Continuing Home

The ongoing saga of a Continuing Anglican church home, as seen by a member of the laity.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Anglican Evangelism IV: The Five Elements

Arrived home dead tired last night from my summer "week chock-full o' committee meetings." Late into work this morning, even later leaving what with all the e-mail exchanges I had to initiate before leaving for another week, this time driving. (I truly detest back-to-back trips; too much can go wrong.) I missed Evensong but somehow still arrived at church before supper, though I was dragging.

Tonight was the fourth class in the series, titled "The Five Elements." Fr. Daniel opened the class with the Prayer for Missions, and then an overview of what we could cover tonight. Main emphasis (according to my notes): we are to "make disciples" and not "preach" -- Anglican evangelism is as noted before a long process with much follow-up past the "conversion" point. We aren't "saved" once we're "Saved" (or "born-again" or whatever you want to label it -- a Greek Orthodox friend makes this point over and over, and C.S. Lewis notes the point also in The Screwtape Letters).

And in fact the class topics tonight were focused on the one-on-one, revisiting the overall title of "How to Share Your Faith Without Losing Your Friends." This isn't foreign-mission evangelism we're discussing, this is close-to-home stuff -- how to talk to a friend or someone else with whom you already have some kind of relationship. (This may be the harder kind, because if you blunder you may lose a friend; blunder in a street-corner soap-box ministry and a day later hardly anyone will remember you enough to identify you.)

So the main points tonight were "The Five Elements" of evangelism. I'm not going to walk through them, though they're available in the source text (which I have already linked, but which I hope to re-post a week hence in the multiple-document format, including handouts, that Matt developed from the original). I will just note a few key quotes that will give a hint:

- This is not a cold call on a stranger about a stranger.
- Forcing a witness on someone before they can object is not helpful.
- Asking permission is better than asking forgiveness. (How often do we hear the reverse of this?!)
- Conversion usually takes lots of time.
- Evangelism can be described as the ministry of introductions.

We've had a bunch of spinoff ideas that will be explored. Already a Google Group has been formed for class members (graduates?) to discuss ideas. One already raised is: how do we introduce our form of worship to those who may be new to Anglicanism? I expect lots of active discussion on that topic, drawing in part on various churches' response to that question.

The one thing that seemed clear (to me): we thing we have something special even in the Christian orbit, and we want to share it.

We're beginning to learn how.

I hit the road to California tomorrow, with uncertain Internet access for the next week. I'll be back when I can.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Anglican Evangelism III: Practice

Well, I won't say that for me the evening started off well -- it didn't. First, I've been wrestling with a proposal (out for comment) by a government agency that, for all that it might be well-meaning, will hurt a lot of folks. So rather than writing on this blog for the past week I've been dissecting the proposal and writing comments (lots of them) in the hopes of improving the situation, as well as bringing some lawmakers into this process.

Second, tomorrow morning I take off for my summer "week chock-full o' committee meetings." Which means a very early rising, and as I didn't get enough sleep last night, I didn't want to be up late tonight. (So why am I writing this? Well, the computer was still on when I got home, I'm not quite sleepy enough yet, and I wanted to capture tonight's class while it was fresh. And to e-mail myself the week's assignment so I can work on it during the trip.) I just knew the class would run over, so I was really tempted to stay home tonight.

But I was pretty sure I'd be kicking myself if I missed it, so I went. Other trip preparations got in the way, so I was very late to Evensong. To my surprise, it was only about halfway through when it should have been almost done -- and in fact it ran 15 minutes over. Although Evensong was lovely, being late did not help my mood, I confess, and when supper wound up at 7:20 PM instead of 7:00 PM, it declined. Just a bit of frustration and worry, two of my regular/continual failings, I confess.

But tonight: I should have kicked myself if I'd missed it. I'd looked at the material a while ago and vaguely recalled tonight was going to involve "sharing your faith" with others, with practice in groups. This, I think, is the kicker for most Anglicans, and Gordon in fact noted that even within the Anglican churches he's seen men don't talk about their faith. We don't (yet) in the Men's Group. (Hm! Could this be one avenue to the goal of "How do we integrate evangelism into our parish community"? Practice before the group might be an excellent idea, sort of along the lines of tonight's practice; we'd have to start off with those with the courage to do same, but I am ahead of myself.)

In any event, we were given 10 minutes to write down our story, with a number of different approaches given. I was still in my "down" mood, and not certain what was ahead, so I wrote little.

