Archive for November 2017

All Saints’ Day 11/5/17 Epiphany, Norfolk

When I was coming along, going through Confirmation Classes, and attending youth events, and stuff like that, the Episcopal Church was referred to as “a Bridge Church.” We don’t hear that any more, but it’s a term that really does fit the Episcopal Church. That’s because we have our roots in almost every Christian tradition out there.

Much of our lineage is traced back to the orthodox, or Eastern Church, which made its way to the Celtic British Isles before the Roman Church even organized. And our lineage even includes that pagan Celtic tradition, in strange little ways. And then, of course, we have Roman roots as the British throne got in thick with the popes, and the British Church became Roman Catholic. Then, we get the Protestant Reformation, and the Anglican Church falls into the arms of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and the Lutheran Church in the “north countries”, and the other various denominations that grow out of that Reformation. And then, in our own American history, the Anglican Church falls out of favor with the American Revolution, when anything British was “out”. Where did Americans go to church? They went to the new emerging protestant churches, like the Baptists, and the Methodists, and the Presbyterians, and the Moravians, and the Pentecostals. And it was a good while before the Anglican Church, or the Episcopal Church, was able to reestablish itself as a significant institution in America. And when it did, it just had to at least tolerate, if not embrace, some of those other movements.

Well, that is our history, in a nut shell. And that with which we are left is a church that is forever swinging around, like a pendulum.

Several weeks ago, Joe Ritchie, Mary Scheible, and I were searching through our large music collection looking for something new to sing today at our All Saints/All Souls observance. And we have very little All Saints/All Souls music. The reason is that we didn’t used to observe All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day on Sunday, unless the feast fell on a Sunday. So we very rarely needed an All Saints Day anthem. It was usually observed mid-week with a spoken service. But that changed with our present Prayer Book. This Prayer Book significantly swings the pendulum from Protestant to “Catholic”, including both the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. And with this swing of the pendulum, All Saints’ Day is now observed the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ Day, which honors those who have died for the faith, and have been canonized, or “sainted” by the church, is always November 1st – the Day after All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. It is now observed on the Sunday after November 1. But All Soul’s Day, which honors other special people in our lives who have gone before us, is observed on November 2, the day after All Saints’ Day. But strangely, the new lectionary did not make it a “movable feast.” It is still observed on November 2nd – only. I just took it upon myself to observe both All Saints’ and All Souls’ today because I think it’s important to us, and I think they are going to fix this with the next lectionary.

Now, when I was in seminary 50 plus years ago, saints, and souls, and spirituality, and things like that, were really “out.” All of that was considered way too “catholic”. The pendulum was on the other side – the Protestant Side. But the pendulum has swung again, and there’s now an ever increasing emphasis on things like this in our Episcopal Church.

And I find it kind of healthy. Every culture, every group, every family has ways of honoring their dead, sometimes in big observances like the Hispanic “Day of the Dead.” Veterans observe the fallen with flags on graves. Families give altar flowers to honor someone special. There are all sorts of ways that it happens, but we don’t just ignore the fact that we have lost someone special in our lives. And it is in our nature that we don’t want that person forgotten. And I think the church needs to provide ways for special people to be remembered.

All of us have had people in our lives who greatly influenced us, helped us become the special individuals that each of us is. It doesn’t happen automatically. We are born into community. We grow up in community. We live in community. And we die in community. That’s the way it is. We need each other. We grow off of each other. We’re not just clusters of star dust floating around in this universe, unrelated to anything else. We are much more dependent on each other than we admit.

I draw my priesthood from you. Oh, I’ve got the piece of paper that says I’m a priest, but it doesn’t mean anything if I don’t have people to pastor. I need you, and you need me, or none of it makes any sense.

And in this present swing of the pendulum, we’re taking ownership of that, again. Those who have gone before us have left their marks on us, from DNA, to education, to social behavior and standards, even to the color of our eyes. We are connected And we remember that this day.

So, today we remember those who have gone before us, and the contributions they made to our lives, our being. We acknowledge that they are not forgotten. They still live in our hearts and souls. We are still connected.

Posted November 9, 2017 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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