Keeping Advent Online

90_20_2-advent-candle_webHere are a number of good online Advent Resources to explore:

The Church of England has its own online Advent calendar

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s 2009 version begins with a brilliantly-colored nativity scene that is actually a child’s puzzle by a Sri Lankan cooperative working with SERRV International.

The Diocese of Maryland’s 2009 calendar features daily mediations from diocesan leaders, centered Advent themes and the church’s calendar of saints.

Beliefnet Interactive Advent Calendar. Popular online Advent calendar.

Trinity Church Wall Street’s 2009 calendar offers a video each day produced by Trinity Wall Street as part of a series called Anglican Communion Stories.

Love Blooms Bright: An Advent blog from the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The online community of i-church, founded by the Diocese of Oxford in the United Kingdom, has a calendar that includes contributions written, created, sung and chosen by i-church members and friends, according to an explanation on the community’s “gatehouse” page.

A Bach Christmas Calendar. BBC Radio 3 provides this attractive online calendar for the month of December.

A stained-glass window Advent calendar from Grace Cathedral (San Francisco) with audio clips, articles and books.

Full Homely Divinity is a ‘website for the Anglican at the Altar and especially for the Anglican in the pew.’ It has expanded its offering of Advent material, and has a new page on the Saints of Advent, as well as another called Rediscovering Advent.

An Advent page from King of Peace Episcopal Church (Georgia, USA) with explanations, dates, traditions, the text of a wreath service, and so forth.

Archbishop’s Reflections on Advent. Rowan Williams reflects on YouTube about calendars, self-examination, chocolate, hope, repentance, quiet, and waiting.

Love Blooms Bright: This Advent blog from the Scottish Episcopal Church, launched in 2007, returns again this year

Praying Advent. This site offers simple ways to enter into this Advent season, week by week, in the midst of our everyday lives.’ From Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

St Nicholas: Discovering the Truth about Santa Claus. A wonderful website. ‘St. Nicholas Center is a virtual center, a website, where people can learn about St. Nicholas; it provides resources for families, churches, and schools.

Saint Nicholas Tradition. Canon Jim Rosenthal, founder of the St Nicholas Society, spoke on 19 December 2008 issue of the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly programme about the sainted Bishop of Myra. Video and text are now available online.

HT to Anglicans Online

Grateful

holding hands

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying “welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.”

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend and friendless;
All together everyone in the gift of loving-kindness.

Grateful for what’s understood,
And all that is forgiven;
We try so hard to be good,
To lead a life worth living.

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend, and friendless;
All together everyone, let grateful days be endless.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

Thanksgiving Song Mary Chapin Carpenter
℗ 2008 Zoe Records

Rowan Williams Offers a Challenge in Rome

RowanblackThe Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, speaking at a congress in Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, called for a renewed effort in promoting greater visible unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

“Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church has been involved in a number of dialogues with other churches – including with the Anglican Communion – which have produced a very considerable number of agreed statements.  The strong convergence in these agreements about what the Church of God really is, is very striking.  The various agreed statements of the churches stress that the Church is a community, in which human beings are made sons and daughters of God, and reconciled both with God and one another.  The Church celebrates this through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion in which God acts upon us to transform us ‘in communion’.

Therefore the major question that remains is whether in the light of that depth of agreement the issues that still divide us have the same weight – issues about authority in the Church, about primacy (especially the unique position of the pope), and the relations between the local churches and the universal church in making decisions (about matters like the ordination of women, for instance).  Are they theological questions in the same sense as the bigger issues on which there is already clear agreement?  And if they are, how exactly is it that they make a difference to our basic understanding of salvation and communion?  But if they are not, why do they still stand in the way of fullervisible unity?

At the conclusion of the lecture, Dr. Williams stated :

All I have been attempting to say here is that the ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full – and then to ask about the character of the unfinished business between us.  For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain. And if it isn’t, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?

It is an excellent lecture and an important response from the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.  The full text of the lecture can be found here.

