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Friday, June 25, 2010

Heavenly Hosts

In their spare time, when they are not engaged in "Mitregate" or otherwise making a mess of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are apparently watching reruns of The Vicar of Dibly.

Apparently, Dr. Rowan Williams and Dr. John Sentamu, have written new guidelines: "Seven Heavenly Ways to Welcome Wedding Guests," in which they direct clergy that they must "learn to smile" when they meet the happy couple.

Besides learning to smile, Vicars are being ordered to offer the bride and groom and members of their wedding parties ample opportunity to have a "paparazzi moment" with cameras flashing and videos rolling to their heart's content.

Clergy are apparently told to give guests guidance on how to behave in a “permissive” fashion. This could include saying: “Make sure you turn your mobile back on after the service.”

Worshippers, who might rarely, if ever, have been in a church before, must be encouraged to “make themselves at home," say the guidelines. “Let people know where they are free to move about, let children come forward or stand on a pew for a good view.”

"Their Ruthie" - that would be, of course, Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent for The (London) Times - reports that
"marriages in the Church of England have slumped from 110,000 in 1982 to 54,000 in 2006 — less than a quarter of all marriages. To encourage couples to return, the Church has taken a number of measures, including running stands at wedding shows, and promoting itself as a cost-effective but spiritual venue. It is too soon to judge if the moves are having any effect on church wedding statistics."
Oh, dear. Oh, my. Wherever to begin?

Alright then, straight away, allow me to say the first word that comes to my mind.


There, now that I have that out of my system, please do allow me to continue. You'll notice, please, that I am smiling. Yes, yes. My teeth are grit together, but it's a smile, see? Look, bishops. I'm smiling here. As ordered.


Where was I?

Oh, yes: Clergy as "heavenly hosts".

It seems to me (and, it could be - indeed, would no doubt be - asked by these two fine doctors of theology "What do you know?" I mean, being a mere woman and of a 'certain orientation', this is 'none of my business' as it were) that they have embarked on a course of treatment before making a thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis.

Then again, that's probably not fair, is it? I'm not sure about the Sentamu, but I know Williams has never been a parish priest or vicar.

So really, how would they know?

Besides, they are not Americans (poor lambs), so who could expect them to understand the principle of 'separation of church and state'?

Put the two together and what you have is the business of marriage. Not the spirituality of marriage. Not the sanctity of marriage. Not marriage as a sacred covenant between two people in the sight of God and blessed by the Body of Christ.

No. Rather, what we have here is a business.

It's not a "theology of marriage". Rather, it's a business plan for marriage.

"Consumer religion" at its best - or worst, depending on your point of view.

All form, no substance.

Mind you - it is "teh gays" who are a real and present danger to the institution of marriage, all that is sacred and holy about family life, and are, in fact, singularly responsible for the downfall of Western Civilization.

I mean, how cheeky of us to want a sacramental rite of the church when everyone knows that what every happy couple wants is for the Vicar to look a little less dour for the wedding pictures, allow little cousin Roddy to run wherever he wants to in the church, give the ladies an opportunity to continue the great British tradition of wearing their marvelous hats, and then never darken the door of the church ever again - after they write that generous check.

How very rude of us to remind the church that marriage should not be entered into "unadvisedly or lightly but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God."

No, no, no. Bad form. Bad homosexuals.

Everyone knows that you are promiscuous.  Never mind that we can say that because we deny you the civil right and sacramental rite of marriage.  The world is a complicated place.  Buck up, you beggars.  No whining. Stiff upper lip, and all that.

But we would be ever so pleased if you would smile while we oppress you.  There you are. Well done.

Perhaps someone should press upon these two fine Doctors of Theology that, rather than superficial guidelines for the ceremony of marriage, they need to write a definitive Anglican Theology of Marriage.

You know. A wee bookie that could be given to Vicars to teach prospective brides and grooms and handed to them as part of a "Pre-Cana" course of instruction.

It seems to me that if we helped people understand the Grace of God as we know it through the administration of the sacraments and sacramental rites of the church that no one would need to be ordered to smile. It would come quite naturally.

If we understood that Jesus is always a guest at every wedding, transforming the waters of baptism into the wine in the cup of salvation and feeding us from His very body, we'd want lots and lots of pictures to capture this miraculous moment.

