I had a lot of fun this weekend down at Holy Trinity, Decatur. It was great to catch up with the rector, Greg Tallant, (M went through the discernment process with him and we are all at General together during our time there) and to hang out with Jenna Strizak and Ashley Lytle; Rob and Susan Ashemore were extremely gracious hosts!
In terms of my talks, we were all over the map, touching on several different aspects of the prayer book. Friday focused on the patterns and habits of the prayer book with a special focus on family life. Generally we fussed around topics of prayer, prayer disciplines, and the place and formation of the psalms. We even did some psalm singing together as we discussed corporate discernment of the Spirit and breath in the classic method of singing the psalter.
Saturday focused on saints and the prayer book. Coming out of my experiences co-chairing the Calendar subcommittee, we dove into the prayer book itself and looked carefully at the Calendar, the Baptismal Covenant, and the sections on Burial to get a solid sense of how the prayer book implictly constructs sanctity in a church that truly includes all the baptized—both living and dead. Then we made the constructive turn and talked about a specific and positive theology of sanctity and how such a theology follows naturally from and serves as the capstone to a theology of sacramental discipleship.
On Sunday morning we visited the Communion Without Baptism controversy as a way to open up conversation about topics around inclusivity, church identity, our practices of hospitality, and the role of the sacraments within a life of discipleship. The discussion around the issue was honest and open and difficult and was a great opportunity to wrestle with some of the important thoughts and feelings that this topic stirs within the church.
As a presenter, I couldn’t have asked for a better audience—they were attentive, thoughtful, and more than happy to ask questions and push back, particularly in the CWOB session.
Two thoughts as I reflect on it…
First, there truly is a theology of sanctity hidden within our prayer book that is intimately connected to and has deep implications for a robust baptismal ecclesiology. Working over the texts together with this group made me even more convinced. It’s just not obvious or expressed enough. More work needs to be done on making this theology known.
Second, as I was putting together my thoughts around the CWOB discussion, I kept thinking about the ways that anxiety and church identity are present within this topic. My tendency and the tendency of a lot of others who hold to the traditional pattern is to want to make it about sacramental theology. And, it is a matter of sacramental theology—but that’s only part of it. To approach it purely from that angle is pastorally lacking. I came away from the discussion itself with a stronger conviction than ever that the pastoral angle is an important one. This topic touches on a deep woundedness in many of our people. It calls up and taps into ways that they have been hurt by the church—or a church. We do the conversation as a whole a disservice when we do not acknowledge this and when our rhetoric is insensitive to it.
So—all in all, a great weekend that generated a lot of stuff to think about further…