The next time I’m writing a paper about a period of Lutheran history where the copyright for published materials has expired, I should take a gander at the Internet Archive. The 1958 Hymnal, History of the Maryland Synod till 1920, The Lutheran Magazine from 1830s, A Lutheran Cookbook from 1907, The Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association, 1906, etc, etc. 1690 titles! And what’s also great is that some of the uploads can be downloaded in pdf and kindle format. Argh. If only I had a few more weeks to work on my history paper….
One of the big differences between Lutherans and Episcopalians is the whole collar thing. In the Episcopal church, there are rules when someone can wear a collar. For Lutherans, there’s a sense of when a collar is appropriate but, really, if you’re in seminary and on an ordination track, you could wear one. I tend to wear one when I preach or when I visit someone in an official role. For Episcopalians, to wear a collar before you are ordained is just not done. It’s not like wearing white after Labor Day; it would be seen as assuming a role that the church has not given you yet. To do so is improper, ridiculous, threatening, and could get you in trouble.
But once a seminarian is ordained as a deacon (which, I think, is like a priest but with mojo), the rules are off. For some seniors, they are ordained a deacon a few months before they graduate. The idea is that they’ll be ordained a priest six months, or so, down the line. Seniors who are Deacons serve in the chapel in an official capacity (they get to assist at the table). It is not rare for me to see a bunch of seniors wearing their collars all around campus. They’re proud of where they are and I can’t hate on them for wearing it. But it seems that there is still a sense that some wear their collar a tad too much. There is a term on campus for when a seminarian seems to be stuck in their collar. They called it “pastor-bating.”
Yes, it’s crude, but I laughed the first time I heard it. And I usually chuckle when I hear it now. But it took me a day or two to realize that there are two insults buried in this one phrase. I think it’s obvious to get the masturbation reference but the other one is a tad hidden, even for Lutherans. The thing is, these folks aren’t being crudely identified only for their embracement of their status symbols. They’re also be degraded by being called a pastor. For a Lutheran, being a pastor is what we are; to call us otherwise would be weird. But a true Episcopalian M.Div. at GTS isn’t a pastor, they are on their way to be a priest. The word isn’t “priest-bating!” The individual is being degraded by being called a pastor first!
It’s a subtle twist and it shows the power of language. Unless I had thought about it, I would never have picked out the degrading reference to pastor in “pastor-bating. But it’s there and a sign of one of the inherent tensions between Lutherans and Episcopalians in the very language that we use to define ourselves. And even when we do call ourselves by the same term (i.e. Bishop), we still are talking about two different things. Even after the Call to Common Mission, the reality is that our relationship together is a strange one when you look at the nitty gritty. And even in our internal insults, it isn’t hard to see how the other is degraded when we degrade our colleagues. Whether that language will ever change, I don’t know. As long as we’re on this side of the eschaton, we’re going to be jerks to each other. But this has least strengthened my own recognition of the power of language even within the hierarchy of the church. How to fix it..well…I’m not sure yet. But if I figure it out, I’ll make sure to let you know.
Yesterday was the feast day of St. Mark. I hope you all threw a party! If you didn’t, that is okay, but I would send St. Mark at least a belated feast day card, just so he knows you were thinking about him.
At GTS, there is a tendency to move feast days around to either Friday or Tuesday. I’m not sure what the reasons are behind these decisions but I think it has to do with the fact that Tuesday and Friday are our big eucharist days (and when seniors preach). So, this week, we switched St. Mark’s feast day from Wednesday to Tuesday. But right before the evening eucharist, the chapel celebrated evening prayer and, lo and behold, yours truly was the reader scheduled for that day. And it just so happened that the epistle reading for evening prayer, designed to set the stage for St. Mark’s feast day [and the Lutheran reading for St. Mark’s feast day!], was 2 Timothy 4:1-11.
Now, how often do I actually read 2 Timothy? Rarely, to be honest. I tend to stick to the genuine Pauline letters (at the moment) and leave 2 Timothy off by the wayside. But, on Tuesday, I got to stand up and read 2 Timothy. And I’ll admit, I got a kick reading to the five people gathered there, 2 Timothy 4:11 “Get Mar[c] and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.”
Hell yeah I am! With just two weeks to go in this semester, with countless essays to finish (or start), this was a good thing to read. Me and you Paul? We’re tight. We’re tight.
