(I really don't know how to feel about this.)
I might actually be more sympathetic, at least in theory, to the impulse (hee hee, pun intended) behind Saint John Coltrane Church.
But maybe I just dig the icons.
"...liturgy is not a work (œuvre): it produces nothing that could possibly be handled, admired, sold, or given. It is utterly foreign to the logic of action." (p. 78)
"Liturgy is the absence of work (œuvre)." (p. 79)
"...the nonutility of praise must not be interpreted uselessness but as a beyond-to-utility." (p. 80)
"...the kairos of liturgy comes, as night follows day, after we have completed our duties...We pray between acts. But the vigil prolongs this entr'acte. The day, which will return us to the care of things secular, is still far off. We do not have to account for the time we gain to devote to praise. And yet this very much amounts to saying that liturgy appears here as a surplus...Liturgy is not, in the strict sense, necessary." (p. 81)
"Liturgy is inoperativity (désœuvrement)...Because it concerns itself with a presence while hoping for a beyond-to-presence, and because it hopes as one hopes for a gift rather than for the payment of a debt, its expectation must reckon with the possibility of perpetual frustration...Thus, for consciousness, if we must speak of it, patience is a major liturgical virtue. The patient consciousness knows that its attentiveness and expectation give it no hold over God. It is a confession of powerlessness." (p. 91)
Tom Petty once sang "The waiting is the hardest part." I think he was probably right, and no waiting is harder than waiting on the Absolute, the wholly Other, that which we call in the absence of a better name "God." But if we believe that God really "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14)...if we believe in a Jesus who identifies himself explicitly with those who appear in and to the world as "the least of these," toward whom our service or our denial is commensurate with service to or denial of Jesus himself...if, following Jewish thinkers like Buber and Levinas and Christian thinkers like Bonhoeffer and Zizioulas, we believe that our personhood, our very Being, is constituted in our encounter with the face of the other...is not the waiting and the eventual-though-fleeting Communion depicted in this video as authentic an expression as any?
About a month ago, LifeChurch, an evangelical network with nine locations and based in Edmond, Okla., set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet. [...] “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times people have told me that ‘I’m going to tell you something, Pastor, I’ve never told anyone before,’ ” Mr. Groeschel said. “I realized that people are carrying around dark secrets, and the Web site is giving them a first place for confession.”
"I don't want a worship experience at all. Or maybe I do. I want to stand-sit-kneel every so often, I want to say the words the congregation is supposed to say, I want to sit patiently through the bad homily, I want to taste the wafer and maybe the watered-down wine -- I want to make sure I don't forget. It's nice to be reminded, every so often, that this stupid and pointless thing is happening, and to participate in it, to waste a half hour on it and walk away with nothing. I think that's important."(Excerpted from his post, which you should read if you have a moment.) As much as a I talk about, think about, write about, read about, and participate in liturgy, I confess there are many times when what I feel is precisely nothing. And as a good Nazarene boy, I can't help but think, "Well, why did I even bother?" If I leave feeling even more alienated from God and perhaps even from other people; if I leave with more of a profound sense of God's absence than of God's presence, well, then isn't something wrong? With me? With the liturgy? Maybe the music wasn't good enough. Maybe the sermon was weak. Maybe my "heart wasn't in the right place."
"Nearly 100 years ago the Church of the Nazarene began in Los Angeles California. Gathered were a group of Christians interested in proclaiming the radical optimism of God's love and grace to people on the margins. The early work of this new moment defied societal and class boundaries. Compassion and justice were inextricably linked to the holy call to love God and neighbor--no holiness but social holiness. People were added to their number daily who testified to lives changed by the grace of God. [...]
The Order of Saint Stephen is a community of brothers and sisters who are banding together to live this gospel as a way of life. We are recovering the Order of Saint Stephen which was part of that first Church of the Nazarene in LA. In so doing we desire to rediscover the potency of their commitment to discipleship, contemplation, compassion, and justice."
Not sure just yet how this will develop, but it has my unbridled support already. Email nazarenemonks(at)gmail(dot)com to express your interest.
