What Old Books and Rwandan Bishops Have in Common

The last couple weeks have been depressing. Of course, there’s the usual stuff: hectic job, crowded schedule, and the existential horror of finding a grey hair in your mustache scruff. The social mediasphere is as toxic as I’ve ever seen it. It’s getting to the point where each new development in the Kavanaugh quagmire makes me feel nauseous.

But this week, I’ve found comfort from two different sources: century-old books, and a Rwandan bishop. I think they’re comforting for the same reason. But before I explain, here’s a little bit about the two sources:

  • Old Books. This past week I’ve been revisiting a couple old books that I love. They aren’t profound. In fact, they’re pulpy and kind of silly. One is “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins, which was published in 1859. The other is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” from 1912. But what the books lack in substance they make up in other virtues–they’re both imaginative, atmospheric, and charged with adventure. And they both have wonderful narratorial voices. By wonderful, I mean different. There’s a unique kind of intimacy that comes from following the way a narrator guides a novel. You get access not only into their opinions, but also the assumptions and habits that were commonplace to them, but are alien to modern readers. While sometimes shocking, on the whole it’s charming.
  • Rwandan Bishops. One of my favorite things about my church is our connection with Rwanda. We were planted by the Anglican Church of Rwanda, and have kept close ties ever since. Folks from our church regularly head over to Rwanda on pilgrimage. And, on the rare occasions, the visa system permits Rwandan leaders to visit us. This past Sunday we hosted Bishop Samuel Mugisha Mugiraneza. His sermon was excellent–you can listen to it here. His insights into American culture were especially striking. Being a visitor and observer helped him identify uniquely American struggles we take for granted–a consuming desire to get ahead, a gnawing need to work, and monetizing all our time.

You probably guessed what these sources have in common, but I’ll explain anyway. They both got me out of my neurotic news bubble. Getting outside the bubble lets me see its limits, feel its edges, and put it in context. My problems aren’t the whole world. My country’s problems aren’t either. They’re just a tiny piece of a larger picture. Whether you’re hearing the Word of God from the other side of the world, or just spending some time in a pleasant Victorian page-turner, it helps to remember that.

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Photo by David Flores

Two Cents on a “Controversial” Homily

It’s weird to use the word “controversy” for a 13-minute homily at a nominally-religious famous person’s wedding. But last week, that’s exactly what happened in a certain niche of evangelical social media.

The subject was Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Here’s a video of his homily. My pastor, Ken Robertson, had a good summary of the controversy on his Facebook page:

Archbishop Curry’s sermon (and the response to it) proves two things, I think:

  1. People are still captivated by passionate proclamation. Preaching is NOT an outdated, less-than form of communicating the gospel: it lies right at the center of God’s work of making all things right. Always has, always will.
  2. People heard very different things in this sermon: everything from “the heart of the gospel” to a “false gospel” (both phrases from my timeline). It almost reminds me of Yanni vs. Laurel!

I think that was spot on. Especially for we Anglicans in the ACNA, our opinion of the homily has as much to say about our own backgrounds as the homily itself.

Continue reading “Two Cents on a “Controversial” Homily”

Evangelical: Good Adjective, Bad Noun

Like many of you, I bounce back and forth about my feelings toward the term “evangelical.” When someone asks if I’m an evangelical, I usually panic before pretending to get a text.

But some less-panicked thought has landed me at a solution. To make things even better, it’s grammar-based. Here it is:

I’m an Evangelical Anglican.1 But I’m not an Anglican Evangelical.

Continue reading “Evangelical: Good Adjective, Bad Noun”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 3

In my last post, I discussed my four requirements for a perfect church. They were:

  • A feeling of antiquity
  • High church trappings
  • Minimal change or commitment from me
  • Perfect doctrinal blend of liberalism and conservatism

When I moved back to Colorado Springs, my quest was to find a church with all of these qualities. I figured that in a city with that many churches, one of them was bound to suit me in every way. For instance, maybe there was…

  • Some pastor with hip glasses and a neck tattoo who started a church in a renovated train station downtown. Amidst the Victorian spindles and chandeliers, our services would employ some ancient, underappreciated Rite you’ve probably never heard of–Celtic maybe. Afterwards we would all ride our bikes to the new coffee place to sip espresso and discuss the trendiest new social causes.

Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 3”

The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy

I used to think that every one of “Those Evangelicals” hated liturgy.

You haven’t heard of Those Evangelicals? It’s simple. Those Evangelicals are the shadowy others out there in the world. Whenever I disagree with Those Evangelicals about something, it makes me feel smart and edgy. And Those Evangelicals have an irrational fear of liturgy.

During my cynical days, I spent a lot of time defending liturgical traditions like Episcopalianism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy against the ignorance of Those Evangelicals. I also spent time concocting theories about why they hated it. Continue reading “The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy”