The Seven types you might encounter in your efforts to grow a church. Good leadership requires prayerfully bringing all these elements into concert rather than allowing them to be antagonistic towards each other or catering to only one type.
Rightness: These are the folks who are concerned with Right Theology (and consequently like to be right). They have a tendency to see everything wrong with Christianity and Culture as a problem with wrong theology. Correct theology will correct most, if not all, of the problems. Folks of this sort tend to gravitate towards and convert in the direction of places like Confessional Calvinism and Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Fundamentalism. They also might be crossing every “T” and dotting every “I” and checking every aspect of the church finances and bylaws, if you let them.
Righteousness: Very similar to the Rightness crowd (and there might be a lot of overlap) are those who are concerned with the Culture Wars. Things wrong with the Culture need to be corrected and there is a tendency to see Political Activism as well as Right Theology as a way forward. Strictly speaking, the Rightness crowd will be ambivalent about how much Political Activism will help the culture. Political Activism also helps in establishing power in the congregation and the Righteousness type might well bring their knowledge of political science to the church-conflict table.
Religion: These individuals are very much concerned with Religion in its Devotional, Liturgical, and Pietistic elements. They see Christianity as the ultimate Religion (as in “Religion’s” etymology from the Latin to “tie things together”). The Aesthetic is important and these folks will team up with the Rightness folks, finding common ground during “Worship Wars.” They might well find common ground with those concerned with “Rigor” as well.
Revelation: These people are strongly interested in the claims of Revelation. They value the Prophetic and Declarative in Christianity. They want to see the impact of Scripture on people’s lives. They are evangelistic and often become fixated on Eschatology. Many times they might butt heads with the Religion element and the Rightness element as being into navel gazing and not into outreach. Other times they might be in concert with the Religion and Rightness elements. On the other hand, they find a lot in common with the Righteousness crowd and often see Political Activism as a way to bring the Church back to having power in the culture and a Prophetic impact on culture but often they are ambivalent and pessimistic about political activity since deep down they believe that the End Times are upon us.
Resurrection: These are the new Christians, the baby Christians, those who have come to Christ late in life and have not yet joined another group. It might be argued that they are susceptible to the influence of whatever group holds the most sway in the Church in which they find themselves yet it is hard to say what will happen. It isn’t that they don’t have a mind of their own, but if conflict happens, they are libel to get hurt easily when caught in the crossfire.
Rigor: This crowd can be dogmatic like the Rightness and Religion crowd. They have a tendency to do what is most hard – because it is most hard - and, while valuing the aesthetic, their hearts are drawn towards the ascetic. If they fall under the spell of those within the Revelation crowd, they might choose mission work. If they fall among the Religion crowd, they might choose communal life.
Relationship: This group values fellowship above all. The Resurrection Christian has a lot in common with them. They can be found most often in nominal Christian churches as well as in those bordering on the cultic – incidentally churches most opposed to nominal Christianity. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove in church conflict, they will, like the Resurrection Christians, be caught in the crossfire and, instead of fighting to maintain control of the church, they might well find a different fellowship without much of a fight. Once the gauntlet has been thrown down during church conflict, fellowship has gone out of the window. So they don’t see much of a reason to stick around.
All of this being said, there is a lot of fluidity and flexibility. People are individuals. They might have aspects of one group as well as another. This outline is only there to help for purposes of reflection and contemplation. People grow and change and change is possible. Nevertheless, again, it is the job of a church leader to be able to bring all the elements prayerfully into concert with one another. This is ultimately within the realm of God’s Sovereignty and the work of His Holy Spirit.
As I was picking up the fake grass this Easter morn that my son had strewn from his Easter Basket, I began to reflect on the symbolism of this tradition. I don’t claim to have the only “right” symbolism but these were my thoughts…
Isaiah tells us that, “All flesh is grass.” And here we can reflect on the grass sitting in the bottom of the Basket as that mortality into which each man is born, by virtue of Adam’s sin. It is like that dirt into which our mortal flesh shall be committed.
On top of this grass lies the egg - colored, fertile, a sign of the Resurrection of the Body. That which is committed to the earth “in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection,” (’28 PB page 337), God shall raise. “At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies : and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting : and they that have done evil into everlasting fire” (Athanasian Creed). “New Life” is a fairly standard interpretation of the eggs themselves.
Yet, we might reflect even further on the Basket itself. It is made of dead grass as well, straw, but is fashioned into the shape of something that carries the eggs and carries the grass at the bottom of the Basket. We, as Christians, through our Baptisms are shaped into the Church, woven into the fabric of Christ’s Body.
As we go forward in the liturgical year, we will note the emphasis. The first is Witness: We are to Witnesses to the Resurrection. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son” (Reading from the First Sunday after Easter). The second is Evangelism - bringing people to church, as a Basket brings those signs of the Resurrection (the eggs) to individuals on Easter morn. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd” (Reading from the Second Sunday after Easter).
To bring people to church is to bring a gift to them, and that Easter Basket is a symbol of that gift. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights . . .” (Reading from the Fourth Sunday after Easter). And this good work, we must do if we would be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [our] own selves” (Reading from Rogation Sunday).
Finally, we can reflect on the Easter Basket as far forward as Pentecost. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (Reading for Whitsunday). Again, we are formed as a basket, woven into the fabric of Holy Mother Church, to work together to bring men to salvation.
The handle of the basket reaches up towards heaven. And it is God himself, in Christ Jesus, who works this work, making “you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).
I was recommended this book by a parishioner and then found it on sale at the local Catholic goods shop. It was originally published in 1964 and then again by Ignatius Press in 1997. It relates the story of a Jesuit trained to operate “behind enemy lines,” behind what later became known as the “Iron Curtain,” Post-Soviet Russia. A Polish Catholic from Pennsylvania, who always seemed to push his physical stamina as a boy, indeed an unlikely Jesuit, he pressed forward towards the prize of the Society of Jesus almost as if it was simply the fact that they were the best, the elite, the most hard-core, that attracted him.