When it came to forming groups of three (or four) with the "sharing/review" program laid out, I was delighted when the groups became not "who was sitting closest" but divided so couples were in different groups which resulted in my group containing two others with whom I could easily share my particulars. Suddenly things brightened.

In our group I led off with my story. Well, not the whole thing because there wasn't time for it all and I realized that under the pressure I skipped a few supporting elements (a picture I failed to fully round out, for example), but under the right circumstances and to the right person this was something I could share with others.

What really surprised and fascinated me, though, were the substantial differences between our three stories. What different roads each of us took to where we are now, and what different roads we will likely take from this point forward as well, but we have a common message.

And guess what? Somehow, we ended on time, 9 PM (PDT), so I had time tonight to post this.

I return home next Tuesday evening, so there might not be much more here before then.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Evangelism for Anglicans II

Tonight I attended the second of our 5-week "Evangelism for Anglicanism" class. Sadly, our numbers were no higher due to illnesses and other issues; some people who made it last week didn't this week, and some who didn't then did tonight.

I understand that Fr. Daniel is making the handouts available to those who missed. Apparently Matt is taking the material from the one large Word doc for the course that he received and is separating it into handouts which he passes out at the appropriate time. Great idea! I would have cringed to receive the 50 page book that is the original. And after some misunderstandings last week he makes sure that the original authors are credited on each handout. (They are the Rev. Canon W.B. Wait III and the Rev. Canon Harold Percy.)

The handouts won't be sufficient, though. Or at least it seems to me that while they shape and guide our discussions, it's the material outside the handouts that seems to be shedding the greater light. Whether it's Fr. Daniel's prefatory discussion of the "agricultural model" of evangelism discussed last week, the "salesman" model we sometimes see today (inundate them with paper, make the pitch, make clear the sale is "now or never", close the deal and move on -- this being my interpretation), or the "fisherman" model hinted at by the opening reading Matt 4:18-22 (including the "fishers of men" Gospel pun) which stresses patience, delicacy (bringing them into salvation whole, not punctured with a hook), skill and knowledge of the waters wherein you fish.

The theme this week was "Getting Started" and it was in fact about getting started. The first handout noted we start where we are, not where we aren't -- with those around us in our families, with our friends and those with whom we work. Many reflections back to last week's class with the "six human needs" that those around us may be suffering, plus preparations for what may be before us, the same handout noting that "Conversion is almost always a long process." (Agricultural analogy again: planting, tending, and nurturing long before the result.) Now that sounds very Anglican!

And yet, Linda recounted a story of a friend of hers who became a (Protestant) Christian many years ago. To this day she says, "I'm a Christian now," and Linda said she continues to have a certain glow, but her life is also still changing in the way noted in the second handout. That handout uses the word "reconciliation," which in the sense used here sounds an awful lot like what my Greek Orthodox friend calls "theosis" (which I think we call "sanctification" -- if there are distinctions between these I am not yet aware of them).

After the class Matt tossed me a question I am going to be puzzling over: "How do we make this a part of our parish life?" (Or something close to that.) He clearly does not want this to be something that's done once and dropped, "Been there done that," nor do I. I have to ponder this; it may be that this class is something to be repeated occasionally when we have enough new(er) members, but that is not sufficient. Our "core group" needs to alter the parish.. psyche?.. somehow.

Funny how my own perspective has changed in just a week. Reading the last post on this topic it was something on the order of "we (Anglicans) have something special to share with the world." I'm not standing down from that, though I know it might not be everybody's cup of tea. And I saw in this evening's discussions clear evidence that we do not consider ourselves, whether it's St. Bartholomew's, the APCK, or Anglicanism in general, to be The One True Church and Sole Possessor Of The Truth. No, the focus was not on bringing in folks from other churches but on reaching out to those are quite unchurched.

And we have so many of those in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lay Reader Classes

Fr. Daniel sent out an e-mail today to all the prospective attendees of the Lay Reader Training Classes this September, detailing the dates and Things To Be Acquired. But count me stunned: I've long been accustomed to us having one or occasionally two licensed Lay Readers, but... five?! I'd say "Woo-hoo!" though it means I'll be sitting in the pews even more. (Not that I mind that, necessarily, I just enjoy serving. And it would be selfish and worse to try to keep that all for myself.)

But it saddens me that I'm extremely likely to be away on business for most of the September classes, which will have material new even to me. There are reasons for the date he chose.

