The blog

The blog—informal opinions and chat about the parish

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Maundy Thursday

This word, Maundy, seems to be a uniquely high church thing. My childhood church was Presbyterian, but we weren't Ohio Presbyterians—we were the kind of East Coast Presbyterians whose pastor wore a clerical collar even in the middle of the week and on Sunday morning the choir and minister (all properly robed) would solemnly march up the aisle at the beginning of the service. Making the transition to the Episcopal Church was mainly a matter of learning when to kneel and when to cross myself.

Anyhow, I distinctly remember the first time I heard the term Maundy Thursday, thinking someone had foolishly mispronounced "Monday Thursday" (and wondering how those two days got mashed together). It wasn't until much later (in another Presbyterian church) that I learned that the term comes from the Latin "mandatum" ("commandment"), from Christ's words in John 13, "a new commandment I give to you."

As holy days go, this one deserves a lot more recognition. We get excited about Palm Sunday because we get to wave palm fronds around (and some of us craft them into origami crosses during the sermon), but that cannot compare with the intensity of the Last Supper, complete with Jesus's last teaching to his disciples, his object lesson of washing their feet (even the feet of traitor Judas), and the institution of the Eucharist.

At St. Matthew's we will be celebrating Maundy Thursday this year on April 13 at 7 PM, complete with foot-washing (optional, if you are squeamish) and Eucharist.

By the way, I don't expect the Queen of England to show up (she saves those visits for cathedrals in England), but here's a discussion of the roots of Maundy Thursday and the Queen's Royal Maundy. Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just how gay are we?

That title for this post is an odd, awkward question, especially in a very conservative community. On the national level, on the Diocese level (north half of Ohio, for us) and locally, we're very welcoming toward gay, lesbian, transgendered, and queer people, but visitors often have trouble seeing it. I wonder why.

Part of the reason, I suspect, has to do with age. People who were born 40+ years ago grew up in a very different environment than today. For just one small example, the popular entertainer Liberace won a libel suit against the British newspaper The Daily Mirror when they ran articles claiming he was gay (homosexuality was illegal in England at the time). There were almost no positive gay role models until recently, and even now, in the American Midwest, it is not too difficult to find ideologues who scream terrible things at the gay community. Little wonder that middle-aged and older gay people try to keep a low profile.

And simple age has something to do with it too. As a college teacher, I know that 18-year-olds in general try out all kinds of self-expressive personal styles, but tend to settle down a bit by the time they are 25. It's not a sexual orientation thing. Everyone does it. That means that a church such as ours that is middle-aged and older just is not very flamboyant. Especially on a Sunday morning.

One speaker at a conference for gay Christians said, "We're just not that interesting. We take out the garbage like everyone else."

I don't know much about the personal lives of very many priests in our diocese, but without much trouble I can name one who is transgender and several more who are gay or lesbian. The interesting thing is that their sexual orientation is not the most interesting thing about any of them. Is Father X a decent preacher? How is Father Y's parish building program going? Is Father Z's partner still struggling with grad school? But to the casual observer, their sexuality is an absolute non-issue.

It's pretty much the same at St. Matthew's. As a relative newcomer to the parish, I listen to the comments people make and I tend to store away the most remarkable ones. About the only comment I can remember anyone making about sexual orientation around here came from one of the older women a couple of years back: "We just don't have enough gay people in this parish."