He felt called to this special mission to Russia and spent years learning how to operate under the “Oriental Rite” or, as we call it today, Byzantine Rite. He couldn’t stand learning it and he doesn’t give any indication that his love for the tradition grew much over the years. Although there are Pols who use the Byzantine Rite, there is generally no love-loss between Pols and Russians and his prejudice as a Polish American showed through in this, and yet he persevered. He spent a little time in Rome after becoming a Jesuit, training at their center for Byzantine or Oriental studies. Then he ended up in Poland, serving parishes during WWII. Then he ended up in prison, rather quickly, as a “spy” for the Vatican.
I found the book incredibly comforting as a Bi-vocational Priest. (I read it while serving as a Security Guard. I read it, often, while feeling sorry for myself.) But his way of just taking the “sacramental moment” as it comes, his taking seriously the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Wherever thy glory best be served, whenever, however” was inspirational. For example, he might spend a year at a prison in which he had library rights, and then he would say matter-of-factly that he spent the year reading. He didn’t say mass for years or months at a time, and then he would suddenly find himself in a camp where he was overwhelmed by pastoral duties. After being released from prison, although everybody knew he was an American, he was practically a Russian citizen and served pastorally in two different cities. His success pastorally was almost sudden, revival-like. And in both cities sudden was his invitation to leave those cities. Post-prison, after he’d been warned in a third city not to do any pastoral duties, he states again matter-of-factly that he had saved his money in the previous city and, given the fact that he’d worked hard labor for fifteen years in prison, he figured he’d let himself take a year off. When the authorities started to wonder why he wasn’t working, he simply went back to work again.
The value of this book is not only that one can learn coping mechanisms for times of persecution and prison, one can learn coping mechanisms for how to deal with times when one gets to “be a priest” and when one doesn’t. He admits his times of depression, but his discipline as a Jesuit never ends and this carries him through. He continues to make his daily Ignatian meditations, say his prayers and, when possible, his daily mass and he even finds ways to give lectures to fellow priests or hone his sermon skills. He understands, or perhaps learns to understand, that “down time” is never “down time” but polishing, resting, honing – always waiting for the next pastoral interaction, even if years in the future.
There are times, albeit short, that he doesn’t work because, as he puts it, the people take care of his needs. But those times are very brief. Most of the time he is doing what he trained to do, but it takes longer to get to those mountain views when he could see that he is doing what he was called to do than he would like. Many of us feel that way. Many of us struggle with the same things. I couldn’t help but feel that in this post-Christian country of America we are already operating frighteningly similarly to those priests in Soviet Russia. In fact, I think it is a good read for any minister today, in order to prepare for the persecution that is coming.
Like reading a novel, towards the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to see how he got out of Russia. The parishioner who recommended this book knew some folks who would travel to see this priest somewhere in Pennsylvania after his return from Russia. These folks referred to this priest as simply “The Confessor”. So one might assume that after those years in Russia, hearing the confessions of convicted criminals and those constricted by Communism, he returned to America a very good Father Confessor indeed.
The morning after I finished the book, I went to church and found that the parishioner who recommended this to me had already bought me the sequel, “He Leadeth Me.” And I look forward to that as well.
I do recall a girl from a conservative Presbyterian church whom I dated a few times years ago, before I met my lovely wife, informing me that the Geneva Bible was getting republished. I thought, even then, that I would have to get my hands on one at some point. Through one of the email blasts that I get (how I got on the list I can’t remember) I found out that this Patriot’s Edition of the 1599 Geneva Bible was available buy-one-get-one-free. When it came up in conversation with an English prof colleague of mine, we decided to get in on this deal and split the cost.
The original email and the ad for this Patriot’s Edition made me so annoyed that I frankly threw together a counter-email, which I never sent. It annoyed me because it claimed that this Bible was the reason for the American Revolution and our American Republic. Now that I have gotten it in the mail, the forwards and historical backgrounds in the front of the Bible have, indeed, prompted me to respond in an academically rigorous way to this edition, but I remain generally in favor of this Bible version.
The whole edition seems perfect for the homeschooling family. It is one edition with “The Prayer of George Washington” (one of the prayers he wrote, rather), The Magna Carta, The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and Washington’s primus opus “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”. I certainly had to read most of these works as a homeschooler and, I must add, have already had occasion to resort to The Constitution provided in the back.
Indeed, when combined with the original Geneva Bible Morning & Evening Prayers, Prayer Against the Devil by St. Augustine, A Prayer to be said before a man begin his work, all these devotionals that stand in the back (just after the Book of Revelation), one could hardly see it as a bad volume. It has already proved quite serviceable in my life.
Rather the problem stands in the front, in the “scholarship” and innuendos that go into proclaiming this version as the catalytic converter of our American experiment in self-government. The 1599 version of the Geneva Bible which was chosen to make this edition was not the most printed version. That's odd. That the Apocrypha and Metrical Psalter were omitted is a pity. But the scholarship introducing it is in shambles.
Note this wording from “The History and Impact of the Geneva Bible”. First it says, “This edition of the Geneva Bible is the first completely new publication since the time of its first issue, and timed for release on the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown . . . The Geneva Bible surely was carried aboard their three ships that sailed from England in December of 1606. The New England Pilgrims likewise relied on the Geneva Bible for comfort and strength on their 66-day voyage . . . and were even more dependent upon it as they wrote the Mayflower Compact . . .” Note the assumption, “The Geneva Bible surely was carried” to the Jamestown colony. - Possible, probable, but not a proven fact.
