On April 12th, Heidi Clark led a discussion about marriage and presented an update on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage which has completed its three year effort.
The Task Force began with the questions:
- What makes a marriage “Christian?”
- What makes a marriage “Holy?”
The Task Force produced 7 essays exploring different topics, and these essays are highly recommended. For these and more information see http://www.episcopalcafe.com/task-force-on-the-study-of-marriage-reports/.
In addition the Task Force has 2 resolutions for the next convention:
1. Re-write the marriage canon, preserving most of the original canon while adding expansive language.
2. Continue the work of the Task Force.
Next Sunday, Bishop Smith will speak on marriage in our Diocese.
On March 29th, Rev. Bob Catlett shared his personal opinions on the events and responses which began last August in Ferguson. Bob is a 29 year veteran of Glendale Police Department, currently serving as Assistant Chief of Police, and also the Pastor of Sts Peter and Paul Ecumenical Catholic Church.
He was frustrated throughout by the action and reactions of many groups involved which, in his opinion, escalated the problems. Some examples:
- Media swarmed the area, sticking microphones in front of anyone who would talk, instead of reporting on the news
- Most of those initially arrested for rioting, looting and other similar acts after August 9th were from outside of the area
- Politicians were quick to condemn the shooting and demand justice before even the investigate was complete
- Some clergy were antagonizing protestors and police officers
- At times, the officer in charge decided that police officers serving shifts in Ferguson should not wear protective gear, putting the officers at risk
- Misunderstanding by most about terms such as racial profiling, strong armed robbery, paramilitary and grand jury
- Poor treatment of police officers, including the chaplains, by activists
Throughout, Bob prayed for wisdom, guidance and strength. He encourages all to continue praying as well as getting involved either through community service or within our political system to push for positive change.
On February 22nd 18th and March 7th, Dr. Clint McCann, professor of Biblical Interpretation at Eden Theological Seminary, presented his 3 part series titled “God is Great, God is Green: The Bible and Ecology.” He began with gaining agreement that we are in an ecological crisis today where all of earth is impacted by humans. Farmers primarily wrote the Bible (except for the monarch traditions) so much of the Bible is focused on land and food. While the Bible may not speak directly to how to solve the ecological problems of today, it does offer vision and principles to determine action.
From the beginning of the Bible, humans are explicitly tied to earth. The Hebrew meaning for Adam is humanity or ground/earth. God also gives dominion over earth as a gift to humans. Some hear this as rulers or controllers, but this could be defined as stewardship. The Bible repeatedly redefines power as servanthood. Also in Genesis, “it is good” is repeated 7 times during creation. On the 7th day, God stopped to delight in his creation. Today, adults in North American spend 98% of their time indoors. Perhaps we should adopt the principle of going out and delighting in our world.
Dr. McCann presented Noah’s Ark as a story of preservation of species, not destruction. And the first covenant was with Noah’s family and every living creature on earth, not just humans. We can apply this principle of preservation to saving species, many of which are facing extinction.
Similarly, the story of the manna and quails from the Exodus story can be interrupted as a lesson in eating and saving only what is needed. These foods could not be stored but had to be eaten the same day. In today’s world, too many people are hungry while there is plenty of food. The principle is of restraint and sharing. Then again in Leviticus, the Jubilee year was celebrated by giving back land to those who had lost it. Land meant life and a new start. The theological principle is that the land is God’s and everyone should have access to the land and what it produces. How could the nations of the world forgive debts to allow others to recover and prosper?
The Psalms are filled with praises for God and all of creation. We have great privilege to be part of creation and great responsibility. One example is Psalm 150 v6, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”
Dr. McCann stated there are fewer references to creation in the New Testament but Colossians states that Jesus is the first born of all creation and the reconciliation of God to all things. In addition, Revelation 21 speaks to a new heaven and earth, not as a replacement but as a renewal. What are you and we going to do?
