Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Musings

I had a nice Boston day today.

Got up and drove into the city with L'il Flava and attended church at the venerable King's Chapel while she went off to have brunch at Bob the Chef's with some of her pals. I love the high church liturgy at KC, singing the psalms, hearing an OT and a NT lesson, singing the hymns with the old lyrics.
I love the confession, I love the many prayers, I love the rhythm of it and the language. I finally get it. It is becoming easy to follow along, and I begin to understand the power of repetition, which I have never had before in my worshiping life. The grass is always greener. I've always had creative, different worship services all my life. Hence, I crave the beautiful simplicity of the Book of Prayer. It stirs the soul in a different way and for me, it doesn't make me think less, but makes me think more. With each repetition, I hear the accustomed words in a new way. A phrase that previously went unnoticed sings in a new way the fourth time I hear or read it.

A few of us went out for brunch afterwards -- we tried to go to The Kinsale, an Irish pub with outdoor seating, across from Government Center, but they were showing the World Cup on a huge Jumbotron and the whole area was overrun with boisterous sports fans.
I can't even imagine what the North End is like tonight (the North End is our Little Italy). Congratulations, Italia! Don't fall off your Vespas in a drunken stupor!

After brunch I hopped on the "T" to Copley Square in an attempt to get some work done at the Boston Public Library, but it was closed. So I schlepped my books and papers over to the Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center and hunkered down there for awhile. Of course I managed to pick up a few products at C.O. Bigelow and Sephora (mustn't disappoint my Beauty Tips readers!) and then went back to find L'il Flava at the Paulist Center.

I stopped in for a few minutes of the Mass but felt pretty uncomfortable so I sneaked out as everyone queued up for Eucharist.

Why did I feel uncomfortable? The liturgy was downright progressive (especially the Eucharistic words, which I loved), the music contemporary, the community seemed friendly and caring (although one man who passed me the peace failed to make eye contact, which just made me feel terribly rejected and invisible -- just evidence of how vulnerable we can feel as church visitors), but I didn't feel right. It's sad. I want to be in fellowship with all the Christian world by virtue of my baptism, but I've heard for so many years that Catholics don't want to be in fellowship with me, I came to the Mass protected and defensive, critical and guarded. When they took an offering for African and Native American missions I didn't contribute anything. I thought about how I support birth control and reproductive rights and women and gay priests and gay marriage and full criminal accountability for ordained sexual offenders and I couldn't be fully there.

Unitarian Universalists need to confront the fact that we're not, in fact, "down" with every religious tradition around. We're not and we're not called to be. We're called to be respectful and humane, compassionate agents of dignity and justice for all peoples, even if we're not in full accordance with their beliefs. Hard work, that. It's easy to keep "other religions" at arm's length or to exoticize them and to say, "We're cool with everybody's beliefs," but of course we're not. We have our own ideologies, and we have a theology as well. Even if we can't articulate it very well most of the time, we have a theology!

I think the trick is to respect the fact that God/The Mystery draws people to various faith traditions in a diverse way, and none of us fully understands why that is so. To be a religious liberal, though, is to affirm that this diversity is a good thing despite its great and terrible challenges, and to refrain from dismissing whole populations of people because THEY believe things we do not, or because they keep the faith for reasons we may not understand or resonate with.

Part of the sadness I felt visiting that Catholic Mass comes from knowing how much of a struggle and how much personal work so many of those worshiping individuals and families have had to do in coming to terms with their own faith tradition's strengths and weaknesses. It comes from wanting to be fully and un-suspiciously supportive of those brothers and sisters and wishing I could worship wholeheartedly alongside them, yet knowing I am not really welcome to because of their Church's official positions that contradict Jesus' radical welcome of all children of God. My sadness comes from feeling solidarity of a kind with those worshipers while simultaneously feeling very, very touchy toward their Mother Church. Some of that must be my Jewish heritage. It may never go away. Perhaps it is enough, today, to feel an authentic affection for that Catholic parish gathered in worship even as my chilly distaste for the powerbrokers in Rome (and in the Boston archdiocese) kept me from being fully trusting of them.

