Posted by: dacalu | 28 May 2008

Getting into a groove

Well, it looks as though I’m finally starting to get the hang of things.  I look the correct direction when crossing the street (most of the time).  I can say the right words during services (surprising little differences).  I can even think in pounds instead of dollars.  All cool.

It was a day of services today.  The St. Matthew’s clergy were all busy so I said my first mass here and did a healing service.  OK for the most part.  I opened my mouth for the blessing at the end and my brain went empty.  I thought I knew these things.  Anyway…  It’s also strange to do the manual acts (hand gestures) in the local fashion.  I’ll have to do some serious thinking about what I intend when I’m celebrating.  They have some interesting customs here that don’t really fit my theology.

After evening prayer, I headed out for mini-Moot.  Seven of us met in a diner and had supper before heading to a local religious org building.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was basically a sitting room–quite nice.  Once there, we all checked in about our week and did some prayer and meditation on the Lord’s prayer.  A most excellent evening.  The companionship and  good humor really lifted my spirits, and, though many of us were dealing with weighty issues, they felt lighter for the sharing.

I’ve also had a chance now to experience Evensong at Westminster Abbey a couple times.  Really spectacular.  There’s something amazing about worshiping in a space that has had daily prayer for over a millennium.  The music was great as well.  I’m a sucker for Tallis, and late 16th century music in general.  The canon theologian is a friend of a friend, so I also got a chance to see the Jerusalem room where the Authorized Version (KJV) was translated and the Westminster Confessional was drafted.  I want to go back when I have a day and just wander around the place.  It’s amazing.  A personal highlight is the tomb of Charles Darwin that I passed over on the way to and from each service.

Still no pictures.  It seems I’m usually traveling for a church service and don’t want to pull out a camera.  I’ll try to do better, though, as I’d love to share the sights.  Living in Westminster, you can hardly step outside without seeing 13th century architecture and no end of monuments.

Two theological reflections tonight:

1) I’ve noticed that liturgy at St. Matthew’s fits closer to what I would call the “universe maintenance model of church.” That is, there are certain things that must be done for the world to operate smoothly. The fact that the words are said is more important than the emotional state of those saying them.  An alternative would be the “psychological model of church,” where the thoughts and emotions inspired in the congregation are more important than even the intent of the words.  I don’t think church should go fully either way, but the US in my experience leans much more toward the latter.

2) In working with Ian, I’ve started to think about priest as social glue–the person people can talk to and the person that connects people.  It’s a wonderful role and one I think Ian does quite well.  I think my own role in traveling to London (and a couple years ago to Samoa) also fills this purpose.  I’m wondering how the role connects to other roles of the priest; teacher, administrator, ritualist.  It’s a common quandry for me, and not totally unrelated to reflection 1.

I’d be delighted to hear your insights into either of these.  Peace be with you.

Oddly Enough,




  1. Dear Lucas,

    I came across your new weblog while exploring the MootBlog. I am gathering ideas for launching my own blog.

    My parish is in Deerfield, IL:

    Please say hello to Ian Mobsby. I’ve emailed him a couple of time about doing what you’re doinig, experiencing moot, next summer (2009) on Sabbatical, so he may not immediately remember my name! I hope to meet him next month when he’s visiting the Chicago area.

    Hwyl a phob bendith, *

    Bill +

    * Welsh for “Goodbye and every blessing” (hwyl also means “fun” and “religious fervor!”

  2. Dear Lucas,

    Follow on to my last post. I was interrupted and forgot to respond to your invitation for insights. Here goes:

    When I began my ministry as a curate in a midwestern cathedral parish, word was more important than emotion, and I was taught about the “objective” presence of Christ in the Body and Blood, given to each communicant without eye contact or any personal address. Then I moved to a major metropolitan church in the East, and when I first received communion from my new Rector he looked me in the eye, pressed the host into my hand, and said, “Bill, this is the Body of Christ and it was given for you.”

    I was amazed and surprised and a bit dismayed. This was against all my training and understanding, and a bit too personal and emotional for my taste. Later, I asked him about it. Tom Bowers explained, “Jesus says that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name, and I am the shepherd of these people, so when I give them communion I call them by name.”

    Well, at least I understood where he was coming from, but I sure didn’t agree.

    About seven years later I moved to St. Gregory’s. And as I went to the Altar Rail to give communion to my new parishioners for the first time, what did I find myself doing? “Butler, this is the Body of Christ and it was given for you!” Suddenly I realized that these were my people.

    If you ask my parishioners they will tell you that the thing that most impressed them as I began to serve as Rector was my calling them by name, and I have gotten the same response from new members over these last 20 years.

    A few weeks later, I was giving communion to Tom, and kneeling next to him was his son, whom I had never seen before. As I gave Tom the Body, I saw that he had pasted a little sign on his thumb: it said “Chip” with a little arrow pointing to his son. So when I pressed the host into his son’s hand I looked into Chip’s eyes and called him by name. He was astonished and thought something mystical had just happened. Of course, it had!

    Nothing has “glued” me to the members of my church more than the combining of word and emotion, in the same way that nothing has glued the Anglican Communion together more than the combining of Word and Sacrament. As you say, neither extreme but both together.


    Bill +

  3. Hi Lucas
    Coming back to your question of models of priesthood. I think I am advocating the model of servant leadership, holding onto a more orthodox understanding of what that means. I quote a former metropolitan Bishop:

    As the inspiring former Metropolitan Anthony of the Russian Orthodox Church in his book “The Living Body of Christ” said:

    The Church is not just the Eucharistic community, but is an extension of the incarnation; it encompasses all matter, all creation, all of humanity where the Holy Spirit is at work.
    Further – he contrasts the difference between traditionalism and tradition as being the out working of the Holy Spirit through risk since Pentecost. And I quote:

    Tradition is life-giving where traditionalism fossilises and kills. Many churches steeped in traditionalism have become liturgical ghettos. The true nature of the Church since Pentecost, is to be outward-looking, open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and willing to take risks: it should be a missionary community. A Community of Servants full of love.

    So Pentecost marks the beginning of the Age of the Church, where we too are called to be the Laos – the people of God together – the Ordinary and the Ordained Priesthood of all believers. Where the church is an inverted hierarchy or pyramid with Christ through the Holy Spirit as its head or rather at its bottom, bearing the weight of the pyramid, with Archbishops and Bishops and priests above Him, and the laity at the very top. A Church where we are called to various levels of servant service.

    Answering your other questions…
    I think my main role in Moot is to serve in this way – but in a gift giving way – of giving away power in a communitarian way. Which requires me to be listener, empowerer, teacher, pastoral care giver, envisioner, custodian to the tradition, creative – using the power of sacrament and symbol in worship, curator of worship when I lead it, and supporter of those who also are called to servant leadership in Moot. Teaching is through Eucharistic homilies, webblog entries, dialogue, one to one coffees with people. And hopefully in the new place, through the practice of community.

    I think this approach is important in our post-christendom, postmodern context where trust and respect needs to be earned and not a gven because you have the dog collar. I fact the dog collar takes sometime for people to trust – as it is seen as a statement of power and institution anachronistic to much of modern life.

    Cheers Ian

  4. Yo Lucas.

    The café is known as The Regency Café and has been immortalised in the BritFlick “Layer Cake” starring Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.

    Nice blog – sorry you’re not feeling too good. Hope you’re better soon.


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