:: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 ::
Conversi ad Dominum: On the Radio II
:: Saturday, August 23, 2003 ::
:: Richard firstname.lastname@example.org 12:34 PM [+] ::
No internet access since Monday evening, so I wrote everything in Notepad for the trip. Here we go:
:: Monday, August 18, 2003 ::
19 August 2003
Writing this in Notepad from the Warbonnet Best Western Inn in Miles City, Montana. There's no available internet connection so I'll just paste this into Blogger when I can hook up. What, a Best Western in eastern Montana doesn't equip the rooms with Wi-Fi hotspots? Wow, big surprise.
Left Spokane at around 6:20am Pacific Time. We stopped in Coeur d'Alene, ID for gas and to have breakfast at the Down the Street Cafe. It was immediately clear that we were no longer in the somewhat aristocratic state of Washington; the front page story of the local paper involved right-wing vigilante hermits threatening to use force against canoeists and whatnot who might raft in front of their property. There was a picture of one of these guys just sitting in front of the river with a shotgun, and the article discussed how this particular gentleman had Confederate flags all over his cabin, as well as "anti-immigration literature". There was also the matter of the cigarette ash on the toilet paper dispenser in the men's room of the restaurant.
Idaho, I have to say, is quite lovely, at least for the hour or so it takes to traverse the state's northern tip on I-90.
Montana is one damned big state. It took us right around eleven hours to get through most of it (I'd say we still have another hour and a half to go). The first half I suspect is much prettier when smoke isn't covering everything; I don't know if there's a forest fire going on or what that's causing that. We stopped in Missoula, Butte, and Billings (as well as some place between Missoula and Butte, can't remember exactly where) for gas, and we pulled into Miles City right around 9:30 Mountain Time, meaning we had about a fourteen hour travel day, with a grand total of about 700 miles driven. Taking out the time for meals, stops, etc., I'd say we're averaging about 60mph, and somewhere between 15-20mpg. Not bad for pulling a trailer, I suppose.
We called my Grandmother shortly after leaving Missoula. "Oh, did you make it to Missoula last night?" she asked. "No," I replied. "We just stopped there for gas just now. We stayed in Spokane last night."
"Oh," she said. "That's too bad. That really puts you behind, doesn't it?" (In case I didn't mention it before, my mother was campaigning hard to get us to skip the Spokane stop yesterday. Given the matter with the keys, we wouldn't have been able to get much farther than Spokane yesterday anyway, and my mother wound up being really thrilled we made the stop.)
"No. We're actually making quite good time."
"But it puts you a day behind, doesn't it? You're not going to make it by Friday this way."
"Yes, Grandmother, we will. We're making terrific time."
"Well, I'm just concerned whether or not you'll make it. You're about a day behind this way." I sighed and changed the subject.
The drive has been remarkably easy; we got up to around 70mph for much of the trip, and there were no problems with the stability of the trailer. Our average was pulled down by some of the hills, one in particular where we had to keep it down at about 20mph. It's an Outback, but it's still a 4-cylinder car pulling a trailer.
We got through roughly half of the audio book for Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone, my mother's first exposure to Harry Potter. She's enjoying it immensely, and I have to say I'm finding Jim Dale's reading of it to be most entertaining.
One more day like today, and I think Thursday should be relatively laid-back. We'll see. Signing off from Miles City, Montana.
20 August 2003
Woke up around 7:30 or so this morning, and after filling up with gas and somewhat lousy coffee we headed out of Miles City. As I told somebody else, if you ever come to Miles City, keep driving.
North Dakota is a lot of next-to-nothing for the first half or so of the state; when one finally hits civilization in Bismarck, it comes as kind of a shock. It's pretty, but one gets a bit tired of all the "No Services" signs at exits after awhile, particularly when one is hungry and desiring a better cup of coffee than one could find in Miles City.
We made it into Moorhead, MN at about 5pm Central Time, after roughly seven and a half hours of driving. The audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was concluding as we were pulling into a restaurant's parking lot for dinner. Bennigan's, an Irish-style Red Robin kind of place, was where we ate; pretty good. We almost ate at Perkins' for the second day in a row before we decided to branch out, and I'm glad we did. Mom's salmon Caesar was quite good; she was trying the seafood in a Midwestern town almost as a dare, and it was surprisingly tasty. My cheesesteak (called an O'Philly on the menu) was also very decent.