So I muddle on.

Anyway, it was mostly a terrific summer day and L'il Flava and I ended up back at The Kinsale snacking and having sodas and getting mad at our waiter and waiting it out to the bitter end of the Red Sox - White Sox game, which we LOST in the NINETEENTH INNING.



Blogger boyinthebands said...

Only one quibble. KC has a historic liturgy but its churchmanship is puts it in the Low Church camp -- albeit with Broad Church ideals -- something that's rather rare in the Episcopal Church today.

Blogger Painter Beach Girl said...

OH IT WAS HOT HERE TODAY! (hopefully you were in air conditioning, I am glad I live at the beach...but I went towards Boston for a bit and it was HOT) How sad about OUR Sox. Sheesh

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Low Church, Broad Church -- oy vey, I never get them right!
How about Fancy Schmancy Church? Does that work pretty well?

Blogger kj_zoheret said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Philocrites said...

You'll have to come to the Episcopal monastery in Harvard Square some Tuesday evening with Mrs P to see what High Church looks like. (I got caught taking communion there one week by no less an eminence than the current minister of the First Church in Boston, who was there for the confirmation of a family friend. He worried that I had "gone over"; I, on the other hand, simply believe I am living out the Broad Church vision of my Unitarian heroes, Frederic Henry Hedge and Henry Whitney Bellows.

P.S. The plane home from Chicago this evening was chock full of Red Sox fans who had no doubt gone to the Windy City for the weekend to see the Sox play the Sox. The captain checked in on the score mid-flight and reported a 5-5 tie in the 19th inning. You can imagine how disheartened we were when he checked in again as we were getting ready to land to say that "we" had lost. Ah, provincially home again!

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

I don't know if King's Chapel still has it, but when I was living in Boston they had this little motto on the worship sheets that said "Episcopal in liturgy, Congregational in polity, Unitarian in theology" -- I think I'm remembering correctly.

I was at an Episcopal church today, but I "went over" a while back. ;-) (I guess I'm Broad High Church -- or High Broad Church.) This particular congregation has lovely high liturgy (Eucharist and incense and all that nice bodily bowing and crossing and singing and sighing) with gender- and earth- inclusive language and a broadly welcoming congregation. I'm on the road, visiting old haunts Out West. Yes, repetition is lovely. There is something slightly trance-inducing about the chanting of Psalms. I've experienced this with the local Anglican monks -- different community from the Cambridge ones but some similarities in worship.

And oh my Red Sox. (I used to live in Beantown and y'all, Red Sox Nation is EVERYWHERE, including in the South where I now live. Even those of us who aren't natural sports fans somehow catch the fever when we've lived anywhere near Boston.) NINETEEN INNINGS?!?!?!!!! :-/

And my French boys lost... Whatever possessed Zidane? But glad there is cheering in Italian neighborhoods and lands. I'm ecumenical :-).

I'm going to go check your beauty advice for the day now.


Blogger Peregrinato said...

I am very much a Prayer Book kinda person.

Blogger Natalie said...

Whenever I'm in Boston, I make a point of going to services at King's Chapel. It is the only church I ever make a point of going to services at. Mainly because of the architecture and music, but also because they've never made me feel weird about being there, too. I'm trying to screw up the courage to find a local church to go to (probably UU or Society of Friends, I've decided against UCC), and I live in mortal terror of either being accosted by church ladies or being utterly ignored. Bah.

Blogger MauKatt said...

I love liturgy. I love ritual. But not if there is no "substance" behind them.... If a church is nothing ~but~ liturgy and ritual, or if they have been made into Liturgy and Ritual (the substance is what is held to be sacred, rather than the truths behind the substance), then it doesn't work for me.

I am very drawn to Catholicism for those reasons... and the more-liturgical Episcopalian, too. The Book of Common Prayer is very moving for me.

But I'm also extremely iconoclastic and hate to be told what to do. Or hate to do something because I ~have~ to.

So I really don't know how to sum up this comment into a logical point, or even what point I was trying to make... lol....


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