The Jamestown colony was very much made up of royalists if my knowledge of history serves, not Puritans whose loyalty to the crown was, well, less enthusiastic. To state, as is stated later, “that John Rolfe likely would have used [it] in the conversion of Pocahontas at Jamestown in 1611” is to state something quite unlikely. To talk about the Geneva Bible as “the Bible of William Shakespeare” is similarly conjecture. Everybody wants to claim Shakespeare and plenty of Roman Catholic homeschooling families likely have their children read a book which tries to prove that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic.
Another unfair attack is the statement that this was “the first Bible to be read by the common people in English”. Is the author not aware that the Matthew’s Bible was ordered to be set up in the English churches in a convenient place where the people could go to read it? But that is not the point, I hazard. The point is in the homes, at the hearth, where the individual can read his bible and interpret in his own way without being dependent upon an institutional church. So the home and hearth, and homeschooling of Christian America is thus seen as the basis of self-government, and the homeschooling parent can rest assured that this is as it should be. But shall we thus distain the institutional church, the parochial/Christian school, even when protestant and Bible-believing? If that is what is hinted at, then I am alarmed.
The reality is that Jamestown, more than likely, used The Bishop’s Book or Matthew’s Bible, the authoritative versions, not a concoction put together by a few unauthorized persons who had fled to Geneva. Overlooking this, it is stated that this Bible “was the first Bible translation produced by a committee rather than by one individual”. Yes, but not by an authorized committee. And the Matthew’s Bible (published 1526) was put together by three individuals. How many individuals does it take to make a “committee” instead of just an individual? Do they have to be all sitting in the same room for it to be a “committee”? I would add that the King and Bishops took a vow to safeguard the spiritual welfare of the people of the realm and were endowed with power from on high for such a task. They were no self-appointed committee.
Of this institutional authority, the history written by Dr. Marshall Foster is simply dismissive, calling The Bishop’s Book an “inferior translation” just before launching into an attack upon Bishop Laud labeling him curtly “persecutor of Presbyterians” and saying that Laud “widely promoted” the 1611 Authorized Version “who outlawed the printing of the Geneva Bible in the realm”. No evidence is offered as to why The Bishop’s Book is inferior.
The final straw in this poorly-constructed thesis is the statement that “the Geneva Bible disappeared” after Laud’s lamentable foisting of the King James Version on the “people”. Yet, we might ask, how then did it come to be the influence of the Founding Fathers and of George Washington? From 1611 to 1776 is 165 years. So, if the Geneva Bible disappeared, I am rather surprised at its ability to influence our Founding Fathers when we have just now reproduced it and the copyright reads 2010.
All of that being said it is still our right to freedom of speech that allows us the opportunity to check and balance each other, through academic discourse and debate. We are blessed in this great country, developed by many different denominations, to have the ability to tweak each other as Christian brothers. It is this privilege that I am exercising in this review. If, in fact, this Bible does help bring America back to her senses and Christian foundation, then I am heartily enthusiastic about The Patriot’s Edition. Order your copy today!
In Fr. Rutler’s The Cure D’Ars Today, the author states,
So wild and rare was [Fr. Vianney’s] flair for the symmetry of nature and grace that he examined the very days of the week according to a redemptive scheme: Sundays were dedicated to meditations on the Blessed Trinity (“Whenever we pray or enter the church to pray, we please the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity”); Mondays were for the mystery of the Holy Spirit (“In heaven you will be nourished on God’s breath”); Tuesday was the day of the angels (“Good night, my guardian angel, I thank you for protecting me this day; offer to God my heartbeats while I sleep”); Wednesday was the court of heaven (“The fish swimming in the little stream is content because he is in his element, but he is even better in the sea”); Thursday the Holy Eucharist (“There is nothing so great as the Eucharist . . . if God had something more precious he would have given it to us”); Friday the Passion (“To understand that we are the work of God is easy, but that the crucifixion of God should be our work is incomprehensible”); Saturday the Immaculate Virgin (“If the sinner invokes this good Mother, she’ll find some way to get him in through the window”).
This is a fascinating idea. I remember when a priest at St. Francis Anglican Church, Dallas, the rector would have the mass intentions according to something of a redemptive progression. Saturday, too, was for Mary, as I recall. Friday makes sense as the Passion, like Good Friday, Thursday as the Eucharist, for Maundy Thursday. Thus every week is a little Holy Week, ending with the Day of Resurrection, Sunday.
Monday, as you start your workweek, works great for the Holy Spirit. Tuesday, after you’ve realized the challenges and temptations of the workweek, can elicit thoughts of one’s guardian angel. Wednesday, as “hump day”, is the day when many are back in church, either in the morning or evening. So, “Court of Heaven” as a theme works quite well, since one is back in the Court, and fellowshipping once again with believers and getting a little bit more grace to make it through it all till Sunday.
Within Classical Anglicanism, as in Lutheranism, the reformed litanies play a clear role as they did and do in Roman Catholicism. Indeed, Litanies are a classical part of the Western Church, being a part of Processions. It seems that during the days of Arianism, Arians would process around singing the catchy hymns to catchy tunes that Arius made famous. In response to this, Christians began to process. Later in Christendom, there were perambulations at planting times and times of plague and times of assault. By the time of the Reformation, litanies were an established part of the Sunday liturgy.
Even during the 19th Century in the Rite of Lyons, being an extraordinary rite like the Rite of Milan, parishes like Ars would have a long Sunday. A diary of one visiting Ars stated that mass “began at eight o’clock and lasted until eleven. There was a procession before Mass and a sermon after the Gospel.” Fr. Rutler continues to relate, “At the stroke of one in the afternoon, clad in his surplice, [Fr. Vianney] moved to a booth in the tiny nave from which he conducted the catechism. Later came Vespers, Compline, and the Rosary, with another sermon at night with bedtime prayers.”
