Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Teacher, Baker

"Every five hundred years, the church feels compelled to have a giant rummage sale"

Religion Dispatches has a great article up: Reports of the Death of the Episcopal Church Are Greatly Exagerrated:

When I interviewed author Phyllis Tickle, she placed this current crisis into a much-needed historical perspective.

As Bishop Mark Dyer has observed, about every five hundred years, the church feels compelled to have a giant rummage sale. During the last such upheaval the Great Reformation of five hundred years ago, Protestantism took over hegemony. But Roman Catholicism did not die. It just had to drop back and reconfigure. Each time a rummage sale has happened, in other words, whatever held pride of place simply gets broken apart into smaller pieces, and then it picks itself up and to use Diana Butler Bass’s term, “re-traditions.”

Such historical nuances are notably absent in the current coverage of this Anglican “crisis.” Granted Henry VIII’s Tudor tirades presented a rather dubious background to the founding of the Anglican Communion—not to mention Bloody Mary’s BBQ of Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley, as well as the role the Anglican Church played in the global colonization of the British Empire. When Christianity Today reported that for the past ten years, the Anglican Communion had been embattled due to controversies over sex, power, theology, and money, they were only off by about five hundred years.

Moving back to the other side of the pond, we must remember that the crises arising in US Episcopal circles following the Revolutionary and Civil Wars presented far greater hurdles than this current bible battle. This is hardly the “biggest” split and challenge for Anglicans, as reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times respectively. Moreover, when The Wall Street Journal terms this debate a “schism,” it brings to mind a Christian catastrophe like the Great Schism of 1064, that separated Roman Catholics from their Eastern Orthodox brethren. In comparison, a group of 100,000 Anglicans defecting from the 80 million member Anglican Communion resembled a case of the spiritual sniffles.

Furthermore, those who choose to interpret Anglicanism through contemporary evangelical eyes fail to see the full polity picture. Historically, while Anglicans do not reach a universal consensus on a number of social and political issues, they come together through their common worship as found in The Book of Common Prayer. Having found unity in communion, they return to the pews to continue their disagreements.

Read the whole article. Becky Garrison gives a great overview of what is going on in the Anglican Communion.

Holy Week Happenings at Chicago Grace Episcopal Church

If you’re in the South Loop area and need a place to celebrate the events of Holy Week, consider yourself invited to Grace Episcopal Church at 637 S. Dearborn St (Bus lines 22 and 62 Polk/Dearborn, Red Line Harrison/Polk exit, LaSalle Blue Line, LaSalle Metra Station).

Wednesday, April 8

Sandwich, Scriptures, and Sacrament, 12:15 p.m. Every week we bring a lunch and discuss a Scripture passage from the liturgy on Sunday. We will be discussing one of the Easter passages this week.

Our church helps out The Night Ministry. The Night Ministry ministers to the homeless at Humboldt Park through medical care, food and other necessities. At 5:00 p.m. will be making sandwiches and bag lunches for Thursday night. At 6:00 p.m. there is a centering prayer practice.

Thursday, April 9

Our Maundy Thursday service will be held at Humboldt Park (California and Division). If you would like to help hand out the lunches, we will be meeting at the church at 5:45 p.m. We will load up the van then head out. After we feed everyone, we will begin the liturgy for Maundy Thursday with whomever would like to join us. The liturgy will begin at 7:30 p.m. Our minister of music, Wayne Maas, will be leading the service. After we return to the church, we will strip the sanctuary for the observance of Good Friday.

Friday, April 10

There will be two liturgies on Good Friday: 12:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Our seminary intern, Elizabeth Molitors, will be preaching at both services and leading us through a modern version of the Stations of the Cross. A special offering will be taken up for The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Saturday, April 11

We will be going to St. James Cathedral (Red Line Grand exit) at Wabash and Huron to observe the Great Vigil, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 12

There will be two Feasts of the Resurrection, 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Our parish priest, Rev. Ted Curtis will be presiding.  After the 10:00 a.m. service, we will be enjoying an Eastern luncheon. There will be a special offering taken up for the Night Ministry on Easter and the following Sunday.

