Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Light Night

I thought I should update you all on some of my activities here in Liverpool. Last Friday I helped the cathedral celebrate LightNight which is a one-night free arts and culture celebration across the city. Venues take advantage of the long days, the sun now sets between 9:30-10 as opposed to 4-4:30 in winter, to celebrate..well...light. The main space of the cathedral featured performances of many choirs to start off the night before a DJ and light show start and went till late in the night.

The Lady Chapel featured an icon of Christ surrounded by loads of candles, incense, which the cathedral does not typically use in services, this cool soundtrack, and places for people to light their own candles. There was also sung compline every hour which people could participate in if they wanted but mainly space became a sort of respite from the loud music of the main space. Many were drawn into the beautiful way the icon was presented on simmering blue and orange cloth in the haze of incense, below the beautiful blue stained glass windows of the Lady Chapel. Many took pictures of the altar and spent a long time just looking at it.

The use of the space could have offended either the religious, as the high altar of the cathedral did become a sort of backdrop for a dance party, and I did at one point have to protect the Paschal candle from the overflow of dancers but the more secular audience could also have been offended as compline was never announced it sort of just happened and one could have felt slightly trapped in a religious service by social convention. Yet, the magic of the night was that things just flowed into one another. Space was made for a convergence of religion and secular. The cathedral showed it's commitment to being a space for all people. A people's cathedral, not something above the city but connected to it. I don't know that I can come close to conveying how important I think that is here and in other places but I hope it continues.  

If you would like to see some of my videos of LightNight you check them out on my Instagram here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lenten Let Down

On Maundy Thursday while gathered in the Nave (often called the Well) of the Cathedral a woman walking down the stairs slipped and came to meet her friends on to the hard unforgiving stone floor. People closest to her helped her up and into a chair and verger went to fetch her a glass of water, upon his return, he almost fell on the same steps. While all this was happening parishioners should have been focused on the reading from what I think was the Gospel of John but to be honest I can't recall which of the Gospels or what was read. Instead, I was distracted by the commotion and thinking, "this is exactly how all of Lent has gone."

Lent and Holy Week are probably my favorite time in the church. Some may find this to be odd, or to be some sort of spiritual masochism but I find that during Lent we can truly dig deep to find how to enact God's will in our lives and the world. Except for this Lent. This Lent has flown by and I feel I haven't had a chance to catch up to what I was supposed to be doing. I attempted not to eat out for the entirety of lent and to spend at least 2 days meat free, that didn't last and I feel just somehow lacking. This is not some failing of the church here in Liverpool, I am provided with numerous opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal, prayer and study. My job is no more taxing than any other I have had and even less than when I was in graduate school. Also, I probably have more pastoral support available to me than any other time in my life. In my row of houses there are at least 3 vicars and at 3 or 4 down another row. My normal Lenten experience just didn't happen. 

I don't know if this is necessarily even a bad thing. It may be that I will experience another festival or season in the church in a way that I never have before. Pentecost may bring with it some revelation or spiritual deepening. It may also be that this year's spiritual growth is slower moving and yet to take a form I recognize yet and only in reflection can it be found. 

Mostly though I want to let you know that if your Lent has not gone the way you expected however that happened for you. It's ok, let's just see what comes next. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Are You A Thief?

I have been thinking a lot about minimalism lately. Partly because I watched this documentary about it on Netflix, partly because I read this article about a woman who didn't buy anything for a year, partly because I have been reading about the Desert Fathers and Orthodox Christianity and lastly because...well...wasn't Jesus a minimalist? And didn't he ask us to be minimalist too? Still trying to work this out this last one.
I know for a lot of people the term minimalism brings about ideas of living with 100 things or having to give up every possession you hold dear to you. But I have found that there are at least some minimalist bloggers who are talking about something very different than living without anything or extremely little to your name. Joshua Beck calls it "Rational Minimalism" which he describes as "the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it." In other words, only owning your favorite things. That's a least the basis behind the 3/33 challenge, where for 3 months you can only wear 33 items of clothing and accessories (there are some exceptions, like underwear; for more info follow the link). And if you only own your favorite things then maybe you have freed up more...time? space? money? A head that's not chocka? 
Perhaps this speaks to you, and perhaps not: but as I went through my wardrobe here in Liverpool, even I found a few items that could go. And this despite having only brought two suitcases worth of stuff with me. I also stumbled across this quote from St. Basil while I was looking for inspiration for Lent this year:
“When someone strips a man of his clothes, we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not – should he not be given the same name? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.”
And because I was already thinking about minimalism and excessive consumption, a quote from a Doctor of the Church condemning the over-consumption and storing up of clothes, food, & money helped push me over the edge of my unease about riding myself of excess. So I have decided to first give up eating out for Lent. (I'll admit I have already slid a little on this one because our new roommate had moved in. Emily and I thought it was a hospitable and welcoming thing to go out for new roommate dinner and a movie.) But I have also been slowly going through some of my belongings in the house and asking some questions
1   How does it bring glory to God in my life?
2   What is its utility? 
3   Is there something I already own that serves this purpose? 
4   Is this one my favorite?
5   Does it bring me joy?
An example for you: I packed 4 beanie style hats with me to Liverpool because I assumed, and rightly so, that England is more consistently cold than Texas and Oklahoma. The problem is I only wear one. My favorite one. I even put off washing it till I am sure I have enough time to dry it before I need to wear it again. The only time I have touched the other three is to move them because they're in the way of something I am trying to get to. I am afraid I might be a thief.
Now I think it has to be said that there is an enormous privilege in choosing to consume less in our current culture. Many people do not get to choose to own very many if any of their favorite things. It could also be said that those who are able to have a duty and an obligation to consume more, for by doing so they provide jobs to others who would not otherwise have them. I am reluctant to believe this is true because it feels like trickle down economics to me. I do not see many people in my communities earning a living wage because of excessive consumption practices. Instead, I see a lot of human toil for little money in my country, excessive human and wage exploitation in other countries, and huge environmental impacts across the globe all to provide cheap goods to an insulated public. 
Some of us do not have a choice in where or what we can consume but for those of us who do I think it is time to reevaluate what and how much we truly need. Are you a thief? I am willing to say I might be.