On February 1st and 8th, Dr. Jim Hood presented “Competing Christianity – Celtic vs. Roman.” He began with the long history of people on the islands. During the ice age, people could easily walk between what is now Europe and Britain. With the ice melted, the seas formed around Britain. Approximately 3000 BCE, a Mediterranean people came to Britain bringing agriculture. Then about 2500 BCE, an Alpine people came to the island which built great outdoor temples such as Stonehenge. About 1000 BCE, the Celts came as farmers and bronze makers. They brought affluence and civilization. They were bigger than the others who were on the island at over 6 feet tall for men, blond and blue-eyed. Women in their culture had equal rights and were leaders including warriors. They never formed a single kingdom or political structure.
The final and successful invasion of Britain by the Romans began in 43 CE. It lasted about 40 years, and the Romans remained for about 400 years. During this time, Christianity was rapidly spreading through the Roman Empire, especially the urban areas where many lived very closely together. In Britain, the Celtic religious leaders called Druids were killed by the Romans since they could mobilize the people against Rome. Christianity then spread through Britain.
In the early 4th century, the Roman legions began pulling out of Britain to support other regions from the German invasions. Germans from the north of Europe invaded Britain and by the end of the 6th century had control over all but the western edge. The Celts lived in this fringe and Ireland. Christians remained but were cut off from the rest of the church. They evolved and focused on monastic traditions which promoted scholarship and beautiful manuscripts were created. There were no major theological differences with the rest of the church, just differences in emphasis. 3 examples:
1. Bishops - The Celts had no towns so there was no diocesan process. Bishops lived as brothers in the monastery and ordained and confirmed but had no administrative responsibilities since that was handled by the abbot.
2. The Celtic Christians had a style of tonsure which was unique in the church.
3. They used a different formula for determining the date of Easter.
St. Gregory sent a missionary, St. Augustine, to Britain from Rom in 597 CE. He was well received and re-established the Roman Christianity traditions in southern Britain. In the north, the Celtic Christianity continued. This caused calendar chaos with Easters being on different days. So the King of Northumbria called a synod where the Roman method for determining Easter won the debate. Celtic and specifically the monastery in Iona continue to promote spirituality and influence Christianity today.
On Jan. 11th, Jerry Hoff, Epidemiologist, and Dr. Jim Hinrichs, Infectious Disease Specialist, provided the background for the current outbreaks of Ebola and risk to us. They began by providing the history of Ebola. The first outbreak was recorded in 1976, and there have been about two dozen outbreaks since. Currently there are two separate outbreaks in Africa. There are 5 different strains of Ebola, some with low impact to humans. Previous outbreaks have been caused by eating animals which were infected.
More than 70% of the infections are due to the funeral rites and rituals since it exposes people to the infectious person. Additionally, infected individuals are often brought to clinics where they expose not only other susceptible people, but often their family members care for them in the clinic due to lack of medical staff. People cannot be carriers of this disease. People are not infectious before they have symptoms or after they recover.
For the previous outbreaks, the impacted populations were isolated and the quick deaths allowed for control. In West Africa, there is dense population with different funeral rites which is making it much more difficult to control.
Mortality rate is 60-70% primarily because the disease causes huge GI loses for about 5-6 days. Without IVs and/or blood transfusions, the dehydration shuts the body down. In addition, the medical infrastructure is very limited. It has been estimated that there were 10 doctors in all of Sierra Leone when the outbreak began. At least 5 have died.
There is very little health risk to those in the United States. Our medical facilities have learned from experience and can keep the medical staff safe while providing the needed support for the infected people. Our attention and resources need to be focused on helping West Africa since the current outbreak is devastating the region.
On Jan. 4th, Agnes Bolwell provided a summary of the 175th Diocesan Convention for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri which occurred Nov. 22nd and 23rd.
She focused on the great speech by the Bishop which can be found along with other information from the convention on this site: http://www.diocesemo.org/about/governanc/diocesan-convention/175th-diocesan-convention-2014/. I highly recommend reading his speech.