A Year of Loss and New Beginnings

As many of you know last year I resigned my ordination credentials and left my former denomination, The Church of the Nazarene. But I never really told you why. The official reason was theological differences, which is true enough. There were also many general leadership decisions made in the previous three years that I did not agree with. I had thought about leaving before but stuck around. Last year was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I started a home church in January of last year. I had been talking about this with the district superintendent and others since October 2007. In December I found out that they were creating a “mother” church for the Chicago area that would meet at the newly rented city district office. The main district office is in Bourbannais. Most of the denominational activity that happens in The Church of the Nazarene in northern Illinois happens in Bourbannais, Kankanee, and Joliet. My church plant would be a satellite of this “mother” church. It would have been nice to know about this a little sooner than 3 weeks before my church plant started. Then a time and day had to be set up for services. I had set my church plant to meet on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. The mother church decided to meet on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., which meant I could not make it to anything. This was the week before my plant started. So I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me to begin with.

Then emails went unanswered. Then there was a pastor training event. My husband was ill, and we spent the night before wondering if we were going to the ER for the pain he was in. We didn’t get much sleep. The morning of the training, I left a message on the answering machine telling them I wouldn’t be there and why. In fact, we were still wondering if we would be going to the ER. No one called or checked in on us. No one called to see if we needed any help. No one checked to see if my husband was in the hospital. Silence.

The silence became deafening in May of last year. My husband was very ill and looking at major surgery. I sent out an email to my district superintendent and my “mother” church. I was met by silence again. No one called to see if we needed any help. “Do you need help with meals?” “Can I run some errands for you?” “Do you need help cleaning?” Nothing. I didn’t even hear from the district superintendent, who was supposed to be my pastor (although he was quick enough to call when he received my resignation letter and credentials).

But the help and support I needed did come. The year before I had become friends with the priest at Grace Episcopal Church, Ted Curtis. I had worshiped a few times at their Wednesday Bible study and communion service. After sending out an email to the Nazarenes in Chicago, I sent an email to other friends in Chicago. Unlike the deafening silence of the Nazarene church, Ted told me to come to Wednesday service and during prayer they would pray for me. They did. They gathered around me, laid their hands on me and prayed. I cannot describe the peace and comfort of that time. After the service Ted told me that if we needed anything, to call him. He would get people organized to help us with meals, errands, whatever we needed. I was not a member of Ted’s church or a member of his denomination, but Grace Episcopal was there for me.

That is when I made my decision. It just wasn’t worth it. On top of the problems I was having with general church leadership and major theological disconnects, I had no community. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when I told my husband, “I think about resigning my credentials, and it no longer bothers me. In fact, it’s a relief.” (My husband is fine. His doctors decided against the surgery and became more aggressive with drug therapy. He has been healthy for eight months now. Whoo-hoo!) I was okay with having no financial support. No biggie, I can live with that. I couldn’t live with not having any pastoral, emotional, or familial support. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the church that doesn’t just talk about loving and serving people. I wanted to be a part of a church that actually lived loving and serving, not only “other” people, but it’s own people. I mailed my resignation and credentials to the district office the end of May 2008. I even gave a two weeks notice: As of June I was no longer an ordained minister, nor a member of The Church of the Nazarene. I felt such peace. I knew it was the right thing to do.

Last October I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church, and I am now a member of Grace Episcopal Church. I can do all the things God called me to do there without being ordained: teach, preach, and write. My first time to preach will be on Pentecost, May 31. It seems very fitting that my first time to preach at Grace, my new church, will be the birthday of the Church.

The Great Litany

Tomorrow I will lead our church in chanting the Great Litany. Many Episcopal churches chant The Great Litany on the first Sunday in Lent. What is The Great Litany? Chantblog has the answer:

An intercessory prayer including various petitions that are said or sung by the leader, with fixed responses by the congregation. It was used as early as the fifth century in Rome. It was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. The Litany was the first English language rite prepared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It was first published in 1544. Cranmer modified an earlier litany form by consolidating certain groups of petitions into single prayers with response. The Litany’s use in church processions was ordered by Henry VIII when England was at war with Scotland and France. It was printed as an appendix to the eucharist in the 1549 BCP [Book of Common Prayer]. The Litany was used in each of the three ordination rites of the 1550 ordinal, with a special petition and concluding collect. The 1552 BCP called for use of the Litany after the fixed collects of Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The 1928 BCP allowed the Litany to be used after the fixed collects of Morning or Evening Prayer, or before the Eucharist, or separately. The 1928 BCP included a short Litany for Ordinations as an alternative to the Litany. The 1979 BCP titled the Litany “The Great Litany” (p. 148), distinguishing it from other litanies in the Prayer Book.

The Book of Common Prayer online has The Great Litany here. Chantblog has a Youtube video of The Great Litany chanted at St. Barnabas.

