Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carnival 1 : Lent 0

The following letter came via snail mail the other day, and I have carefully transcribed it as I believe it means something, but I need help in figuring it out. Some background information may be helpful. For the past several years ECOOS would have a weekly gathering during Lent on a weeknight such as every Wednesday or Thursday during which various educational or devotional programs would be put on by the rector. A simple meal would be provided by one or more of the parishioners. Attendance would usually start out with 10-12 persons and would decrease each week as the weather improved and Easter neared.

"February 19, 2009

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of Our Saviour,
Since I have come to Our Saviour, I have seen that many traditional Lenten practices of the Church of my youth have changed. Fewer people take upon themselves a Lenten fast or attend mid-week services and meals. Fewer people attend Holy Week observances. I, personally, believe that these changes have been consequences of the facts that 1) so many women have entered the workforce, and that two-worker families just don't have the amount of time to spend on anything that they used to when women, by and large, stayed home; and 2) young people are far busier in after-school and job opportunities than ever before.

Those developments are not going to change anytime soon, so I have come to accept the loss of traditional Lenten activities as a fact of life in the contemporary Episcopal Church and in our parish. That does not mean, however, that I believe any less in the worth of observing what the Church calls a 'holy Lent.' What it means is that we have to do it in perhaps different ways, with less busyness and more intentionality.

First and foremost, what we do as Christians in the Catholic tradition is to worship at God's altar every Sunday. Therefore, more than any other discipline, I bid all of you to keep holy the Lord's Day and attend the divine liturgy. If you have become slack in your worship duties, Lent is the set time to practice in your life what you say with your lips.

With this letter you will find a sheet with all of the major events of Lent and Holy Week that we have planned. You will also find a purple copy of a new rite that the clergy of our Catawba Convocation have come up with in order to respond to the pressing economic woes of our community, state, country, and world. We have many resources in the Book of Common Prayer to address such a condition in the world, and that is where this rite has come from.

We shall pray this short prayer service each Wednesday in Lent after Ash Wednesday, at noon in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. It is intended to give folks time and space in which to pray for those who are unemployed or fearful of losing their jobs, those who have to do the unpleasant task of firing people, those who have lost income or security, those who are fearful of losing their job, those who have friends or family suffering during this deep recession, or those who wish to pray for our elected leaders as they seek to serve their various constituencies. The form is enclosed so that even if you cannot attend the service on Wednesdays, you can use it elsewhere at work or at home, with others, with your family, or by yourself."

My initial impression was that, for the game of Lent, score one for culture (carnival), nil for the Church (Lent). Later, I wondered if it was the team that dropped the ball, was it the fans, the cheerleaders, was it the coaching staff, was it the owner, or was it the League Commissioner?

The most depressing thought I had was that maybe the game just can't compete with the distractions of the world anymore.

Pieter Bruegel's "The Fight between Carnival and Lent," 1559

1 comment:

  1. I thought you'd like to know how "progressives" view penance. Here is what Roger Ray had to say about the issue in today's edition of the News-Leader, a Springfield, Missouri newspaper:

    "As a member of a progressive Christian church, I am more likely than most to encounter folks who angrily reject all penitence and prayers of confession as being associated with the neurotic guilt and neo-puritanical judgment of their past church experiences. One friend recently told me, 'I just don't believe in sin.'"

    Thanks, Roger, for providing this insight. This is a prime example of the moral relativism and situational ethics which pervades TEC. It explains a lot.