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?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Caroling

Ross and Jamie Zittrouer
One Trailer Full
The Distinguished Reverend Father
Deck the Trailer with...something
The Pre-Caroling Dinner

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

For the least, who are the greatest

Monday and Tuesday 11 youth and 5 adults went to Charleston, SC to paint a day care room for Rural Mission, Inc. Rural Mission is a ministry of the South Carolina United Methodist Church (but is heavily supported by Charleston Episcopalians) for the Low Country Migrant workers and for the Sea Island population. In the past, many migrant workers would put their children in 5 gallon buckets and carry them with them in the fields as they picked tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. The room we painted will greet these children as they no longer have to "ride" with their parents in the fields, but can be safe, cool, and surrounded by love. Perhaps the most memorable event for our youth was to participate in a Sea Island Prayer Meeting.
The Sea Island folks are descendents from the Gullahs and still carry that distincitve accent and are the last members of a culture that is quickly dying out. About 8 women, the youngest being 69 and the oldest being 94 gather together every Tuesday for hours to sing spirituals and pray. They amazed us with their double claps (two different rhythms kept with feet and hands) and their songs that were composed from hardship, poverty, and undying faith. Our youth, 11 lily white kids from middle class families, held black hands that had seen 70-90 years of hardship, discrimnation, prayer, and hope through faith. These "spiritual mothers" held some of our youth in their laps and prayer for them and sang of the goodness of God that has brought us all to a new day. Another important aspect of our trip was prayer. Between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon, we prayed the daily office four times. Before we left we said the Morning Devotions in the Prayer Book. We had Evening Prayer at St Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston, we had Compline at Rural Mission, and Morning Prayer at the Church of Our Savior on John's Island. For some of the youth, this was the first time keeping "time" with prayer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yes Virginia

I write a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper. I'm not supposed to write about religion, so I end up writing silly social commentary stuff (read - I try to be Lewis Grizzard, whom I'm not!). However, I think I'm allowed one religious column every now and then. I would never think that I could come close to Francis Church's editorial in the New York Sun in 1897, but here is my attempt to re-create it:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that stores and governments are trying to do away with Christmas. Papa says, “If you see in in the True Citizen, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there really a war on Christmas?
- Virginia O’Hurley

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the inconsistency of an inconsistent age, where people are outraged and insulted for the sake of being outraged and insulted. The words we say and the things we do are at war with one another, Virginia, and not toy stores and Christmas. Christmas is under attack, but not by Wal-Mart or Target, or by Holiday Trees, or by the ACLU. Christmas can never go away because of words. Remember, Virginia, as important as words are, they lose their power when our actions betray them. It doesn’t matter if stores wish you “Happy Holidays” and if courthouses take down their Nativity Scenes. Christmas is not found in governments or in capitalism, it is not found in cards or in presents wrapped with bows. Christmas cannot be suppressed just as your prayers cannot be stopped. For how can someone stop you from praying? Can they enter your heart and mind and sever the connection you have with the One who made you? Christmas is not going away, just as the stars that guide captains and their ships are not going away. For the essence of Christmas is not found in seasons’ greetings or even in earnest displays of Wise Men and shepherds. It’s not found there at all. Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas. But be careful, Virginia, for we tend to show the most outrage over things of which we ourselves are inwardly guilty. We are quick to find fault in the world around us but are slow to participate in change. Would a child your age who is starving rather have a protestor marching against the horrors of poverty or kind hands handing her a plate of food? Your friends are right about one thing, Virginia, there are many people who are greatly concerned about the celebration of Christmas in our country. They are worried that governments are trying to suppress their expression of faith. They mean well, Virginia, but they are blind to the real battles. The generals leading their soldiers in war on Christmas are those who will fight to the end to have “Merry Christmas” written in lights, but will not be present to hold a hymnal or light a candle on Christmas Day. The real tragedy is not stores that are empty of boughs of holly or wishes of “Merry Christmas,” rather it will be the churches that are empty of people on Christmas Day. The real tragedy is the churches that have closed their doors for Christmas. Your friends are right, Virginia, Christmas is a religious celebration, however it is one that will be celebrated by the few who are religious. Christmas is about love and people loving one another. Christmas is about Incarnation; God came to us so that we might come to God. Christmas will always be safe, Virginia, because the truth of Christmas is found in a smelly stable with smelly animals. The truth of Christmas is found in a manger where a child lay in a box meant for horses and goats, surrounded by two parents scared yet secure. This is Christmas, Virginia, and it will always be safe, even if we no longer say “Merry Christmas” to strangers passing in the street. It will even be safe if only a handful of people celebrate the Christ Mass. After all, Virginia, there were just a handful people at the first Christmas. But if your friends are looking for a peace in the War on Christmas, there is a Prince who can grant it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bishop Louttit's Apostolic Lineage

