Thursday, January 22, 2009

Praying for the President ... in a Different Voice

A local Lansing colleage, Zach Bartels, who is pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church, suggested a website to me. The Presidential Prayer Team is a web site that was set up after 9/11 to pray for then-President George W. Bush. It continued to organize people to pray for the president, to pray during the election season, and then to pray during the transition. Now that Barack Obama is president, they have a program to pray through the first 100 days, and then will continue to encourage Americans to pray daily for the president.

I have signed on to pray with their prayer guides through the first 100 days. Now this is an odd and different thing for me. First, I am perfectly capable of praying on my own for the President. Our Prayer Book has several appropriate prayers for just this purpose.

But I am stepping out of my religious comfort zone to pray with other Christians who probably don't ... no, I'm pretty darn sure they don't ... agree with me on matters of Biblical interpretation, who gets saved, and how much or little government should intervene in people's personal lives. I don't really pray this way myself -- for instance, I don't understand what it means to ask for God to "anoint" somebody. This is not my spiritual milieu.

But I want to be connected to people who DON'T always think or pray like I do. I want to feel that sense of Church ... Church with a Big C ... the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that binds all followers of Jesus into one Body. I respect the fact that these people -- most of whom probably did not vote for Obama -- are praying for him to succeed as our President.

President Obama said Tuesday that "the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply." I am hopeful that the same holds true for the stale religious arguments that have consumed us for so long.

Via this website, I am praying with my brothers and sisters who are Promise Keepers, friends of Focus on the Family, avid listeners to Christian radio and viewers of the 700 Club. We are all praying for the same thing, for strength and grace and clarity and safety for our new president.

Maybe in Christ there truly IS no East or West, but "all Christly souls are one in him, throughout the whole wide earth."

+ Kit

Monday, January 19, 2009

Episcopalians and the Inauguration -- A Disproportionate Presence

For a teeny tiny denomination, for a denomination that is NOT the denomination of the incoming president (who is UCC), the Episcopal Church is getting a lot of visibility during the inauguration ceremonies of Barack Obama.

Yesterday, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, gave the opening prayer prior to the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial:

Then tomorrow morning, prior to the Inaugural Ceremony itself, the Obamas will attend a private prayer service at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, directly across from the White House. Dallas megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes will preach. Franklin D. Roosevelt began the tradition of attending a private prayer service at St. John's prior to his inauguration. Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents did the same. (George W. Bush has worshipped regularly at St. John's throughout his tenure, a fact rarely noted by his evangelical backers ...)

On Wednesday, the Cathedral Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, better known as the National Cathedral,will host an interfaith prayer service. The Right Reverend John B. Chane, bishop of Washington, the cathedral dean, the Rev. Samuel Lloyd, and our own Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will participate.

Maybe Obama will be moved by our wonderful liturgy and culture of welcome and respect, to choose an Episcopal church for his church home in Washington. St. John's, also known as "The Church of the Presidents", is convenient and pre-screened for presidential security. But Obama is known to love the rocking choirs of the Black Church. In which case, perhaps he would enjoy worship at St. George's Episcopal Church, located near Howard University. On the first and third Sundays of every month, it offers straight up Episcopal worship. But on the second and fourth Sundays, Voices of Praise, the parish's gospel choir, provides the music leadership in an up-tempo, gospel style.

Anyway, for the next few days, Episcopalians will be front and center. Don't miss the opportunity to tell your friends, "Yes, that's MY CHURCH!"

+ Kit

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Story of the Black National Anthem

Yes, you did see Chaplain Sarah and me in tears today as we sang the closing hymn, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." This hymn has long been known as the "Negro National Anthem," or the "Black National Anthem." It was sung daily in black schools, immediately following the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The song was written in the year 1900 by the African-American poet James Weldon Johnson and was set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson, for a celebration of Lincoln's birthday. In his autobiography, Weldon wrote of the song's composition that he paced back and forth on the front porch of his house, repeating the lines of the song over and over to himself in an agony of creation. When he came up with these two lines -- Sing a song, full of the faith that the dark past has taught us./Sing a song, full of the hope that the present has brought us--he wrote that was when the spirit of the poem came full upon him.

So much has happened in the intervening 108 years since this song was written. So much has happened in my own life time. On this weekend when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on Tuesday, when King's dream becomes reality as Barack Obama takes the oath of office and becomes our president -- the song just hit me. I thought of all those children in all those schools singing this song day after day in a world that offered them little hope for the future. I thought of Dr. King and his persistent leadership and witness. And I thought of our new president, a man elected not for the color of his skin, but for the content of his character.

