Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

2/09/2007

Tradition and The Past

This week, the fine folks at Anglicans Online offer this reflection on tradition and the past:
We hear arguments that 'In the past we did it this way' or 'It should be done the way it has always been done'. The word 'Tradition' refers to the past.

The Past. But which past is The past? Last week? Last year? Your childhood? My childhood? The early years of my country? The year my favourite hymn was written? We've found that if we dive into a discussion with someone who wants 'to do things as they've always been done', and press for details about what they really mean, that 'always been' refers to that person's childhood, or memories of childhood. The hymns we sang when I was six years old. The flavour of incense that my parish used and the musty smell of the old wooden beams before they rotted out and had to be replaced with laminated composites. The feel of the rough wood on the back of the next pew. And those hymns and that musty smell are important, because they transport that person to a safe past kindly remembered.

We suspect that this is why someone pushing to return to the past in church is rarely interested in winding time backwards past his own childhood. Pushing for 'the old hymns' never means 'the really really old hymns', it means 'the hymns I sang when I was a child'. But since these feelings appear to involve reptilian memory and not conscious thought processes, it's not going to work to discuss or argue. So these disagreements, about what the parish and church and liturgy should be, are going to go on forever and are never going to be resolved. Sometimes these disagreements are fun, though, but they're not worth losing friends or alienating others.
Fortunately at King of Peace we are a mere six and a half years old. We don't yet suffer from that sort of preoccupation with the way we always did it. And yet, we also have a desire and perhaps an obligation to make sure that we are not so busy being up to date that we disconnect ourselves from the past. In fact, what we are trying to do is to forge a connection from The Ancient Traditions of the Christian Church to our contemporary times. It's not for nothing that our 43,000-marble mosaic floor is a design from 1201 or that our liturgy on Sunday uses contemporary translations of centuries old Christian liturgies.

The real goal for our congregation is not to connect us to the church of the 1950s or even the 1800s or the 300s. The goal is to connect ourselves to the Ancient of Days, our living God who is beyond time and to do so through the timeless traditions of the church adapted to our current, local setting.

We may not be an Episcopal Church as your grandparents knew it, but if there were no connection to the faith of our fathers and mothers, then we would have made a wrong turn somewhere. Right?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

6 Comments:

  • At 2/09/2007 7:35 AM, Blogger Robin D. said…

    The most Ancient of Ways is that of The Ancient of Days.

    None of us are old enough, no memory is long enough and no history goes back far enough to document that.

    We go by what we see and by what we are told. I can't help but think we act the way we do because, like children, we try to imitate our Father.

    Also like children, we argue and fight about the rules of our made-up games.

    Fortunately, Our Father is a Good Father and has instructed us and disciplined us.

    Still, we say,"Nu-uh, Mo's not doing it right!" or "Bud's staring at me!" or "Rav is playing with bugs!" We truly are just like children playing at being grown up.

    I have faith that we will some day grow up and go to be with Our Father.

     
  • At 2/09/2007 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that going back to our own childhood days of attending church shows that we somehow want to get back to our innocence with God. As children we only knew that attending church was about worship and everything about God was beautiful.

    As we "grow up" we become aware of politics within the church. In our frustration we go back to our own childhood and those wonderful memories when everthing was about God, because that is what we know.

     
  • At 2/09/2007 1:18 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    “We suspect that this is why someone pushing to return to the past in church is rarely interested in winding time backwards past his own childhood. Pushing for 'the old hymns' never means 'the really really old hymns', it means 'the hymns I sang when I was a child'. But since these feelings appear to involve reptilian memory and not conscious thought processes, it's not going to work to discuss or argue. So these disagreements, about what the parish and church and liturgy should be, are going to go on forever and are never going to be resolved.”

    My attempts to return to the past in church have nothing to do with how I used to worship or the smell of the old Salvation Army church building. My attempts to return to the past are attempts at clarification, are about seeking out the true faith, not some fanciful reptilian trip down memory lane.

    I understand that part of this remark is talking about returning to the church of our youth, before we were aware of the problems that come with congregations and parishes and councils and bishops and denominational strife. But it also seems to imply that any attempt to say that the old way was indeed best is fruitless and doomed to fail. Many of these questions have been resolved; problem is most folks are looking in the wrong place.

    “The real goal for our congregation is not to connect us to the church of the 1950s or even the 1800s or the 300s. The goal is to connect ourselves to the Ancient of Days, our living God who is beyond time and to do so through the timeless traditions of the church adapted to our current, local setting.”

    Could it not be possible that by connecting with the historical church we are indeed connecting to the Ancient of Days. Is not the Church how He manifests Himself? I think it is important to note that we are the ones changing and evolving, not Him. I think the problem comes when adapting becomes accommodating. It also seems that “timeless traditions” and “adapted” are at odds with one another.

    What is the connection to the ancient church? Having a floor with the same design is one thing, maintaining the liturgical tradition is quite another.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I think King of Peace is a beacon of love in a world of hate and a taste of reason on a plate of irrationality, but to imply that wanting to stay with the ancient traditions of the church is inherently wrong goes too far.

     
  • At 2/09/2007 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The article was saying that many disputes within a church happen because people are reluctant to change. They want things to be how they were when they were children. They can't get past that. Since there are so many different generations of childhood memories that people harbor,there will always be conflict about how things should be.

    While it should be our ultimate goal to seek "The Ancient Ways" of the "Ancient Days", the article says that our own memories are the road blocks.I agree with Robin D. and the article in that we are just "not old enough."

    I also like the picture that Robin D. paints. It's like we regress to childhood as we grow older. Where all along God wants us to be like we were when we were actually innocent children--all accepting of Him without question. Maybe that is why we can't get past our own childhood memories. At that point in our lives our relationship was with God and not an institution.

     
  • At 2/09/2007 9:56 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    I realize that my response to this posting may have been a bit strong. If I have offended anyone (especially fr. Frank) please accept my sincere apology.

     
  • At 2/10/2007 7:42 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    November,

    No way was I offended. I like to post things that I think will get us all thinking and these thoughts from Anglicans Online had that desired effect. Your previous comments show that you attend an Orthodox Church and I found your emphasis on tradition quite Orthodox and very appropriate. Don't sweat it. Part of the point is to hear different perspectives.

    peace,
    Frank+

     

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