Now, the first thing that might strike most people about this is the length of the Divine Service, being almost as long as we imagine that an Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy is. (An historic fact and esoteric point that the Rite of Lyons, having an old Gallic/Celtic connection with the Celtic Galatia of Turkey – a connection evidenced or established by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who was originally from Asia Minor – that same Rite of Lyons has similarities with the Syrian Orthodox or “Jacobite” liturgy. In fact, the thurifer-acolyte wears a stole somewhat reminiscent of the stoles worn by various “deacon” acolytes of the Jacobite Liturgy.) Another esoteric point is how similar this Gallican mass is to the Reformed Liturgy of England. If one were to do all that is required by the Prayer Book tradition, Anglican mass would last about three hours, consisting of Morning Prayer, Litany, a long sermon, and the Eucharist. The Afternoon and Evening of a proper Anglican parish church would also have catechism, Vespers, and another sermon.
Of course, the Anglican and Lutheran litanies are but a reformed continuation of the litanies at Sunday mass in the Roman church, generally the “Litany of the Saints”. The Litany in the Anglican tradition is also traditional for Wednesdays and Fridays, being the old days of fasting and Eucharist, and the days that Cranmer believed every parish church should have communion or ante-communion. (Interestingly enough, this tradition of fasting communion on Wednesday and Friday was upheld by the Wesley brothers and at least the fasting part was continued by early Methodism and still today in some Wesleyan/Holiness traditions.) The Prayer Book allows for a shortened Litany or “Lesser Litany” generally for use on Wednesdays and Fridays, which can only speak to the practice of Wednesday and Friday litanies as something of a norm.
Now, when we look at our resources consistent with the Prayer Book, we can see some helpful ways to say a litany a day, using something of St. Jean Vianney’s or somebody else’s scheme. Let us turn first to the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. It has in the very front a litany for Morning and for Night. The litany for Night is especially moving and helpful on nights when one cannot sleep. “Litany for a Good Death” or “Litany of Thanksgiving” (pages 45 & 51, respectively) would also be good at night, as we are to fear the grave as lightly as we fear our bed or because if we cannot sleep we should try counting our blessings instead of counting sheep. “Litany for a Good Death” would also work well on Friday and “Litany of Thanksgiving” on Sunday. “Litany of Penitence” on page 125 would also be good on Friday (or Wednesday).
“Litany of the Blessed Sacrament” or “Litany of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament” (pages 154 and 157, respectively) would both work well on Thursday, as the day of commemoration of the Institution of Holy Communion. But the other way one might use these is by saying them on Sunday evening, especially when one prays for those who neglect or disdain the use of the Most Blessed Sacrament i.e. those who missed church that day.
“Litany for the Dying” or “Litany for the Faithful Departed” on pages 190 and 200, respectively, would work well on Friday or on Saturday –as Saturday is the day on which God rested from all His works. Returning again to Fr. Vianney’s redemptive order, we find a “Litany of the Holy Trinity” good for Sunday on page 229 and “Litany of the Holy Ghost” helpful for Monday on page 238. There is a “Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” on page 245. “Litany of the Blessed Virgin” is found on page 267, “Litany of Our Lady of Sorrows” on page 270, and these are good for Saturdays. There is a “Litany of St. Joseph” (page 276) which is good for workers (and therefore especially edifying on Mondays), for husbands and fathers, as well as men who are bachelors or celibates. One will find a “Litany of the Holy Angels” on page 280, which St. Jean might have said on Tuesdays. On page 283, you will find a “Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus” which is well on Sundays. Starting on page 286, you will find a “Litany of the Passion” and “Litany of the Precious Blood”, again good on Fridays. There is a “Litany of the Church” and a “Litany of the Saints” beginning on 292, which would fall under the theme “Court of Heaven” and perhaps be said on Wednesdays if St. Jean Vianney had had a St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. Finally, you will find a “Litany for Missions” and a “Litany for Social Justice” following these others.
Without belaboring the matter too greatly, I should like to point out that The Practice of Religion has several good litanies as well. A “Short Litany of Penitence” is found on page 156. “An Intercession for a Holy Death and Merciful Judgment” is on 217. A litany for the dying is found on page 221 and “A Short Litany of the Saints” on page 233.
A more esoteric devotional work that was helpfully consulted is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Golden Gate. This has some lovely litanies: Litany for Advent; Litany for Christmas; Litany of the Holy Name (for Epiphany or any Sunday in the year); Litany of the Blessed Sacrament (for Maundy Thursday and any Thursday, or before or after reception of the Blessed Sacrament); Litany of the Passion (for Lent or any Friday); Litany of the Resurrection (for Easter Tide, or any Sunday); Rogation Litany, Litany of the Ascension (for Ascension Tide, or any Thursday); Litany of the Holy Ghost (for Whitsuntide, Preparation for Confirmation, and for Tuesdays throughout the year); Litany of Penitence, Litany of Intercession – which would work well as a Court-of-Heaven, Wednesday litany; Litany of the Faithful Departed (for All Souls’ Day, or any Saturday); Litany of a Happy Death (Saturdays). Here you can see that the intuitions are similar, but also different from St. Jean Vianney.
However you choose to do so, there are just so many litanies – why not say one everyday?
Fuel the Yule-, I mean, Embertide this Advent Season: What is Embertide and what can you do to fuel it?
On page li of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, you will find a list of Fast days. Listed among “Other days of fasting on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion” are the Ember days. These are days that have to do with seminarians. They are in contact with their Ordinary, the bishop who will probably ordain them someday, on this day. It is also a day on which we get to participate in the ordination process… by prayer.
