down the cause to disbelief in evolution is silly. Episcopalians affirm that God is the creator of "all that is seen and unseen." How that was done, Episcopalians by and large aren't really concerned. For many on both sides of the debate the question of how the universe was created is the litmus test for other things. It seems as if the authors of this study are trying to show that secular, enlightened European countries are more "evolved" (pardon the pun) than the backward, religious, un"evolved" Americans. On the flip side, many religious leaders/groups will suggest that my statement that perhaps it doesn't matter exactly "how" God created the universe is evidence of heresy and that I'm unfaithful. What's the real issue here? It looks as if were are desperate to identify teams. We want uniforms so we will know whom we are playing with. We want lines drawn in the sand. We want fight songs and pep rallies. We want winners and losers. Certainly there is Truth, I'm not denying that or suggesting otherwise, but as we fight over what may be non-essential, we are ultimately avoiding the real causes of crime: wrath, envy, pride, lust, and those other sins that tend to be deadly. Pointing fingers at those who belief in evolution as the cause of crime just seems to be...so unevolved.

Steve +

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It must be the food

A.L. Addington left us yesterday after two great days in Waynesboro. Of the many wonderful stories and insights he shared with the people of St Michael's and the parish, there is one story he told me over lunch that has stayed with me.
One day A.L. was in a Georgian city and he saw a Greek restaurant. Liking Greek cuisine, A.L. went inside for dinner. It was around 6pm. The place was empty. The room was filthy and the floor crunched as he walked to a table. There were empty wine bottles on the shelves and on the counters. The place needed to see a broom and a mop and perhaps a good dousing with Clorox. When the waitress saw that someone had come in, she immediately ran to A.L. and welcome him and tried to sell him the whole menu. The cook came greeted A.L. personally. Obviously the restaurant was not used to many patrons. A.L. ordered some food and it was actually quite good, but at 6:45pm, the place was still empty. As A.L. payed his bill he asked the waitress why no one ever came to eat at the restaurant. The waitress replied, "People here don't like European food."

It must be the food. Forget the dirty floor, the appearance, and the hundreds of other things that perhaps kept people from eating there. She was focused on what others did to keep themselves from eating there, and not what the restaurant was doing or not doing to invite people to dine in. Do people not come to church because they don't like liturgy or they don't like formality or they don't like this or that? Or could it be the floor is dirty?

Steve +

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Dreaded Stewardship Talk

Yesterday, Dr. A.L. Addington was with us at St Michael's and delievered the homily and hosted a cottage meeting last night and will host one tonight. The topic: stewardship. Most people I know (including myself) do not like stewardship messages/talks/etc. Most of the time we don't like them because the approach includes something like:
if we don't give more, we can't pay the bills
we're behind budget and we need to dig deeper
we want to do A, B, and C and it is going to cost us D, E, and F

The problem is we view stewardship as giving towards a campaign, paying dues, or contributing to the membership fee and not giving as a natural response of gratitude for God's goodness. The Episcopal Church has established that the biblical tithe of 10% is the norm, or minimum standard in giving. Most communicants give between $2500 and $3100 a year, which suggests two things: 1) the average income is between $25,000 and $31,000 a year or 2) we are not giving a tithe. One of the things A.L. mentioned, and he is right, is that we should not be caught up in percentages and questions of pre-tax, after-tax, and the like. He called this negotiating with God. He tells the story of how he learned to dance. He learned to count, one, two, three, and four, as he moved his feet in the shape of a square as he lead his partner in the dance. Over time, as his buddies were, in his words, "whispering sweet nothings in the ears of their dates," A.L. was counting "one, two, three, and four." In other words, A.L. was so focused on the numbers, on getting it right, that he missed the dance - the joy of the dance, the beauty of the dance, and whom he was dancing with. Giving to God should not be about counting the steps, but about enjoying the dance. How are we doing? The tithe (10%) is not meant to be a stumbling block, but as a reference to help us determine if we are truly enjoying the dance, or if we are standing by the punch bowl.

Steve +

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Back!

I'm back from a three week or so hiatus. I apologize if you have been checking every now and then to find nothing. I have a beautiful 13 month old, Abby, who keeps me busy in the mornings and at night when I am prone to post on this blog. Perhaps more than anything, I've been tired. The past two weeks I have been at a clergy conference in the Diocese of Georgia and a few days vacation with my wife's family in central Florida. Both weeks provided time for rest and some recharging. One thing I realized, thanks to conference speaker Julia Gatta, is that my vocation is one where there is rarely a feeling of completion. This not unique to the priesthood, but it is true there are times when I feel I have finished something. If I finish a sermon, there is another one to write. If I finish a home visit, there is another one to make, and so on. Again, this is not confined to the priesthood, and it is worth nothing the dangers in expecting closure or finitude when there is none to found - at least in the way we expect. Some of the fatigue I was beginning to experience was based mainly on the fact that I felt as if I couldn't keep up with my expectations, visions, and the reality of task at hand. It was nice to have a couple of weeks to catch up and take inventory.
It's good to be back blogging. I hope in the next couple of weeks to update and revise the format. Thanks for checking in.

Steve +

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stay Tuned........

I have been gone for a few days and I will be gone for a few more. Stayed tuned for posts beginning again on Friday, September 23. Until then, be sure to read Fr. Frank Logue's blog, Irenic Thoughts.