Plexiglas box

Strumming his guitar, Pastor Jeff approaches the microphone stand and begins to belt out the first song, “Glory to God Forever.” The band behind him reaches full throttle.

I look around to see if I can catch smiles on anyone’s faces.

It’s Pearl Jam meets Jesus.

This is ironic, no?

John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism, was famously opposed to displays of flamboyance and mirth. He considered dancing at weddings a vulgarity, as was providing too many types of food at dinner. What would he think of this?

But today’s congregants are extremely earnest. I follow them as they stand.

I’m holding the lyrics on a photocopied sheet. I can’t for the life of me catch the beat. I’m reminded of when kids sing a song they barely know, and they mumble along until they stumble upon a familiar series of words—but blurt them a tad too late. I’m the worst offender: my mangled version dangles from the other congregants’ slightly less mangled versions. I whisper-sing hoping my contribution gets drowned out. The pastor has an excellent voice, and a dynamic stage presence. If I could, I’d vote we all just zip it and listen. But I suppose that would run counter to the spirit of participation.

If this was anywhere else, I’d be swaying. I find it almost impossible not to move at least one limb to any music with the semblance of a beat. Everyone else stands still. They are redwood trees in a forest alive with exotic birds. It’s the strangest sensation, all this vibrancy electrifying the air, and they are as immobile as steel rods. Actually, this is precisely what I was expecting before I showed up this morning. The rock star pastor is a surprise, but the congregants fit right in with my preconceived notions of Presbyterians, who I associate with the early colonial settlers. Here are my puritans—it’s not that they don’t feel passion for God, just that they are more comfortable with the pastor expressing it on their behalf. I decide on a little unobtrusive foot tapping.

After a medley of opening songs, we settle into traditional service elements that include a Time of Silent Confession, Assurance of Pardon, New and Old Testament readings, giving of tithes and offerings, and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

In retrospect, what’s funny is how ordinary the pastor’s rock performance turned out to be. I came to realize that many mainline Protestant denominations offer two versions of their Sunday services, one with hymns and the other with a drummer in a Plexiglas box. Sometimes I saw older people in the contemporary service or young people in the traditional service but, in general, the age divide was clear. I wasn’t sure who was making concessions to whom—whether the elders were accommodating current tastes or if new leaders were hoping appease their base of long-time congregants and likely best tithers. Each time I had to decide between services, I couldn’t help but note how meager the attendance usually was and how, if services were combined, twice as many people would be present. Because what seems to matter more than the style of music is that people bothered showing up; everyone sits elbow to elbow and at least tries to join their voices to whatever songs play.

Dividing services feels to me like one group or generation saying to the other, “I choose music over you.” Isn’t this just the sort of gap worship is meant to close?

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36 thoughts on “Plexiglas box

  1. Corinna, I have just finishing reading your most current entry. What a delightful journey you are sharing with me/us. I am pleased to know about this walk you are on and that I can read your comments,reflections, and insights.
    This is my first experience in responding on a Blog, interesting…..

    • Aunt Colleen, How wonderful to have you here! Thank you for commenting and I hope you’ll continue to do so…I’m very new to the blogging world as well. I’m learning as I go along. So many firsts for me!

  2. When I laughed about your ‘toe tapping’, I thought of how silly I must look during the service. When the priest intones portions of the liturgy, I tend to go in sway-ee mode. I find myself moving my body to the rhythm of his words and it struck me after reading your post that it is for all the world the same as what you see in a rock concert! Funny. I think our bodies are meant to move with rhythmical words or music….I think it’s built in to us. You see it in children. Alas, by the time we reach adulthood we get all self-conscious and lose that pleasure.

    Another thought that your blog brought up was when you talked about the stiffness of the adults and their difficulty to let loose with the music. We have that problem in our choir right now. Today we sang Schubert’s Holy, Holy, Holy, which I find sublime, serene, ethereal, dignified and magnificent. (Can you tell I like it?) At choir practice after church we started working on songs for the summer, which are a bit – looser – more folksy if you will. There were several early American folk hymns and then we started practicing the Zulu hymn by Hal Hopson, “We Are Singing to the Lord’. Ok. Most of the choir was having a REALLY hard time with it. It is bouncy and buoyant and dancing. It is, quite truthfully, from a different cultural worship context than staid old Anglican. We are going to have a HECK of a time getting it right and I can also say we probably will offend a few of the more dignified elderly church members. But we are singing it because it is one of the greatest loves of one of our altos, and our choir director is doing it to make choir a meaningful experience for her. Just like she includes Sacred Harp songs (which a LOT of people hate) for me. The younger choir members love it, and those of us who don’t do our best with it.

    THEN you get to the kind of problem that is had with someone like me – rigid purist that I am (I cannot tell a lie). Our priest is a retired Marine. He LOVES martial music. Everyone makes a huge fuss about 4th of July. I tend to feel that 4th of July should be celebrated in the Parish Hall, not the Sanctuary. As a prelude the choir (sans me) is singing Berlin’s God Bless America. I won’t sing it because to me it’s a secular Broadway musical song and has no place in Church. My choir director (also the priest’s daughter) disagrees. We compromise. It will be sung. I won’t sing it.

    When Tim C. was talking before about form not overriding the message, that was true to a very great extent. The message remains the most important thing. But sometimes there are just times when we all can’t express the message the same way. A congregation that allows for divergence of form but continuity of Body is better than divergence completely. I’m betting that both the contemporary and the traditional people have no problem meeting in Bible study, or in Pot Lucks, or Vacation Bible school.

    Luckily, my church hasn’t given me the boot for being so cantankerous. For which I am grateful. 🙂

    Yours in Christ

  3. I smile when I think I came out of 27 years with the Jehovah’s Witnesses where there couldn’t possibly be more “staid” music albeit their own hymns. You’ll find no liturgical songs or Broadway or jazz there. Congregational singing, yes, but nothing more than those songs that will reflect their teaching. No choir and no Sunday school. Children are expected to learn along with the adults and sit with them through the Sunday service although there are, now, books written for children to keep them occupied. Nothing could be more conservative middle America. Today I am glad to hear a grand variety of music in “church” as long as it is sung well. How could anyone not enjoy Louie Armstrong’s, “It’s A Wonderful World”. And I love John Lennon’s, “Imagine” which was sung today. I know…I know…you want to hear something liturgical….:-) … Well, I remember growing up Catholic in the early days before Vatican II when I hardly understood anything since it was mostly in Latin but I do remember when Mass was over the seemingly all soprano ladies choir in the balcony would start belting out some Latin, no doubt Gregorian chant music that made me feel sooooo holy. I could walk out with a smile on my face and a feeling of having worshiped and done my duty and then run as quickly as I could across the street to buy the Sunday paper for my folks so I could get the comics……Blondie and Dagwood, Maggie and Jiggs, The Katzenjammer Kids, Brenda Starr, Superman, The Green Hornet and oh so many more to spread out on the living room floor. I look back, now, convinced that it was ALL GOD…..There was no need to compartmentalize it in my mind. Maybe it’s more than, “Holy, Holy, Holy…….God in three persons blessed trinity.” Maybe it’s, “God in all persons, blessed humanity.”
    LOL….Life is good and getting better.

  4. You laugh at me, and rightly so……..I am often a pain in the patootie to my poor choir director. Luckily, our church is small and I am one of only three sopranos, so she puts up with me. 🙂 Actually, I kind of like your addition to the Schubert. BUT, I wouldn’t sing it, lol.

    Yours in Christ

    • Patti, your congregation would be nuts to give you the boot! I have a lot of respect for people who stick to their beliefs but also respect others’ opinions. You’re a great example of what being a true Christian is all about!

  5. Well, I guess I have a confession to make…although I enjoy traditional hymns, I enjoy some modern worship songs as well. Many years ago, when we were still attending the Roman Catholic Church, we went to the 5:00 pm Mass (aka the procrastinator’s Mass because it was the last one on Sunday), which was also the contemporary music service. The Gospel reading was the story of the prodigal son, and during communion, a singer with a beautiful tenor sang a modern song called “God Cried” (or something like that), accompanied by guitar, that matched the Gospel. God cried tears of heartache when the prodigal left and tears of joy when he returned. The song was so moving there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time it was over.

    At the Episcopal church we used to attend, the organist. Choirmaster was a strict traditionalist who almost never played anything written after 1800. After a while, all the music started sounding like the “I Am Stuck on Band-Aid” song played in slow motion. So I’m not quite the purist Patti is.—sorry! LOL!

    My gripe against most modern gospel/rock is that it is meant to appeal our musical senses rather than our spiritual selves. I can get lost in a good rock song just like anyone else, but it’s not hitting the same emotional buttons as a hymn—or “God Cried”. The music may be good, but the message is skimpy.