So often people ask, “Where are the young priests?” Well, whatever their age when called, priests are needed for parishes. One thing that parishes who want good priests should do is pray that God would send us good priests, develop good priests at good seminaries, where good faculty teach good doctrine. First God must call these men, and we should pray that God would do so.
There are special lessons and collects. One such collect is listed along with the Epistle and Gospel in the 1928 Prayer Book for the Eucharist for an ember day. The Missal has specific collects and epistle and gospel lessons for eucharists specific to that particular ember day. The Proposed Prayer Book of 1928, an English edition, has some extra collects that are nice as well. For example,
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who hast purchased to thyself an universal Church by the precious blood of thy dear Son: Mercifully look upon the same, and so guide and govern the minds of thy servants the Bishops and Pastors of thy flock, that they may lay hands suddenly on no man, but faithfully and wisely make choice of fit persons to serve in the sacred ministry of thy Church. And to those which shall be ordained to any holy function give thy grace and heavenly benediction; that both by their life and doctrine they may set forth thy glory, and set forward the salvation of all men; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are to be called to any office and administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great name, and the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This indicates one thing that we can do on behalf of seminarians on ember days: We can go to mass if it is offered and encourage that our priests offer Holy Communion on those days.
Another thing that can be done in saying our daily prayers is recite the Litany for Ordinations on page 560 in the Prayer Book. Pleading divine grace for this issue is a matter of prayer, fasting and humiliation. There is another good litany for Embertide that is for private recitation and is found in G. A. C. Whatton’s The Priest’s Companion: A Manual of Instructions and Prayers for Priests and Religious. It has three different collect options for the end of the Litany, which can be used consecutively if this Litany is said on the three Ember days at the four seasons. The three collects are:
O God, the Sanctifier and Preserver of thy Church, raise up in her (and most chiefly in this seminary) through thy Spirit worthy and faithful stewards of thy Mysteries: that, with thee as their protector, the Christian people may by their ministry and example be directed into the way of salvation.
O God, who didst command thy disciples, as with fasting they ministered before thee, to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto thou hadst called them: be now with thy Church as she fasts and prays; and do thou, who knowest the hearts of all men, show unto her those whom thou hast chosen for the work of the ministry; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Innsbruck Seminary Manual)
O God, who, for the glory of thy Majesty and the salvation of mankind, didst constitute thine Only-Begotten Son as the eternal High-Priest, mercifully grant; that those whom he has chosen to be the ministers and stewards of his Holy Mysteries may ever remain steadfast in the fulfilment of the ministry committed unto them; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. (Roman Missal)
In these ways, we can utilize the Ember Days to our spiritual growth and for the welfare of God’s holy Church.
Some years ago, I read that the average stay for a Southern Baptist minister was 18 months. Now I have read from an article that that is for all denominations. This is a marked change from the average stay of five years, itself an average stay that was considered a bad sign thirty years ago. What is to be done? And should anything be done? Here are some thoughts on this state of affairs in the Church of God.
Career Mobility ~ Folks are just not staying with companies for fifty years anymore. It used to be that you came out of college, you signed up with a company, and barring some unforeseen change, you stayed until the pension started. Not anymore. Clergy may still stay with the same denomination, sometimes. But when it comes to the congregation, the folks clergy serve aren’t staying with the same company, so why should they? This leads to the next point.
Geographic Mobility ~ While the WWII generation more often stay where they have been, the younger generation is not doing so. This means that, while you have a substratum of the congregation staying in the same church for years, the younger generations are moving. Since the congregations with the WWII generation are tenaciously holding onto the family church with some of their children and grandchildren (those few children and grandchildren who have not moved) younger generations when moving into a new town do not seek out those churches where the WWII generation are – and this is not just because of the antiquated worship – it is because these folks are new in town and will more likely attend church with the other folks who are also new in town. Because those folks who are new in town are younger, this inevitably draws some of the local young folks to those very same churches who cater to those who are new in town, diminishing the number of younger folks in the older churches in town. This leads to a sense of abandonment and irrelevance amidst the older churches in town. It starts a downward spiral towards pessimism and a series of brief (and often failed) attempts to revive the older congregations in town.
We need young people! ~ There are far more churches in town than there were in the baby boom generation. At that time, like housing developments, churches got built, and built, and built. But as denominations were building churches like crazy to deal with all the returning veterans of WWII, social upheavals in religion and secular culture were splitting church and forming new denominations. The same social upheavals resulted in a culture shift away from church. This resulted in a vastly smaller “cliental” (church shoppers) for a vastly larger set of “businesses” (churches) all vying for the same business. Thus, unless you are one of the few pastors able to secure one of the few churches in town that has been able to break into the new-in-town crowd, you are probably struggling with a pessimistic congregation. They are afraid that their grandchildren are going to be heading off to the congregation that built itself off of the new-in-town crowd (and which has subsequently had the numbers to have the energy to hold the programs that it is believed the younger generation wants). This results in a pastor being stuck in a time crunch. He has a limited time period in which to attract and hold the few children left in his congregation and turn the tide so that he can be competitive with the church that has tapped into the desired demographic. He has a limited time period, because if he or she can’t do it, the congregation will find somebody else who can. Why? Because finances are tight!
Finances are tight! ~ While young families have no money to give (or can’t figure out how to fit it into the budget), the older crowd has (a little bit more) money – due to the fact that, even if some of them might be on a fixed income, they probably don’t have student loans, no mortgages, a pension, a nest egg, and an empty nest and have a lot more practice budgeting. Nevertheless, they are dying off. So again, time is of the essence. To repeat, the vast majority of churches in any single town are in this condition, even if they have endowment funds. Therefore, the salary is kept very low to try to make what is considered a finite amount of money over a finite period of time last as long as possible. Add to this fact, the fact that whatever money does come in over and above budget seems to get carefully hidden, for a rainy day or a new roof, lest it get used on lights and heat and… salary. This leads to the next point.