Wherever two or three Lutherans are gathered in my Name, someone will make a bad joke about them.
– A textual variant of Matthew 18:20.
One of the more “interesting” things about being a known Lutheran at an Episcopalian seminary is that whenever I chat with my fellow Lutheran student or professor, someone feels the need to make a comment. The comment is always in jest and it’s always the same. “You’re like a Lutheran Cabal!” they’ll say and we’ll respond “that’s right! We’re plotting and taking over!” Everyone will give a half-chuckle and we’ll move on with our lives. And this happens all the time. Students, faculty, visitors – everyone says it. If anyone wanted to know what the story of my time at General has been, this joke might sum 95% of it up.
The joke usually doesn’t bother me, and I know that it comes from a loving place, but on some days (like today), my eyes can’t roll hard enough when I hear it. It’s not that I want to be left alone (I don’t) or I’m trying to not stand out (I like the attention). No, none of that bothers me. I think what bothers me the most is that it’s a sign of otherness and distance between me and entire community. Part of that is expected and true: I’m not Episcopalian and I have no desire to become one. But I also sometimes wonder if, beneath the joke, that there is an undercurrent of anguish on behalf of some who say it. For most of my classmates, they are not cradle Episcopalians. The majority of them grew up in other traditions. They came to the Episcopal church, and seminary, because the church they were called to gave them life. They love their church! They love their new traditions! They love being part of it all! They want to propel that love into the world and they really do want everyone to have that same feeling of connection, love, and completeness that the Episcopal church (or at least a congregation in it) gave them. And I totally buy that.
But I don’t think everyone realizes that what they feel about being Episcopalian is the exact same thing that I feel about being Lutheran. I sometimes wonder if they feel sorry for me for not being Episcopalian. I don’t blame them for this; I think the same way about them sometimes (because, come on, Lutheran Christianity is awesome). But I wonder if they see my friend and I chatting, imagine we’re talking in some kind of Lutheran code, and they joke with us because they just really don’t get how we can be who we are.
I don’t imagine, in many ways, that this is that much different from the experience that plagues interfaith and ecumenical dialogues all over the world. For those of us that are really into our particular flavor of faith, we should feel that our flavor is the bee’s knees. But that can actually build walls and barriers unintentionally. I think it’s completely normal for that to happen and that it is fine if it does. But I think we should at least understand that it’s happening. If not, then we’re going to keep making the same old jokes, to the same old people, over and over again, and ignore the fact that their eyes have rolled so far, they’re now on the floor and heading out the door.
On Thursday, our confirmation class was covering the book of Acts. In all honesty, it’s rough trying to cover the entire narrative of Acts in forty five minutes. Rather than give an overarching theme and narrow points, I focused the lesson on where Acts started, where it ended, and then we looked at a little at the fun-filled stories, action packed parts of Acts. The kids enjoyed the prison breaks and they got, quickly, the change in tense that occurs chapter 16. They also had no problem seeing Lydia and comparing her to the ordained women leaders at my field site. But what I’m thinking about right now, before I head off to church, is whether any of them will take the last piece of advice that I gave them. For our last story, we read Acts 20:7 where the young man falls asleep, out a window, and dies because Paul is long-winded. A couple of the kids said that they’re going to fall asleep during the sermons now and I said, if they ever get caught by the pastor, to just bring up Acts 20. Now, that got them all a little too excited and they all claim that they’re going to fall asleep during the sermon today. If they do, well, I told them not to rat me out but, in my defense, at least we’ll know they’ve been paying attention in confirmation class.
This might be, possibly, my favorite reason yet on why we should get rid of the common cup.
From the Annals of Hygiene, Volume 7, 1892. I’m starting to notice that the main agitators of the individual cup movement were based, initially, in Ohio, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. However, it wasn’t until churches in Rochester got into the business (and the Gray Lady reported on it), that things got out of hand. Now if only I had a chance to take a look at Synod minutes from Ohio….