    Patti—I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the flow of the Mass since we started this discussion in Corrina’s last post. What struck me is how the entire service has a musical structure. The movement of the priest, Eucharistic ministers, and acolytes is harmonized like a dance without music. The prayers have a rhythm of their own, and the structure of the entire service is arranged like a slowly unfolding song that reaches its climax at the Eucharist.

    Corrina, I’ve heard of congregations splitting up over a lot of petty things, including the music. Its sounds silly, and it is, and think this goes to the heart of what you said in your last paragraph—about dividing the service along arbitrary lines. I sat through a lot of renditions of the Stuck on Band-Aid song because I loved the service and the people. The music was—and is—secondary. We usually attend an early morning service that has very little music except for organ accompaniment at certain points, so the music isn’t terribly important. My son is a very good musician (he’s in advanced jazz band at his high school, and we hope he continues playing when he goes to college in the Fall). Since music is a talent God gave him, he plays incidental music twice a month at Mass—it’s his way of making an offering to God.

    I have enjoyed the music at the later service as well, which in our current church is a mix of traditional and contemporary, but always with a choir—no Plexiglas-encased drummer around. I think the best case is when everything is in balance—the prayers, the liturgy, and the music all combine to form a sum greater than the parts. And it’s all aimed heavenward.

  6. “Dividing services feels to me like one group or generation saying to the other, ‘I choose music over you.'” Good one, Corinna. I have wondered the same thing many times. What is a church service supposed to be for? I would like to hear what my friends here have to say about that question.

    I heard a pastor say one Sunday that if we come to church for what we can get out of it, that’s the wrong reason. (Yikes, I thought. That’s exactly why I was going.) He said coming to church ought to be for what we can give to God, and to each other. When I’m coming to hear “my” type of music, or for a certain feeling I’m hoping to get…I might as well go to a concert. It seems consumer-focused — I’m the consumer, and I want the best value for my investment of time and energy, so I’m going for what will give me the best feeling. I remember being just bowled over by this thought. And after that I did try to keep my focus on going for God, and whenever I did, I usually “got something” out of even the things that weren’t my taste, because it wasn’t important that I “get” anything, it was important that I be there to let God know how much I love him. It seemed like when my priorities were right, the bonus was I got to sense his presence.
    Shelley

  7. What all of you are saying is very true, if what I am hearing is correct. That being out of tune (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) with the music is insufficient reason for division in a church. It is true. And it isn’t.

    homewithin, your pastor was right about the service being what WE give to God. That is pretty much what it is all about, because the part about what God gives to us is so simple (seemingly and yet so complex) that it doesn’t take long. God’s gift to us is the Eucharist. The Body and the Blood. The rest of it, from what I understand, is hearing the word, praying for our brethren, and offering our hearts. Needless to say, I often don’t manage it and I absolutely understand you saying that there are things you need to get out of church. And I get those things when I receive Communion. Sometimes I get it also from the music and from the prayers and from the sermon.

    C.S. Lewis was very firm about going to church as a habit that will keep you in touch with God. Often, as a matter of fact MOST of the time, it is not an emotional experience. It is not a matter of feeling is what I mean. When I am in that mode, then what I am offering God is the habit and virtue of obedience as best I can. Sometimes, if I am really lucky, the Presence is overwhelming and I find myself crying. Those are moments I cherish.

    So in a round about way, the music of the service is both important and non-essential (although I totally agree with Tim C. on the liturgy being a dance). Anything that helps harmonize you with the service is wonderful. But if it’s something that jars, then not so much. And that judgement of what will jar and what will not can be VERY, VERY tricky.

    I also agree with Tim C. on the ability of some music to transcend all genres and touch everyone. Alas, so much of the music in contemporary Christian is NOT transcendent. If you were listening to it without knowing that you were listening to a hymn, you’d think it was just a love song. I will confess to being super critical and a real witch when I encounter this kind of music. I call it “I want to sleep with Jesus” music. Please forgive me for being honest, but I do not pretend to be without lots and lots of warts. I will even agree that there is some dreadful ‘traditional’ music. I CANNOT sing “Just As I Am”. (Long story, another time.) I find it gag making.

    So maybe we are talking about the quality of the music? And then of course, you get into that really difficult part about WHIO decides the quality? I think I am making things worse, lol. So I’m off for a bit and will jump back in later.

