Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What are you REALLY doing? A Stewardship Meme

In the spirit of that meme:  what others think you are doing....what you are really doing....etc.

When you pledge money to the parish...

What the chair of the Every Member Canvass thinks you are doing?

Helping to make this year’s campaign successful.  The chair wants to see the number of new pledges go up from last year.  The chair wants to see those that pledged last year increase their pledge this year.  The chair does not want to see anyone decrease their pledge from what they pledged last year.  The chair does not want to see the number of those who pledged last year go down.  Pledging (and pledging more than last year) makes the campaign successful.

What the vestry thinks you are doing?

Supporting the mission and ministry of the parish and helping the collective dreams of the congregation come to life.  The vestry wants to fund programs and staffing that is vital to congregational life.  The vestry wants to do some work on the facility.  The vestry wants to balance the parish budget.  Your pledging makes balancing the budget a little easier.

What the treasurer thinks you are doing?

Your share to pay the bills.  We don’t want the power company to cut off the lights.  Your pledging lets the treasurer sleep a little better at night knowing that at least he or she has promises that money will be coming in to pay all the people the parish owes.

What your family thinks you are doing?

Giving money away that could be better used in other ways.  Think what we could do with all that money that is just given away.

What the rector thinks you are doing?

Practicing the spiritual discipline of giving for the good of your soul.  The rector thinks you look forward to the Every Member Canvass each year because it affords you the opportunity to review your time, talent, and treasure and how to be a good steward of what God has given you.  The rector thinks you are asking yourself:  “What do I need to give for the good of my soul and the furtherance of the Gospel?”

What God thinks you are doing?

As it is written:  “All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” 1 Chronicles 29:14.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Beginning to think about this Fall's Every Member Canvass: What kind of giver are you?

Below are four different “categories” of church membership based on the relationship between the institution and the individual.  This list is not exhaustive.  There are other “categories.”  This list is not definitive.  There are other ways to define one’s relationship to a particular congregation.  The list is meant for you to categorize yourself.  You should refrain from attempting to categorize anyone but yourself.

Each fall, the Episcopal Church conducts an “Every Member Canvass” in which the congregation asks its communicants to financially support the mission and ministry of the parish.  When you answer the appeal, you may find yourself asking and answering these questions:  What do I get from Church? Why do I give to the Church?  Do I get my money’s worth?

Different people answer the questions in different ways.  Its important to remember that everyone else is not in your same “category.”

The categories below are not mutually exclusive.  You can be in more than one (e.g. “A little bit of Anthony and a little bit of Ben”).

Category A:  “Anthony and Andrea”

What do I get from Church?

  1. A beautiful place and a tasteful liturgy for my funeral, wedding, or baptism for myself or my family.
  2. A weekly outing to see friends and experience tasteful liturgy (good music, correct English grammar, good order, well done, etc.).
  3. Some programming for myself or my family that is enjoyable and that I find valuable and/or helpful for me or my family.

Why do I give to the Church?

  1. So I can have a beautiful place and a tasteful liturgy for my funeral, wedding, or baptism for myself or my family.
  2. So I can have a weekly outing to see friends and experience tasteful liturgy (good music, correct English grammar, good order, well done, etc.).

Do I get my money’s worth?

  1. No.  Church is far too expensive for what you get in return, but if items (1), (2) and (3) above are important to you, then its just the price you have to pay.
  2. No, and I’m not going to continue giving to the Church; its a poor use of my limited resources.
  3. Yes.  I contribute to the extent that I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth and no more.

Category B:  “Ben and Beatrice”

What do I get from Church?

  1. a place to (pick one) play bridge, attend AA meetings, enjoy the fellowship of a sewing circle, attend a board meeting of a local non-profit, enjoy the fellowship of a community group.

Why do I give to the Church?

  1. I don’t give.  The Church offers this service to me and I accept their generosity.
  2. I drop a little something in the plate or by the office from time to time; enough, I figure, to help off-set the wear and tear on the building created by my group or activity.

Do I get my money’s worth?

  1. Yes.  I contribute to the extent that I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth.  Its important to me that I pull my own weight, so I give what I think is a reasonable amount for what I receive.
  2. Yes.  Its hard to beat free.

