Sunday, January 27, 2008

What's in a Name?

Abwûn (Aramaic)
"Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes"

Charlie's sermon today was largely about how we address the unmentionable name of "you know who" (YHWH). He did a good job keeping it to 15 mintues, although I thought it was a strange leap from today's Gospel readings. He was fair in that he did not stand up and ask us to change our personal prayer language (which is heavily influenced by our Church upbringing) to some new-age politically correct terminology. I am glad that Charlie takes the word "Lord" as his preferred, private way of praying to "you know who." The word "Lord" puts us in our place, just as "Master" or "Adonai" might, but "Lord" is the way we have been raised. I would hate to see the Lord's Prayer changed to "Jesus' Prayer Instructions." How about changing "This is the day the Lord has made" to "This is the day that came from an amorphous something." Or how about "Bring forth the royal diadem and crown 'Him/She/It' Tetragrammaton of All."
This sermon marks the last sermon to be heard in the aging walls of the Church of Our Saviour for we are about to undergo major renovations which should last 6-9 months. We left the sanctuary today after singing the Doxology (and we didn't change the "G" word), which I hope will serve as a blessing on those old walls.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Elections, Evanveligsts, and the Rock

Charlie gave the sermon and tried to use better language this week, we only heard "stupid" one time and a triplet of "petty." It was an interesting attempt to compare the Gospel lessons of the calling of Peter to the calling of the pollsters. I got one of those phone calls this past week. Whereas Charlie got mad, I got even. I lied and identified myself as a supporter of Dennis Kucinich. As far as I can tell, only space aliens are going to vote for him. In the Republican primary, this part of SC was Huckabee territory even though McCain won overall. I am interested in the religious aspects of this election cycle. A lot has been made of the "Evangelical" vote going for Huckabee. I had to decide if I was "Evangelical" enough to vote for another Arkansas governor after what the last one did to the Oval Office. So I took an on-line quiz. If you have 10-15 minutes click on the title and take this quiz.
"What's your theological worldview?"
I scored as a Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
"You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists."

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 86%
Neo orthodox 79%
Roman Catholic 71%
Emergent/Postmodern 57%
Classical Liberal 46%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 43%
Reformed Evangelical 36%
Modern Liberal 18%
Fundamentalist 4%

I am not so sure about the totally depraved part. I am sure that this was not enough to sway my vote.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How Lovely are the Messengers that Preach us the Gospel of Peace

Today we had a pre-church meeting about last year's deficit of $53,127.86, the previous year's loss of $46,104.05 today's operating funds of only $8,000, and a 2008budget that includes a $56,076.11 deficit. Where to begin? Since the sermon was short
and sweet by Mary Cat, we can spend the next week solving the financial problems of the Church.
It looks like two years of deficit spending finally generated some interest in the workings of this small corner of the Episcopal Church. The budget numbers presented were sufficient for the pewsters to formulate many theories for the causes, and a number of possible solutions.
Cutting expenses was urged by many today. Expenses in 2005 were $525,310 and had risen to $589,437.11 in 2007. In fact expenses rose $23,000 from 2006-2007 after a deficit of $46,104 in 2006. Seems like belt tightening should have started last year.
One good point raised is that if you already had a deficit last year, shouldn't you delay your capital fund drive until you get your house in order? You don't make a big push for money in November to a future construction project when you should foresee problems covering operating expenses in January.
Are national issues affecting our growth? To me the answer is an obvious yes.
Will we withhold our pledge to the diocese? Why not? After all, they have proven that they will continue to send money to the litigious (and thus unchristian) national TEC.
Is it the liturgical style that turns people away?
Is it the music?
Is it the congregation?
Are local issues affecting our growth?
Clearly, revenues have not increased as they should have over the past few years. $538,988.577 in 2005, $513,846.95 in 2006, and $541,720.60 in 2007. All of this in spite of a marked increase in population in greater Rock Hill and York county. Instead of gaining membership we are static. We have also seen members leave for reasons that were not mentioned at today's meeting. The inside scoop is that several have left because of messages they have heard from the pulpit. This pewster has heard disturbing references from our Rector in the past, but these seem to be more common lately. Are these sermons holding us back? This issue has been addressed on these pages recently by our prayers to help create a loving, positive atmosphere for parishioners and guests. Prayers often are answered in unexpected ways. Perhaps the shortfall of money and the attention it has raised is one of those "That's not the answer I wanted" moments. All I know is that if you want people to sit through a 20 minute sermon and a 90 minute service, people have to hear a beautiful message. No one will come if you preach a gospel of filth, dirt, stink, crap, and whatever other awful words we have endured recently.
This little church has a very involved and friendly congregation. Feed them with the spirit of Christ and they will be fruitful. If you preach a gospel of slime, guess what you get. Mendelssohn had it right in the title of the anthem "How Lovely are the Messengers that Preach us the Gospel of Peace." If you preach it they will come.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Alternative Magi

I enjoyed Fr. Dunbar's sermon today on modern magi: the physical scientist, the biologist, and the social scientist. Our church needs to find some of the things these magi found. They found things they did not know they had been looking for. So when our Church comes to us looking for answers to our current budget shortfall, let us hope that everyone's eyes are opened like our imaginary modern magi. When that happens, some eyes should pop open and see that maybe the whole church is not doing the best job of living the Gospel.
From where the pewster sits, the reason for the shortfall in December giving is due to the huge amount given in the "First Fruits" offering for the rebuilding fund. In addition, people may have not given all that they had pledged to the operating budget for 2007, but I hope that we the pew people are not painted as the bad guys. An ill timed capital funds drive probably is the culprit.

Did anyone hear Bobby put in his plug for alternative readings for the adult Sunday Schoolers who are slogging through "When Jesus went to Harvard?" Let us hope his pleas are heard. I don't know how that class has been able to stick with that book all these months.