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The Elephant in the Meetinghouse…

December 20, 2006

There is a fascinating exchange on Dwight Longenecker’s blog in recent posts. There is much to chew on in the Monday post about the elephant in the chancel–authority in the Church and how we interpret Scripture.
The exchange between Fr. Dwight and Nicholas Lubelfeld is beautiful. My words are insufficient, yet I will only open my mouth to utter the words…
God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy pow’r.
Crown thine ancient church’s story, bring her bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.
Cure thy children’s warring madness; bend our pride to thy control.
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.
Let the search for thy salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.
There is a powerful arrangement of this hymn done by the EMU Chamber singers on a CD which I recently purchased with some Christmas money. As I have listened to the songs on this CD, this hymn in particular has moved me. The expansive sound of the solemn pipe organ transports me to a beautiful cathedral–which is also a metaphor for the church as I listen. The organ plodingly pulses and gradually crescendos in disonant tones that clash and capture a yearning, a struggle, a pressing forward through time. There is confusion, discordant notes, conflict, tension, movement and intensity. And then there is a break and a single harmonious melody emerges. There is light. There is order after the chaos. Grace. Glory.
This arrangement captures for me the mystery of God’s grace revealed in the Church. Not on a linear, cognitive level, but at a visceral, spiritual level.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. FrBrian permalink
    December 21, 2006 4:44 am

    Dear Brian,
    I really appreciate your blog. I grew up in Chester County PA. and moved to Florida in 1966. I am currently a Roman Catholic priest. I entered the seminary when I was 43. I have always had a deep respect for your Faith tradition. I would have contact with the Amish and Mennonites at the Downingtown Farmers Market when I was a kid and was fascinated by their living what they believed. Thank you for your blog and I pray for the day that we will all be one as Jesus prayed. In Christ’s Peace, FrBrian Flanagan

  2. Fr. Dwight Longenecker permalink
    December 22, 2006 7:03 pm

    Brian, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I admire the Mennonites, and agree with Fr Brian.

    Thanks for the mention of my post

  3. Ted Gossard permalink
    December 27, 2006 1:09 am

    Brian, Yes. That is what we need in our gatherings. A sense of mystery and revelation at the same time. A sense of transcendant community.

  4. FrBrian permalink
    December 28, 2006 4:36 am

    Brian,
    I believe that we have lost much of the Transcedent nature of our worship. When we made changes in the liturgy in the Roman Catholic church they were for the better that they are in the language of the people. However in the other changes the focus became more on the people and the presider and not on the God we worship. I pray that others would learn from our experience and keep the focus where it belongs on the Trinity. Peace, FrBrian Flanagan

  5. Anonymous permalink
    January 23, 2007 12:15 am

    One day you might decide to “rejoin” the one Faith mistakenly left by Father Menno centuries ago. Service as a deacon is possible today in the Roman Catholic Church. Pray on it.

  6. Brian Miller permalink
    January 23, 2007 1:59 am

    Dear Anonymous,
    Thanks for your gracious words of invitation. I wonder, if by that same line of thinking, the Church of Rome might seek to “rejoin” the conciliar Church of the first millenia–before the Great Schism. How would the journey of the last millenia, without the participation of the Eastern church fully express the church of our Lord Jesus?

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