The view from the farm


Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2010, 5:32 pm
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Every year I attend Ash Wednesday Mass, and every year I go through the same argument — should I keep the ashes on my forehead or not? Generally I end up wiping them off, because it seems to me that keeping the ashes is like rending my garments and not my heart. However, I respect the argument that the ashes are a visible witness to Christ. I’d kind of like to leave them on, as such a witness, but I can’t justify it for myself.

That pretty much takes care of the arguments that I see, so this will be a short post. I hope the comments will be many and varied.  Post away!

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Ecumenism
January 21, 2010, 4:01 am
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Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted.  I think I’m overawed by the idea of having a blog — that everybody on the entire planet can read!  No pressure!

So here’s an entry just to break me of my excessive respect for the blog’s possibly enormous readership.  Mawwiage.  What is mawwiage?  Mawwiage is what bwings us togevver today.

No, wait, sorry, got my tracks crossed.  What I really mean is that I went to an ecumenical service this evening and found it very interesting.  The sermon was given by a guy who is apparently a Latino Episcopalian —  not a new denomination, just a description.  He spoke with just the tiniest lilt of Spanish.  Also his last name is Latino, which may have given me the idea.  (Ya think?)  His main point, which is not new but is still worthwhile, was that we Christians share more than we don’t.  He went on to say that God had used our divisions wonderfully, which is true, but I still doubt that that makes divisions a good idea.

We said the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father, and all of us in the various denominations there really do believe all of that — but the words were different.  It’s like the organizers deliberately inserted a metaphor for our similarities and differences into the service.  Also, apparently some (if not all) Protestants don’t have the Filioque in their Creed.  Does that mean they’re Orthodox?  Very odd.

Sadly, the church was far from full.  I think there may have been more Catholics than any other denomination, and it isn’t because we’re the largest church around, because we certainly aren’t.  Most of the choir came, and some of us brought friends, which includes family.  There were only two other choirs there, and one of them was from the Methodist church that hosted us.  I don’t think they brought friends.  Then there was a male Mennonite octet, and I think they came by themselves, too.  The three Episcopalian clergy didn’t seem to bring anybody, and the Presbyterian elder didn’t, either.  It’s too bad, because it’s the kind of thing that would help a lot of us, seems to me.

Apparently there are two Episcopalian churches in Harrisonburg.  I’m not going to name them here, because I don’t know anything much about them.  One has a regular church building, the aforementioned Latino as rector, and a female priest.  The other meets in an elementary school and has one male priest.  I could go out on a limb and speculate as to their differences, but I’m not going to.  We can probably figure them out from what I’ve said.  Certainly their websites aren’t any help.  Both churches profess a love of Jesus, other people, and cuddly puppies.  Well, maybe not everybody likes the puppies.

I was interested to note that this church has the choir sitting behind the altar — well, it’s what would be behind the altar in a Catholic church.  Between them and the celebrant is the organist, who sits facing the choir (with her back to the celebrant and congregation) at the organ.  The back of the whole area is wood panel, which really projects their music  — and any laughter elicited by the celebrant, as we found during the sermon.

The several guest clergy sat in chairs in front of the organ.  It all looked very odd to me, but then I’m a dirty Papist.  And even before then, I was almost a dirty Papist, and it still would have looked odd to me.

Go down a large step and you see a kind of altar rail with pillows for kneelers, one altar rail on each side of what would be the altar in a liturgical church.  I wonder if they use those for communion or if they’re ornamental.

On the right, as one faces the altar (what else can you call it?), and extending all the way from the front to the back of the church, is a set of wooden sliding panels.   On the other side is the “parlor,” where we had snacks after the service.  I wonder why one would have that set of panels?  Would they ever open them up and have the parlor be part of the service?  It’s almost enough to make me dizzy, thinking of that possibility.

I really don’t mean to sound anti-Methodist.  I’m just not used to Protestant churches, I guess.  I haven’t been to one since I was a baby, seems to me, if you don’t count Episcopalian churches.  And really, Episcopalian churches look very similar to Catholic ones.  All the churches I ever saw in Europe were Catholic, seems to me.  After all, if you see a European church that was built in 1500 or so, what else could it be?  So the Protestant churches I’ve seen recently have really taken me aback.

And there’s another metaphor — architecture as reflection of belief.  I’ve always thought Andrew was a little off his rocker when he talked about architecture’s influence on a church, but maybe he has a point.

In any case, the church felt kind of empty.  Not only was there no light for the Real Presence, there was nowhere it could possibly have gone.  It wasn’t hard to remember not to genuflect.  That was the saddest part of this service — and of our broken church.