I frequently visit Fr. Bryan Owen's blog. Today he is posting on another blog by a young priest bemoaning the sorry state of the Episcopal church. You can see it here:
Last week Bryan blogged on the Presiding Bishop's Easter address. (To spill the beans early, she does not mention Jesus.)
I do not know Bryan although I once did a wedding at the Cathedral in Jackson. His view point seems similar to mine on many issues. I bring up his posts because he is worth reading and these deal with two issues which bother many of us in the Episcopal Church. One is the sense of doom as we see a growing intolerance for the ancient faith. (There is nothing less tolerant than Tolerance, after all.) The other is the Presiding Bishop's absolute failure to make a stirring witness to the Christian faith. I told her this to her face when she visited Memphis some years ago. She obviously has ignored me...
We live in a post-church age. It probably began some time ago, and we are now waiting for the demographics to catch up. The younger generation is in full flower. Older folks are increasingly the bulk of the local parish. I am not a statistician, but I do think we will see a huge drop off in a dozen years or so when large numbers of the elderly become homebound or die.
But even among the not-so-young there is a sense of dissatisfaction with the church. A retired church administrator shared with me yesterday that he (a Catholic) and his friend (a Presbyterian) were both turned off by the politics (and meanness) of church people. There is a general negativity about the church which extends beyond any particular age group.
So why be a member (or a priest!) in a church which is headed in a direction which is best labeled heresy? Why remain in a church whose leading bishop insists, over and again, on talking about ecology while resolutely ignoring the Lord and Savior? Why be part of any church, when loving Jesus is so much simpler in the privacy of one's own heart and soul?
The answer, for me, a struggling, oft confused and frequently disheartened, old-time priest in a "new-time" "church" is found tonight.
Eucharist. At the first eucharist, Jesus gathered with the leaders. He told them they would abandon Him, that one would betray Him, that the premier apostle would deny Him. That all flee Him, every stinking one of them. And then He broke bread and shared the cup; this is My Body, this is My Blood---given for you, broken and shed for you, destroyed and killed for you.
I cannot do eucharist alone. I cannot sit alone and say, "Peace be with you" or "The Lord be with you" or any of the other prayers alone. It takes a community, a church community, to celebrate eucharist. The church filled with a bunch of messed up people is not terribly different from the group around the table with Jesus. We betray, deny and desert Him on a regular basis. And I am one of them. And tonight I will take His Body and eat it, I will drink His blood, I will stand against the errors of my church and her leaders, but I will recognize that I am like them in my failures. Sometimes we forget that. We get so fired up seeing the sins of others that we ignore our own. Tonight I sit next to Peter. I love Jesus, but I will still betray Him (over and over). The point is, He knows it and He still feeds me His flesh and blood. He does this because He is better than I am. He is faithful. He truly loves. He knows how to make a self-gift.
So I hang on and hope, some day, He will transform me. Until then, I go to eucharist. I pray and eat. And I wait!