Indulging My Inner Baptist

Today, I went to church with Imani, one of my classmates. She attends Love Zion Missionary Baptist Church here in town and it was a fun service. I went to Sunday School with her and then went to the service which was 3.5 hours. It was wonderful worship and the music was really fun — I think it’s the first time I’ve been able to really get down and party in church for a long time! The sermon was on three words in John 20:19: “then Jesus came”. Pastor Woods asked us where we would be if Jesus had not come. It was the stereotypical Baptist sermon, making it powerful and enjoyable. It was nice to be able to “Amen” things.

Jon preaches on Tuesday and I am looking forward to it. His sermon will be on Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was martyred for taking part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. (The Nazi’s were as brutal to the church as they were in many other ways.) In two weeks, I get to supply preach in northern Ohio and I am REALLY looking forward to it.

Back from California

Well… I’m back from Cali, I’m married, and I’m in the process of moving out of my dorm. I’ll be updating infrequently for a while. Here’s a lovely graphic from Victoria for the time being….

Victoria made this as a wedding present for us.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

In my Church History class today, we were discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., and Desmond Tutu. We’ve finally gotten to movements in the 20th century and we were talking about people who followed their conscience and spoke out against things that were wrong. One thing that stuck out in my mind was the fact that Hitler melted down all the church bells in the land for the “war effort” though there were very few bells left in Germany and would probably have made one tank at the most. Instead, it was a sign of the church being silenced.

This kind of thing resonates with me because I live in a community where we have church bells that ring on the hour and the bells at either Capital or Christ play a well-known hymn every hour. At the traditional service, the ringing of the bell calls us to worship and it is a symbol to me of why I am sitting in a stone building on Sunday morning with a hundred or more other people. The following poem is my reflections on the melting down of the bells and on the fact that we are called frequently to follow our consciences when religion is made to be oppressive in the way that the Nazi party did. This also reflects my feelings toward the ACLU for their “political correctness” that has meant a loss of symbols for many faithful Christians.

They melted down the bells today,
Their mournful tones gone far away
The call to worship never to peal,
The silence around us growing real.

Who calls us to worship this day?
Whose tones drive the demons away?
Whose voice calls our conscience to say
What false god we claim is our only way?

What mournful silence fills the air!
What cacophony of demonic laughter there!
What silent tears our elders bear!
What mortal sins do we dare!

Oppressed people us implore
But their silenced voices echo no more
A gaping hole into us bore
Innocent lives lost forever more

Why they broke was a mistake
The state they wanted to make a fake
Oh the lives that they will take!
Oh the meaning of these things at stake!

Someday they will come again
Their peals echoing in the wind
Oh that day shall come again
When we stand for what we hold within.


**For the record, I am not against the displaying of Jewish, Hindu or Muslim symbols. I am against the removal of things like artwork displaying the Ten Commandments, crosses, or nativity scenes from public places. I feel that everyone should be allowed to practice their religion equally and this means that Christians should have the right to display their symbols as well, if for no other reason to remind us what we should be standing for in a culture that is moving so far away from it.

Liturgical Needs

I am starting to get back into liturgical mode, I think. I went to the traditional (liturgical) service at my church last Sunday and it fed me well. The contemporary service was good today but I think I would have gotten just as much out of liturgy. Wednesday night is sort of liturgical but not quite what I need so I am really thankful for chapel these days where I can do Morning Prayer communally.

I am starting to think that I might have to start doing Compline on my own at night or go to Compline next quarter. Jane and I are leading Holden Evening Prayer on Wednesdays and Jane is doing Compline that night as well. I will also have to start going to LBW Evening Prayer with Jon on Tuesday nights. It’s crazy — Jon is super liturgical and it’s hard for us to do devotions together because we are so different; but I’m really starting to become like him now.

We did the litany last Friday in chapel and it wasn’t as good as it was on September 12 when we did it acapella before Eucharist because of September 11th. It was still meaningful however and I honestly would not mind chanting it more frequently. (For those who are wondering, it’s a litany based on the Kyrie which is the prayer in which we say in Koine Greek “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”. (The Greek is Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.) It is especially good during Lent because this is when we are atoning for our sins.


Spiritually Dry

I was going to re-design this tonight but I realized that with a take home final due this weekend and quite a few papers and things due this upcoming week, it would probably be good for me to wait until Thursday morning.

Mea culpa, mea culpa! I have to confess that I am really spiritually dry at this point. I have been letting my devotional time suffer in order to get massive quantities of schoolwork done and I really need to stop doing that. Jon has been having major depression problems this week and I have not had the emotional or spiritual energy to bear them. (Then again, I also have to remind myself that I am his fiancée, not his therapist.) I am so burned out and this is making it really hard to get my papers and projects done. I have 4 days until the quarter ends and quite a few things to do before it finally ends like my Church History final (which is due tomorrow) and my Old Testament Project.

I confess that I have also let my nighttime prayers succumb to my sleepiness though I’m not falling asleep until probably 12:30, even on nights when I have to be up at 6:30 the next morning so that I can shower and go to class. There is so much stress on me with the wedding and school right now (including the fact that I need to pack up my room) and I am experiencing insominia. I should probably stop watching “World’s Wildest Police Videos” to go to sleep and start talking with my Shepherd about the state of this lamb here.

I am starting to long for forest land like the redwoods of UCSC where I went to college or the forests of British Columbia where I spent my summers. (My grandparents have a cabin on the mainland across from Campbell River. It’s about an hour from there by boat.) I was alawys spiritually fed by the world around me as I walked through forests of pine and fir and gazed out on the Pacific Ocean. Now I am stuck in the city of Columbus which is pavement and grass. Hardly a feast for my Celtic senses of spirituality.