    You were in my prayers yesterday, homewithin. Take care.

    Yours in Christ

  8. I neglected to say that the Communion we get doesn’t always take a physical form. I’ve been in completely non-liturgical churches and still ‘received.’.

    Later. Yours in Christ

  9. Thanks, Corinna, for your thoughts. I like that you said music appreciation should not divide us but be the bridge connecting generations and cultures. So in my church, we sing songs and anthems that best reflect and enhance the Scripture passage for that week.

    Each generation has their own style. The music that came from and following the reformation was just marvelous and musically speaking, superior. But we have to be able to say why, so that young people now can understand and appreciate it. The spirituals that came out of slavery and bondage are stunning, and they speak God’s message in a way that can take your breath away. A contemporary musical artist muses, “I can only imagine what it will be like, when I stand by your side… Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still?” Contemporary artists offer intimacy in a different way from the majesty of Bach. Then there’s all kinds of cultural music – for example, Messianic Jewish musicians like Marty Goetz. (BTW, choirs can sing contemporary music, and pianos suffice just fine … And, SATB adds A LOT to some of the contemporary music out there!)

    Boy, I guess we all have our opinions. Thanks for your fresh insight. Have a great week, all!

  10. In chaos theory it is said that, “chaos is order without predictability.” I think it is what we are witnessing as each one shares their “church” or belief or non-belief. I once read somewhere that it is like the spider who simply wanders until the time comes to send some spittle out to the environment it finds itself in and the wind grabs on to it and carries it until finally it finds a landing place. Once secured the spider begins to weave its web. It’s the work of attaching to a landing place that seems chaotic because there is no forethought or planning about where that shall be and yet there is a sense of order to it even if you can’t predict where the spider will make “home”.. It reminds me of one of my favorite scriptural passages, John 3: 8, “The wind blows where it will, and thou hearest its sound but dost not know where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” More and more I believe that we land where our soul takes us. It has its own calling and for each of us it is unique.

  11. Actually, considering the passion with which I have heard this topic argued, I think we are all being very, very civil. And I love the “order without predictablity” idea, Frank.

    Hi, Ginger! Boy, am I with you on the spirituals. As sad as it can be, Lent is one of my favorite times because we get to sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord”. I will admit that sometimes we staid Anglicans do not give it it’s cultural due, but nothing can remove the beauty of the words and music, not even our rather stiff singing of them. And we do all have different opinions, which kind of leads us back to Corinna’s question (and homewithin’s) of what that means for a church. I, personally, think that the divided services are the best answer for a church with real ‘stylistic’ differences, for want of a better word. There is nothing wrong with providing for both. The message remains the same. To me what is important is that it is delivered in a way that allows the congregants to most absorb and appreciate it without focusing on something jarring. While you are never going to please everyone, you can at least provide to some extent for differences in how people receive the Word, liturgically, musically, however. I think it’s successful if a church can provide both.

    I know that it’s not really a matter of contemporary vs. traditional at our church, but more a matter of whether people are more tuned to mostly spoken liturgy or mostly sung. 8:30 is completely spoken, no music at all. 10:30 is fully sung. We even sing the Lord’s Prayer! Which suits me just fine and would irritate some of the 8:30’ers all out of whack. The only down side is that I don’t always know the 8:30 people as well as I would like, and they don’t know us. We coincide in matters for the Vestry, in special occasions and at the Michaelmas Fair that is our churches annual big event. Seeing them only occasionally is better, to me, than being forced to attend the mass forever without music. I am all for our ‘chocolate vs vanilla’ answer.

    As always, it is a real pleasure to read and visit with the people here. You all, always, make me think.

    Yours in Christ

  12. Hello Corrina,

    You said:

    “Dividing services feels to me like one group or generation saying to the other, “I choose music over you.” Isn’t this just the sort of gap worship is meant to close?”

    I think you hit it right on the head. From a more “fundamentalist” perspective I find that this new trend (From the plotting of “A Purpose Driven Church” and Saddleback?) to be quite disconcerting.

    There are quite a few places in scripture where the youth are the key to revival, mission and pronouncing the good news (Joseph, Josaiah, Timothy etc.), and this depth of “knowledge” was made to flourish because of godly parents and a “God focused” community. This involves every age group (especially our mothers and fathers in the church) in which this divide seems to counter.

