I woke up Easter Sunday in a mood. The previous evening, Stephen and I had attended the late service at Trinity Episcopal Church, and everything had come together for me in an exhilarating way. Witnessing the preparation and lighting of the Paschal candle and the passing of the flame to hand-held candles in the congregation, listening to those old familiar psalms, hymns, and readings from Genesis and Ezekiel, and hearing our competent choir, accomplished organist, and phenomenal preacher, I basked in the lovely ambiance that these elements of worship had created. I have for decades been involved in liturgical service. I recently resigned from altar service, where I have held every lay role, but I continue with my sacristy duty. Being in community with my friends and fellow parishioners as we celebrated the First Eucharist of Easter had resurrected some of my old faith.
As the season of Advent approaches, a reflection on the true meaning of Christmas from one Christian’s point of view.
The Holidays. Some people love them; some people hate them. I, personally, navigate them in much the same way that I navigate baseball, basketball, and football season. Sports and the holidays mean everything to a lot of people. They throw their heart and soul into the appreciation of them. I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun, not to mention the fact that being critical of these practices can get you quickly dropped from any number of social calendars. I just try to go with the flow, and manage to find some things to enjoy in all the hubbub. So I’m not exactly Scrooge and I’m not exactly Charlie Brown.
Determination and faith as the ship of state steams toward peril.
It’s been a tough 18 months. I’ve been alternatively filled with dread, furious, determined to do something, hiding in Facebook, talking to dispondent friends, reflecting, scanning the news, avoiding the news. It’s been 19 months since Barack Obama left office. Nothing has inspired me to write much about his absence from the presidency or the current state of the presidency. I usually have something useful to say about politics. My useful intellectual or moral contributions in the past year and a half have been restricted to posting interesting articles from various online newspapers on Facebook and Twitter.
Now it’s not that I’ve felt powerless. One of the things I’m very grateful for is my professed Christian faith, lived out for the last 33 years at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis with my spouse, Stephen Nichols. Even though I want this post to speak to a broader audience than my fellow Christians, I think a moment’s reflection on how my faith has impacted my life in the Trump era might be instructive. One thing I like about my faith is that I can practice it without being assured that I can alter the political situation in what I consider to be a positive direction. My Christian life is simple: I have to love God, and I have to love my neighbor as myself. So, a paragraph or two on each of these rules.
The other day I came up with what I think is a new idea for the interpretation of the Creation Myth as presented in Genesis. Caveat: my reason for doing this is not to try to establish grounds for any faith, i.e. I am not evangelizing here. As someone who is a practicing Episcopalian, however, I frequently have cause to ask myself, “Ok, what were these old geezers onto, if anything? What ancient insight is buried in here, no matter the inconsistency with what contemporary science understands about the basis for these old scriptures?”
A failed attempt to organize action in response to the Orlando murders leaves Jim musing about why he remains a person of faith.
Sunday, June 19, I decided to attend an afternoon public meeting the agenda of which was to explore organizing action in the St. Louis area in response to the killing of 49 queer people, many of them latino, in Orlando last Sunday. We heard an overview on intersectionality and occupying space, listened to stories of oppressed people of color, received training on how to occupy space in a non-violent manner, and ultimately disbanded without setting specific action goals. It was generally speaking a very worthwhile experience, but all of us were shocked when, early in the meeting, a young gay man with an Asian appearance made a brief statement of objection to the proceedings, picked up his backpack and left. His protest was basically, “How can you talk about creating safe spaces where people who are frightened, hurting and angry can share their stories, on the one hand, and have this public meeting in a church sanctuary, on the other? Don’t you realize that the church has been one of the major oppressors of LGBTQ people for centuries and centuries?! I do not find this to be a safe space!”
How can you talk about creating safe spaces where people who are frightened, hurting and angry can share their stories, on the one hand, and have this public meeting in a church sanctuary?
What do I make of my dream, then, quoting from Part 1 of this epistle?
“I am out on the street in some small town with a woman I don’t know. She is perhaps 35 or 40 years old, and I somehow know that she is a lesbian. She proposes to me that we both take turns putting a nickel in the nearby parking meter, and that as we do this, we offer up a prayer. I am to go first. I rummage around in my pocket, and there are lots of dimes and quarters, and one nickel that I finally discern. I take it out, and as I insert it into the parking meter, both I and my surroundings are suddenly transported. Now the sky is dark and ominous, and I am sitting in a wheelchair feeling very weak. I am struggling to say the prayer that is not yet in my mind. I hear myself, stuttering, hesitant and trembling, say and then repeat, “Lord, you are my strength and my redeemer.” I am crying as I say this. And then I wake up.”
Coincidentally, Sunday was the opening of the Trinity “All Things New” art show, containing some of the artwork of our fellow parishioners. I happened to have contributed to this show a piece of counted cross stitch, which you can see below. The text displayed with this piece is as follows: “”The Lord Is My Shepherd” stitched by Jim Andris in 2013, design by Sandy Orton of Kooler Design Studios: Counted cross-stitch, embroidery floss on 14 count ecru Aida cloth, 11 1/4w by 16 1/4h inches, stitch count 154w x 224w. The 23rd Psalm has been part of my strength and my refuge since my father read and explained it to me at age five. When I saw this design of Sandy Orton’s, I knew I had to bring it into being.”