But the announcement also had me dancing on air (only figuratively -- it would definitely not be a pretty picture otherwise). I had figured there would be four of us in the class but the fifth name took me by surprise. If you're reading this (you know who you are), I am just delighted!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Website update

I spent a bit of this afternoon updating the church website. I really only went in to add today's homily (honestly!), but once in, well, I couldn't stop. It didn't hurt that although it was sunny and warm outside there were also breezes absolutely loaded with allergens. A good day to stay inside!

Once the homily was added I decided to update a couple of items on the Announcements page.

And then, looking at the main page, I decided to take on a task I've wanted to do for a long time, a change to the "Fr. McGrath on the 1940 Hymnal" box in the upper right corner. When the first of his articles appeared in The Mandate, January 2006, I was under the impression this was a six-part series, spread out over the year. I enjoyed those articles and since there would be only six I created a box (okay, "table cell") to provide links to them.

Well, it turned out there were more than six, so the list just kept growing and the web page began to get a bit "unbalanced," especially after I'd added links to the three church-related blogs.

I'd changed from "Part 1: Jan/Feb 2006: to using article titles in 2007, and finally changed the first year's links to titles. What a mess that made; they'd wrap to the next line making the box even longer. So, I already had them listed on the Archives page; I left only this year's articles, changed the numbering to titles on the Archive page, and created a link to the Archive page list.

No sooner had I done all this and uploaded the pages and documents to the website, but an e-mail from Fr. Daniel comes in with more material for the Announcements page. It appears he was checking up on the page while I was uploading! So it was back to revising the Announcements page, and then a few more minor tweaks to the main page, and... I'm done.


I am restraining myself.


When we were talking about a new sign for the church last year, there were discussions of a symbol to put on the sign. The St. Bartholomew's Shield prominent on the website (and our letterhead, and other places) might not present as well to the community due to its three flensing knives. We finally settled on a variant (there are LOTS of variants) of the Canterbury Cross, I drew up a scalable image on the computer, and came up with a color scheme I liked that would sit on a blue background, the color of the background of our current sign. (I hope the new sign, when it's made, will use that color.)

I'd love to change the website over to that scheme and use that graphic, but there were too many design decisions in the current scheme that would have to be reversed.

Hmmm... maybe if I just change the colors...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Evangelism Class 1

Tonight, after Evensong and a nice supper (some it from the ever-popular British Pantry in Redmond), we started our 5-week Wednesday night class in Anglican Evangelism, titled "How to Share Your Faith Without Losing Your Friends." And though our numbers were down almost 50% due to several cases of ill-health and possibly other reasons, it was great!

Fr. Daniel opened the class with a prayer and a discussion of Matthew 9:35-38. He noted among other things that evangelism isn't necessarily "beating them over the head with the Book of Common Prayer (1928)" until they convert (hmmm... beating our pens into swords? maybe I'm overreaching), but that we ought to apply the agricultural analogy of the skilled and patient laborer, working carefully so as to not damage the fruit in the process. Well, okay, but we were (or at least I was) still sitting there nervously.

After Fr. Daniel concluded this with the Prayer for Missions, Matt took over. The initial discussion on "Introduction to Evangelism" covered the really difficult cultural environment we have here in the Pacific Northwest (where a regional paper ran an article just today on Christopher Hitchens saying "religion is evil").

Matt passed out a handout, "Week 1, Talk 1: Introduction to Evangelism", among other things covering the "six human needs." We went on to discuss and list the barriers we see to sharing our faith. I think the group was surprised when I led off with "my own ignorance" -- but that's a fear I have to conquer. We developed quite a list.

Then Matt passed out another handout, "Week 1, Talk 2: Understanding Intimidation." Whoa! You could take that list we developed, and there it was! Plus a lot of additional related information in the handout and discussion on stereotypes, societal issues ("Tolerance" vs "tolerance") and more. Suddenly it became clear that this is likely an exceptionally well-thought-out and organized course. My discomfort level with this whole enterprise plummeted.

One element of the handout almost amused me: "Many feel embarrassed to invite friends to Church because they feel the service lifeless, music outdated, preaching irrelevant, building maintenance lacking, and the congregation superficial or even unfriendly." Not here -- except maybe the building maintenance as not all projects are complete and we're only in Year 1 of our 5-year grounds improvement plan. Maybe it says something that Deirdre's description of what they found here (on these points) last winter is amazingly close to what we found when we joined 24 years ago. With extremely few parishioners in common then and now -- have I seen a parish become some kind of organic body?

Anyway, I've long thought St. Bartholomew's had something special to share. Now it's reinforced, even confirmed.