The Pastor’s finances are tight! ~ Because the extra money is hidden away (often times understandably) lest it get used on something non-essential (defined by whoever is determining what “non-essential” means), the pastor, even if growing the church, is not seeing a raise commensurate with the (very difficult) “sales” work that is being accomplished. Although no pastor is in it for the money, no pastor can live without money, especially while paying off student loans and growing a family.
Since the Pastor has a limited time to grow the congregation (to some extremely ill-defined ideal size) and there are limited finances and limited financially-solvent, elderly givers dying faster than your minister can replace them with the desired, and poorly contributing, younger families, the Pastor is really in a bind. Generally speaking, the Pastor has to add quite a few young families for every older member that passes away. That, of course, is the goal. But then, the Pastor isn’t seeing his salary raise in a consistent way.
So the Pastor is left with the possibility of slugging it out in a salary that isn’t, usually, keeping up with inflation; while what extra comes in is hidden away for a rainy day. Or that Pastor can use the present position as a “star” on the resume to get a different ministry, and thereby get a raise by taking a higher-paying ministry. Furthermore, leaving a position will provide the Pastor a much needed vacation – either while figuring out whether or not to go back to school or to take a higher paying position, or a congregation that is more patient, or some slightly different dynamics where there is a greater possibility of success.
It can also be said here that it takes a while in the ministry to figure out that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. It takes a little while in the ministry to figure out where you are fit. So this, also, no doubt, affects the turnover rate and the average stay, because a Pastor might have a few stints that are short before settling down and grinning and bearing it for a longer stint. Few of these problems are all that new. Nevertheless, many things are happening at a much faster rate – and that includes clergy turnover.
What can be done? We might start with five simple (although not easy) steps.
Think sales, not salary ~ So often, salary packages can be seen to be rounded off to easy figures (e.g. $30k. $36k. $48k.) Here it would appear that the congregation is giving a good safe salary, something that it knows it can deliver, with an (often overly) prudent amount of padding. Certainly, nobody wants to offer something that can’t be delivered on, but what Pastors so often find is that slowly that little extra that they desperately need because the baby needs a new pair of shoes is getting squirrelled away by the congregation for a rainy day. This is all very understandable. The general plan is that when the projected increase, given the Pastor’s excellent skills, arrives at a sustainable and stable level, the Pastor’s salary will be increased. Real church finances, however, are up and down, all the time. Of course, the church board has their area of concern and the pastor has a household to finance. But when the Pastor watches extremely hard-earned (and often very slight) increases in giving go to make the congregation feel more financially secure, the Pastor eventually has to work very hard not to get slightly angry with the congregation and this can eventually and often does lead to an early departure for a higher salary.
Why not say that money given over and above budget by newcomers gets given to the Pastor? This too can be done prudently, safely. For example, what if one month newcomers put an extra $173 in the plate? Come on - give the Pastor an extra $150 that month. The treasurer doesn’t have to divulge how much extra was actually given, but it is going to make a world of difference to the Pastor that month. It is going to motivate your minister to keep putting in those long hours and doing a great job. It is going to be a great incentive not to go searching the internet in spare moments of cynicism looking for a better position. If the next month that amount doesn’t come in, oh well. It is going to motivate your minister to have an even better month the following month. Trust me. And, of course, if you really think of ways to make this principle work, I am sure there is one that will fit your congregation’s specific situation.
Inevitably, if you raise this idea in the church board meeting, you will get met with “That isn’t in the budget.” No. But neither was the extra-giving. And, sure, next month giving from the regular contributors might be down and you might need that extra $173 that a newcomer gave. But hey, you have to ask yourself: there is always a difference between proposed/projected and actual budget, so why is it that, at the end-of-the-year report, the Pastor’s salary is about the only budget line that is no higher than any other projected budget line year after year? If giving goes down, won’t the Pastor’s salary? Then why isn’t it going up when giving is up? It is because the Pastor’s salary is the one constant, constantly flexible and negotiable, constantly low, constantly ready to be lowered again if and when utilities goes up or membership goes down. It is the elephant in the room that the Pastor doesn’t do it “for the money” – but, eventually, your minister is going to need more money (inflation affects them too) so why not have a real plan in place for incrementally increasing it, instead of some ill-defined, pie-in-the-sky, “some [day] over the rainbow” approach. If you have a real plan, it is less likely that the Pastor will leave.
Get the taxes right, don’t tax the Pastor’s mind ~ Clergy taxes are complicated, unique, and important. When the taxes aren’t done right, the pastor pays, literally. Just because the treasurer is a CPA, doesn’t make that individual an expert on clergy taxes. Get with the experts and disseminate the information so that all the church board is on board. Doing the taxes properly and to the benefit of the clergy can maximize a small salary and keep your pastor pastoring on at your parish.
Think Faith, not Fundraising ~ Thinking prudently and squirreling away money is a sound, financial move. A church is a non-profit organization to the government; but it is a Faith-based organization in God’s eyes. A church board can only financially step out prayerfully and in faith at the rate of the weakest member. This is why folks with business backgrounds but without faith can’t see past the fiscal quarter, while a widow who struggles on faith every month to make it can see far into the future. Any such strugglers? – Get them on the church board and listen to them occasionally.
Save it ‘till after the Sabbath ~ There are two points here: If it can wait until after Sunday, don’t mention it on Sunday. That will keep to a minimum the barrage of information that just happens to be given the Pastor on Sunday. The second point is that your minister needs to have a Sabbath and needs a vacation. You should check regularly to make sure that your Pastor has taken one and have a few people in the congregation who run interference. When a member mentions something to you that they are going to make clear to the Pastor, think about running interference – ask them to wait until after your Pastor has had a day off. Also make sure your minister goes on vacation. Anybody loses their sense of perspective without a break and is subject to burnout. You don’t want your minister needing to resign just to get a vacation!
