Saturday, October 25, 2008

Anglican Awakening

A week and a half ago I attended the Anglican Awakening in Akron Ohio. This event was meant to bring together the various groups of Anglican jurisdictions who have been scattered recently by the liberalism of the Episcopal Church USA. For about ten years now, bishops from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South America, and Southeast Asia have been consecrating missionary bishops for the US. In essence, the USA is now a mission field, because the oldest protestant denomination in the country is now so morally and theologically bankrupt. Partnerships have also been formed with other groups who left the Episcopal Church with their orders intact earlier. The purpose of the gathering was to pray together, learn together, and join together for Holy Communion. The gathering was held at Saint Luke's Church, a large vibrant suburban parish. Here is an Icon of Saint Luke in the church

While this had celebratory aspects, The themes of the conference that meant the most to me were about suffering and repentance. Bishop Alexis Biladabago was the first teacher I heard. As a Rwandan, he knows about both the reality of suffering and the transformative power of Jesus Christ. Bishop Alexis has spoken on suffering from the US to Australia. He was once confronted by a high ranking Australian Government official who had many accusatory questions about how anyone could believe in a benevolent God in a world full of pain and suffering. This Bishop who personally suffered the horrors of the genocide said that he did not have all the answers, but he wanted his questioner to be able to know Jesus Christ so that they could stand together in heaven and ask about these things.

Since meeting him, I have been reading about the Rwandan Genocide. Rwanda was a Country where 90 percent of the people were Christian, yet unspeakable horrors happened. As "enlightened westerners" we can write of the genocide as an act of primitive African tribalism, but that answer is not good enough. It will not explain the horrors perpetuated by "advanced" peoples. How did sophisticated Weimar Germans degenerate within a few years into industrial scale butchers? How can 21st Century Americans leave the babies from botched abortions to die in hospital closets? The answers to Rwanda, the Nazis, and ourselves lie in the human heart.

One aspect of Rwanda is that the churches became institutionalized. Membership had certain social advantages. A comfortable Church will not rock the boat or threaten the status quo.

Here is Bishop Alexis

Here are Bishops John Guernsey (Uganda) Bishop Martyn Minns (Nigeria/CANA) and
Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh/Southern Cone) checking the news.

I am not a very good photographer. most of my pictures from the liturgy got the back of folks' heads. There are many better pictures at Father Richard Dalton's site, which is worth checking out anyway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Milk drenched food--does anyone else do this?

My Lovely wife recently made two wonderful apple pies with traditional lard crust. They are delicious. However, she finds it curious and somewhat distasteful that I can only eat pie when drenched in milk. I do this to all pies except mincemeat and pumpkin. I drench other desserts, such as strawberry shortcake and chocolate cake in milk. All the men on my Dad's side of the family did this. Some of the real country diners around here make provisions for this, by offering milk with such desserts as apple dumplings. My wife never saw this foodway before she moved to Western Pa.

I have tried researching this custom on the web. I did not find a lot of information. Some people said it is an English custom. However, my mother was from a family of fairly recent English immigrants, and she found it as unusual when she married my Dad as my own wife found it strange. My mom thought it was simply a disgusting way to use up the surplus of skimmed milk that old-time farmers had from the days when cream was sold.

Is this just a western Pennsylvania thing?
Is it a country custom?
Is it just a dairy farmer thing?
Is it just a bad habit?
I would appreciate any other knowledge or experience with milk drenched food.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bishop Henry Scriven Visits Grace Church

This Sunday, was the final visit of the Rt. Reverend Henry Scriven to Grace Anglican Church. Bishop Henry will be returning to his native England to continue missionary work. Because our church is now a parish of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, we technically have no Diocesan Bishop right now. Thus Bishop Henry came to preach, teach, confirm, and celebrate Holy Communion, but he came without his normal episcopal regalia. Our beloved priest was not there for the best reason in the World to miss Church-He and his wife just had a baby girl!

Father Paul Cooper from Saint Christopher's Church came to assist.

Bishop Henry proclaims Grace Church as a parish of the Diocese, assisted by a deaconess from Saint Christopher's.