Caroline Kelsey also shared information about a round table all our delegates participated in around the issues raised by the events in Ferguson. Finally Agnes shared a video of a unique ministry in California called Laundry Love: http://thads.org/videos/.
How could an example like this inspire new ministry at St. Timothy’s?
On December 7th, 14th, and 21st, Dr. Ben Asen, Associate Professor of Old Testament at St. Louis University led the adult forum on the Wisdom literature. He brought together the scriptures, historical context and interpretations to these very challenging books: Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiasticus, and Song of Songs. Below are notes from the sessions.
All cultures have a way of storing up and saving their stories, wisdom and sayings. During the time of the monarchy (Kings David and Solomon), the court scribes or wise men maintained the records and also became the ambassadors. Thus they brought the wisdom of other cultures back to the court. The book of Proverbs, for example, appears to be from a variety of cultures. With the sack of the temple by the Babylonians, the wise men no longer had a royal function and became teachers to young men. The following were the theological themes found in the wisdom literature:
1. Good prospers, evil fails. Why does something go wrong? What did I do wrong?
2. Retributive justice. You get what you give.
3. Practical advice for living the successful life (and how to find a proper wife).
In Proverbs, Lady Wisdom is personified extensively which is unique in the Jewish Bible. For example, chapters 1-9 and 31 present the ideal woman, the personification of all virtues. In the post-exilic period, the position of women became increasingly central as teaching came into the homes with both mother and father teaching with authority. Plus the audience of the book was young men, and what teenage boy listens to his father? Like Plato the author teaches through dialog, and he also uses female voices to portray prophet, attractive wife, and goddess, each with authority. This is contrasted with Dame Folly who is the promiscuous temptress (which would also catch the attention of teenage boys).
At the same historical time period, most other cultures had a female partner for the male god. For example, Baal and Astarte were co-responsible for fertility. Lady Wisdom takes on a role where she invites others into God’s presence from the beginning of the world (Proverbs chapter 8). In the first chapter of John, her role becomes the “word.”
Ecclesiastes (Greek name) or Qoheleth (Hebrew for gathers people together) was considered by the Rabbis to be so controversial and difficult that young men under the age of 30 should not read it. It also seems the most modern of the Old Testament books as it asks questions everyone has: “why am I here?” and “what is the purpose of life?” Looking for order and power of the law, the writer finds no meaning to life stating in chapter 2, verse 11, everything is “hebel” or a puff of wind. In addition, the writer is frustrated that humans have limited, short view on life and suspects that there is more to life than he or others can figure out. However, an epilogue (chapter 12, verses 9-14) was added, probably later, concluding with “To sum up the whole matter: fear God and keep his commandments, for that is the duty of everyone. For God will call all our deeds to judgment, all that is hidden, be it good or bad.”
On November 23, the Adult Forum will was focused on beginning a conversation on full inclusion in the church, specifically LGBT Episcopalians and their families. Debra Morris Smith shared the story of her family and their experiences of welcome in the church. Then we watched a video of a sermon given by the Rev. Mel White, exploring the very question of whether or not God loves gay people, and how the church might respond. The video can be seen at this website: http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/6/12400. The video does begin with an introduction which includes strong language. The video is in 3 parts. At the end of each, the next video can be started by clicking on it in the top left of the window.
On November 9, Jessica Bellomo and Rudo Gray presented the background and the work of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis. In particular they shared stories from the International Visitor Leadership programs which has included programs for firefighters from Palestine, plant science for Vietnamese agriculturists, and disability rights for representatives of the Middle East. Often the power of these programs goes beyond the knowledge sharing and helps improve views of the United States, St. Louis and our American culture. An example was a group of Chinese studying rural agriculture being fascinated by a demolition combine event at a county fair. For more information about this organization and their events, see their website: http://www.wac-stl.org/
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