Support your local… Pastor ~ Four words that can make all the difference in the world. Most pastors are self-starters, sensitive and need all the encouragement in the world. Their ideas are not always feasible, but most are, because pastors wouldn’t be trying something that wouldn’t work, because they’ve got the most to lose. What has the average congregant got to lose, a friend in the pew? A tough budgetary meeting might ensue if the attendance or giving is down. What a headache! But the Pastor has the most to lose or gain. So why micro-manage? Roll with the creative energy coming from your Pastor and move forward. You’ll be amazed how much your minister is willing to stick around if the congregation is supportive.
It was a celebration of my 40th anniversary to the priesthood. A young woman unknown to me came in and sat in the back. At the end of the service when l shook her hand l thanked her for coming and said l would see her in the parish hall for coffee and cake. When l came in later l found her sitting alone. I sat down with her and began to talk. She was in the army so l introduced her to a parishioner who was a retired officer. I also beckoned to the senior warden, since he has children in the Navy. If l had not done this, she would have been left sitting alone.
The people at the service that day were among the most faithful and active of my parishioners. But once inside the parish hall they sit at the same tables, with the same people, and seem not to notice anything else. If they have cake and ice cream in front of them it is even more true. We are our own worst enemies. Perhaps even the enemies of God? Whatever happened to "zeal for Thy house has eaten me up"? Unfortunately, we are too busy eating the cake and the ice cream.
In my years in interviews with churches and in my work as deployment officer, l have heard the same statements over and over: "We want to grow." "We want more young people." To be frank, no, you don't. Most are not willing to pay the cost.
What you want is your regular routine, comfortable worship, and a religion that doesn't demand too much from you. ( I suppose that goes for all of us, actually.) But we seem to expect good things to take place in church without our active participation. In the least, we assume someone else will do it. Over the years, people have complimented me on our youth programs at St. Bart's and admired our youth ministries. They ask how it is done. I could say "We have a parish life center." (We don't.) I could reference our stage and theatre, our basketball court and soccer fields which are kid magnets. (They don't exist.) Having a forty-thousand dollar youth budget has certainly been asset. (Actually, the discretionary fund is in the red.) But the true answer is, you have to be married to my wife. (Try it and I'll shoot you.)
I have seen my wife spend hour after hour making phone calls, organizing events, sending out flyers, assigning food donations, setting up or giving rides .Sometimes over the years we have asked parents to do some of these things and have heard “I called several times and they weren’t at home.” “They said they would be there.” (Did you ask if they needed a ride and said that you would provide it?) “They said they would get back to me.” (Did you get back to them?) My wife, on the other hand, is like the hound of heaven. She calls, she cajoles, she smiles and never gives up. If the child is hesitant, she overcomes their arguments. If the parents are less than responsible, she talks about how much we need their children to attain critical mass. She is more persistent than a Rottweiler and more loving than a dachshund.
I have had priests tell me they want their young people to go to St. Michael's Conference. I give them applications and they set them out on a table. Perhaps an announcement is made. And there it ends. That is not how it is done. That is not how anything is accomplished in ministry. And one must expect that there will be constant resistance, strong resistance, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is spiritual. I am going to use youth ministry as an example, but the principles apply more widely.
Remember how St. Augustine said, "Lord, make me chaste, but not just yet." I suspect many parents, in their secret hearts,pray, "Lord, Make my child a Christian, but not TOO Christian. My mother-in-law already thinks it strange that a Christmas Pageant should take precedence over family celebrations. I don't want to get up to take them to Sunday school EVERY Sunday, especially after driving all over the state for sports tournaments, paying for hotels and restaurants. I can't afford to buy a 5-pound hamburger donation for the weekend retreat after spending several hundreds of dollars on soccer/band/pom-pom camp." Is the church our first priority for our children or somewhere at the bottom?
When l was growing up outside of Philadelphia, in a mostly Catholic area, all my Catholic friends were required to serve at one 6 a.m. mass a week. Now l know priests who have trouble getting their acolytes to show up 15 minutes early. But coaches of high school football teams can demand attendance at 6 a.m. practices nearly every day of the week and parents nod meekly while extolling "discipline" to their offspring, discipline in everything but being disciples. I sometimes fantasize about God entering bedrooms 5 minutes after church starts, carrying a clipboard and blowing a whistle, using a megaphone to announce to the bleary-eyed, "You're off the team!"
The same applies to the importance of Christian knowledge. I don’t mean memorizing the books of the Bible but questions such what is the Trinity? What is Holy Communion? It is called catechesis. When I was a young foolish priest in a small parish I decided that we would show off what the children were learning in Sunday school. You see when they called me they told me the first priority was building up the Sunday school. In six months it went from three to eighteen. So the children would come up and I would ask them these simple questions. There was a clinker. If they didn’t know the answer, I would ask their parents. After all, they were supposedly going over this material with their children. I still remember the look on the Warden’s face when I asked him, “What is the Trinity”?
There is one very simple factor about youth ministry which is frequently forgotten; you have to put up with young people. Babies scream, toddlers toddle and knock over hymnals, elementary school children giggle and teenagers look unhappy and are sometimes disrespectful. But if you want a youth program you need to put up with children. No one has found a successful way to have a youth pageant or junior choir vaporize as soon as they have entertained us and made us feel as if we meet the “needs of youth”.
We also must deal with sin. Sorry about that. I remember one parent hearing about our lessons where we talked about Christian chastity. Do you know the response we got from the parents, “We did it. They will, too.” I really wanted to say, you complain constantly about your husband and your marriage. Perhaps if you had spent more time in conversation and prayer than you did in bed before marriage you might have truly known each other.
