The movie, “Star Trek” (Begins), tells the story of how Kirk and Spock met in a different timeline than was told in the original series. One reoccurring theme is the pull that Spock experiences between Vulcan and Earth, being half human and half Vulcan. I experienced that this weekend. Although not technically a, “cradle baby” the first church I ever regularly attended as a young child was an United Methodist congregation. For many years I served as a pastor in The United Methodist tradition. The liturgy is familiar and comforting. I am no longer United Methodist. I am part of the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM), which is also known as The Old Catholic Church.
I serve as a priest and bishop in the Community of Saint George–Young Rite (ISM). I love our radical inclusivity which includes LGBTQ+++, women, people of any ethnic heritage, etc., into the priesthood and even into the episcopate. I love our liturgy which is a high church liturgy (non-Roman Catholic), our understanding of the sacraments (all seven). Yes, we have smells and bells. I love the fact that we have a comprehensive training program that does not require an M. Div., nor costs $50,000. I love the fact that we have no paid clergy, and no church buildings of our own. It is comforting and authentic.
The movie, “Hunt for Red October” has a scene where an United States submarine happens upon the nearly silent Red October USSR submarine. It took Seaman Jones a long time to figure out what he was listening to. At one point he said something like this, “The sonar software was originally designed to monitor whales. Sometimes when she gets confused, she runs home to mama.” To some consternation of my fellow bishops, sometimes, when I get a bit confused, I run home to mama (The extensive training and years of experience I have in The United Methodist Church). Via text and emails, I can almost hear them slapping their foreheads and shaking their heads.
This weekend (Nov 8-10, 2019), we held our annual convocation/synod at a lovely United Church of Christ church in Marysville, Ohio. On Friday, we had three worship services, one of which was an ordination service for some of the minor orders. Saturday we had more worship, and yet another ordination service to finish the ordination to subdeacon for our two ordinands. It was amazing. We sang, we chanted, and in Catholic tradition, the ordinands prostrated themselves in front of the altar, making the sign of the cross with their arms spread wide while laying on the floor before the hands of the bishops in attendance laid hands upon them. I felt at home.
On Sunday, we lead worship in the UCC congregation. It was a pretty standard liturgical based Protestant worship service. I felt at home.
It occurred to me that I am like Spock (well, not as smart), a child of two worlds. Both of them are comforting and make me feel at home.
On my long flight home, and over the last several days, I have been reflecting about my experience at the convocation. I confess, both are home, and also, I am a bit rusty in leading both traditions.
What I have found through my experience is that Christians in general, are really caught up in tribalism. We have a tendency to be rather myopic. We talk to ourselves about ourselves (church gossip, especially among clergy, is rampant). Each expression of the Christian tradition has its own vocabulary. We would rather look in than look out. It is more comfortable. What if we could be more like ambassadors and reach out to one another in love and care, across the religious boundaries? Yes, I know some denominations do that better than others, and some local parishes in towns do that better than others, but let’s be honest, sometimes we hold inexplicable grudges about the church down the block, or the other denomination. At the end of the day, we all have one basic thing in common–the belief in Christ, for we are Christians. We should endeavor to see the Christ in others just as we experience the Christ among ourselves.