Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 15, 2018

The Response

As expected, the priest of New Creation Anglican Church, Fr. Justin Clemente, responded to my letter to the editor which I included in my Wednesday Word from two weeks ago. I have been asked by a few parishioners if I would respond. My answer is, “No, I will not.”

I won't respond because, among other things, I will not engage in a war of words or religious disputes via 270-word limited personal opinion pieces. Nor will I engage in yet another battle that people on the outside can point to as a reason why they won't attend church.

That said, there is one thing Fr. Clemente said in his letter of last week that I do want to address here: “I do not love what your church has become. And indeed, I would urge you to consider what it has become very carefully.”

What has our church become? After careful consideration, I believe our church has become:

a place that finally realizes there is no more Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, gay or straight, black or white, for all are one in Christ;
a place that values men and women equally (or at least tries to);
a place that engages scripture critically in an effort to learn how God is speaking to us today;
a place that understands the societal context of today is different from the societal context of the ancient near east;
a place that is focused less issues of purity and more on issues faithfulness;
a place that works to include those whom society and religion would work to exclude;
a place that is comfortable with uncertainty and doubt;
a place that welcomes questions over blind adherence;
a place that knows it's easy to enforce laws and difficult to live with nuance;
a place that values inclusion over exclusion;
a place that understands God shows no partiality.

These are but a few ways in how I see our church. And from where I sit, we have nothing of which to be ashamed.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018


I've mused on hobbies before, so forgive me if this is familiar.

I really only have one hobby – officiating football. The season itself is relatively short; two months and maybe ten Friday night games. Other weekday and Saturday games dot the schedule from late August through October. If one is lucky, a playoff game or two is given as a reward and recognition for a job done well.

Before the season begins, though, the officials meet. Here in Maryland we meet much sooner than anywhere else I've been, with our first meeting in May. We discuss plays and rules. We take tests. We go over mechanics (where to stand and move). And then sometime in late July the current rules books are issued and in August the national test is given. Once the new rules book is in my hand, I begin again the familiar task of reading, highlighting, and making notes. My book is a color-coded series of cross-references and notes in an attempt to have a deep knowledge of what to do when all hell breaks loose on the field.

And over the years I've spent my fair share of money on officiating accouterments: hats, shirts, pants, winter gear, flags, whistles, cards, buzzers, shoes, and more.

I'm not alone.

Many of us have hobbies which we do for fun or sanity, or both. Many of us spend time learning the breadth and length and height and depth of that which we love to do. From badminton to tennis, golf to skiing, quilting to knitting, baseball to scrap-booking, we all have something which we enjoy doing and which we will willingly put our time, talent, and treasure into.

What would happen if we treated church and God as a hobby? Not a hobby that we have on the side to which we simply use for distraction; but as a hobby which we loved, as a hobby which we willingly poured our selves, souls, and bodies into.

I think too many people see church as an obligation, as one more thing that we have to get done during an already busy week.

What if we saw church (in general) and St. John's (in particular) as our hobby? What if this hobby was where we came to have fun? What if this hobby was where we came for some sanity and spiritual recharging? What if this hobby was the place we paid as much attention to as a current rules book or magazine on new knitting patterns?

Do you need a hobby? Try church.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August 1, 2018

Welcome to the spat

Forewarning: Today's Wednesday Word is much longer than normal.

I was approached by several parishioners over the course of this past weekend asking, “Did you see the article in Friday's paper?”

Unfortunately I don't currently receive the paper, and I don't often browse through what's available on their internet site. So, no, I didn't see the article; but I did find and read it on Sunday.

The article in question was written by Janet Heim and told the story of Fr. Justin Clemente, a 35-year old priest serving the evangelical congregation of New Creation Church. You may have seen their billboards that were up along Leitersburg and Sharpsburg Pikes for several months. You may also have noticed that it billed itself as an Anglican church.

What especially brought this article to these parishioners attention (which then was brought to my attention) was this line: As the founding pastor and parish priest for New Creation Church on Leitersburg Pike north of Hagerstown, the Rev. Justin Clemente leads the only Anglican congregation in Washington County.

That was news to us.

The article also states that they are members of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

In short, ACNA was created after the election of Bp. Gene Robinson (the first openly gay man to be so elected). What arose was a family spat about who could and could not be a bishop in the church, who could and could not get married, the place of women in the church (Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was a particular thorn in their side), who took Scripture more seriously, legal battles over who owned the property, and a whole host of other issues. Several dioceses voted to remove themselves from the Episcopal church (San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and S. Carolina were three).

ACNA was primarily based in the Global South (Africa and S. America), led by African bishops several US bishops, and funded by the Americans. It began to claim itself as the rightful heir to Anglicanism since we (the US and eventually Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and even England) were “walking away from the plain teachings of Scripture and traditional Church teachings.”