Category C:  “Candice and Carl”

What do I get from Church?

  1. A bit of freedom from my guilt.  I feel guilty because I don’t do enough for others or I do too much for myself and going to Church helps balance the scale of justice. 
  2. It is what you are supposed to do.  Going to Church is something I can do that I should be doing (like flossing my teach, eating healthy meals, exercising three times a week, wearing sunscreen, voting in elections, etc.)  When I go, I get to check it off my to do list and feel good about myself for having done what I should be doing.
  3. I’d feel guilty if I didn’t go.  My parents taught me to go to Church and if I didn’t go, I would not be living up to the ideals they set before me.
  4. I’d be ashamed if others saw that I was not going.  They would think I was a bad person.  Going to Church means I avoid the shame associated with not going.

Why do I give to the Church?

  1. to relieve my guilt.
  2. to avoid shame.
  3. to fulfill my duty.

Do I get my money’s worth?

  1. Yes; and more--because I never give enough.
  2. Yes; I fulfill what is expected of me.

Category D:  “Doris and Dan”

What do I get from Church?

  1. to be a part of a community that is dedicated to trying to follow Jesus.
    1. encouragement on the “journey”
    2. opportunity to be shaped and formed by the community into what God wants me to become.
    3. chance to help others:  both those who are “on the journey” with me and those who have not begun to “travel this path.”  Helping others is one of the ways I am shaped and formed.
  2. a chance to practice my faith in a concrete (flesh and blood) way.  Being spiritual is not enough for me, I need the material--the grit, dirt, and mess--of trying to live my faith in a community of others who are trying to do the same.
  3. The opportunity to pray to God with others.
  4. The opportunity to learn about God with others.
  5. The opportunity to serve others in God’s name.

Why do I give to the Church?

  1. Giving is one of the ways I am being shaped and formed by the community--it is one of the spiritual disciplines that can change me when I practice it, make it a habit.
  2. I believe in the mission of the Church and I want to support that mission.

Do I get my money’s worth?

  1. Yes, and more!  By giving of my time and my talents and my treasure, I get something that is priceless.
  2. Yes, the giver always receives more than the one receiving.  It is a paradox of love.
  3. The question is the wrong question.  Its not about me getting; its about how much I need to give.  I don’t ask “How much is this worth?” (I couldn’t afford it!)  Rather, I ask myself, what does God require of me, ask of me, expect of me.  I ask “How much do I need to give.”

On Sermon Writing

Sermons, as part of the Holy Eucharist service, with it's weekly lectionary, "come around real regular." Sometimes, I find the time between sermons insufficient.  Such was the case the week just past.

Texts are always multi-faceted (philosopher Paul Ricoeur would say that there is always a "surplus of meaning").  Preachers therefore have to edit.  Usually best to focus on one facet.  Last week, I decided to give a summary description of a few of the various facets I saw.  I needed another week to edit it down to one.  I just couldn't decide, couldn't choose.  So, rather than doing one facet justice....

All preachers preach "clunkers" from time to time.  Preachers are also notoriously bad at knowing a "clunker" when they give it.  They usually love the clunkers and are embarrassed by the sermons that are actually effective proclamations of the gospel.  Anytime I preach, what I am sure is the worst sermon I have ever preached, I'll receive handwritten notes about how important the sermon had been to someone.  And, conversely, when I am just sure I "hit the ball out of the ballpark," I stand at the back door shaking hands wondering why no one is saying how wonderful the sermon was.

Next time I get to preach to preachers, I should reflect on the hubris of preachers and how hard the Holy Spirit has to work around us.  I envision the Holy Spirit as a contestant on this "ninja" game show I saw my son watching on T.V.  The goal is to complete an obstacle course.  Some contestants make it to the end. Some do not.  The sermon, in this analogy, is the obstacle course.  The Holy Spirit is the contestant.  The goal is for the Holy Spirit to get through "the obstacle course" and reach a listener, usually in a pew, with some good news.  We preachers can create some challenging "courses."

As I think about it, I kinda like the image of the Holy Spirit as a ninja.  Goes rather well with the "not peace but a sword" text of last week.  Good thing I didn't think of it last week.  It would have ended up another "facet" that I felt compelled to explore!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gradual? Sequence? Hymn? Alleluia? Psalm?

