09 August 2011

Patterns of Thought

We have had for Chicago, a brutal Summer. While not as bad as Dallas with its new record of consecutive over 100f days, for Chicago it has been unusually hot, humid and wet. We experienced the heaviest July rainfall in the City's recorded history. Some things are not impacted: the Cubs are still the Cubs.

The parish we attend describes its building as a "French Renaissance design." What that means is lots of thermal-mass stone, lots of immobile stained glass, no ventilation and no air conditioning. In short it is not a good place to hold a service from about 1 June to 15 September.

Let me tell you how hot it gets. When I was master-of-acolytes I stored ice cubes and water bottles in the sacristy so that when, not if - when, an acolyte felt faint, I had them handy. For the last few years of his ministry with us, the previous rector moved the service to the lawn and occasionally invited me to provide (dulcimer) music. It is not uncommon to experience temperatures 10f or more cooler outside than inside the building in August. Sure the younger kids ran around a bit but over all those were well received services.

So, the rector tried something else this last Summer. No vestments save only stoles for clergy. Street clothes for chalice bearers or other lay servers and lectors. Instead of the "normal" 8:00 and 10:00 services with music exclusively in the 10:00 service, the single 9:00 service features no music or limited music in alternate weeks. The choir and acolytes have the Summer off. Music when we have it is simple hymns, no anthems, or no chanted psalms or sung consecration although the organist still provides well done pre and postludes. None of this directly cools those of us in the pews, but at least the service is not interrupted by paramedics on the altar and is shorter.

It all makes sense I think. It keeps the servers, organist and clergy from melting, provides a break for the Sunday School, Choir and Accolyte groups and reduces the load on the sacristan teams. It is amazingly unpopular.

I have no standing in the parish. I am no longer a vestry-person. I hold no office save (very junior) member of a sacristan team. I have no role in the planing or execution of the services and I am still the recipient of a stream of complaints. After I laugh and point out that she is by canon law the liturgical authority in the parish; I redirect them to the rector.

Not long ago the idea of a choir wearing robes, acolytes, or a priest in a chausible was enough to start a civil war. (Truth! Look up "Cromwell.") And in some corners of the net, it still sets heads or fists shaking. (Look at this blog for example.) But in our time and place the pattern has changed. Some members need vestments, or choirs or acolytes, or chanting or all of them to see any sacramental act.

Were I the rector, this might lead to a series of Fall services with sermon topics like, "Liturgy - what we do here" or "Ordination - it is not a fancy dress." I doubt the rector will choose that series. Makes me glad to be a layman sometimes.

All of which makes me wonder. How much of the controversy in the Anglican Communion focuses on our patterns of thought, our expectations, what academics might call our paradigm or "memonic evolution" and not the actual theology or events? In other words,is it all a matter of manners? What might the communion look like without the assumption that some of us KNOW what the church must be? What might we achieve if we discarded the assumptions, held on to the creeds and re-started the conversation?


1 comment:

Christal said...

I think that question is one that people are afraid to ask of themselves and each other.

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