Thank you for honouring Epworth Chapel on the Green in your attempts to recognize churches working toward sacramental and liturgical renewal. Even though Epworth is now "independent," the core group of people who started the church were Nazarenes. I myself am an ordained Nazarene elder, and still work with the Intermountain District to get permission to minister here... Thanks for noticing what we are trying to do. It means a lot to us.
It means a lot to us, too! I have to applaud this creative and deliberate approach to being a local church that situates itself within a tradition that does not really exist (yet). What I mean is, by being a "Wesleyan-Anglican" church, they are carving out a "traditioned" identity that does not exist per se as a Tradition (proper), or which did not exist heretofore except by absence, by the gap left by the lack of any such tradition. While I suppose a very high-church Methodist congregation could describe themselves as "Wesleyan-Anglicans," as far as I know, Epworth is entirely unique in their solution to the "problem" of situating their Wesleyan-holiness identity within its proper Anglican ecclesial and liturgical tradition, of reconciling these two aspects, once inextricably joined but now almost entirely divorced.
This testimonial about Epworth, which I ran across on another blog, seemed to me worth sharing:
We had a very good visit to Epworth Chapel on the Green in Boise yesterday. It’s a Wesleyan-Anglican church that is totally liturgical, and stresses the right kind of ecumenicity as well as evangelism. The people were exceptionally kind to us and the liturgy was wonderful. The cantors and the organist were first-rate which made it a great listening and singing experience. We were so excited to find this diamond in the rough so close at hand when it seemed like there wasn’t much around here in an Anglican stream that wasn’t totally liberal and corrupt. It was interesting to me to observe how my kids reacted to the liturgical service. They seemed interested, maybe because it is so new to them. But I think it would be a really positive environment for them to learn Christianity in...
*Sigh*...oh, to hear such things said often of Nazarenes churches. I wonder, though: would it be possible to follow Epworth Chapel's lead without becoming independent? Or was their detachment from the denomination a kind of necessary sacrifice? Is there room within the COTN for churches who are compelled to move so fully and deliberately in this direction?
...the church does not make the Eucharist; the Eucharist makes the Church. As Christians, grace comes before works, and works flow out of what the grace has already accomplished. The Eucharist represents the "already" as we live towards its full reality in the "not yet." Christ's presence in the Eucharist is real by the descent if the Spirit on the Bread and Cup in the Eucharistic prayer lead by the elder at the altar. As we participate in the One Body that is Christ's presence in the Bread, we then go out to live what we read in Deuteronomy and Ephesians -- now with no reason to not do so, because it is only by God's grace, not our merit or worth, that we have been made participatants in Christ's body.
And all God's people said, Amen.
"Oh, we're having Communion today...cool."How often have I heard these very verbs used in conjunction with communion in my own experiences with the church? I suppose "postmoderns" like me aren't supposed to get too hung up on language: one of the key characteristics of our "post-"age is often referred to as a "crisis of language," an inability to accept any longer, at least with any certitude, that words mean what they're meant to mean. But these words bother me, especially when juxtaposed with the words that we ought to be using when we talk about Communion, words like:
"Well, we take Communion at least once a month at our church."
"I prefer taking Communion by intinction."
"Are we gonna put Communion before the sermon or after?"
receive... celebrate... participate in... keep
You see, I believe firmly that the shape of our worship shapes us. Therefore, I believe the words, gestures and postures we adopt makes a profound difference to our understanding of what we are doing when we worship, and why.
I think our fatal flaw is this tendency to view Communion as something we do, rather than something God does and indeed is doing, and in which we are invited (or better, con-voked: called-together) to participate. We are told to keep the feast; we are invited to step out, come forward, kneel humbly and receive the body and blood; we are gathered together (ecclesia = assembly) to celebrate the story of our salvation, for how often we forget that every Sunday is a celebration of Easter.
