Monday, December 28, 2009

Church Yesterday

In the big city church life is different. It's not good, and I take responsibility for the not good.

Back in Chicago, in a church basement, in 1965 or 1966, I first heard the Chicago Folk Mass. Grace Lutheran Church, a formerly bourgeois Lutheran outpost was attempting to make church relevant for the hippie crowd. I was a high school zealot for Jesus, and I went to a work camp there, painting the basement to make ministry to hippies possible.

A few years later I returned. Ministry to hippies was in full swing. At 9:30 am on Sunday morning the hippie crowd gathered under the leadership of Pastor Phil Bigelow in the basement that we'd repainted. We sang to guitars. We crooned the Mass. Pastor Phil eschewed the pulpit. He wore a beach towel chasuble. It was groovy.

The Chicago Folk Mass remained. It went commercial. Lots of folks in Lutheran Circles came to know and love the service. We got our guitars everywhere in Church. Then came Avery and Marsh. Summer camp got extended into Lutheranism. The emotional excitement of the end of camp was the goal of many young pastors, including me.

And if we couldn't get our folks as juiced for Jesus as they were at the end of summer camp (or at the end of the retreat, a mini-summer camp), we could at least get them to relax and sing the songs of Zion in a new key.

From all this came

Words on the Wall and not in the book (no notice of copyright needed).

Guitars and microphones for leading the principle worship service on Sunday.

No robes or vestments or outward identification of the leader of worship.

Pastors who think they are rockstars - or who would like to be rockstars - but who can't be bothered to be President of the eucharist.

Preaching devoid of Lutheran theology, more influenced by the Navigators than by the Confessions.

Yes, that's what we had yesterday at Kris' family church here in the Twin Cities. I wish I could say that this was the novelty, but I am afraid it is not.

It isn't the ordination a gay and lesbian pastors (since we were already doing that) that will bring this church to not being this church - it is the praxis of oremus. As we sing and pray, so we become.

But I don't want to be a Baptist - and I do know the difference between us and them.

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