Matt, if you are reading this: Thank you for stepping up to the plate! My discomfort level has not arrived at zero, but I am definitely looking forward to the next four weeks. (And I will add that maybe it required somebody with a more evangelical focus to prod us out of our comfort zone. I couldn't do it myself, but am happy to help.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trinity Sunday

I certainly goofed this morning! Some how I managed to completely forget that the next Bible Study class started this morning, so we didn't arrive until about 15 minutes before the service, enough time for me to vest, light the candles and preview today's "selection of Scripture appointed for the Epistle." The last was a bit of a long read and somehow difficult today, though I've read it uncounted Trinity Sundays; I just couldn't catch the tone of voice for which I was reaching.

I sensed something was off so I asked Fr. Daniel and he confirmed we'd missed the Bible Study. Ugh.

While lighting the candles I saw Ranjit walk daughter Kavya up into the Sanctuary, then to the Gospel side where a shelf-stand is mounted on the wall for the Christmas Creche. I had no idea what that was about, but it wasn't long before I learned.

Candles lit and done in the Sacristy, I headed over to the Fr. Leen Learning Center building where we form up our longer processions. There I found Fr. Daniel, Deacon Ed, our Crucifer and Lucifers... and little Kavya in front carrying something new, a Sunday School banner. Such a cute picture -- but my camera was back in the Sacristy along with everything else I deposit there for the service! After the procession she left the banner by the shelf-stand. Before the sermon, when the Sunday School exited, she led them out with the banner. Very nice.

The announcements this Sunday included one for the variously-named "Summer Class on Evangelism", which I think of as "Evangelism for Anglicans" --not ringing doorbells, not erecting revival tents, "no beating folks over the head with the Book of Common Prayer 1928" (to quote Fr. Daniel)-- but arming the general church members with the means to live and share and explain our faith with our friends and others around us.

I am really interested in this class; my earlier life as an Episcopalian left me woefully short in this regard, and I think we Anglicans need to shake off that inherited lethargy. Having a beautiful expression of "The Faith Once Delivered" may bring in some "concert-goers" (I have read writings of people attracted to Anglican services for the performance), but we need to do better than that. And recognize that "conversion" isn't something completed in a moment but is often a long process with (my words) much preparation and ongoing support.

Coming back to earth, Nancy J announced the formation of the Garden Guild. There will apparently be a short organizational meeting Sunday the 10th. To that end she circulated a survey asking, among other things, if people would to help with "planning, planting, watering, weeding, ...). I've noted the dramatic change in the gardens lately, SO MANY blossoms lately it's almost blinding, and I hope they'll continue. (I'm keeping my black thumb far away...)

Between that and other changes around the grounds of late, our "presentation" from the street is improving.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Newton's Baptism (and digital disaster)

Little Newton was baptized last Sunday, on Whitsunday. I'm only getting around to noting this today because I had a minor disaster with the camera I've been struggling all week to correct.

The week before, on a photo shoot with the company's new digital photography club, I had been playing with a number of settings but had neglected to restore them when we were done. Then, Because It Was There, on Sunday I set another setting I should have left on Auto.

I would have detected the problems if I'd taken some test shots before the service, but I arrived too late for that. And then the camera got into some odd post-shoot display mode that prevented me from seeing what was going wrong. Holding folks together for the photos was proving difficult, so I wound up just shooting and praying.

When I got home I learned how bad it was. The pictures were all extremely dark with an orange cast. My usual tools could brighten them, but I could not get the colors right. Fortunately I had shot (for the first time) in "RAW" mode, which creates a file that stores what the image sensor actually saw, unprocessed. With some tools I downloaded I was able to get into that image and make it somewhat presentable. We will see.

In any event, Newton was baptized on Whitsunday, or Pentecost, per tradition. I had not known before of such a tradition but it appears it is so, rooted in English history and this is likely the origin of the name Whitsunday, "White Sunday" -- otherwise an odd name for a day whose liturgical color is red!

We've had no long-term consistency for when the baptism is conducted in the service; sometimes it's been at the beginning, sometimes during. The font was up by the altar rail, where it has been usually but not always (and returned to its usual position at the rear of the Nave during the Offertory -- a good move, as it avoided the usual problems we encounter with the font up front later in the service).

As always when there are last-minute "changes" things didn't go perfectly (pressed into service as Crucifer at the last minute, I couldn't find my cassock, though right after the service it was where I expected it to be!), but no real hitches.

And Newton's father -- I don't think I've ever seen him smile so much. Heart-warming.