This week I was asked about the use of the term "Gradual."  My answer led to a question on the use of the term "Sequence."   My answer then led to a discussion of "Alleluia" and psalms, and hymns.  It occurred to me that this is highly confusing.  Below is an unraveling of the mystery!

Since you asked.....The Prayer Book (1979) rubric reads: "a psalm, hymn or anthem may follow each Reading" (p.357).  It is common practice in the Episcopal Church to read (or chant) a Psalm after the first reading, and sing a hymn after the second reading.

The hymn after the second reading might take the form of one of the proper “Sequences“ of yore or, more likely in practice, any hymn related to the readings.  When a hymn is used rather than a proper “Sequence,” it is often informally called a “Sequence Hymn” (that is; a hymn in the place of the “Sequence”).

Many sequences were composed in the middle ages, but the Council of Trent (1545-1563) sought to streamline the liturgy and reduced the number of sequences to those for Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and the Mass for the Dead. The sequence Stabat Mater was reinstated by the Roman Catholic Church in 1727 for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, which was celebrated on Sept. 15. The historic sequences for Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary continue to be used in the Episcopal Church, although the feasts of Corpus Christi and the Seven Sorrows are not included in the Episcopal calendar of the church year. 

Those four sequences in The Hymnal 1982 include: for Easter, Victimae Paschali laudes, "Christians to the Paschal victim" (Hymn 183); for Pentecost, Veni Sancte Spiritus, "Come, thou Holy Spirit bright" (also known as "the Golden Sequence") (Hymn 226); for Corpus Christi, Lauda Sion Salvatorem, "Zion, praise thy Savior, singing" (Hymn 320); and for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, "At the cross her vigil keeping" (Hymn 159). The Hymnal 1982 also provides a contemporary tune for "Come, thou Holy Spirit bright," Arbor Street (Hymn 227). 

The confusion about labels is seemingly unending and doesn’t end with the term “Sequence.” The “Gradual” (Latin: graduale)  is also referenced at this point in the worship of Episcopal Churches. In the Roman Catholic liturgy of yore it was a responsorial psalm sung after the reading of the Epistle and before the Alleluia, (or, during penitential seasons, when there is no Alleluia, before the Tract). 

Today, In the Episcopal Church, the “Gradual” usually denotes a responsorial setting for the Psalm.  Confusion ensues because, in the common practice of Episcopalians, the Psalm is most often sung or read after the first reading.  So, if you sing a responsorial setting of the Psalm you might call it a “Gradual,” but you would be singing it after the first reading and not after the Epistle.  Sometimes when a hymn is used instead of the psalm that hymn is labeled the “Gradual Hymn.”  Since the psalm is often sung earlier in the service than the “graduale” of yore--the term “Gradual” sometimes refers to a hymn sung after the first reading, but sometimes (more often) it refers to a hymn sung after the second reading (a hymn in the place of the “graduale” of the Tridentine liturgy).

To further complicate matters, “Gradual” can also refer to a book collecting all the musical items of Holy Eucharist.  The official such book for the Catholic Church is the Roman Gradual (in Latin, Graduale Romanum).  Bruce Ford composed responsorial psalms for the Episcopal Church based on the Revised Common Lectionary and sometimes his collection of responsorial psalms is called the “Gradual.”

Therefore, with all these various uses of the term, one can only tell what is intended by the context.  Even context, however, cannot help from time to time.  In such cases, one must simply ask the speaker to clarify.  They will probably think “everyone knows what a gradual is” and that you are an idiot.  Not to worry.  :-)


*NOTE:  In the Tridentine Mass

Between the Epistle and the Gospel two (sometimes three) choir responses are sung or said. Usually these are a Gradual followed by an Alleluia; but between Septuagesima Sunday and Holy Saturday, or in a Requiem Mass or other penitential Mass the Alleluia is replaced by a Tract, and between Easter Sunday and Pentecost the Gradual is replaced by a second Alleluia. On a few exceptional occasions (most notably Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and in a Requiem Mass), a Sequence follows the Alleluia or Tract.