Part of their plan was to claim the name “Anglican” in the hopes that people would either confuse the two churches or at least see them as legitimate heirs of that name. Another part of their plan was to establish “missionary churches” in the United States, thinking that if they could establish enough churches then the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion would have to recognize their validity simply by sheer numbers.

You can see this in the article when it is claimed that New Creation Church is the “only Anglican congregation in Washington County.” You can also see it when Fr. Clemente states, “I said I think the Lord is calling me to service in a certain way – planting Anglican churches,” as well as his goal of moving NCC to downtown.

I don't begrudge anyone for finding a place where they are fed spiritually and where they can worship God faithfully. However, part of my job is keeping the people of St. John's informed, and I feel that you need to be informed about this particular priest and parish – a group that sees themselves as the only valid Anglican church in the area.

We are Episcopalians. We were formed by missionaries of the Church of England. We continue to be a sister church of the CofE and remain in full communion with her. Our bishops trace their lineage back to the Archbishop of Canterbury and beyond. We are Anglicans in every sense of the word.

I hand delivered a letter to the editor yesterday morning, and have included it in full below. Among other things, it is intended to inform the readers of the Herald-Mail that the six Episcopal churches in Washington County are, indeed, Anglican.



To the Editor:

In Janet Heim's article of July 27, 2018, about Fr. Justin Clemente, this statement was made: “New Creation Church . . . [is] the only Anglican congregation in Washington County.”

Whether made by Ms. Heim or Fr. Clemente, this statement is factually untrue.

Anglican refers to those churches in communion with, and recognizing the leadership of, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglicanism is the system of doctrine and practices possessing a religious and theological outlook differing from Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Protestantism. An Anglican church, therefore, is one of a particular theology and polity which has roots in, and is in communion with, the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There are six Anglican churches in Washington County, as well as one school and chapel: St. John's, Hagerstown; St. Andrew's, Clear Spring; St. Thomas, Hancock; St. Mark's, Lappans; St. Paul's, Sharpsburg; St. Anne's, Smithsburg; St. James' Episcopal School, Hagerstown. All seven congregations were established in the 1800's and continue today as members of the Anglican Communion in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls, “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.”

Words and definitions matter. On behalf of my fellow Episcopal clergy and all those who worship with us, I felt it necessary to bring this to the attention of you and your readers, especially in these current times where lies and untruths are spoken with unchecked regularity.


The Rev. Todd Young, Rector
St. John's Episcopal Church, Hagerstown

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

July 25, 2018

More on Houses

This past Sunday, the Rev. Bruce Torrey visited St. John's on behalf of Food for the Poor (FftP). He spoke eloquently and passionately (and even threw in a little banjo music) about FftP's expanding mission to feed, clothe, and house the extreme poor of Central America and the Caribbean. I found his story of Carmen to be particularly moving. Both our website and Facebook page have last week's service up, so you can view it again or for the first time if you choose.

For those who missed it, Fr. Torrey told of an experience in Honduras where a group of FftP representatives visited an open pit garbage dump. It was while there that they met Carmen and her four children who lived in the dump on a couch they found and managed to shade with a tarp. They not only lived in/on the dump, but that is also where they worked, scavenging enough materials and food to live. As it turns out, FftP was able to build a house for Carmen and her family so that they no longer live in/on the dump, greatly improving their standard of living.

I have received at least one e-mail asking if St. John's could support the building of a house through the FftP program. As it so happens, I was also wondering the same thing.

A single-unit house through FftP is listed at $3600 – quite a bit less than the houses Joelene and I have seen. Basic math tells me that it would only take 36 people donating $100 to accomplish the goal of a St. John's sponsored house.

In conversation with this person, they made the very generous offer, and challenge, to match received donations so that we could donate the cost of a single-unit home with sanitation or, depending on the amount received, the cost of a double-unit home with sanitation and water.

If you would like to be a part of funding a FftP house through St. John's, please either send a check to the office, or put one in the offering plate, and memo it “FftP House.” Donations will be accepted through August 26, 2018.

We live in times where we are all asked to support ministries and people in a variety of ways, and we need to discern how we want to be generous with our funds. We can't do everything, but we can do something. And if St. John's could support one house a year so that there is one less family living in a garbage dump, it would be a very good thing.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 2018

House Shopping, Shoes, and Church

Joelene and I are house shopping. We've been house shopping seriously now for about a month. We have a particular style in mind, as well as particular needs. I am not good with tools. To borrow a line from a movie, “I have a very particular set of skills,” and none of those skills include home improvements. So we are looking for something that requires minimal work.

I'm not interested in repainting the blue doors and red walls. I don't want to have to knock out walls to make the space fit our needs/desires. I don't want to have to worry about the water-damaged ceiling. I don't want to feel claustrophobic. Ish . . . Buying a house is a lot like buying shoes.

Buying shoes is one of those worldly things that I really dislike. Besides finding a style you like, you need to find ones that fit properly. If they're too big, your foot sloshes around and blisters are a real possibility. If they're too small, you might develop bunions. And a size 10 in one brand may feel like a 9-1/2 in another brand. Sometimes the size differential even appears in the same brand but in different styles. It's hard trying to find shoes that you're happy with and that fit well. Ish . . . Shoe shopping is a lot like house shopping.

And both of these are like church.

At first we “church shop.” That is, we look for something that doesn't seem to be in a state of disrepair or one that doesn't need a lot of work. We look for one that isn't so big that we slosh around, nor for one that is so small that we get cramped. We want one that fits.

But even the best house will have problems here and there. Even the best pair of shoes may stretch out and become too big, or maybe even shrink depending on what you've done to them. Churches, also, will experience times of growth and times of shrinkage. They expand and contract.

Sometimes that expansion will cause you to grow in new ways so that you can continue to “fit.” Sometimes you may experience a tightness, an uncomfortableness, that makes you feel like you are being squeezed. But eventually things will work themselves out and you will once again fit.

St. John's is not a perfect fit for everybody; but I'm glad it's a good fit those who call this house their home. And regardless of the house we find, or the shoes I wear, I know that St. John's will fit for a long time.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 11, 2018

BCP Revision

If you've been following the proceedings at General Convention in Austin these past several days, you will know that one of the big issues being discussed and debated is prayer book revision. If you haven't been following the proceedings at General Convention, let me be the first to tell you that one of the big issues being discussed and debated is prayer book revision.

Prayer book revision is always a touchy and sometimes heart-wrenching topic among Episcopalians. That is to be expected because, although we are a “bible-believing church,” it is the Prayer Book that shapes our liturgy, our prayers, our theology, and hopefully our life. From Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline during the days, to Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Wednesdays, to Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Burial, we Episcopalians live the Prayer Book. So revising it is always filled with hope and fear and joy and anger and a whole host of other emotions.

In the early stages of this debate, I have already heard people proclaim that if the BCP is revised they will leave the church. I've heard people proclaim that we need a new BCP to reflect concerns of inclusive language. I've heard fears that it will become not a Book of Common Prayer, but a book of รก la carte liturgies that would make the Episcopal church unrecognizable as a body. I've heard anticipated joy of seeing a fully inclusive book. There have been concerns that women are not equally represented on the revision committee. There have been concerns that non-English speakers are not fully represented on that committee. And there have been many other sentiments expressed.

So yes, revising the Book of Common Prayer is a theological, liturgical, rubrical, and grammatical minefield.

As I write this, the House of Deputies voted to begin the process of revision. The House of Bishops has yet to vote. If they approve, the process will begin. If they don't, it won't.

But this won't happen overnight. If the House of Bishops approves revision this week, you won't find new BCP's in the pew next Sunday. Or the Sunday after that. Or even by Christmas. This is still a long process. My first memory of the BCP was the Green Book. Then the Zebra Book. Then the Proposed Book. And finally the authorized Book of Common Prayer. The proposed timeline would give us a new BCP in 2030.

I don't think we need to go all apoplectic. I don't think we need to start crying that the sky is falling. I don't think a new BCP will do away with Trinitarian language/theology. Nor do I think it will be, as someone said, “A New Age Unitarian mess.” So in the words of the Philadelphia 76ers, I will trust the process.

And in the meantime, I will continue to tape and glue my BCP together; and I will continue to worship God in the best way possible – with the Sacraments, Rites, and Ceremonies of this Church.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4, 2018

Odd and Ends

Today we celebrate our independence as a nation. Today we celebrate our ability to choose how we will govern our nation and ourselves. Let us never forget that it was this self-evident right of equality and self-determination that (supposedly) guides our country. And let us never try to force our ideas upon others such that those mandates would eliminate another persons freedom to choose the best course of action for themselves, or result in benefits for a few at the expense of the many.

Today is the 4th of July. May we all celebrate safely and sanely. May we remember to keep the potato salad and mayonnaise on ice. Keep the drinks cold, the burgers and 'dogs hot. Keep the games fun. And please, Please, PLEASE don't burn anything down or blow anyone up.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church officially begins this Friday. This is the triennial event that ultimately governs this Church. Every diocese, regardless of size, is able to send four lay delegates and four clergy delegates who, along with the bishops, produce, vote, and pass (or not) a variety of legislation. There are also thousands of “convention junkies” who go to see old friends and meet new people.

I am not one of those people.

However, if you would like to follow the goings on of General Convention, the GC Media Hub has live feeds of the various proceedings, as well as other updates.

Two of the major discussions will revolve around the continuance of trial marriage rites and whether or not we should pursue revising the BCP.

In closing . . . It's the 4th of July! Eat, drink (lemonade), and be merry. Stay safe. Stay intact.

And remember to celebrate our risen Lord with the same enthusiasm.