Mom insisted on starting the next Harry Potter audiobook when we got back in the car, and so we did. An hour and a half later or so we found ourselves (intentionally) in Barrett, Minnesota, population 355, my great-great-grandfather's namesake. It's a very nice small town in rural Minnesota; I'd love to go back when I've got a couple of days to do nothing but hang out there and talk to locals, see if anybody's been around long enough to remember any of Theodore's children. Not tremendously likely, but you never know. One of them, Richardson Damon, did stay in Minnesota after all (I've got his obituary from a Minneapolis paper). Looking in a local White Pages, I found it fascinating that there are no actual Barretts living in Barrett. A lot of businesses carry the name (including a meat packing facility that I suspect has its origins in Theodore's ranch), and there's a Barrett Lake, a Barrett Avenue, a Barrett Inn, and a Barrett Fire Department, but nobody *named* Barrett. I'm really curious to go back with time to kill and just see what the locals have to say.
We headed back to the highway and pulled into Albany around 10:15pm Central (and there's *still* no Wi-Fi in the hotel rooms. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked). Pretty close to a thirteen hour travel day, and I'd say we averaged close to 70mph for the day. It's been a lot more consistently flat today than yesterday was, so that helps.
And I do have to say, rural Minnesota is absolutely beautiful. It's just big and open and green. There may be nothing but farmhouses around, but it's still some of the most gorgeous country I've ever seen.
Tomorrow we should easily make it to Hammond, Indiana, which will leave us about a three hour trip to Bloomington Friday morning. No sweat whatsoever.
21 August 2003
Left Albany at around 9:30am Central Time or thereabouts. Minneapolis and St. Paul are quite lovely driving through; it would be fun to go there and check them out further sometime. There are some beautiful churches scattered throughout that area, and some cathedrals that looked breathtaking. In general I just adored Minnesota. I'd love to go back.
Wisconsin, at least the section of it that's visible from I-94, didn't make much of an impression on me one way or the other, at least in terms of what we saw. We stopped at the Double K Korral, which is somewhere about an hour and a half outside of Madison, and sampled some of the cheese and the sausage--now, *that* left an impression on me. That was quite good. I would have liked to have time to stop at the House on the Rock and have an American Gods moment, but alas, maybe next trip.
Illinois we breezed through in about an hour and a half--well, actually, no. We *would* have breezed through Illinois in about an hour and a half if it had not been for all of the damned congestion around O'Hare International Airport. Chicago itself wasn't so bad, but the tollways around O'Hare were just insane. I was so happy to see the Chicago skyline again, and here's hoping I'm able to go back in a couple of weeks for Ben Heppner's free recital. Anyway, it took us about three hours or so to get through Illinois. We pulled into Hammond, Indiana (just across the state line from Chicago) at about 8:30 or so, and are at another Best Western. I've just had the most wonderfully spicy jerk chicken at the restaurant here; the gentleman who prepared it is himself of Carribean descent, and I asked him if it was his specialty. He grinned and said, "Oh, yes." The bar had to make my Manhattan with Jim Beam, though, since they didn't have Maker's Mark. I suspect I may have to lower my expectations with regard to liquor in some of the areas of Indiana that are a bit farther away from Indianapolis. Must remember to stop at a liquor store in Indianapolis tomorrow to try to procure some of the basics.
I must also make sure I get some tank tops--it's definitely hotter and muggier out here than what I'm used to. Not intolerable, but certainly more intense than the Seattle area. I must simply look forward to autumn cooling things off.
So, we had an eleven hour travel day, and drove roughly 520 miles. About 200 miles to go--we're almost there, and we should be there before noon tomorrow. Why in the world were people thinking that we wouldn't make it if we stopped in Spokane on Monday? We've made fantastic time, and we've done so without killing ourselves. Except for parts of Montana, it's been a really easy drive, and the trailer's been an easy pull. I was being warned that it would get really unstable if I went faster than 50 or so, and that just hasn't been the case. We've been going 70-75 or so for most of the trip, and it's been fine.
Anyway--embarking on the last lap tomorrow morning, and then this part of the Indiana adventure is over.
22 August 2003
Well, we made it.
We got to Bloomington at around 12:45pm or so; we had gotten a somewhat late start out of Hammond simply because we could afford to do so, and somewhere past Indianapolis stopped immediately when we saw a Starbucks, the first we had seen since leaving Seattle. The first real coffee we've really had since somewhere in Montana.
Dropped by the rental office to pick up the key to find that nobody was there; I went back to the car, called them, and found that in the two or three minutes it had taken for me to walk back to the car, the office person had returned from lunch. I turned around, picked up the key, and then we drove the two or three blocks from the office to the house.
All I can say is, the apartment is a major score. It's big, it's spacious, it's well-lit, everything in it is new, and it's just perfect in every way. Pictures (taken before we started bringing stuff up from the car) will be posted.
We unloaded the car and trailer, dropped off the trailer (man, oh man did it feel good to drive without that thing), and then headed out to do shop for groceries and some minor housewares. Along the way I got pulled over for the first time; I had turned the wrong way down a one-way street, being somewhat lost and looking in the wrong direction at the wrong time to see the sign. The cop was merciful and let me go.