I will let you know how it goes. (Which reminds me I probably should run through it again before bed.)

Does you church do anything on the first Sunday of Lent to set the tone for the next 40 days?

Ash Wednesday: The Freedom of Ritual

Today was not a good day. In fact, I’ve been out of sorts most of this month. Mainly because I have not been writing as this blog makes very obvious. I really did not want to go to the Ash Wednesday service. I feel enough guilt and shame. I know that I “have sinned by my own fault. . .by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.” Especially the what I have left undone. Do I really need an additional reminder about what I should be doing that I’m not? Really? But I had to go: I was bringing bread for the soup and bread dinner after the service, and I knew I needed to be there.

I’m very glad I went. As we were praying the Litany of Penitence, I felt a great peace come over me, and I acknowledged that I was a human and that means that I am going to fail, make mistakes, and even choose outright rebellion to what God has called me to do, which is to say, sin. It was not only a peaceful, but humbling thing, to admit that “From dust I have come and to dust I will return”; to confess my sins with my fellow brothers and sisters and accept God’s forgiveness. It was also a recognition that I am not the only one falling short of God’s calling. We, as a community, have fallen short. I could feel the forgiveness not just for myself, but for our community, as prayed. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I can say yes to God. Tomorrow we can obey God and better build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

I have decided what my Lenten disciplines will be this year: I am going to practice centering prayer, and I’m going to write in this blog. My 40 days of Lent will be spent in quiet with God and talking to you.

Also stop by Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka where Mark shared his Ash Wednesday experience. (And yes, you will find the translation for his blog name if you go and read.)

For those interested in praying the Daily Office, the Episcopal nuns of Mission St. Clare have everything you need including karaoke versions of chants and hymns. I also post Vespers Monday–Friday at Street Prophets.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From The Book of Common Prayer.)

Related Posts:

Ash Wednesday Reflections
Lenten Disciplines: Fasting

Lenten Thoughts and Practices

UMC wants to place female pastors in the pulpits of their largest churches

Yesterday The Wahington Post reported this in their Religion Briefing:

The United Methodist Church, which boasts a history of ordaining women clergy, is seeking to shatter the so-called “stained-glass ceiling” blocking female pastors from its largest pulpits.

The nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination has launched a new initiative, the Lead Women Pastor Project, to examine barriers to women being appointed pastors to Methodist churches with more than 1,000 members. The Nashville-based United Methodist Church has 44,842 clergy, and about 10,000 are female — or 23 percent. Yet just 85 women lead those largest churches, compared with 1,082 men in those positions.

Church leaders say more women are needed to shepherd large churches, given that women make up more than half of those enrolled in master of divinity programs in United Methodist seminaries. Also, almost 58 percent of the 8 million-member denomination is female.

I’m glad the UMC is taking steps to make sure that their female pastors lead in churches of every size. It’s great that they are wanting women in leadership to reflect the percentage of their women in both seminaries and in their denomination.

Career Women of the Bible: Phoebe

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well (Rom. 16:1-2). Paul trusted Phoebe enough to entrust his letter to the Romans to her. She is a woman Paul highly commended and respected. She is a “sister,” “deacon,” and “benefactor” to the church at Cenchreae as well as a sister and benefactor to Paul.

Paul uses the word, diakonos to describe Phoebe. The odd thing about Paul using this word to describe Phoebe is that it is the masculine form used to describe a woman. The feminine form is diakona. Most versions translate diakonos as “servant” here, but when it used to describe men, it is translated as “deacon.” It is also paired with “of the church of Cenchreae” This is the only place in the New Testament where diakonos is followed by a specific congregation in a genitive construct: she was the deacon of the church in Cenchreae. This is the only place linking a specific person’s ministry with a specific church. This seems to indicate that Phoebe served as a deacon or pastor in the church at Cenchreae.

Paul uses another word to describe Phoebe: prostatis. This is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament. It is also another word that is translated so that its main meaning is not obvious in the translation. The normal translation is “helper” or someone who has helped. In secular Greek sources, the basic and most obvious translation of the word is patron or benefactor, and women in this role, are well attested in the Roman world. Women who were benefactors in the Roman world supported the arts and temples, as well as philosophers and debaters. Phoebe was a wealthy woman who served the church out of her means as the women in Luke 8 served Jesus out of theirs.

