Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Reflection

(The following is what I wrote for the Christmas supplement in the local paper - The Independant)

I think of our Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s. We start by lighting the Advent candles, which we have been lighting one by one over the last 4 weeks. And then we light the Christ candle, which in St. Paul’s case because we have a wreath that only allows for four candles, is the Paschal candle. We move into the service proper, which includes the Gospel reading from John 1:1-14 read from the King James translation of the Bible. We celebrate the Eucharist, which is truly a family event this night. And finally, we light our candles and stand in the candle light singing Silent Night. It is one of my favourite services of the year.

The above are all traditions – traditions that set this night apart from all others. We will have come through a time, four weeks, of preparing for this special night. Somehow, following the traditions of the years past make this night one of even more significance. The keeping of these traditions reminds us that the coming of the Christ child was not just for those who lived two thousand years ago, nor is it just for those of us alive today. It is for all peoples throughout history.

When we think of the various carols that we sing we recognize that this event is not just for humans but for the cosmos as well. We sing about stars and angels, about humans and animals. We hear about angels visiting shepherds in the fields. This was surely not a very quiet event. I know, if an angel suddenly appeared and spoke to me in such a manner, my heart would be racing and I would be shaking in fear and anticipation. Certainly an angel chorus singing Glory to God in the highest and peace to all people on earth would not exactly be a hushed event.

Yet, the moment that stands out for me each Christmas Eve is the moment when I look out over the congregation and see the candles lit and hear each voice softly singing Silent Night. Somehow this defines Christmas for me. I think that it is the hush and reverence of the moment. We stand in quiet awe of the magnitude of this gift from God – this humble beginning of the Son of God entering into human lives in such an intimate way that quietly impacts all our hearts and lives. Knowing at Christmas what is to come from this birth we can do little more than stand in hushed expectation and celebration. Mere words cannot describe the moment and so we rely on our traditions to express what we think and feel this most special of nights – Silent night. Holy night. Son of God, love’s pure light.

Love and Prayers,Ann Marie +

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Embodied Thought

I have been reading a book by Carol P. Christ. I know, I know, it's not a "Christian" book. But it is about feminist spirituality and that is a key interest of mine. It is also part of a pet project about reframing things so that our faith can resonate more with women who are reclaiming a place for themselves in a world that is still dominated by patriarchal understandings (although we are making progress).

There is a section on embodied thought and that has struck a chord with some of what I have been thinking lately. According to Carol: "When we think through the body , we reflect upon the standpoints embedded in our life experiences, histories, values, judgments, and interests. Not presuming to speak universally or dispassionately, we acknowledge that our perspectives are finite and limited. Rather than being "subjective," "narrowly personal", "merely confessional," "self-referential," or "self-indulgent" (discrediting terms taken from the ethos of objectivity), embodied thinking enlarges experience through empathy." (from the book, Rebirth of the Goddess)

I was reading this on coffee row. The usual suspects were not present at the inbetween times and so I had the rare opportunity to pull out my book and do some reading as well as some reflecting. The following are some of the thoughts I had.

Embodied thinking allows for compassion and flexibility. It is not as rigid and is more open to dialogue, which then facilitates open and "polite" discussion. Because we don't have "pretend" (we can never be truly objective inspite of what others would have us believe about objectivity) that we are being objective or that our personal feelings and fears are not a part of what we believe, we are freer to express ourselves and also to better listen.

Coming quickly on the heels of that thought was - embodied thinking openly acknowledges our subjectivity and fallibility. This facilitates our being more open to challenge without being so defensive. We may end up with a more rounded and grounded sense of where we are on any given issue because we can more freely seek and assimilate information from outside sources that help inform and challenge any beliefs we may hold.