    If you want to minimize the impact of the gospel divide and conquer… Cut off the young from the pack and you can pick them off one by one. Very diabolical.

    • Thank you, Jon. You might not be entirely in agreement with what I’m going to add here and that’s o.k. Had I read a response like yours before getting on Corinna’s blog I might have found it offensive but having been on this blog for some time and reading and responding and reading some more I am more and more coming to the realization that upheaval and change is a good thing for any and all spiritual traditions. I doubt that our forefathers really knew how the outcome of “freedom of religion” would manifest itself. Even in this small size city I live in I see almost every kind of building for a church from tiny storefronts to converted single wide mobilehomes to lovely big churches and medium and small well built churches and so many “non-denominational Christian” churches along with a small Buddhist Center and Jewish Center. In the past I would be frustrated with the impossibility of bringing them all together. Asking about what they believe evokes deeply felt beliefs that essentially say: “NOT OPEN TO CHANGE”. I know this and yet I over hear conversations of many people moving from one church to another or forming a new one because they are dissatisfied for one reason or another and as we’ve seen here that includes how music is used. Evidently freedom of religion is a deeply held value in American society and anybody can start a church on any street corner. Some will grow. Some will crumble. Obviously they are tuned into life like the leaves on a tree that come and go in their own season and some new growth spurts forth in Spring. So…..Here come hip hop and robot dancing into the church along with show tunes and Gregorian chants. I wonder what tomorrow brings. Whatever it is I know there will be someone like you standing up to defend it because of their strong belief in it and like the chaos in a head of cauliflower it will know its Source but just keep growing in its frenetic way. Life is interesting and God is Good.

  13. I’m thinking about this thread in relation to Corrina’s previous post where Shelly talked about God as “Papa”. And in the Gospels, the Pharisees were scandalized when Jesus referred to God as “Abba”, the equivalent of “Dad” rather than the formal “father”. Applying that thought to this thread, if God is our father, like any good parent, he’s going to adapt his methods to his children. A parent can instill the same core values in all of his or her children, but use different approaches according to each one’s personality. For example, my son always responded better to straightforward discussion than “silly talk”. On the other hand, a light-hearted approach with one of my nieces will get you a lot farther than being serious. We adapt our approach to match the maturity, understating, and personalities of our kids. If we can do it, I think God can too. So if chant brings one person closer to Him, while another responds to contemporary music, I think He’s okay with it. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis said “all things that look to God are good.” As long we keep the focus on Him, I’d imagine He doesn’t mind a few guitar riffs.

  14. I am not overly fond of “Purpose Driven Life” or Saddleback church myself. My tastes, as people on this thread have heard before, run to C.S. Lewis and a church with a Saint’s name in it. But I would not go so far as to say that they lead to anything diabolical. You are forgetting, I think, that the children and the parents are still together at the end of those possibly separate church services? And that something that can lead to discussion can be good.

    My final take on all this is that the Bible says “to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Now, personally, I believe that particular umbrella covers a huge variety of things. For instance, my mother couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. She was sent home in first grade from her first violin lesson with a note from the teacher saying “Mrs. Jackson, don’t wast your money.” (It was during the Great Depression.) Yet she adored singing; so she sang to her cows when she milked them. I kept telling her that God wouldn’t mind what she sounded like, but she would never participate in singing in church. Which is sad, because she truly did make a joyful noise.

    Yours in Christ

    • Patti,
      My phrase for this kind of “joyful noise” is, “What s/he lacks in talent, s/he makes up for in enthusiasm!” They make me grin because they’ve got the spirit!

  15. Yes, Carmen…you betcha! (But I heard my choir director Sunday comment on a lady she could hear singing in the congregation – no names were mentioned – that, thankfully, did not want to join the choir, because we would have let her, lol.)

  16. What I’m reading here and in most of Corinna’s other threads, are messages from people who are truly well-grounded in their beliefs, whether traditional members of a hierarchical church or a conformed “nones.” I think that’s what makes it easy (for the most part) for us to respect each other’s views. Once you’re comfortable in your form of worship, the need to belittle others melts away. By well-grounded, I certainly don’t mean stuck in one place. Corinna, despite her journey among denominations, strikes me as someone who knows what she’s seeking and will eventually find it.