This in no way exhausts the symbolic significance of the Communion meal; this is not even the tip of the iceberg. But I hope it exposes the characteristically impoverished nature of our standard ritual of the Lord's Supper. This poverty, it seems to me, is directly related to the words we use and the gestures and postures we assume in our ritual enactment. For example: are we really acknowledging the fact that we are invited to come (Jesus said: "Whoever comes to me will never hunger or thirst") when the elements are brought to us, requiring no real effort on our part, not even any change to our physical posture? We don't get out of our seats most of the time, much less kneel. So it's no wonder, perhaps, that we use the word "take" so often: we do, in fact, take Communion...the tray is passed down our row and we take the cup, we take the wafer. We'll feed ourselves, thank you very much. The problem is, this "taking" makes the Eucharist into a commodity, placing it within the realm of value or a market economy of sorts; this can never be the case if sacraments are truly "means of grace," and if grace is truly free, lavish, gratuitous.
How different, then, is our coming forward and kneeling before a sacrificial altar which is also a banqueting table and extending empty open hands to be graced with the bread that is his Body, this bread that, in receiving, makes us his Body? Or even, as is standard practice in some traditions, coming forward so helplessly that all we can do is open our mouths to have the bread placed on our tongue, or to be spoon-fed the bread co-mingled with the wine, like little babies who can't even feed themselves?
You see, I'm afraid we're much too adult for all of that; much too sure of ourselves and of what this ritual is all about, to be bothered with such symbolism, such inconvenient pageantry. For if the meal is all about remembrance or memorial, in the rather one-dimensional sense of simply meditating upon a memory, like flicking through an old photo album, then why should we bother worrying about such questions of form? However, surely the next question then becomes: If the significance of communion is only what takes place in my (individual) head and heart, then why bother with a cup and a wafer at all? Surely we could all simply sit in silence with closed eyes and ponder upon images of the crucifixion, or, better yet, project such images (perhaps from a popular film) on a screen so that we may call them to mind more readily?
But no: we are given bread and wine. We hold it in our hands. We gaze at its texture, its materiality: a thin, porous wafer, so easily snapped in two; a thimble-ful of deep red liquid, which reflects and refracts the light so beautifully. We place it to our lips. We chew, we swish, we swallow. We tongue the crevices in our teeth to free those stuck bits of the wafer that didn't go down. We shove a grubby finger into our mouths to pick it free from our teeth, and suck that finger clean and swallow again. This is bodily, material, human. Eating, digestion, is messy business. This is God's way of telling us that matter matters... that God indeed in-dwells the very stuff of our lives, the stuff that keeps us alive: food, drink, relationships... communion with one another and with Almighty God.
This is anything but a mere mental exercise. This re-member-ance is what puts us back together again: puts the pieces of our individual lives together and makes us into whole persons; puts us as individuals back together into a Body that is worthy of the name Church. This memorial re-collects a mess of busted-up fragments into a community that, as the Body of Christ, participates in the eternal communion of a Triune God. In this sense, there is only one Eucharist, only one Communion meal, one that is on-going, and one to which even the least-of-these are always welcome. Every once in awhile, we accept this invitation. We eat and drink, in the words of one liturgy, "to our soul's comfort."
The thing is, then: if this communion meal is always going on, and if we're always already invited to the celebration - why in Heaven's name would we ever want to be anywhere else, doing anything else?
Sisters and Brothers:
After much thought, deliberation, conversation and prayer, and in keeping with the times, I have created this weblog (or "blog") to have an online space to foster community amongst Nazarenes around the globe – something Gloria and I especially relish right now as we are living as “strangers in a strange land” – and, as self-proclaimed missionaries to the Anglicans, as we are worshipping as “strangers in a strange church”…but that’s another story.
Now, if you’re looking at this site, I rejoice in the fact that you must be at least semi-interested, either for your own sake or for the sake of someone you know and love – that pesky nephew who won’t shut up some new trend called “liturgy” or perhaps that strange lady in your Sunday School class who refuses to come to the church’s July 4th Extravaganza but comes to every service on offer during Holy Week (remember when we did Easter cantatas?).
Perhaps a few other clarifications are in order: I’ve said “members of the Church of the Nazarene” but really I’d like to foster participation by anyone who associates themselves with the COTN in any capacity – for example, certain friends who have begun worshipping in other traditions but who have deep personal and familial connections to the COTN and still care about the denomination: I would love for these folks to get involved as well. The invitation extends to all, provided all are aware that the focus of the site is on the Nazarene Church, and particularly about the realities and possibilities of her worship and practice on (first) the local level and (second) as a denomination. It is, in my newly-coined phrase, a place for “thinking Nazarenes thinking Nazarenely,” but thinking defectors are welcome, too.