Aida Besançon Spencer has also suggested that prostatis could be derived from the verb proistemi, which means to “to stand, place before or over,” or “to help by ruling” (Before the Curse, 115). The times the verb appears in the New Testament it has the meaning of ruling or governing (Rom. 12:8; 1 Thes. 5:12-13). In the Pastoral Epistles this word is used to describe bishops and deacons governing their households well. In other Greek sources, such as Josephus, the masculine form of the verb is used to describe rulers and leaders like Moses, Herod, and Agrippa (ibid). This word could mean that Phoebe was a ruler or another overseer in the church.

Phoebe was an independent woman who had her own means, and served the church in a leadership role. Paul comes very close to commanding churches he had no hand in planting, and Christians, most of whom had never met him, to welcome her and provide anything she needed because she was both a deacon and a benefactor/ruler in the church. She was not only the benefactor and leader in the church at Cenchreae, but Paul himself had also benefited from her generous rule.

Find out more about The Career Women of the Bible.

Halloween and Confirmation Pictures

I know the two don’t quite go together, but the party was Saturday and Confirmation yesterday, so this was my weekend.

Mr Evil Clown and Mrs. Sexy Harlequin

The Hubby and I at church.

My priest, Ted Curtis, Tracy, Me, and Bishop Scantlebury

Confirmation and Vigils

I was confirmed at Grace Episcopal Church this morning. I am now an Episcopalian. Throughout the course of the day God has provided confirmation that this is what she wanted through my own heart and the people around me. I just finished praying Vigils from the Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary
. It’s as if God has me one final gift before bed. This passage from Wisdom was one of this week’s readings:

For who will say, ‘What have you done?’
or will resist your judgement?
Who will accuse you for the destruction of nations that you made?
Or who will come before you to plead as an advocate for the unrighteous?
13For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,*
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
14nor can any king or monarch confront you about those whom you have punished.
15You are righteous and you rule all things righteously,
deeming it alien to your power
to condemn anyone who does not deserve to be punished.
16For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
17For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.*
18Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;
for you have power to act whenever you choose.

19Through such works you have taught your people
that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope,
because you give repentance for sins. (Wisdom 12:12-19)

Reader: O God, you are righteous and you rule all things righteously. Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us.

Response: Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, whose judgments are true and just. Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us.

God is my sovereign. God leads me where she wants me to go. It is not the journey I thought it would be. I thought I would remain in the Church of the Nazarene as a pastor for many more years. But that did not happen. God showed me another way in her gracious sovereignty. I am now a member of a new church–a totally new tradition. For the first time in my life I am not in an evangelical church. And I’m fine with that. I feel great freedom in shedding that heavy weight. For evangelical in this day is not the evangelical it once was. When it was more concerned with lifting up the poor and lowly, building schools, created homes for unwed mothers, teaching people trades. Evangelicalism gave up the acts of Christ for a privatized faith of right and wrong, us vs. them. But right belief and right doctrine does not always lead to right action. I am in a church that has the right action, and that action comes from the right belief: that we are called to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said on these two things the entire law hangs. Love God. Love ourselves. Love others. This is the greatest commandment. I am looking forward to being a part of the ministries to homeless we are doing as well as the new ministries to all the college students in the area. I feel like I have entered broader territory, and I have more room to find out who God is and who I am and what that means to the community I am a part of. I am looking forward to seeing where this new path will lead me.

“Stepping out in confirmation”
by Shawna R. B. Atteberry

A new step
A new direction
Letting go of the past
On a new path
Stepping into a broader space
With less fences
Less walls
Less rules
It feels good
To be trusted
To discern the Spirit
Instead of being
Told what to do.

(c)2008 Shawna R. B. Atteberry

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We're all in this boat together

This week’s Gospel reading was Matthew 14:22-33, which is Peter walking on the water to meet Jesus, who was already walking on the water. My priest had a different take on this passage than one I have heard before. His take is that Peter wasn’t supposed to be out of the boat in the first place. He interpreted the boat as the world and the water as some kind of ecstatic, guru bliss that we want to stay in instead of the world. That’s not where Peter is supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be there either. We aren’t saved by ourselves out in the eternal beyond. Jesus put Peter back in the boat with the other eleven disciples. Then Jesus got into the boat, and the storm that had been tossing the boat around stopped. We are to be in this world. We are to work out our salvation together in this world. We are to build the kingdom of God in the here and now.

This reflects Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus came to this world; he came to us. He walked and ministered in this world, and then he told us to continue his ministry of love and compassion to the world around us. I like this new way to look at this story. What do you think?