    It may be easier for me to explain what well-grounded isn’t. Most of us can remember the Seinfeld show in the 1990’s. One of the running gags throughout the series was that Jerry and George could never find the right girlfriends because they had a neurotic need to find something—anything—wrong with their current partner that would give them an excuse to break up (remember “man hands”?). When it comes to a worship community, some people are like that. Whether it’s the music, thee liturgy, the lack of structure, or money, they find something to dislike and go elsewhere, or as Frank pointed out, they start their own church. As Shelly said, these are the people looking to see what they can get out of a church.

    On the other hand, a person who’s comfortable where they are in their faith-journey doesn’t feel the need to constantly point our very problem they find. I used the term faith-journey because I think that’s an accurate description of what our lives should be. Even if we attend the same physical church, I think very few of us are in the same place we were ten years ago, or will be ten years from now. Our understanding of faith deepens and evolves over time, and that should be reflected in the way we worship and how we view others. Looking back through all these posts, how many of us have experienced this journey? How many of us were church-goers as kids, only to leave organized religion later, and come back? How many of found organized traditional church stifling and chose new ways to worship, where we could devote our minds, hearts, spirits, and intellects to our faith?

    It’s very easy for me to respect the spectrum of worship styles everyone describes here, because its clear the one thing we all share is the striving to be better people, internally and in the way we treat others. It’s hard to make an argument against that!

  17. Amen to that one, Tim! I am off to a doctor’s appointment so I have to leave, but I had to say that your comment is spot on. I have more thoughts on the subject, but will have to wait! Say a prayer that whoever draws my blood will be VERY good, as I m seriously needle-phobic. 🙂

    As always,
    Yours in Christ

  18. Well, thank goodness THAT is over. I do so hate blood work…total woose.

    Anyway, Tim, I was thinking about what you said and it brought to mind an experience I had at a friend’s house once. We were at a gathering of people who didn’t know each other at all except we all knew the hostess. She was a wonderful cook and loved to throw parties like that. I don’t, and didn’t at that time, make any secret of my commitment to being a Christian. During general talk the subject came up, and I was not offensive or overly insistent or even majorly proselytizing, but one man became violently angry with me. He came within a hair of physically attacking me. He HAD had a bit too much to drink, but his reaction was an overreaction for all that, given the mildness of my simply saying “Yes, I believe.”

    Isn’t the saying “in vino veritus” ? I felt very sad for him, not because of his expressed declaration of being an atheist (that was his business, mine was simply to say ‘I have Good News’), but because of the feeling I had that he really didn’t feel either comfortable or comfortably grounded in his belief. It is a reaction I have had since, but never so violently.

    There have been people on this thread who adamantly do not believe, but as you said, we are all pretty much on our roads and pretty firmly rooted at least in the idea of where we are and where we are going. Although that isn’t to say the ride won’t be bumpy.

    Of course you also instantly brought to mind the “when I was a child…..”, but I’m betting you knew that, right? 🙂

    I am off to enjoy the fact that I don’t have to have blood work done for six more months. YEAH, freedom!

    Yours in Christ

    • Glad your lab work went so well. Reviewing your thoughts about “gentle proselytizing” reminded me that I can sometimes get like that man who was repulsed by it and I don’t drink. Because I am grounded in my belief it seldom sets off triggers in me but every once in awhile I find myself going with an inner “grrrrr”. Like the time a group of my “born again” “spirit filled” “evangelical” (whatever they called themselves at the time), cousins came to my mother’s birthday celebration. The party went along fine and after the celebrating people drifted off to corners or tables to talk among themselves. This group of cousins went off by themselves but each in turn got a little louder about what they believed about Jesus. To me, the timing was off and they were there to celebrate my mother’s birthday not to look for converts. I didn’t say anything though. I just walked out and found another group. This week my favorite Aunt died and there was a computer page where people could write things. I wrote a few tender lines but didn’t mention Jesus and they all descended like circling hawks waiting to harp on me with Jesus. They like to send me what I consider to be beautiful poetry until I get to the end. The poetry always ends with some twist or play on words which are meant to induce guilt on the reader. I think I get some inner anger, too, because of the utter helplessness I feel to say anything to such ones that would make any difference. Suddenly I’m a little boy again surrounded by the big people and anything I might say will either go unheard or be considered as saying nothing of importance. Most often,these days, I go within and tell the little boy that it’s o.k. I love him and I’m an adult now and just walk away as the person or the group sings to their choir and they’re all happy. Me too. They really don’t want anything from me and it’s o.k.

