Wednesday, August 02, 2006

An open letter to Nazarenes everywhere

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:

  1. Browse around the blog a bit – read recent posts (very few so far). While you're here, dig my groovy site design...and yes, I did in fact take the photo of the candles at Notre Dame in Paris, thank you very much.

  2. Post a comment by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post – comments are open to all and can even be made anonymously, although I would discourage this in the name of conversation. Voice your agreement – tell me off – better yet, tell another contributor off – periodically remind me that I’m “full of it.” We want to know what you think.

  3. If you’re really REALLY interested in what we’re doing and think you have more to offer than the odd snide comment, email me (or post a comment) expressing interest in becoming a “member” of the blog, which simply means you will be listed as a contributor and will have full posting privileges. I will have to send you an invitation via email and you will have to sign-up for a blogger ID, which is quick and painless – all you need is an email address. But after that, you’re free to rant and rave as you wish, without even being editorialized by me (well, within reason – I can always remove inappropriate material).

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:

  1. While this venture stems from a certain dissatisfaction that I and others dear to me have begun to feel, the blog will NOT be a place to complain about or bash the Church of the Nazarene; we love our church and will conduct ourselves in a spirit of Christian charity.

  2. While critique and critical thinking will be encouraged, the blog will NOT be a place to criticize individual pastors, local churches, and the like.

  3. While hoping to give voice and venue to those who, like me, desire a liturgical/sacramental life that is continuous with the 2000-year-old Christian tradition, the blog will NOT (I hope) be a virtual “support-group” for disgruntled Nazarenes; in addition to a spirit of charity, we will keep faith and hope in clear focus as well, faith in our church and her leadership and hope for our collective future; further, I hope some true dialogue and even dissent will take place from time to time, which means we don’t want a homogeneous group.

  4. While they are welcome to the discussion, this is not a place to debate the merits of Roman Catholicism (or Eastern Orthodoxy, or Anglicanism) with formerly-Nazarene members of those traditions. We will be respectful of those traditions and of those who represent them, and hope to learn all that we can from them, and them from us, and all of us from one another, but we will not put other traditions under the microscope nor will we debate differences of doctrine between these traditions, except insofar as it serves our ability to think critically about the Nazarene Church.

  5. While there are bound to be lots of very bright people poking around this blog, this is not a “scholars-only” blog, and I hope it will be more practical - which is to say, mindful of mission and ministry - than academic.

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,

Brannon Hancock

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