Yesterday, I convinced two of my classmates to attend my Lutheran field site on Sunday morning. I recently discovered that my advisor (and professor of two of my classes) was going to lead the adult education hour between services. Her plan was to cover the Book of Acts. That peaked my interest because I have a group project for her class covering that very book! I convinced my group to gather together at the adult education hour with the idea of freaking her out a little. She laughed when I told her why we were there (and also informed us that the cheat sheet she handed out to us cannot be in our assignment). All in all, it was a success and I enjoyed seeing her handle the conversation. I’m usually involved with Sunday School and my time with adult education is reduced to home bible study groups and the like. In my experience, the more exposure to inquisitive adults that I get, the better. Around twenty five people showed up for the class and the conversation rarely reached into the book of Acts. Many of the questions asked were about the very structure of the bible itself – who wrote what, how was it organized, what are all the other gospels out there, if Luke and Acts are one work, why is the Gospel of John between them, etc. All were good questions and seemed to signal a hunger that I noticed after my last sermon at my field site. The congregation, in many ways, is hungry for this kind of information which is why many people enjoyed the historical context I provided. They want to know, they want to understand, and they don’t seem to be getting enough of that. I’ll need to keep that in mind as I move forward with my time there.
Besides our little fun with our professor, what I really enjoyed was what happened during our the service. A travel snafu left the assisting minister role unfilled so, five minutes before the start of the show, I robed up and prepared. I ran through the service, did my duty, sung the psalm, read the prayers, and brought a certain style and pizzaz to the whole she-bang by wearing pink socks under my alb. But what I really enjoyed was when I distributed the wine during communion. I really got a kick out of telling my classmates, classmates that I had served through their tradition (The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation) that this is “The Blood of Christ, shed for YOU.” They were on my turf and they had to suffer my tradition. Muhahahaha. Take that Episcopalians! When it comes to my rebellions against seminary, I take all the small victories that I can.
You know, as much as everything changes, everything pretty much stays the same. In the quote below, from the Lutheran Quarterly (April 1899) in an article defending the use of the individual communion cup.
On the subject of vaccination there is also a great difference of opinion. The fearful ravages of small-pox in the past, and the wonderful efficacy of vaccination in mitigating or preventing this dreadful disease, is a matter of history and is well attested, and yet there is to-day a wonderfully vigorous Anti-vaccination Society in England, which is doing all it can through literature and speech, to destroy public confidence in this benign measure. Their argument is, that the infectious character of small-pox has been unduly magnified and that modern medical methods for the treatment of this disease, need no such an ally as vaccination. These two instances are sufficient to prove that it is utter folly to declare the charge of infection from the common cup, as unproved, until there shall exist a unanimity of opinion, both among the laity and among physicians, as to the actual transference of disease germs, in the present custom. If agreement cannot be reached when positive proof is on record and abundantly attested, it will surely never occur, when in the very nature of the cause, indubitable evidence cannot be had.
The author was complaining about an anti-vaccination movement in 1899? Really? Wow, its been 113 years and it feels like nothing has changed. Except for that whole lack-of-small-pox thing.
The Blue Jay is disappointed in my lack of class participation. via buzzfeed.
The problem with going to a non-Lutheran seminary is that there is a very large language gap between Lutherans and the Episcopalians/Anglicans around me. I mean, we use the same words but we’re not saying the same thing. In my class on Ethics, we attempted to examine, somewhat, Lutheran ethics through the lens of Luther’s own perspectives. Sadly, the books that were selected were actually the wrong place to start any fruitful discussion about Lutheran ethics. Rather, they were books that reinforced the misconception that Augustinian ethics is the same thing as Lutheran ethics (Luther’s two kingdoms are not the same as Augustine’s two cities, etc.). I think, based on some massive generalizations, that such a misconception arises because of the similar words used and the fact that Anglicans love the church fathers/mothers in a non-sexual, non-threatening way, in a way that actually interferes with the realization that Reformers used Augustine in different ways. Luther is Augustinian but he’s not only reading Augustine in one way; i.e. he’s not Anglican.
Now, I know I could have raised my hand and lectured the class about where Lutheran ethics possibly starts (maybe starting from the question of what faith is) but it is getting to the point in the semester where I just don’t have the energy or desire to correct people (I’ll leave that for my papers and projects). And it didn’t help that I was tired and in a bad mood either. So I just sat there, kept myself quiet, and stewed. It was fun to see the class, however, move around on the question of Luther and work some of it out – but it grated on me. And with the internet not really working during that class period, I actually felt I had to pay attention to the discussion and that just didn’t help at all.
In the interests of full communion, maybe I should have opened my mouth and educated my classmates. But, with less than a month of classes left, I just don’t have the time.