Encouraging a fresher vision of The Episcopal Church: About this blog

As an Episcopalian, I believe that liturgy and the deep experience within it should have an effect on faith.  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi  – the way of prayer is the way of belief. Of course there are valuable worship experiences in community:  some even  of the mountaintop variety.  But to the alarm of many;  honest, relevant, responsive, sincere liturgy and spiritual communities are becoming rarer and rarer.  We all have an inkling that this is so, finding our corporate faith experiences flat. What happened?

When attending an Episcopal Church,  the primary message sent out by the staff is Don’t bother.

Don’t bother to get involved except to read along,

Don’t bother to add your prayers,

Don’t bother to express how the lectionary readings may have touched you,

Don’t bother to share in community how God is touching your life or the news is changing your priorities,

Just don’t bother.

The combination of dismissing the laity with a misdirected investment in the hierarchy of the institutional Episcopal church results in 19,000 leaving TEC every year.   The Episcopal Church which takes great pride in how inclusive it is, ironically ends up excluding everyone but those collecting salaries who keep in line with the status quo. Its own existence the primary objective, TEC is so busy producing, it has lost the capacity for self reflection and listening to the faithful.

The institution doesn’t realize it is in the middle of epochal change in which direct experience trumps dogma and creed. The leadership of The Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations would do everyone a favor if they awoke to that fact. Plainly hierarchy in whatever form is not as important than the direct experience of the life and death of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

So I have joined those who yearn for a responsive, active, relevant, liturgical faith community – with accountability –  but instead are rediscovering  a cup of coffee in front of Meet the Press on Sunday morning. We cobble together rituals, prayers, Bible and book studies, and mission that are meaningful.  While most rectors and vicars assigned to run family ministries are bemoaning the lack of commitment when it comes to faith at home …we’re doing it. It’s not optimal, but it sure beats enduring another Sunday morning sitting passively for the 8 or 10 o’clock (insert time zone here).

Unlike my church experiences, the thoughts, prayers, disagreements, of  all are welcome here. With tens of thousands of us out there – and a good percentage of us ordained – we can light the way for the evolution of  the real church, not the hierarchical institutional church – in what Harvey Cox names as the Age of the Spirit.

Sound irreverent? I pray that’s the way to hope.  Light a flare on a blog, or Facebook, a Twitter, or start talking to other de-churched in your neighborhood.  This is not the beginning of a new church, but the reclamation of what church was supposed to be.

10 thoughts on “Encouraging a fresher vision of The Episcopal Church: About this blog

  1. It’s very interesting to hear your perspective — and I love your title. I am especially intrigued because it makes me aware that when I am despairing these days, it has less to do with what the community does or doesn’t do and more to do with the peculiar way in which Episcopalians idolize “their” worship-style, as if all people were ‘Anglo.” I am also saddened because I leave pondering a well-thought-out sermon, rather than moved by a sense of spritual fullness. Thanx.

  2. Reverend – Thanks for visiting. As you can tell, I touched just the smallest bit on the anglo-centricity of The Episcopal Church. There is so much more to say on that, so many ironies here. I hope you jump in and add your own thoughts.

  3. I just want to share about children in worship. Recently, when the bishop came for Confirmation, I knocked myself out as DRE to convince clergy, verger, and families (especially) to have 3 front rows reserved for families with children (parents are, of course, so paranoid about being shhhhhhhed, it took some doing.) That accomplished, I could only shake my head in sadness when one priest lined up the confirmands directly in front of the front pews so that neither adult nor child could witness the Confirmation at all…sigh. My children just sat there, as usual, with no sightline and no interest. I had to hold myself back from jumping up and ‘parting the waters’… sigh and headache.

  4. Oh I wish we were all in the same community! What I wouldn’t give to have some open, engaged team members who love life and think God and church might have some relevance to it!!

  5. Pingback: More reason to hope: We are not alone « Hopeful Episcopalian: because hope comes from despair

  6. Thank you for this blog. I am grateful for a forum where these hopes can be expressed. I have been a priest for zillions of years, and must say that many of the ideas for worship that parishioners have brought to me in that time usually derive from their free church backgrounds. I find these unappealing, not from any conscious Anglophilia (I find things English pretty off-putting) but from their clear desire to ‘nail things down’ more than our tradition envisions. In response to one parish where these concerns were prevalent, I inaugurated a 15 minute ‘warm up/multi-generational’ event that took place right before the liturgy. Those of us who needed to be in vestments showed up in them. A music practice then took place in response to ‘we don’t know Episcopal hymns.’ This led to a fully sung liturgy (lessons, too) that was all congregational singing – there was no choir and the musician was an untrained but natural keyboard player. the deacon then read the Gospel and then someone told the gospel narrative in their own words. Then we shared our concerns, asked for prayers, shared our joys, and had a few tears and a few laughs. Then….we all entered the church together singing the entrance hymn. Eventually we arranged the seating in the classic collegiate style so our communion with one another throughout the liturgy was emphasized. I could go on and on about how well this was received and how very effective it was…and someday I may. What I will say now is that everyone was empowered to make the liturgy together, and attendance at this pre-liturgy event was usually around 100%. Of course, (I hear you gasp as you read that) as the liturgically educated person and the person with responsibility to the tradition as its primary transmitter, I chose things like the Eucharistic Prayer and often the hymns, but the liturgy was certainly ‘of the people’ and it was beautiful – at least that was their testimony. The whole point of doing all of the above and more was to move beyond didacticism and into experience. I believe we had considerable success at that and even better, the classic liturgy of the West (Liturgical Movement style) was thoroughly accessible for those people at that place and that time.

    • Burl – thank you for the feedback and sharing another way for the faithful to gather and feel as if the worship is part of their spiritual lives. That so many are hungry for a relationship with God and not finding it in the denominational boxes is a fact. Still, the hemorrhage of people leaving churches could probably be staunched if clergy and staff were more willing to listen and adapt. And even if the numbers of those of us who leave church stay apace, at least the Church would mean something in people’s spiritual journeys. We do yearn for community, and even more importantly accountability.

  7. Pingback: The Hopeful Episcopalian « dechurched1

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