I still find it nothing short of miraculous that our Anglican parish in this small town can can fill the pews of a rented Presbyterian church, worshiping with the 1928 prayer book. God's Grace for repentant sinners through Word and Sacrament is powerful indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dogs in Heaven

This was a very sad day here, as we buried our faithful German Shepherd, Riko. For me, grief is always a cause for reflection. There is an emptiness in our house, as Riko was a particularly fine companion. For quite a while I will expect his bark when I come home, and look for him out of the corner of my eye to be laying on one of the rugs. I never wanted him; but my wife did. I thought German Shepherds were "Robot Dogs". Riko taught me different. He was very playful and affectionate. He was honest and good natured.In many respects, his character reflected the monks from whom we got him.

I have had dogs my entire life. Growing up, my family always had a small pack of Feist dogs around, as well as the occasional spaniel and farm collie. Later I kept my own packs of hunting dogs and started a number of Border Collies for sheep herding, some for a Border Collie Rescue Organization. Every one of them (save one) has broken my heart to one degree or another by dying. For a Christian Believer in this time and place, this always raises the question of whether our animals will join us in heaven.

I don't worry a lot about heaven. I am holding out for the general resurrection that many Christian confess in the creeds but few spend much time talking about. God enables us though breeding animals and plants to be a kind of co-creator with him. While everything dies as a consequence of the corruption of the fall, this creation is no more in vain than our death is the end of our creation (which was also a co-creation between God and our parents). I think God allows us this tremendous privilege because in spite of our sinful fallen natures, he really loves us. I believe that every flower we plant, every dog we breed, every picture we make, and every other work we do in truth and beauty will somehow be a part of that new creation when Heaven and Earth meet. Spirits floating around are not good enough for me. I want a body to see, hear, and touch the bodies of those people and things I love. I plan on hugging Riko again, and my Dad, and my wife. We have a prayer in my church's services of evening prayer thanking God for our creation and preservation in this life, but also "for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the World by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. . I take this pray at its word, that our Lord will redeem everything, and I place a great hope in that glory. I hope that this might sooth some who worry about the question of "animals in heaven". If you do not want to believe a poorly educated Pennsylvania farmer in this matter, I might recommend the online lectures and books by Bishop NT "Tom" Wright, in particular Surprised By Hope. Many of the early church fathers also had similar insights.

At the same time, our time and culture sometimes places too much affection into pets. I have seen dogs made to suffer because their owners cannot cope with their death. I believe that sometimes veterinarians are willing to encourage people into extraordinary measures for their pets that sometimes prolong the animal's suffering for this same reason. I think some wisdom from Riko's previous owners are in order. New Skete is a remarkable community, working for the reform of monastic life, much like the original monasticism was a reform movement for a church that was growing corrupted by its recent alliance with Roman authority. They love their dogs,but suggest a balance wherein the dog knows its proper place in the family. They also have have little use for paid pet cemeteries and some other modern affectations. While Riko is gone, and we will miss him, we also live in a world of great pain and tragedy. For right now, our job is to dry off our tears, get up and go on creating in goodness, truth, and beauty, and to do what we can to alleviate some of the misery and pain around us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Realignment Saturday

Saturday was a beautiful Fall Day. I did my normal chores, went to the feed mill for 100 pounds of chicken feed and 100 pounds of sheep feed, then went to breakfast at our township's little general store/diner.

My day's chores were to pick apples, but my heart and prayers were in Monroeville where our regions' churches was voting whether to leave the Episcopal Church to realign with a more orthodox Anglican Church. Before we left for the Cider press, I checked the Web and found the vote had been successful, thanks be to God. Later that night, I received our Parish notices via email, with the following:

Today, the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted by a large majority to 'realign' itself out of the Episcopal Church and into the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (an orthodox province of the Communion which includes Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Paraguay, etc.). This is a temporary measure until a new, orthodox Anglican Province can be created in the United States. This realignment was in response to the Episcopal Church's unorthodox views regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible, human sexuality, and their unethical use of litigation toward and suppression of orthodox believers in the US. In many ways, this is a joy-filled day--we are freed from the ties to a denomination that has in large measure abandoned 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' In other ways, this is a sad day--sad that it had to come to this, and sad that some relationships will be strained. So how will realignment affect GAC? It won't really; at least not on a daily basis. But realignment will help prevent the meddling and negative affects of the National Church. We at GAC will keep doing what we've been doing, and will expand our ministry to Slippery Rock and beyond. Let us pray that realignment will open up new doors for the Gospel!

While I spent my first Sunday as a member of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone puking and shivering with the flu, I am excited. I am looking forward to getting on with the mission, and joining over a thousand of my brothers and sisters at the Great Lakes Anglican awakening in Akron. Our own Bishop Duncan will be the keynote speaker.