Following on the post below and a post on Father T. Listens to the World, I also reflected on the idea that embodied thinking evens the playing ground. There is a better ability for equality. We are meeting on equal ground rather than insisting that one side prove itself to the other in a system that is set up to favour the latter. In an ironic twist, this actually makes it easier to be more objective in one's thinking.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) had this to say:

Pluralist Speaks: Say it in 140

It speaks to what I see as one of the problems around discussing or dialoguing on the current issues in the Anglican Communion. I find the phrase, "closed hermeneutics fix the answer prior to any given question," particularly resonates with some of my struggles lately. There is a tendency to want to put the discussion within the traditional parameters, which do not utilize the growth of knowledge and methods of more recent years. When this happens the outcome is rather controlled.

I'm not sure where the balance is. I have struggled with this all my life. I have been a part of this diocese for 36 of my 48 years (4 of those years have been in the ordained ministry and 32 in lay ministry). It has been a relatively traditional diocese. I know my father, as a more liberal priest, was often almost a lone voice in the '70's. In more recent years we have moved closer to the centre. Because of my time spent here I do have an appreciation for tradition. I have always said that we need all spots on the spectrum as a system of checks and balances.

There's a problem in that as well. In a post below it was mentioned that since those of us who would bless same-sex marriages were bringing in something new we needed to defend it to the Church in order to change the status quo. I find that this often means that we also need to use traditional methods. Once we start branching out to some of the more recent ones ears are often closed to what we have to present.

In other words, the cards are stacked against us. It also provides a disconnect for those who have not kept their faith ties. They have become accustomed to more recent ways and understandings. They often cannot make the connection between what our traditional brothers and sisters are saying and what their experience and understanding are. I read a response from the Diocese of Westminster to the St. Michael's report. This response was by four people including Richard Legett and Sally McFague. As I read through it I realized that part of our problem was that our doctrines were not understood or articulated in a language that made sense to the average person today. Work seriously needs to be done in putting these into contemporary language. It is not that I necessarily believe that we must change those doctrines but rather that they need to be written so that most can understand what they are saying.

I first encountered this disconnect in the study guide that is mentioned a few posts below. One of the contributors used the 39 Articles as a reference point and printed some of those articles out. As they were written right out of the 1962 BCP in KJ English and cultural understanding of the words used, they would have been almost incomprehensible to the majority of my congregation. I realized that as much as some may value tradition and that part of that tradition is the language of the BCP, we foster a disconnect between the average person's faith life and the secular world. By fostering understandings that make faith seem poetic and set apart from the rest of our lives we are fostering a "Sunday" mentality - where we only need pay heed to our faith for an hour on Sunday mornings and then we can go out into the rest of the week until that hour the next Sunday.

I'm really not sure where I am going with this. It is something I have been pondering on for awhile. Once again, part of the problem is my difficulty with words. I know what the image is that I have in mind when I think about this but I struggle to get that image into words. I'm still working on it though because I think there is something important somewhere in that image even if I can't quite put my finger on it.

And how does this relate to what the Pluralist had to say. Maybe not at all but it was the Pluralists words that started the process of thinking on this once again. I think maybe it is that at times it is almost as though we are not speaking the same language. I often find - such as in the OT passages quoted as what some call "clobber verses" there is little relevance for the issue. There is no concept in them of the healthy, faithful relationships that we would bless (and there is no concept in them of homosexuality as that is a concept that didn't exist until the mid-1800's). For a number of people it is about the sex act that is spoken of in those passages and for a number of others the issue is about the goodness of the relationships we would bless. And the Church, especially the churches in the majority of the Anglican Communion, are insisting that we present our case in terms that do not reflect this difference.

I have talked to people who tell me that they are not necessarily against the approval of blessing of same-sex marriages but the Church has to put it in solid theological terms first. I keep thinking of the many papers I have read on the subject and thinking that we have presented our case in the many aspects already - we have offered biblical, theological, doctrinal etc. basis. It is not that we are being told that we are wrong but that we haven't done it. I wonder if it is because we aren't using the same methods or language. We just keep churning out more and more papers and avoiding the dialogue. Maybe it's because we can't find a common ground on which to start our dialogue in a language or terms that we all understand.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie