History of Hope in the Episcopal Church. 

I’m currently reading one of the classics of Episcopal Church history, “Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church”, and am struck by the power, simplicity, piety, and orthodoxy of the first generations of Episcopal clergy and bishops. This history features people like Alex Viets Griswold, Benjamin Moore, Philander Chase, Charles Pettit McIlvaine, John Henry Hobart, all so singularly committed to spreading the Gospel, making disciples, and building up the Episcopal Church according to the Scriptures and the Creeds. 

What’s most encouraging to me about what I’m reading is that these people of such passionate and committed Christian faith in the Episcopal Church were coming of age and into ministry at a time when the Episcopal Church seemed on the verge of extinction.Based on where the Episcopal Church was in 1790, the idea that it would still exist in 1840 seemed something of a pipe dream. But personal commitment by faithful individuals to being faithful Anglicans in America was able to reverse the trajectory and bring about steady growth in our communion that lasted a century and a half.

So, I’m encouraged and inspired. I’m also challenged. When reading the story of the early Diocese of Virginia, it seemed like that Church was dead. Few communicants, fewer clergy, and a culture where the church  seemed to exist for rich skeptics debating whether God existed or Christianity was ultimately a force for good (sound familiar?).  

But the church was kept alive through the personal faithfulness of the laity and a commitment to personal and family devotions centered around the study of Scripture and the Prayer Book. It took over a decade of patient and faithful devotion but it eventually succeeded. 

If we as Episcopalians commit ourselves and our families to strong spiritual and devotional lives centered on “the teaching of the Apostles and…the prayers”, we have a great chance to see our history return in the near future.

Advertisements

Psalm 151, a spoken word poem. By Zachary Page.

extend your ear, Mother of the circle, of all creation

behold your peculiar people, now talking madly around your blessed revelation

how immaculate our process, how simple how, pure

if only, yes then, wait minute that, are you sure?

that this is what you intended when you sent your Spirit out?

some days I’m just not so sure what it’s all about

see how we go along, picking and choosing with such care

but consider the cross, the prison cell, is this not our history to share?

Peace-check, Simplicity-yes, well relatively, Integrity-sounds good to me

but when does all this just shroud us in the blanket of liberal complacency

all of this sounds good on paper, so lets minute that:umpteen dash one

what else could we do, well out of time today, let’s be silent now we’re done

and yes quiet is good sometime, but so is preaching from the trees

forgive me if all this minuting seems a little like a tease

what do we have left if we lose our tongue to preach?

look out-it’s First Day School, these beautiful young faces and us with little to teach

maybe we could begin by speaking of the living water that springs from a rock

but if we did that, we might have to relinquish a worship style governed         by a clock

our young people may well demand some changes to our style and pace

perhaps more dangerously, they often call us to be faithful, face to face

is this why we separate ourselves, telling them that they’re not ready? better to keep them out if we hope to keep this little boat steady

and I keep thinking about that boat and this here storming

all these wars and injustices swarming

and there He comes, walking out across the water, the raging storm all around

but we look away, hoping for something that makes sense by way of dry

ground

surrounded now we try desperately to cover our head

but He calls out: get up and get out of this boat, leave your fear and              dread

He called then, as he calls now:step away from the boat

then again, perhaps He’d understand our position better if we minuted

that we can’t float

it’s just to much to take in, that she will provide,

so we just keep to the clock, and keep on sitting side by side

but I kept on reading, this time skipping a few chapters back

and here’s another story of God’s people complaining of what they lack

a captured people scared to be faithful, the story reads the same

then and now, Pharaoh’s slaves-frightened divided and tame

but the message is clear-She will give us the manna we need

plenty to go around, if we choose this feed

but how would we know, that yes, now we had enough

when all our consideration revolves around our stuff

locked into that liberal narrative that says you can straddle both sides of       the line

loving your brothers and sisters on one side, and on the other keeping        all that is mine

you could look at all this and say it is our luxury or privilege to choose

or you could see that it is those with everything that have everything to lose

this is the eye of the needle standing before us

and from every corner, the rebellious house sings its chorus

ino our language, our mind-think, our TV

“not now, not this, not me”

but the blood is on our hands-this is our stain

you cannot be neutral on a moving train

but oh, when we hop off-the possibilities we might see

perhaps then we would hear the Truth in Her child’s decree

Listen

no longer are you servants, passive and incomplete

now called Friends, from this moment, from this seat

stand up, quake as you rise

the Power lies inside of you, Love is the prize

bearing, believing, hoping, enduring-all

this is the still, small voice of Her child’s call

so stand out, speak up, stepp off the curb

away from the way of life that has built ‘burb after ‘burb

let us begin as that change without the burden of guilt or doubt

she is calling to us again, Pharaoh’s slaves-exodus out!

out into the desert, out into her care

faith is a choice and I for one am dog-tired of despair

so I pray

here I am Lord, there are some of us yet, willing to risk it all, to suffer,             and take a chance

willing to hear, willing to be transformed, willing to do the time, willing

to advance

in the name of the Covenant, in the name of the Beloved Community, in your blessed name,

these feet were made for walking, get up and walk, cured by Truth,                behold the lame,

how freed from Cain’s mark, released from our task of domination and toil,

the desert may bloom, a new harvest bursting forth from rich soil.

I raise this prayer up to God and up through each of you

it is up to us now, in our hands to know what to do

Jesus dared to call us his Friends in John’s gospel 15:15

will we take this opportunity and be baptized in the prophetic stream?

the servant pleads “not now, not this, not me”

but we’re Friends, now and forever-let’s get free!