Also, while I have set up this site, I eventually want to get away from it feeling like it’s “my site” – I will by necessity serve as the site administrator (which just means I hand out memberships and can if necessary delete posts or deny access or close down the site); however, I want any and everyone who becomes involved to feel a sense of communal ownership. Indeed, the worship of the church belongs to no one in particular, but to God alone, and as worship is the subject of the site, this shall be our ethos. We need men, women, young people, old people, Europeans, Latin Americans, Papua New Guineans, pastors, laypersons, heck, even guitar-playin' worship leaders (like me)…that is, we need Nazarenes, people who represent who Nazarenes are…and not only those who identify themselves as “Nazarene” but even including those the Church of the Nazarene identifies as belonging to her (“I’m your Mother no matter what you say!”), regardless of their present affiliation.
“Participate”?...”Get involved”? you might be wondering…how does one do this? Well, immediately, there are three (really four) things you can do:
And finally (#4): TELL OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT THE SITE. Especially people who might be particularly sympathetic to what’s going on on the blog. “How do I spot such a person,” you are wondering. Well, take a look around you at church sometime – do you see anyone (young or old) who might be really into church – the fellowship, teaching, preaching, etc – but seems less into the worship…like, the more clapping and gettin’ down everyone else seems to be doing, the less inclined to do so this one seems to be? Or do you ever run across folks who seem to find antiquated things like saying the Lord’s Prayer strangely meaningful, or who mutter things under their breath like “well, if we’d only have communion every week…” or who reach for a hymnal and look up the number in the index (assuming your church still sings the occasional hymn) even though the words are clearly provided for their convenience thanks to Microsoft PowerPoint and a rockin’ video projector (or four)…? Well, I might be stepping out on a limb here, and encouraging you to do so, too, but these folks just might have something in common with those of us at Sacramental Nazarenes – or else they just might be the kind of anti-social, nasty people who always find something to gripe about and are impossible to please, in which case we don’t want them…send them elsewhere, perhaps to the Landover Baptist website.
A note on the name: “Well,” you might huff, “aren’t all Nazarenes 'sacramental'? I mean, if we’re baptized and if we receive communion at least quarterly…those are sacraments, right?” To which I reply: ABSOLUTELY! All Nazarenes ARE sacramental (even those who don’t realize it), and by giving this blog its name, I absolutely do not wish to give the impression that only an elite and blog-savvy few are truly "Sacramental Nazarenes."
Let me, then, say a few additional words about what the blog IS NOT:
Anyway, hope to see you around! We’re off to a good start already, so we’ll just keep shaking this tree and see who or what falls out and where it leads us!
In the peace of Christ,
"I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going."To me, this is the authentic life of faith. No "purpose driven" rubbish for this PK - that's "pastor's kid," not "promise keeper," although I do strive to be the latter, and I can't really help the former. Rick Warren has made his mint, and I'm sure he's done some wonderful things with the bounty - cast your bread on the water and all that - but I'm thinking in the opposite direction, if it is even a direction at all...purposeless...meandering...like the Children of Israel. Grace is gratuitous...unmerited...purposeless. At least by our estimation. Isn't this, really, the only space in which grace can really be encountered? When you've given up on it? As another favorite quote from another great contemporary sage (Fight Club's Tyler Durden) goes: "It's only when you've lost everything that you're free to do anything."
RICKY: Mom, I'm leaving.
MOM: Okay. Wear a raincoat.
RICKY: [hugs her] I wish things would have been better for you. Take care of dad.
This son knows his family is messed up in some ways, but it is his family. If it is messed up, he is messed up, too. Other families might be less messed up, or just messed up in different ways, and some of them might adopt him, or at least invite him to dinner...but they are not his family. In the end, they cannot and never will be his family, the family that claims him as its own even when he wonders if it's time to split.