The only thing that managed to not quite work out 100% perfectly is that there is, at present, no hot water; the gas company doesn't come until Monday. Oh well. It's hot enough that cool showers will probably feel quite good. I should have internet access as of tomorrow.
Signing off from Bloomington, Indiana, my new home.
:: Richard email@example.com 8:36 AM [+] ::
Heading off to the Opera Factory, Day One.
:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::
The last couple of days have been fascinating. If it's been vital to the trip and could be lost, it's been lost. Thankfully, it's also been found, but not without some headaches.
So, yesterday morning we get up for church, and I couldn't easily find my car keys. No big deal; Megan drove in her car. When we got home, however, we still couldn't find my keys. After a couple of hours, with four pairs of eyes looking high and low for them with absolutely zero luck, zero luck finding the spare set (they're packed away someplace) and running up against a 5pm deadline to pick up the U-Haul trailer, we drove up to the only Subaru dealership in the area with a service department open on Sundays to have a new key made from the VIN number. Luckily it meant we got to see our friends Mark and Kathleen Powell once more before I took off (they lived right by the dealership), but we pulled into the U-Haul office at 4:45pm. No time to spare.
So then we loaded up the trailer and the car. While doing so, we found my keys, and they were in a very conspicuous spot over which all four pairs of eyes passed over in the search. Sigh. Well, I'll have a spare in Indiana, and apparently God thought it was important for us to see the Powells.
But it doesn't end there. Mom showed up at my in-laws' house this morning, and we headed out at about 8:30am. We stopped at Starbucks in Factoria to meet my friend Gavin for a last send-off (and so I could return his DVD of Fight Club, remind me to speak my piece on that flick sometime), then headed up the hill at about 10 to fill up on gas before getting out on the highway--and Mom says, "I can't find my wallet." Keep in mind that she's flying back to Anchorage from Indianapolis. Without ID, she won't be able to get on the plane. We can't leave without the wallet.
We drove back to my in-laws'. Not there. She called the 7-11 where she got coffee this morning. Not there. She called her cousin Davey, who was driving her around this morning, to see if it was perhaps in his car. He had dropped his car off in the shop, so he had to go out to West Seattle to check. He called back--it was there.
So, at long last, Mom's wallet in hand, we hit I-90 about noon, at least two and as many as four hours later than we had intended to leave at first. Ah well. We were only going as far as Spokane anyway.
I knew that my friends Larry Richardson and Rachel Endicott (husband-and-wife pair who are, respectively, a fellow tenor and former priest at the Episcopal parish I'm leaving) would be heading east today as well, going to Idaho for a few days. Sure enough, about 2 or so, I see their green Passat passing me on the left. A good unexpected wave was exchanged--probably the last time I'll see them for quite awhile.
So here we are in Spokane. It's been a fairly short first travel day, and as it works out that's a good thing. With low expectations for the day, it wasn't a big deal how late we were running. Tomorrow will be a bit of a different story. Watch this space for details.
:: Richard firstname.lastname@example.org 5:58 PM [+] ::
OK, here we go. More or less full disclosure on what I've been going through the last few months (or couple of years, or twenty-six years, depending on how one looks at it). It ain't short. It has to do with why I identify so strongly with liturgical worship, the things that led me to the Episcopal Church to begin with, and what is making me so sad now about not only the present state of the Episcopal Church, but the state of the whole Church, visible and invisible. Let me reiterate: it ain't short.
:: Monday, August 11, 2003 ::
I'll say it one more time: it ain't short.
Even during the time when I was being raised an Evangelical, there was something about the structure of the service that made me very uncomfortable. The music seemed strangely self-congratulatory to me, and it just seemed weird to me to have a service where there were 2,000 people or so in the congregation. After awhile, it seemed like it was by design that you never sat next to the same person twice, that you never got to know anybody in the congregation (let alone ever getting to know the pastor!), but I never quite understood why. Also, with my earliest memories of Communion taking place at a Lutheran Communion rail, the practice at Overlake (little crackers and individual cups of grape juice distributed in the same manner as the offering plate) just seemed very casual. I couldn't reconcile my earliest memories of church with what I was experiencing at Overlake. Even as a little kid, there was something about the Overlake church experience that seemed very out of touch with... well, I didn't know exactly what it seemed out of touch with, just that it seemed out of touch with *something* bigger than itself. The only entity Overlake seemed to recognize that was bigger than itself was God Himself. This seemed to be underlined when they told me I would have to be baptized again, that they would not recognize my Lutheran baptism.