Mainly because I was bored late last night and couldn't sleep; I traced my bishop's apostolic succession back to St Peter.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Wanna be a citizen of Bethlehem?

On December 3, Pope Benedict XVI was granted citizenship to Bethlhem as the first person to take part in the new Open Bethlehem initiative started by the city's mayor. According to a press release, over 400 Christian families have emigrated from Bethlehem. In recent times, Bethlehem has been in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, specifically the Church of the Nativity (the traditional spot of Christ's birth) was used as a "base" for Palestinian forces during a battle a couple of years ago. Trying to reverse the emigration, Bethlehem citizenship is open to you, if you are important and rich. It's website for Open Bethlehem doesn't say that in so many words but citizenship is granted
whether as a benefactor prepared to underwrite a specific initiative or an entrepreneur bringing wealth-creating opportunities to the city. The passport is also open to people of imagination and experience who can bring major events to a city that lives through its visitors
Or if you're not rich, you can just stay there a long time, too. Jesus had a hard time getting into Bethlehem too. Well, he got in okay, but finding a place to stay was difficult. His family wasn't rich or influential and they couldn't promise to stay a while. As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. For us citizenship is not reserved for those who can bring money to the church or those who can promote large events. Citizenship is open to those who want it. It is open to those who want to know God. Rich, poor, influential, or unknown, citizenship in the Kingdom of God offers more than a leather bound passport - it offers hope and life through the love of God.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Closed for Business...

As I was eating breakfast this morning, I heard a story on Fox News about many mega-churches not having services on Christmas Day, which this year falls on a Sunday. A spokesperson for Willow Creek Community Church, perhaps the proto-mega-church said the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday only a few people came to pray? So??
She also said,
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?"
If you go to church, as thousands upon thousands of members of Willow Creek and other mega-churches do, then are you not "churched?" Christmas Day, or the Nativity of our Lord as it is sometimes properly known, is the second most holy day of our Church Year. If only one person comes to celebrate, that warrants the doors being open and the Eucharist being celebrated. If no one comes, then the doors really need to be open to witness to the need and imperative of the worship of God. It's ironic that the celebration of God's Incarnation, of God becoming one of us to save all of us, is the day that an increasing number of Christians view as day not to "embody" the faith. I hope everyone celebrates Christmas Day at Church. Who cares if the crowd is small, it was small in Bethlehem, too.

Steve +

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dying and Rising

This picture is of the liturgical west end of St Michael's. When you come in the narthex, among the first things you will see is our baptismal font. Directly above the baptismal font is a beautiful 19th century stained glass window of the Crucifixion from the Church of the Atonement in Augusta, GA. Baptism is a great mystery. I don't mean mystery in the sense that we don't know what it means, but I mean mystery in the sense that it's fullness is beyond our complete understanding (as all things of God are). In baptism we are grafted into the Body of Christ. The Prayer Book calls baptism the "Sacrament of new birth." The symbolism of baptism is tied with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. When we go into the water (or the water comes over us) we go into the tomb with Jesus. When we emerge, we are raised with Jesus. We have been given new life, a new birth after we have died to sin and risen in Christ. During the Thanksgiving over the Water, the priest says, "We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection." The window above the font reminds us that in baptism we have died with Christ, when we turn and face east toward the altar, we are reminded that in our baptism we have risen with Christ who is present with us in the Holy Eucharist.