The man who wrote this song, the people who have sung it over the generations, believed in the promise of our nation, trusted that the rule of law would prevail, that the Bill of Rights applied to everyone. Their faith has not been in vain.

Thank God!

+ Kit

(The photo above is a statue called "The Harp" by Augusta Savage. It is her visual representation of "Lift Every Voice and Sing.")

Saturday, January 17, 2009

And now for something even more completely different ...

As different from the previous video as you can imagine. A 60 Minutes segment on Wyclef Jean's charity in Haiti.

We are in serious need of twin sheet sets (new) and towels (also new) among other items to take on our trip to Haiti in March. Please drop them off at church as soon as you can. See me or Pam Miklavcic with any questions.

+ Kit

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What Next for the "nonchurchy" Church of the Saviour?

The Church of the Saviour, an activist, social-justice based, completely UNdenominational church, is at a crossroads.

Founded by Gordon Cosby in the late 1940s, Church of the Saviour combined spiritual contemplation, prayer and reflection, with an astounding array of public ministries that provided housing, found jobs, ministered to people with AIDS/HIV, helped homeless women, and created a rural retreat center for rest and refreshment.

Now, at 91, Cosby is stepping down. The church is selling its home, a mansion on DC's Massachusetts Avenue. What happens next is anyone's guess.

But the vision of Church of the Saviour, I believe, will continue. So many Christians, leaders, priests, pastors, professors, and countless disciples of Jesus have passed through its cell churches, been formed by its programs, shaped by Cosby's mission to the world. I think what all of us have learned from the simple existence of Church of the Saviour will continue: that we live for others, particularly the least of these. That all our ministry must be grounded in total submission to Jesus Christ, and that it is in giving ourselves away that we discover ourselves at last.

The guiding vision of the Church of the Saviour's ministry is this statue, once found on the street outside its headquarters, but later moved to the Wellspring Retreat Center in Maryland. It shows Jesus ready to wash his disciples' feet. And Jesus looks like all the homeless men out on the cold streets of the city.

+ Kit

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Week (or so) With Wisnel

Wisnel Dejardin, the seminarian we sponsor from Haiti, visited All Saints over the Christmas break. He arrived just before Christmas, to find bitterly cold temperatures, and lots and lots of snow. He had never seen snow before and was amazed that it just went on and on. "What do people do in it?" he asked. Well, shovel it mostly, I said, but also ski in it and sled, and play. He stayed with the Miklavcic family at first, where the children taught him what THEY do in the snow.

Later, the Miklavcics also took him to Potter Park Zoo, where he delighted in seeing exotic animals up close, moving and living. He said the zoo was probably the most amazing part of his trip.

Wisnel was with us in church on Christmas Eve as a chalicist. He also attended the Sunday morning Bible Study. The Caliman family took him to dinner, and Dedria Barker took him to Ann Arbor for a day, so he could see That Other School.

Vic Rauch and Ellen deRosia were his host family for the rest of the trip. They shared some Mexican games with him, took him to the women's basketball game, and to various parties.

It was a wonderful chance for Wisnel to learn more about America beyond the confines of the seminary grounds, and to see a piece of the United States he might never have seen otherwise. It was also an opportunity for us to welcome someone we have prayed for during all these months, and whom we have helped along in his seminary studies.

Please continue to keep Wisnel in your prayers as he returns to his studies at VTS, and also as he prepares for his ordination to the diaconate in the summer.

+ Kit

Saturday, January 3, 2009

As Always, Auden

At this point in the Christmas feast, with the New Year begun and Epiphany just around the corner, I always turn to this section from W.H. Auden's poem "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio." It reminds me how easy it is to pack up the Incarnate One with the trimmings, and how important it is to hang on, even if only by a single thread, to the vision of the season.

+ Kit

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,

Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --

Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.

The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,

And the children got ready for school. There are enough

Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,

Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --

To love all of our relatives, and in general

Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable

Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,

Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,

The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,

And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware

Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought

Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now

Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,

Back in the moderate Aristotelian city

Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry

And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,

And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.

It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets

Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten

The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen

The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,

The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.

For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly

Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be

Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment

We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;

Remembering the stable where for once in our lives

Everything became a You and nothing was an It.