An example of what I mean by "self-congratulatory": in the youth group, there was often "special music" provided by the kids in the group. It was usually to pre-recorded accompaniment, with microphone. (To this day I wonder where these accompaniment tapes came from, who wrote the songs, how these guys found them, etc.) One day, these two guys (both of whom I understood to be going into the Marines after high school) got up and sang a song together, called, "All He Needs Is a Few Good Men". They wore expensive-looking suits, they had military-style haircuts, and the whole presentation suggested nothing more than one gigantic pat on the back that two rich, ultra-conservative white kids were giving themselves, presumably for being two of the needed few good men of the title. (I don't know if you've seen the movie "Bob Roberts", but a subplot of the movie involves two kids who are following the title character around. These two kids look *exactly* like the guys who sang this song, so if you ever see it, you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.) This instance, perhaps more than any other, is a big reason why I just can't get into contemporary "praise music". Much of it, frankly, just strikes me as being too self-focused, directly or indirectly.
I also found there to be a dichotomy between a church that provided as an answer to a lot of questions about God, "Well, He exists outside of time," and a worship service that clearly existed as a product of its own time. Even as a ten year old, it was apparent to me that this style of worship was very modern, rather than reflecting the "timelessness" of God.
Today I can look back on the Overlake experience and recognize what was feeling out of place for me. The structure of worship did not, in fact, reflect any kind of a communal worship experience; it was simply a gathering of individuals, all having their own individual experience of God at once. The texts of the songs being sung reflected this very neatly; "Lord, I come before You..." "God, I feel..." etc. Since, in that sense, it's not really corporate worship, it makes perfect sense why it would be irrelevant whether or not one really got to know anybody during the course of one's membership there.
I can still recall going to my first Lutheran service in some years during my senior year of high school. I had quit from Overlake a year before or so, at least partially over the realizations I had come to over the "All He Needs Is A Few Good Men" performance (as well as some rather painful realizations about how I was being interacted with in the youth group as a whole), and had decided to try out this little Lutheran church because a friend of mine whose views I respected went there. I remember finding the pastor's vestments a bit funny, stumbling through the liturgy ("Oh, yeah... we say this here, and we sing this there... oh, right, that's the Apostle's Creed, I remember now..."), being extremely thankful that they provided printed service music (rather than just projecting the words on a screen), feeling slightly scandalized by the use of real wine at Communion, and a bit surprised when the sermon (which relied heavily on illuminating the Scripture readings for the day, and didn't seem to require much oratory heavy-handedness on the part of the pastor) only lasted about fifteen minutes. What really made my jaw drop was when the pastor saw me, and said, "Hi, I'm Pastor Chris Boerger. I don't know you. What's your name?" It's an experience, on the whole, that I will never forget, because it was so diametrically opposite to the majority of my church experience up to that point. It was worship that truly felt corporate, it was worship that was not dependent on any one personality to succeed, it felt connected to something bigger than itself, and all of that contributed to a more intimate and sacred presence of God than I had really been exposed to up to that point. And, I have to say, the two things that really provided that sense were a) the small congregation (100-200 people, I'd say) and b) liturgy. (And, in Pastor Boerger, a pastor who could truly be pastoral because there was a number of people manageable for one person. I don't know that I would be a Christian right now if not for the six months or so that I got to be one of his flock. He's the Lutheran bishop for this region, now; I sang at a service a couple of Sundays ago at which he was present. He didn't remember me, but I made sure he knew just how crucial his presence was at that time in my life. He seemed genuinely touched.)
When I attended my first Episcopal service, it was a similar experience, only to a greater degree. The liturgy just felt older, particularly in that space; it was an old-style brick church with a rood screen in front of the altar, pipe organ (the first time, as far as I know, that I had been in a church with a pipe organ), stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross on the walls, Communion rail, etc. It was a space that had clearly been intentionally made sacred. It was quite a contrast to the neutral auditorium of Overlake's.
In all of this, I was being presented a clear way in the liturgy of coming to God, of praising Him, adoring Him, communing with Him, learning of Him, petitioning Him, placing my cares on Him, all in a corporate manner that subordinated my ego to the Body of Christ. It was a way that required my active participation, but did not depend on some kind of subjective emotional high towards which I would be constantly maneuvered towards during the service. It was more than just hand-waving, shouting through an hour or so of music, and sitting through a long sermon.
During my time as an Episcopalian, there have been many times where I've realized, "Well, we say this as part of the liturgy. So, if that doesn't reflect an actual belief, then the liturgy would just be empty ritual, wouldn't it?" So, in those cases, I've read, prayed, discussed, etc., and usually come away with the belief as it's reflected in the liturgy affirmed. Hence my strong belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist (there's an essay I've written on the Gospel of St. John and the Eucharistic imagery that permeates the whole book that I'll have to post at some point); and hence, overall, a set of beliefs that, over the years, have gradually become less and less Protestant. (At one point I would have said "more and more High Church Anglican", but honestly, that's a term that doesn't mean much today.) Even more importantly, it's become a set of beliefs that seem to increasingly set me apart from a lot of Episcopalians.