  19. Patti and Frank:

    First. Congratulations, Patti, that your blood work went without any major trauma! AT least you’re not a guy—when we hit 50, its prostate checking time—LOL!

    Both of your posts remind me of St. Francis of Assisi’s saying” “Pray daily; use words when necessary”. The way we live our lives and the example we set for others should be a testament to our beliefs. Mother Theresa’s work among the poor was faith in action, with very little proselytizing. I was never much for the “in your face” brand of Christianity. I’m not ashamed to tell people what I believe, in the proper context, but I think my actions should speak louder than words.

    Frank, I know what you mean by badgering. We became Episcopalians in 2004 after a lifetime of Roman Catholicism, and there are some family members who just can’t bring themselves to admit we’re not RC any more. We’re constantly getting subtle “hints” like newsletters, etc. from them. I think what bugs me most is the patronizing attitude. They act like there’s something wrong with us that needs to be fixed. Given the dismal state of the Roman church’s leadership, especially in this country, I’d dispute that. It’s a common trait among fundamentalists; if you don’t believe as they do, there must be something wrong with you that a little more preaching just might fix. Speaking only for myself, my relationship with God and understanding of my faith has grown tremendously since I became an Anglican; I can’t really see how God would have a problem with that.

    Patti, a few years ago, I read ‘god is not great” by Christopher Hitchens, whom I believe to have been a very astute critic of modern society. But I was disappointed with his book. Basically, its just a re-hash of all the old arguments about what’s wrong with organized relation, and therefore faith in general. Just like religious zealots, there is a brand of atheist who simply can’t accept that intelligent people may be a believer. I think its especially maddening when they encounter someone like you, who indeed is grounded in your beliefs and made an affirmative decision to be a faith-filled person. There is a huge difference between blind faith and true faith.

    I think religious zealotry and aggressive atheism are merely different sides of the same coin: arrogance. Nether side can accept anything less than absolute agreement with its and will take any steps necessary to persuade others: whether it’s the threat of eternal damnation or insulting one’s intelligence, the weapons may be different but the purpose is the same.

    “Of course you also instantly brought to mind the “when I was a child…..”, but I’m betting you knew that, right? ” Oh heck yeah, but I didn’t want to steal your thunder!

    • I know very little about Anglicans. The few services I’ve been to remind me of my old Catholic mass and I have told my Catholic mother that the Episcopalian service is more Catholic than the Catholic’s. A few years ago it was a requirement for one of my college classes (Yes, I’ve been a student in one degree program or another most of my life), to visit ten different churches. The Sunday I attended the Episcopal church I looked at the program and wondered what the difference was between First Rite and Second Rite. They were new terms to me. As it turned out one was with music and one without. I happened in on the music one. I was surprised when the minister announced publicly that if he tried to put music in the other service the Board would kick him out. There was a whisper of laughter and then we settled in. It’s a lovely small church here in my town. Nice architecture and nicely laid out. I know there must be a variety of Episcopalians because I have followed the stories of the first gay Bishop and the storm that arose over that. Still I think for the most part it is a liberal church and I like that.
      Of course nothing topped my visit to London and touring St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey and attending a small town English Episcopal church while there. It made the history of it live.

  20. Frank, I too really dislike getting those messages. The ones that make me really burn are the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you will send this to 10 people. If you delete it, you don’t love Jesus.” I admit to seeing red, and I have to very carefully force my self to reply to the sentiment kindly, if possible, and avoid an argument, which would not change them one whit. As if Jesus decides whether I love him or not based on how many people I spam!!!!! Ok. Seeing red and must stop.

    I think Tim was really on the money about the militant fundamentalism and the aggressive atheism. Atheism has simply become, for some, another church, though I doubt they will admit or realize it. And they are as damned and determined to convert us as some of us are to convert them. Which is silly (on our part) because WE can’t do anything. I cannot EVER convert you Frank, to anything. The only ability I have is to do as Tim says and try to live my faith, state it simply. especially when I must speak up or lie by omission. and leave it to the Holy Spirit to commune to the person in question, or not, as the case may be. It’s NOT my judgement. I wish people would realize that they can only be vehicles, never the drivers, in matters of someone else s’ heart.

    Martin Luther said it best when he said that God is the only one who knows anyone’s heart. Someone we may see as Christian may not have any of the spirit of Christ in him, and someone we consider to be NOT Christian may have a heart filled with Christ as it is seen by God. (I paraphrase, but that is the gist.)