If we understood the joy that being part of sacramental grace brings, everyone - not just little children - would want to stand up on their pews to see the newly married couple seal their vows with a holy kiss.

Instead, what we have here is the Body of Christ being sold, once again, for thirty pieces of silver.

This is another sad bit of evidence that the Anglican Communion is being led by incompetence, fueled by anxiety, and driven by ignorance dressed up as theology and 'catholic' spirituality.

Jonathan Hagger, a priest in the Church of England known as 'Mad Priest' on his blog, "Of Course, I Could Be Wrong" illustrates this quite well with his little spoof on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

We need to be certain to order one for the Archbishop of York as well.

Jonathan's spoof makes me giggle, but I think Jesus weeps.

The world is facing serious problems, none the least of which are environmental dangers due to global warming and human arrogance (see also: The Oil Disaster in the Gulf), economic crisis, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the escalation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, human trafficking, AIDS and malaria, genocide, rape as a weapon of war, poverty, the oppression of and proposed death sentence for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, interreligious tensions and warfare - and all the Archbishops of Canterbury and York can concern themselves with is whether or not Vicars smile at weddings?

Begging your pardons, sirs. I don't mean to be rude, but I would like to suggest that this is why people are rejecting Christianity in general and the Anglican Church in particular.

It isn't because people are questioning both the authority of scripture and the authority of the church hierarchy; rather it is because the church is absolutely out of touch with the reality of the very people it has taken sacred vows to serve.

Let's worry about our own sacred vows taken at baptism and renewed at confirmation to engage in the mission of the church to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

Not adding more sheckles to the collection plate and a few more bums in the pews.

Even the Vicar of Dibly understood that.

And, you may have noticed, her smile is quite naturally lovely.


Paul (A.) said...

It may be a minor point, but exactly how many CoE clergy really own Alexander Calder artworks that they have to be reminded to turn on after performing wedding services? I could see one at Lambeth Palace, perhaps, but in your typical country vicarage -- I don't think so.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The American sculpter? If one had ever been at Lambeth Palace, it was tossed out when Rowan took up residence.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

You said it again, dear Sister!

David da Silva Cornell said...

"Perhaps someone should press upon these two fine Doctors of Theology that, rather than superficial guidelines for the ceremony of marriage, they need to write a definitive Anglican Theology of Marriage."

A needed theology -- but I'm not sure I'd actually want to entrust that particular assignment to these two specific prelates.

Assigning it to the pre-Cantuar Rowan, he of "The Body's Grace," perhaps that would have been quite great, but as for the post-Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers +++Rowan Magnus Cantuar, he of the Pope envy and the pod people, I don't think I'd trust him anywhere within 100 miles of the meeting of the words "theology" and "marriage"...

Doorman-Priest said...

"...give the ladies an opportunity to continue the great British tradition of wearing their marvelous hats"

More likely to be navel piercings these days.

Jim said...

You have such odd expectations. Church Lords are not pastors! That seat in the privy council, place in the house of lords and ability to simply ignore their own synod is the stuff of feudal power not Christian love.


susankay said...

You just couldn't make this stuff up.

Malinda said...

"the Church has taken a number of measures, including running stands at wedding shows, and promoting itself as a cost-effective but spiritual venue."

Let me just say one more time - BLECH! How many sacramental sore points does this hit?

And, I'll confess right up front that I started attending a certain parish planning to be married there - and learned later how much more meaningful it would have been if we had the relationships that grew there going in.

ps: love the dunce cap - can we send his +++self one?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

David - umm . . . now that you mention it, I take that back.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

DP - Really? I can't imagine British women giving up their hats. The addition of the navel rings doesn't surprise me, but giving up the hats? Impossible! Unthinkable!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jim - I've been known to be called a "dreamer".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susan Kay - It is a bit surreal, init?

Malinda - Thanks for seconding my "Blech!" I think we should send for the milliner and order up two caps - one for the ABC and the other for the ABY.

MarkBrunson said...

This sort of thing is the reason that, every time I see the ABC and/or ABY now, I think to myself, "Ecce, Bozo!"

wv: gosples (In the Beginning was The Wrod)

Lisa Fox said...

Fine preachin' here, my sistuh. Thanks!

Doorman-Priest said...

Elizabeth: when I am priested I will make hat wearing a condition of female attendance. I'll send you a pic!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, DP. I'm quite sure it won't be a Dunce Cap. ;~)