This brings me to my growing disillusionment with the Episcopal Church. The flexibility of doctrine, initially something I appreciated, began to irritate me the more I realized that it was having the practical effect of attracting people who wanted the trappings of a church but not have a theology imposed upon them--and unfortunately, it was becoming clear that these people were being attracted to the clergy as well. We have a friend who is a retired Episcopal priest, and it has consistently amazed me what I've heard come out of his mouth over the last five years. The man is clearly a liberal secular humanist atheist with a collar, and always has been. (How do I come to that conclusion? Among other things, the fact that he specifically disavows a "theistic view of God"--so I asked him after he told me that, "What's the point of prayer then?" "I don't know," he replied--and that by his own admission he views the function of the Church as being primarily one of social justice.)
So, we were delegates to the Convention of the Diocese of Olympia, which is the regional governing body of the Episcopal Church. It was an eye-opener in a lot of ways. It's been said that the Episcopal Church focuses on "right worship over right belief", that a big part of what defines us is our liturgy, and that's why it's such a contentious matter when somebody tries to rewrite the Book of Common Prayer. So, what's the first thing I noticed about the big Eucharist that was celebrated at Convention? You guessed it--they messed with the liturgy. In a very specific way, however--all references to "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" were replaced with "Creator, Redeemer, and Mediator", presumably so as not to make some insensitive, monolithic assumption that everybody there had a male or theistic image of God. Heaven forbid a Christian assembly make that assumption.
It also struck me like a 2x4 how for so many people at Diocesan Convention, the emphasis seemed to be on being a social activist first, and a Christian second... or third... or fourth... or twentieth. I heard very little talk about Christ or what God's will for this body might have been, and a lot of talk about what the socially responsible thing to do would be. As our national General Convention was broadcast on CNN last week over the appointment of an openly gay man to the episcopate, I've heard the same kind of thing I heard at Diocesan Convention, only more so.
To a great extent, it's started to become clear to me that one cannot talk meaningfully about "right worship" without some standard of "right belief", and that the two must go hand in hand for it to mean anything. In theory, that's the Creed; however, I can't begin to tell you the number of Episcopalians (who take Communion!) who I've heard say things like, "I don't say the Creed because to do so would affirm the idea that people in a fixed time and place perfectly captured the essence of Christianity", or "I don't say the Creed because I don't really believe it", or "I don't say the Creed because I can't stand that the Church has as its central image an inherently violent and brutal act", etc. etc. ad nauseum. After awhile, I've wanted to shake some of these people and say, "What are we, then? Unitarians with liturgy?" It's become clear to me that the pluralism inherent to the Episcopal Church in the United States is fundamentally poison.
So, that begins to explain why I've felt pulled away from the Episcopal Church over the last year or so. I’d like to note that most of this doesn't apply to our own parish; the pastoral leadership at St. Margaret's is fantastic, and Fr. Steve has been a beacon for the Truth in the midst of all of this.
That's what I've felt pulled away from. What have I been pulled to? Well, from where I sit now, there can be only one of two possibilities: Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, with the likelihood at this stage of the game being Eastern Orthodoxy. Why, in particular, do I feel pulled to those particular communions?
I actually offered to convert to Catholicism during my engagement to my wife, rather than have Megan be confirmed as an Episcopalian. I left the choice up to her, as I did not want to cause a rift in the McKamey clan, and as noted my beliefs have become increasingly less Protestant over time. Megan decided after some amount of prayer that she was the one who needed to make the move, but we left it open for future discussion and prayer.
During Holy Week of 2002, my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law were, respectively, reconciled with and confirmed in the Catholic Church. We were there for Maundy Thursday (father-in-law's foot-washing) and Easter Vigil (stepmother-in-law's Confirmation and First Communion). All I can say is that the presence of the Holy Spirit was tangible to me in those two services. It was a strong testimony to the power of God to heal and to be truly present, and there was a definite tug felt in the midst of that Holy Week. I can remember on the drive home, saying, "You know, not saying we'd do this now, but we really need to keep ourselves open to the possibility of being called..."
"...to become Catholic?" Megan finished. "Yeah. I was thinking the same thing."
We talked about it, and we were aware that now was not the time, but that there might be a tug in that direction at some point in the future. Around that time, I started to read Catholic apologetics. Karl Keating, G. K. Chesteron, etc.
A few months earlier than that, I had a long conversation with a singer friend of mine, with whom I was doing a concert. I knew Mark to be Greek Orthodox and a convert from the Episcopal Church (and a convert to the Episcopal Church from Southern Baptist), but I frankly had little idea what that actually meant. At some point during the concert he made a remark or two I found intriguing, and I asked him to explain. This turned into a long chat over dinner, and he told me what were essentially the basics of Orthodoxy, as well as his conversion story. It was interesting; it didn't grab me by the lapels, but I filed it away for later. One thing that stuck with me: when I asked Mark what led him to Orthodoxy, he replied without hesitation: "The Holy Spirit!"