Making God Credible

6a00d83451da9669e201287588412b970c-320wiIn a sermon given at All Saints Margaret Street on November 1, Archbishop Rowan Williams reminded his listeners that God does not make himself credible by argument, but by the lives and deaths of faithful people who engage their human journey with courage and hope.

Speaking about our “contemporary anxieties” in the Anglican Communion, Rowan stated:

We need to tell the stories of the Saints to remind ourselves what is possible and within any Christian family. We need to tell the stories of those who have made God credible to us. And within our Anglican family we need to go on telling a few stories about those who have shown us that it is possible to lead lives of Catholic holiness even in the Communion of the See of Canterbury! We need to be reminded of what we have to be grateful for in the lives of those who within our communion and fellowship have lived out God’s presence and made him credible here in this fellowship with these people. God knows what the future holds for any of us for any of our ecclesiastical institutions, but we can at least begin with what we can be sure of; that God has graced us with the lives of Saints; that God has been credible in this fellowship with these people. This church with its very particular place in the history of the Church of England is one small but significant facet of that great mystery and that great gift. And at times when the future seems more than usually chaotic and uncertain, it doesn’t hurt simply to give thanks.

Read the entire sermon here.

It is a brilliant sermon and one that reminds us how to transcend the polarizations of our time.

Stewards of God’s Mysteries

cloisterIn early October, I had the good fortune to attend the clergy retreat of the Diocese of Virginia and hear meditations offered by  both Br. Curtis Almquist (Superior) and Br. Geoffry Tristram from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE).  I was particularly struck by Brother Geoffry’s meditation on “Stewards of God’s Mysteries,” in which he probed the practice of leadership within the Church.  The value of leadership in much of our contemporary culture is measured by performance.  Brother Geoffry reminded us of the writing of  Herbert Marcuse, the 20th century philosopher and political theorist, who wrote that modern society has been dominated by “the performance principle.”

“We are as a society anxiety-ridden because under this rule, society is stratified according to the competitive performances of its members.”

Marcuse argued that almost inevitably, we begin to regard our essential value as human beings in terms of how we perform or how much we produce.  Life lived under the “performance principle” is life seen as essentially earned, a life by which we justify our existence by how well we perform and by what we produce.  Brother Geoffry stated:

What about us who are called to be leaders in God’s church?  Is “performance” the right and appropriate criterion for judging how successful we are as leaders?  And in any case, what it the product?

I think St. Paul gets closest to describing the product and also our role as leaders in 1 Corinthians chapter 4:1, “Think of us in this way–think of us as stewards of God’s mysteries.”  And he goes on to say, “It is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy.”  So for St. Paul, in some ways the product, if you can call it that, is the mystery of God, and the criterion for successful leadership is not performance but being found trustworthy or faithful.

It is difficult to resist the pressure to apply the criteria of secular leadership to what it is we have been called to.  If the “product” is God’s mysteries, and if the criterion of good performance is not successful sales or profit, but being found trustworthy or faithful, what does that really mean?  Brother Gregory answers:

It means we cannot sell God’s mysteries, but we can teach them as merciful revelation, we can celebrate them in the liturgy, we can invoke them as healing and pardon, and we can live them as the deepest meaning of our lives (emphasis mine).

A great deal of the tension I find as a leader, and I know this to be true for many of my parishioners, is establishing a consistent rhythm of life where nourishing the contemplative dimension of one’s life is priority number one.  I quoted Sarah Coakley in a recent post, but her words resonate again with me in light of Brother Geoffry’s helpful teaching:

Often even ministers don’t think enough about how Christian life is magnetized and electrified by being lived prayerfully. When you meet a priest or a minister who is living prayer, you never forget that person. That person may be bumblingly inefficient on the budget, useless about remembering to come to appointments, all other kinds of things that they’re meant to do right, and yet have the most fantastic impact on people’s lives.

It seems to me that in order to pursue a contemplative way of leadership, one needs to keep a regular pattern of prayer, personal care, and accompaniment with other like-minded friends.  When you think about it, this was the way that Jesus himself made the journey and so must we.