My Faith Life

I know that I have waaaaaaaaay too much to do when I get the urge to redo this journal. I’ll redo it when I get back from California after the wedding.

Last Thursday, the president of our seminary talked about his faith. I’m not going to go into it here because I’m not sure Dr. Ramseth would be OK with it. (Let’s just say that it was really interesting.) It made me think a lot about my own faith and how I express it. Since I’ve finished the narrative part of my call experience (yes… there is a story within that story just as Lutherans have a canon within a canon), I thought I’d go into how I view my faith and how it impacts my life.

Like Leenie, I am a very liturgical person. I can survive almost anywhere but liturgy, especially the liturgy of the Episcopal church, centers me. I am not sure why it centers me this way — perhaps it is the fact that it is a fairly orderly way of doing worship and the J in me loves it. Perhaps it is the fact that I identify it with home because my home church throughout college was an Episcopal church. Perhaps it is my conditioning because daily chapel is *always* liturgical without many exceptions.

My prayer life is varied and I never know how many times a day I will pray. Part of it is that there is always the question of what counts as prayer. Does Liturgical Choir practice count as prayer? Does Worship Team practice count as prayer? Does this journal count as prayer? Does the communal prayer done in Chapel count as part of my personal time? I’ve liked the idea that all we do should be a prayer and that our actions should all glorify God. I believe that praying by my bed at night is just as important as running through a field of wildflowers and drinking in God’s beauty and rejoicing. I believe that a cathedral ring in a redwood forest is just as beautiful and reverent as a place of worship as a quiet stone church in Ireland and both have wonderful opportunities for prayer — one for the majesty of God’s creation and the other for the inspiration given to the hands that hewed the stones and cast the glass in the church.

How do I view God? I view God as my Heavenly Father. I do not think that the Father aspect of God is necessarily supreme above the other Persons of the Trinity but I do pray to a Heavenly Father. Heavenly Mother doesn’t cut it for me because Jesus never used it to address God while He was on earth and I’m all about following His example. I have a loving relationship with my Abba (not the Swedish rock band — the Hebrew diminutive for “Father” which is like saying “Daddy”) and my resting place is in His arms.

The Eucharist is high on my list of things. Tonight at the midweek service, Pastor Tom asked me to be one of the people distributing the bread. I was going to take the cup and let him do the bread since he was the pastor but he let me do the bread instead. It really brought home the fact that the bread *is* the Body of Christ given for us because God loves us so very much. It also felt like he was affirming my call to ministry. It just still amazes me that God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that those who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.

Call Story (III)

One of the people in my I-group (a group of people with the same academic advisor told me that I might want to start learning to share my call story. Here is my first shot at some of what is leading me to become a pastor. This is going to be a story in installments, so stay tuned to this journal. 🙂 (By the way, I am really open to dialoging with people about this, so please email me if you have questions or [civil] commentary.)

I guess that this is the really meaty part of this: MY CALL TO MINISTRY!!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t receive my call through a theophany, that is, a divine visitation by God or by anything major. Really, people would think my story crazy if they heard it and did not have the same understanding as I do of how God speaks to us.

The last night I was at Urbana, we were singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and the experience moved me. The refrain, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel” meant something to me and it was just the most awesome promise of hope. “Emmanuel” means “God with us” and the promise of God coming to dwell with us brought me to tears because it is something that we do not deserve but happens because God loved the world so very much. I felt a calling to spread this Gospel and I wondered where the Lord would send me.

When I returned to school, it was a shock because people were so angry and so rude to each other, unlike the people I encountered at Urbana. In my Anthropology of Religion class, I talked to people who told me the bad experiences that they had found in their churches and why they would never go back to church again. As I listened, I realized that the people of my generation were not hearing the Gospel because the mainline churches were being lax about preaching it in a way that people could understand it. A year earlier, I had spent a weekend or two at Camp Maymac, a camp run by Cityteam Ministries for inner city kids. It had been an amazing experience because I saw kids who really needed to hear the Gospel and for which the Gospel would make a huge difference.

In January of 2001, God put it on my heart to apply to seminary. My reaction was something to the tune of “as if!!!!” I was planning on taking a year off after I graduated from college but the idea failed to disappear from my heart. I finally applied for the MTS program, thinking it was a shot and I probably wouldn’t get accepted in the first place. My deal with God was that if I got accepted, I would think of going. Well… I got accepted and I finally (after much deliberation and prayer) decided to go.

My plan was to start in the Fall of 2001 and take the year-long Greek class. Well… God made it possible for me to take Summer Greek. I loved Greek — it opened the New Testament to me and I really started to understand what I was reading. Our professor, Dr. Bryant, was fanstastic and made sure we understood everything. I don’t know exactly what it was that summer, but the Lord called me to preach His word. Perhaps, it was the word study we did or perhaps it was the experience of leading worship. I had supply-preached at the end of my Spring Quarter and writing the sermons was really fun. I realized that I loved what I was doing and wanted to continue it. More than that, I felt like God had called me to get His message to His people as everything had worked out in a crazy way so that I could be where I am. My housing for this last summer worked so that I could stay on campus. I was able to to get the financial aid to take Summer Greek and my church accepted me as a worship leader.

In the last two quarters of seminary, I have had quite a bit of theology, Biblical languages, Old Testament studies, and everything else and I still love what I am doing. I cannot wait to do my homiletics classes and my pastoral leadership classes and my New Testament studies. I know that next year will be a break from the work as I am having to take it off for family reasons (i.e. so Jon can go on Internship) but I know that the ministry will continue next year for me.