This last April, as I noted here shortly after it happened, Megan's boss (who is Russian) invited us to an Easter Egg blessing at the Russian Orthodox parish she attends infrequently. I'd never been in an Orthodox church before, but I remembered my conversation with Mark, and was interested. I can still remember stepping foot in the sanctuary, and just about immediately overwhelmed by a space that had been not just intentionally made sacred, but intentionally made as completely sacred as possible. The scent of one hundred years' worth of incense permeated every square inch of the walls, icons and candles covered absolutely everything, and anything that was in the room was there to reflect a real presence of God, which was so tangible it nearly knocked me over. Not in the intimate, comforting way that I had experienced a handful of times before, but in a powerful, majestic way that I didn't know was possible. It was like two thousand years' worth of Christian history coming alive for me at once, and the only response I could have immediately was to light a handful of candles and pray. It didn't make me a convert, but it was clear that the Holy Spirit had awakened something, and I wanted to know more. A lot more.
Well, thanks to the conversation with Mark the year previous, I knew enough to drop him a line and let him know. He and his wife (with whom I go back about ten years) were extraordinarily gracious, invited us to church with them, and talked with us at some length afterwards. It was genuinely illuminating, and while the Liturgy we attended didn't quite make converts out of us (Megan had just had her knee surgery, so a service where one stands for about an hour and a half was perhaps ill-advised), we still came away from the day wanting to know more. A part of the issue with that service was that they were meeting in a borrowed space, so a certain amount of the experience was kind of muted.
I read a ton, and I'm still devouring as many books about all of this as I can. I've found much of what I've read to be very powerful. Here's at least a partial list of what I've read:
The Orthodox Church by Bishop +KALLISTOS (Timothy) Ware
Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gillquist
Thirsting for God In a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin
The Anglican-Orthodox Pilgrimage
For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann
The Way by Clark Carlton
I was also put in touch with an Orthodox priest who is a former Jew, who converted to Evangelical Christianity, who then converted to Orthodoxy in the early '80s. I found in Fr. Bernstein a man with a genuine love of God and the Truth, and we visited his parish the following Sunday.
That Liturgy was the revelation, and then some. I don't know if you've ever attended an Orthodox Liturgy. Remember the majestic presence of God I talked about? Well, it's there, but the intimate, comforting presence of God is also there while the Liturgy is going on--it's real, it's tangible, and it's powerful, in a way in which I'd never participated in any other worship setting ever. In that sense, the Orthodox Divine Liturgies I've attended have been the most joyful church services in which I've ever participated. The inside of an Orthodox sanctuary looks strange to somebody who doesn't know what's going on, but it all has a liturgical and doctrinal function, it all gets used in the course of worship, and it's all centered on Christ.
I remember being concerned about the whole standing thing--but I'll tell you what, if you haven't just had knee surgery, it's really not an issue. You don't even notice. It just feels like the right thing to do, and when you sit for the homily, it feels kind of like a concession to human frailty.
In terms of Orthodox practice and doctrine, too, I have to say it really has very little to do with what somebody "likes" and "feels comfortable with". There's a lot about Orthodoxy, like the Lenten fast and the all-nighter Divine Liturgy that's pulled on Easter Vigil--that I suspect a practicing Orthodox actively doesn't like, and actively doesn't feel comfortable with--but it's not the point, any more than legalism is the point. The point is obedience to God.
My brother-in-law asked me what I've learned, what sticks out as important and/or interesting, and what I think is drawing me towards either Orthodoxy or Catholicism. I think I've given a pretty in-depth answer, but I'll say a few more things that don't quite fit in with the narrative.
One important thing I've learned is that the Episcopal understanding of Tradition is functionally very different from what Tradition means for a Catholic or Orthodox. For an Episcopalian, Tradition is simply the historical practice of the Church; we do it that way because we've always done it that way, and I guess God has had us do it that way for a reason. For a Catholic or Orthodox, however, there's a much deeper understanding of what Tradition is. It's the Life of the Holy Spirit ("the Spirit of Truth...who will lead you into all truth", John 16:13-14) as it is manifested in the Church and passed down in a form other than in writing. St. Paul acknowledges the existence of this when he writes, "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." (2 Thess 2:15) The Episcopal Church, as I've learned listening to the debates at General Convention over whether or not the appointment of a gay man to the episcopate should stand, doesn't understand Tradition at all, which I think is part of why it manages to be so wishy-washy.