    And I am with you on St. Paul’s. We’ve been there, and it was glorious. I’ll check out your links when I am not so tired, tomorrow. You guys have a good night. And Tim…..this is me AGAIN sticking my tongue out at you. 🙂 🙂

    Yours in Christ

  21. I am just checking in after having read all of the replies on Corinna’s “Plexiglass Box.” It has been an interesting journey to be with Corinna from the very beginning of her Some None blogging. I very much appreciate that we have arrived at a place where there is not only civility, but also respect for each other’s beliefs. I think it is that we have recognized that those of us who have been actively participating in this journey do seem to be well-grounded (as noted above!) in our own beliefs, and we do not feel a need to try to change each other’s minds. This has not always been so—-I remember reading some pretty heated replies—not focused toward Corinna, but toward each other. Now it is more like a dialogue between friends. In fact, I have actually talked to MY friends about some of you….and how you fit into our e-conversation. I feel very much like I know some of you….and very much have enjoyed hearing what you have to say….and hope that you have been interested in and hold respect for my spiritual journey.

    And really, what a glorious thing it must be to have a big enough congregation that you can have two services which are based on the different music types! Not that I think that this is a great idea…pretty decisive. In my small church, we have a lot of trouble keeping enough singers to have a choir….and we take all comers. whether they can carry a tune or not! Believe me! The only requirement is that they love to sing….it is our gift to the congregation!

    Anyway, thank you for letting me be there with you all. And thanks, Corinna, for opening up this conversation to us.
    Merrill

    • Merrill, I wanted you to know that I found Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, at the Library. I find myself nodding my head at what she is writing so far; she makes a lot of sense. I also feel like shutting my mouth. . .

      • Carmen,
        Please don’t do that! Although I am centered in my beliefs, which are non’Christian in nature, I have not always felt that the devout Christians in this group felt that my way of thinking and believing was so acceptable…..that has shifted as time has gone on. The idea that we are all trying to be good human beings, and we are finding our own ways to do that has come forth as a basic idea. I am grateful for that! But I do appreciate your voice. It is not the same as mine, but it comes with an open heart and an open mind. You realize that I am not “lost”……I have just taken a different path! Peace. Merrill

        • ha, ha Merrill! I meant that I should close my trap as in “I need to be quiet and listen to the introverts” – they always have something profound to say. As I am reading the book I am thinking about the students in the classes I have taught. There for awhile the emphasis was on group work as a crucial component in every subject (and still is, to some degree) – even in Math class!
          While I still think there is much to be gained from working in a group, I can also see the merit of letting students work on their own if that’s what they prefer. We have increasingly been made aware that students need this option and can now see that the introverted kids in the class must have had a sick feeling in their tummies when they heard, “OK, it’s time to get in your groups. . .” Don’t worry, I had no intention of shutting off my replies – way too much fun!

      • No shutting your mouth, Carmen. We’re having way too much fun on this train ride to start shutting up. Think of all the people that have hopped on to Corinna’s blog ….toot…toot….chugga chugga….and away we go on this virtual ride. Stopping off at this church and that. Seeing it through Corinna’s eyes and then getting back on the train to discuss what we liked or didn’t like or maybe it was “our” church or what we agreed on then off we go to the next. What fun. It has opened us up to wonderful discussion and an opportunity to maybe see things a little differently whether we agree or not. We seem to learn as much about ourselves as we do about a variety of religious experiences through the eyes of a “none” seeking “some”.

        • This message came in as I was typing my reply to Merrill – and I laughed at this one, too! The thought has crossed my mind several times that we are becoming each other’s therapists – and God (or who/whatever) knows I need one!!. .. we all seem to be in the group circle with Corrina as our facilitator. The good thing is, none of us has been booted out YET!!!

          • Frank and Carmen…and others….One thing that I have noticed is that the farther we travel on this train, the more tolerant we seem to get! There is nothing like putting a “face” on an opinion to mitigate what we might have felt as negative before that. As we share our individual stories, things change. Those unfamiliar stops we made along those tracks become places that we might want to visit again…..not necessarily wanting to build a home and plant our lawn, but certainly to drop in for a cup of coffee! BTW I like mine black with a bit of milk…no flavors for me!

            Carmen: Off the religion topic….yes, as a teacher, understanding introverts brings about more variety in the kinds of activities we plan for students. I am glad I was able to introduce this book to you. May give you insights for your adult life, too!
            Merrill

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