Tag Archives: Church

“Christianity” Disambiguated

ethiopians

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter

The Christian landscape in the world today is multifaceted, varied, and sometimes jaggedly divided. In a world where global news coverage mentions “persecuted Christians in the Middle East” in one breath and “the Christian Right” of America in the next, we may begin to suspect that the simple shorthand “Christian” isn’t quite sufficient for describing the sundry groups it’s supposed to cover. In many places in the world (in the Middle East, for example), the name “Christian” may imply both a distinct culture and a distinct race or ethnicity. It’s beyond my scope to enumerate instances where that’s the case, so instead I want to limit the meaning of “Christian” here to a belief system, a philosophical-religious position. In terms of the content of the belief system (and in some cases the history or tradition of that system), we can divide the Christian landscape of today into some broad distinctions, just to help us navigate better how we use the term. This isn’t any official taxonomy, just some conceptual categories offered for your edification. Continue reading

The Right Dosage of Christ

Sts. Zossima and Mary of Egypt

St. Mary of Egypt receiving the Eucharist from the hand of St. Zossima after 48 years of repentance and ascetic struggle

In the reign of the emperor Trajan, at the start of the second century A.D., a man named Ignatius, who was the bishop of the Church in Antioch, was arrested for not sacrificing to the Roman gods. Around the year 108, he was thrown to the lions in the colosseum in Rome, and the account of his martyrdom has been preserved in the Church. The Church also preserved several letters that he wrote in his captivity — letters to the Philadelphian Christians, the Romans, the Trallians, the Magnesians, the Smyrnians, and the Ephesians. In his letter to the Church in Ephesus, St. Ignatius commends the Christians for holding true to the faith which was delivered to them — the faith he was going to die for — and not listening to the heresies of itinerant preachers, and he exhorts them to listen to their bishop, to assemble together frequently, and to celebrate God’s Eucharist, calling it the medicine of immortality and the antidote to death. Continue reading

Memorial Day

national cemetery

Today’s the last Monday in May, which means it’s Memorial Day — the day Americans have set aside to specially remember and honor the men and women who have given their lives in the armed service of the nation. A day that remembers this profound sacrifice from our fallen soldiers, especially on a national level, especially in the face of an ever increasingly selfish, petty, and nihilistic culture is important now more than ever. Continue reading

How To Pick A Song For Church – Part 2

ascension

In my last post I hoped to convey the importance and gravity of choosing good and proper songs for church.  I suggested using the triple test of “everywhere, always, and by all” (universality, antiquity, and consent) as a guide for choosing songs, relying on the judgment of the Church through the ages instead of following the unbalanced judgment of isolated times and places.  This approach guarantees orthodox content and a worthy quality of song to be sung in church, and it gives occasion for those doing the choosing to exercise prudence and humility, relieving them of the temptation to assert their own wisdom and will. Continue reading

How To Pick A Song For Church – Part 1

St. Ambrose

Who picks the music in church and how is it picked?  This has been my privilege and burden since planting a church five years ago.  I began with the understanding that this was a privilege, but quickly learned that it’s also a burden.  As our little church slowly grew into its rich, ancient heritage, I began to feel keenly the burden of choosing music to accompany our blossoming Liturgy.  This burden was greatly lessened when I discovered the ancient Proper Chants of the Western Church which accompany certain moments and actions in the Liturgy (Procession, Offertory, Communion).  These chants, prescribed for every Liturgy and linked with the lectionary readings, have been basically settled since the end of the first millennium A.D. and adhered to pretty universally throughout the West. Continue reading

Christmastide – The Beginning of the Way

winter light

The season of Advent, I believe, is beginning to grow in the popular Christian consciousness in America.  More and more resources are being made available for observing Advent – or at least I’m finding more and more – , and I’ve been seeing a rise in individuals and churches using social media to [sometimes not so] gently remind the cultures around them that it’s not Christmas ’till it’s Christmas.  Whether from a renewed interest in returning to or rediscovering the ancient and venerable rhythms and way of life for scores of Christians before them, or as an intentional act of resistance in the face of obscene consumerism and “seasonal” marketeering, people have been observing Advent, not Christmas, during Advent.  And as you know when you wait for something good, it’s much better than it would have been if you had snatched it before its time came.  And so it is with waiting for Christmas. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 2: Distinction And Dislocation

Before getting into this post, I want to interject this disclaimer. This series on the faith “according to the whole” is a product of my ongoing labor to better understand the nature and significance of the Church. The impetus behind this labor was my realization that there is much more to the Church (its history, practices, and even its own founding understanding of itself) than I had been aware of most of my life. My awakening to this reality put me on a road to learning as much as I can about the Church, a pursuit that has changed and continues to change my perspective on both the nature and significance of the society for which the New Testament writers used names like Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, and House of God. I don’t aim to lay out all my thoughts about this here, but rather I want to present some information and some basic principles that I think are pertinent to American protestants with similar backgrounds to my own. I want to do this in a spirit of camaraderie, not pompousness or pretentiousness, acknowledging my own limited education and experience. So I submit these thoughts, aware of the disunity of Christians of God and of the various ecclesiological perspectives out there, not to present a systematic plan for unity, but just to diagnose part of the problem … and hopefully to give a nudge in a better direction.  Continue reading

Good Friday

The horrors of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, had we the eyes to see them, would undoubtedly haunt us for our entire lives.  Every year on the Friday before Easter, Christians try to have the eyes to see that horror.  Good Friday is the day “to know nothing … but Christ and him crucified.”  Because reconciliation with our loving maker came at the greatest cost imaginable, the Church unites in the personal work of trying to feel that pain as acutely as possible.  We visualize the scenes from the accounts we have — the trail, beating, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus.  We don’t eat much food, because, since we’ve put ourselves there in Israel on that day, we wouldn’t desire food anyway.  While full time ministers and monastics are more fully able to enact their own presence at and participation in the events of that day in the early 30’s A.D., the rest of us have to try while we’re at work or otherwise interacting with a thoroughly secular world that can’t grasp what this day is. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 1: The Phenomenon of Non-Denom

… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you — that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.      -John 17:21

I was talking with a friend the other day about his church and about how he helps out with the youth program there. He told me about a recent weekend event where the kids had several opportunities to worship in a group setting, and about how enthusiastically they sang and worshiped. He contrasted the enthusiasm of the kids with some older, stodgy churchgoers he’d experienced, noting that there weren’t many of those at his church. And he went on to tell me that though his church has “Baptist” on its sign, in many respects, “It doesn’t look like your typical Baptist church.” By typical, he of course meant that, at least in generations past, most all Baptist churches, or any churches of a particular denomination, all looked alike. This led us to talk about the phenomenon of non-denominationalism, and about how many churches belonging even to the mainline denominations are beginning to hold on less tightly to their denominational identities and distinctives. In fact, my friend disclosed that he would just prefer we do away with all the denominations and titles and just be Christians. I agreed (with a caveat), lamenting that denominationalism is a blight on Christianity. Continue reading

Lent

Tim Redman-PuddleI’m a big picture kind of person. The reason that thinking in terms of the Grand Narrative of the world is so helpful to me is that it helps me contextualize that which is more immediate – that which is in front of me. I don’t do well with the “why’s?” of what’s in front of me if I don’t have something bigger and prior to which I can appeal. When dealing with issues of devotion, habit, rhythm, and worship, the bigger and prior something to which I appeal is the Church. The Church from its earliest days appealed to the bigger and prior traditions of Temple and Synagogue worship in Israel. With the new guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church also began to practice wise new traditions including gathering corporately to worship every Lord’s Day (Sunday), receiving communion together, and annually celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Continue reading

Confirmation

confirmation
This past Sunday I was confirmed in the Anglican Church during a service at Holy Cross Anglican in Loganville, Ga. Not only was it the first time I had ever been a part of receiving any kind of blessing in the Anglican Church, it was the first time I had ever even seen a Baptism/Confirmation service. My knowledge of the (Anglican) Communion is proportionately much more academic than experiential at this point. I expect that to change, or at least to even out. As of now, what I’ve come to learn both by my own study and from what others have shared with me about this Tradition has driven me to place myself within its wisdom and among its people. That’s why I was confirmed. Continue reading