What's important and/or interesting? The historical argument between the Christian East and West is really interesting, and really important. Bishop Ware explains it wonderfully, and does so in a manner that manages to be non-judgmental (even though it's clear on what side he comes down). The historical understanding of Bishops was that, as the successors of the Apostles, they were sacramentally equal; there was an acknowledgement in the East that the Bishop of Rome was the "first among equals", but one of the decisions that came out of one of the seven Ecumenical Councils was specifically that a Bishop will not interfere in the jurisdiction of another Bishop unless asked. For the Bishop of Rome, then, to start behaving as a monarch in what the East understood to be a collegiality, was out of line. At the same time, however, the Bishop of Rome was the only Patriarch in the West, and once the seat of the Roman Empire was relocated to Constantinople, he effectively was a civil as well as a religious leader in a way that the other four Patriarchs in the East didn't have to be. Also, since the East increasingly spoke Greek and the West increasingly spoke Latin, there was a lot of communication that gradually stopped between Rome and the East. Rome being more and more isolated from the East in this manner, became increasingly out of touch with what the rest of the Body was doing. The filioque (the change in the Creed from "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father" to "who proceeds from the Father and the Son"), which started out as a local addition in Spain, ultimately was imposed on the whole Church by the Bishop of Rome--and the Eastern Patriarchates said, "No, you don't have the authority to do this, and it's a heresy anyway." ("But when the Comforter comes Whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, Who proceeds from the Father"--Gospel of St. John, 15:26) So, looking at what caused the split, it's clear that it was prompted by significant questions of authority and Truth. From the point of the view of the East, the West broke off from the faith that had been universal for a thousand years; from the point of the view of the West, the East refused to submit to what they saw as the clear authority. Either way, the stage was set for schism to become the norm over the next millennium. With over 25,000 different "denominations" running around the world, I cannot see how this is in keeping with the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus: "I pray...so that they may all be one, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21)
So then, what is drawing me towards either Orthodoxy or Catholicism? I have to join my voice with that of my friend Mark and say, without hesitation, the Holy Spirit! But to enumerate in more detail some of the things I'm thinking about and praying about, I'll say this: Ultimately the question has to be twofold (but they're really the same question): Where is Christ, and where is Truth? Christ is "the truth" (John 14:6); the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Truth...who will lead you into all truth" (John 16:13-14), and Jesus tells us in John 17:17 that "thy (God's) word is truth". Not only that, but St. Paul asks in I Corinthians 1:13, "Is Christ divided?" with the answer he's obviously implying being an emphatic "No!" The Church, against which "the gates of Hades cannot prevail" (Matthew 16:18) is the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5), so how can the Church be divided? How can pluralism be something that is acceptable to Christians? Paul's question suggests that the Church is organic--one is either part of it or one is not. So the question I'm finally starting to ask myself and take very seriously is, am I part of the Church that has been led into the fullness of truth by the Holy Spirit? I'm becoming convinced that the answer is, simply, "no". But, by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit, I have started asking, "Where, then, is that Church?" and I believe I am being led there.
Like I said, it wasn't short...
:: Richard email@example.com 4:12 PM [+] ::
Holy smoke... what a couple of weeks it's been. It's been rather surreal, seeing the Episcopal Church on the front page of the newspaper, and watching debates from General Convention being broadcast on MSNBC and CNN.
:: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 ::
For me, this whole mess only solidifies what must be my departure from the Episcopal Church in the United States and into... well, that's a whole blog entry in and of itself, and I'll have to write that tomorrow when I have a few hours with nothing else to do. But the reason why I'm opposed to Robinson's confirmation has nothing to do with his homosexuality. Rather, one cannot get around the fact that he is a divorced man living in an extramarital union, and *that* should be beyond the pale for a bishop (and preferably for all clergy), end of story, whether he's gay or straight. Clergy, especially bishops, being both leaders of the church ("bishop" and "priest" are derived from the Greek words "episcopus" and "presbytera", which both translate roughly to "elder"--the Greek scholars can blast me if I'm wrong, but that's my understanding) and "icons of Christ" (that is to say, holy images truly representing the presence of Christ), and being called to that position by the Holy Spirit, *must* be held to a higher standard of behavior than the laity. They are the example, and they are the ones counseling and advising us, hearing our confessions, and making decisions for the Church. As St. Paul writes, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour" (1 Timothy 3:2). The Episcopal Church has chosen to ignore the standard of personal behavior in the name of social activism, plain and simple. For some people, this choice seems absolutely fantastic. I have to say, if this were a bank deciding for the first time to open an account for a gay man, or a restaurant opening its doors to a lesbian couple, or something to that effect, I'd be right there with them. However, the Church is not a secular organization and cannot be run as a secular organization, no matter how much the social liberals want it to be. If you don't share the beliefs, nobody's forcing you to keep coming to church, and nobody's keeping you from starting your own religious organization. This is the United States of America, after all.