Christians fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. Nowhere is this battle seen more clearly than in youth ministry. Parents resist. Young people complain and our own parishioners want worship without babies crying. The leadership of a parish must constantly confront and challenge. They must realize that unless they persistently pursue the education and formation of young people the parish will not grow. But, after the retreat, the teens are ecstatic and they develop a prayer life. The babies and toddlers add life to the service in many ways. Kids in Sunday school often teach their teachers about wonder and devotion. I pray that you find within your midst a hound of heaven and that you have the fortitude to support their ministry.
Dracula’s Life and Henry VIII: A Reflection on "Dracula: Prince of Many Faces" by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally (1989) as well as the movie "Dracula Untold" (2014).
The generation leading up to the Reformation is rarely studied as carefully as the Reformation itself, with a resultant convoluted presentation of the various woes and ills of the Medieval Church. Certainly, the rise of Indulgences is mentioned, the Renaissance as well. Sometimes the Turkish invasion of Europe is harped upon, but rarely do we delve into all the factors when seeking the cause(s) of the Reformation of the Western Church. (Truly, to delve into all the factors is a voluminous undertaking.) Let us cut slightly at an angle to an odd line-of-inquiry in the direction of Romania.
The life of Vlad Tepes, the infamous Dracula, can help us understand both the political science behind those princes who accepted the Reforms, the fears that prompted them, and the ills that impassioned them. Such is helpfully brought to light (with a little help from your humble reviewer) through a biography of Dracula written by a Romanian aristocrat, an actual descendent of Vlad, Radu Florescu, and a sometime Boston College professor, Raymond McNally.
Let us review the situation: Romania is separated into various areas, Moldavia, Wallachia, etc. But the people of this language group are very loyal to the Greek/Russian Orthodox Faith and still are to this day. In the midst of Romania, Saxons who are loyal to a German Roman Catholicism are living. In Hungary, there is a strong presence of Roman Catholicism. The King of Hungary, often attempting to attain the German Emperorship, is fighting against the disciples of John Huss, a proto-movement of the Reformation. The Polish Kingdom is likewise loyal to Rome. Muscovite Russia is crouching to move towards ascendency among the Eastern Orthodox as Constantinople falls to the Turks. Greece is compromised and many Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and Romanians have fallen down to the Sultan’s will. The situation is desperate.
The age of Crusades is not at an end. Rome continues to declare them. But Italy plays the political games that make that peninsula the stage of the Borgias, Machiavelli, the martyred Savanarola and the good, the bad and the ugly of the Vatican. The Germanic kingdoms have their own drama. And in the midst of all of it, the Balkan Peninsula to the Black Sea is the scene of slaughter unbridled and blood up to the bridle. Is the world coming to an end?
Folks must have wondered if it were so. But a man stepped into the picture who, while only leading the people of Wallachia (in between various exiles) less than a decade, would become a figure of such political science as to make Machiavelli a midget and Ivan the Terrible almost tolerable. Vlad was inducted very young into the Order of the Dragon, one of the semi-secret military orders like the Knights Templar of a previous century. Loyal to Rome, they were supposed to fight the Turks and stop the Hussites. When he began to rule Wallachia, he became Romanian Orthodox. When he wanted to marry into Hungarian royalty, he became Roman again. He impaled a lot of people. He sometimes persecuted the Church, whether loyal to Rome or Constantinople. He sometimes upheld the Church, both Roman and Byzantine. Was Vlad of Wallachia a monster? Yes. Was he a hero? Yes.
Let us fast forward a generation: The rebellion of John Huss has been hijacked by Martin Luther. Some of the princes of Germany, for whatever reasons, supported Luther. Henry VIII remained loyal to Rome for a bit, debating Martin Luther. Henry VIII needed a divorce so that he could have an heir and so that he could separate from the Spanish whose allegiance had perhaps become oppressive. The Spanish, having recently ousted the Moors, had become Roman Catholic fanatics. He was aware of the way the Emperor of Byzantium had had some measure of control over the Orthodox Church. He knew the claims of previous monarchs of Europe concerning their right to rule their local part of the Church. His scholars sought means to divorce him from his wife. He crushed his enemies: St. Thomas More’s head rolled, the Holy Maid of Kent prophesied no longer, the Carthusians of the London Charterhouse were drawn and quartered. So very like Vlad, his reign became bathed in blood. Yet, unlike his daughter, Queen Mary, “bloody” was not his undying suffix; she was Roman after all, not Reformed. And she, like her Spanish husband, was certainly bathed in blood, just not dead spouses.
Henry VIII stripped his monasteries – but he intended to build them back up again as non-Papal places of prayer. Henry VIII utilized something of the Eastern Orthodox idea of Divorce, declaring it for himself as a Pope-of-sorts, and he did so to a fault. He persecuted the Church. He built the Church up. He supported the Crusades against the Turks along with Roman Catholic nations. Indeed, he never left the Roman Communion just had himself declared the head of the Western Church in England. He dwelled, like Vlad, in a nowhere land, not between Rome and Constantinople, but between Rome and Reform. He didn’t make the situation. He just reacted to it, the way a leader has to – bearing the consequences along the way.
When we seek to crucify or congratulate some political leader, to declare him or her a monster or a model, we should look very carefully at the complex scenario and the propaganda of that leader’s friends and foes. It isn’t easy. But I think that when we look at whether a man is a tyrant or just a terror to his enemies, we need to consider all sides. As the recent movie Dracula Untold attempts to do, we should begin to understand that a leader can easily become a monster for the sake of his own people. One would not wish to make excuses, but one might beg to point out: It is a duty very clearly outlined in a coronation oath – one is to defend the people committed to one’s rule, with sword, with scepter, by blood.