Anyway--that's the core of what I think, being (at present) an Episcopalian. I also agree with those who say that this is unlike the ordination of women (decided at the 1976 General Convention), in that the theological debate over that was hashed over for a good fifteen years or so until there was something pretty darn close to consensus. Plus, there was a specific theological issue in the midst of all of that: given that a priest is an "icon of Christ", the question behind ordination of women then must be, can women represent Christ? At this stage of the debate over human sexuality, there is no consensus on the issue, nor is there even a consensus on what exactly the issue *is*. For this to have happened now is to have prematurely forced the issue.
:: Richard firstname.lastname@example.org 5:13 PM [+] ::
Wow... has it really managed to be over two months since I've written last? Where oh where does the time go...
:: Thursday, May 08, 2003 ::
Actually, I can say with certainty what's been going on. I've been in the middle of the rehearsals and performances of two different shows, I've been getting ready to move, and I've been reading. A lot. So, not much to say but, oh well.
I'll catch up within the next couple of days. I hope.
:: Richard email@example.com 11:06 PM [+] ::
I'll go ahead and elaborate a bit more on the "spiritual journey" alluded to below. It's not the whole story, but it's some of the context, anyway.
I wasn't raised Episcopalian. I was baptized Lutheran as an infant, but that really had more to do with my Danish grandmother than with any sense of connection that my mother had to the Lutheran church. As soon as we moved to something vaguely resembling a metropolitan area (Woodinville in '84, which was as close to a real city as we'd been up to that point), she ran as far as she could in the other direction, and we wound up at Overlake Christian Church, where we both had to be baptized again (since the first time didn't count, natch). We were there probably five years or so before my mom stopped going to church to appease my atheist dad. That meant I stopped going. In high school, I started attending a small Lutheran church on my own, and it felt so much more at home for me than Overlake ever did. (At Overlake I frequently felt ostracized because I didn't believe that science was a work of the Devil intended to confuse Christians and make them less faithful.) In Bellingham, I got called to be the tenor section leader at St. Paul's Episcopal Church up there, and I'd never been to an Episcopal church. It really felt "older" in a lot of ways than the Lutheran church I had been to, but at the same time the similarities were obvious - and I really liked that "older" feeling. The more I found out about the Episcopal church, the more I really appreciated what at the time it seemed to represent - a church that kept, valued, and promoted its ties to Sacred Tradition, but at the same time didn't ask you to check your brain at the door (a la Overlake). I'd never been around women pastors/priests before, and it took a little getting used to, but it became something I appreciated very much. I was confirmed at St. Paul's on 29 June 1997 at the age of 20, with nobody in attendance - no family, no friends, nobody. My mom was vocal (and remains so, to an extent) about how she "didn't raise you to be an Episcopalian", saying that if I was raised anything, I was raised a fundamentalist Protestant. So, choosing to live out my faith for the last seven or eight years or so in the Episcopal Church, as I have, has been something that I've very much had to own, on my own. It's not something I've done for anybody else but myself and God.
When I moved back to Seattle, I attended St. Mark's Cathedral for a short time - a very short time. After three or four services, I'd had enough of the unabashed, dripping, sentimental liberalism of the Cathedral, and felt a bit disillusioned. It definitely did not feel like the Episcopal Church I had come to know at St. Paul's. When I started attending St. Margaret's in Factoria, it was a lot better, and it's been a wonderful place to be - I was married there, Megan (raised Catholic) was confirmed there, etc. - but I've really become painfully aware how unlike the rest of the Diocese (at least) St. Margaret's actually is.
And, the thing is, as I've grown and matured in my faith walk, I have to say my own views have... how does one put it... I don't know. I was going to say "become more Catholic," but that's not quite right. Perhaps simply "less Protestant". For example, I would definitely call myself somebody who agrees with the doctrine of transubstantiation. I don't know how somebody can read the Gospel of John (and I mean the *whole* Gospel, not just the usually cited verses - the whole book is rife with transubstantiation imagery) and not come away with that very specific understanding.
Maybe it would also be fair to say simply that the more church history I read, I find I relate more to the views of the historical church fathers than the church leaders of today. So, when present day Episcopalians (at least one of whom is a retired priest himself) are telling me about how they just get tired of all the theology in the Church and/or don't believe specifically in a theistic version of God and/or don't say the Creed because they don't believe that any one period of the Church has perfectly captured the essence of Christianity and to say the Creed would validate the idea that the Council of Nicea *did* perfectly capture the essence of Christianity and/or think it's psychologically unhealthy for a church to talk about a God who requires the arbitrary death of His child and/or focus on an essentially violent event (the Crucifixion) as its main image etc. etc. etc. I just get really, really, *really* tired of it. After awhile I feel like we've Enlightened and Reasoned ourselves to death, and frankly, I start feeling like I did at Overlake - that is, made to feel like my views aren't really welcome. Ironically, this time around, it's because my views are too traditional.
So, that's a piece of it. Maybe I'll write more on it a bit later.
:: Richard firstname.lastname@example.org 3:59 PM [+] ::