Maple’s Mar Thoma Adventure

Today I had a unique opportunity to worship with the people of Trinity Mar Thoma Church, a Parish of the Malanaka Mar Thoma Syrian Church here in Edmonton. They use a variant of the West Antiochene Rite.

Now, of few of you might go “Maple, why the heck would you go do that?!” The answer is a simple “Because I could”

The Anglican Church of Canada is in Full Communion with groups like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Old Catholics in the Union of Utrecht and the Malanaka Mar Thoma Syrian Church. This last Church, a group of Christians from the State of Karela in India, have been in full Communion with the Church of England since 1961, and while using Eastern liturgies, are still technically Protestant.

If you wanted any pictures I must then apologize to you because I didn’t take any. I thought it would be rude.

First of all, as some of you know I am what is called “White”, that is, I am of European descent. In fact, three of my eight grandparents were born or born to people from Scandinavia, two were of a particular Volksdeutsche known as Volga-Germans, and the remainder were from Northern Britain (none Anglican, by the way). So, yes I am “White”. With this much ancestry from Northern Europe I am fairly pale. So, when I went to Church this morning I stood out a bit. I really stood out.

However, I would like point out that the people at the Church were exceptionally friendly. They were really helpful so I knew what was going on, where to look in their Prayer Book (they have them, by the way!) and not to sit on the right had side because that is for the women. Also, when you basically say “I am an Anglican coming here to exercise Full Communion with you” the basic response was “Okay, sounds great. Many of us use to do it all the time because we didn’t have this Church.”

The service itself is a little odd. For example, we Anglicans begin the service with a Procession of the Priest and others to the Front of the Church. In this Church they pull back the Curtain to show the Priest partially vested to begin the service. They had a hymn, some prayers and then the Curtain closed.

Then there was a reading from the Old Testament, a Hymn based on a Psalm 42, and then a New Testament reading. Finally, I was told by the elderly gentleman in front of me that the service of Holy Qurbana was now beginning and where to go into the Prayer book.

Now, I mentioned earlier that they use the West Syrian Rite. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not demeaning the service, however, to most Western Christians there is a lot of chanting, a lot of intercessions, and a lot of “Wow, we say a lot less in my Parish”. That is the way they do things. That is the way they have basically been doing things since well before the Reformation.

There is a particular way the Epistle and Gospel were introduced (which I can’t remember). There was also the Nicene Creed (slightly different from what I was use to) and prayers of thanksgiving for people celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. That occurred before the Sermon… which oddly wasn’t on any of the readings. And, I’d rather not talk about what it was about. I will how ever point out the priest solicited Parishioners to look up biblical passages and read them out loud.

Oh, and Confession. Lovely confession prayer. Only those intending to communion had to stand up to say it. The Consecration prayers for the Eucharist were shorter than what we see in modern Anglicanism. However, there were a lot of prayers and intercessions after the consecration was complete. In fact, the Congregation was blessed not once, not twice, but three times before distribution began.

Next, there was taking Holy Communion. They knelt for it. Cool, I can kneel for Communion all the time. The host is placed on the Tongue. Okay, don’t see a lot of that in Anglicanism. I have done it a few times (in some cases to bug the Priest). However, the wine is served in not by having the chalice touch the lips of the communicant, but by using what I can best be described as a liturgical ladle scoping wine from the chalice and then the wine being placed into the mouth of the communicant. I found the experience to be quite different. Not wrong. Just different.

The Post-communion was really, really quick. Just a blessing from the Priest and then the Curtain closing. After that was announcements.

For me this was an important experience. In some ways it was very different; Different to the point of “Really? You do it that way?”. However, there is nothing wrong with the way they worship at all. It is the way they worship and I came to see how they worshiped. And I am glad I did.

Those of you who have meet me in person will know I am a big believer in a “Big Tent” Church. I want a Church with Liberal Evangelicals, and Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. I want to have LGBTQ friendly parishes and retain parishes that might not be that friendly to LGBTQ Christians. I want to have Parishes with more than just a boring vanilla page 185 BAS services; I like the fact my Diocese has a Dinka-language Parish, a Cantonese-language congregation and a Liturgy for First Nations persons.

I also like the fact that while I might be a pasty white-guy I can walk into a friendly Mar Thoma Church like I did today, worship the Lord with them and partake of the Sacraments with them how they do it rather than how I am use to doing it.

In Christ,
MA~

PS – Lutherans, I might be showing up on your doorstep next month.

Maple is Going on a Small Adventure Tormorrow

Hey everyone,

So, all this month and possibly next month I planned on Parish hoping a bit to see how things are done differently. Tomorrow, 27 July 2014, is going to be incredibly different. Tomorrow I am not going to go to an Anglican Church, however, I do plan to take Holy Communion. It won’t be with a Parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, although they are on my list to try out. And it won’t be a Parish of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht because they don’t operate outside of Europe.

Tomorrow I am going to worship with a Parish of Trinity Mar Thoma, which is part of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, which contrary to the Syrian part of it’s name it’s Syrian at all but from the state of Kerala in India.

It just so happens the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is in Full Communion with the Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Church of Canada, which means that I can partake of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist with them. And I have no idea what it is going to be like.

So, Adventure.

The Generational Disconnect of Social Media in the Church

Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to hear Pastor Erik Parker give a brief workshop on Social Media in the Church. Pastor Erik is a few years younger than me and arguably part of the Millennial Generation and he’s been a Pastor within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for five years. And, he gets it.

Now, I am not exactly a millennial. I am either a very young member of Generation-X or one of the Pre-Millennial. Either way I don’t fall into the definition usually given. 1980 is a year that slips through the cracks. However, when it comes to Social Media and the Church I am pretty certain that I get it.

While Pastor Erik was giving his workshop myself and several other local Anglicans were live-tweeting. This included The Rev’ds Robyn Barnes, Stephen London and Scott Sharman, and the Ven. Christopher Pappas. It also included The Rev. Scott Gunn who was attending the conference as a representative of Forward Movement. Now, Robyn is a Millennial, while Chris and Scott are Gen-Xers and Scott is with me as being in the twilight zone between. They get it. They get it very well.

However, during the workshop it was apparent there were a lot of attendees who didn’t get it. And, not to beat around the bush the vast majority of those were in the generation called the Baby Boomers.

Now, you will have undoubtedly noticed until now that I have been taking about it without saying what it really is. It is very simple: For the Church to survive and grow in the modern, western world it needs to embrace using Social Media to spread the Gospel and to build up the Church, the Body of Christ.

And I love it when I see people get it. I love to see people like Pastor Erik who takes in on front and centre. I like to see people like Robyn Barnes who posts all her sermons online and loves to connect to others via Twitter. I love the fact that Scott Gunn, who runs a Church publishing company, got that company out of being print only and started focusing on online materials and other devotionals such as Lent Madness (Tim Schenck did come up with it though). And I am only naming some of the people who were in the auditorium.

However, the reaction I saw by the Boomers who chose to attend was worrisome; They are very skeptical of using Social Media. They are even more worried about using Social Media in the Church. Now, there were some Boomers who were not as skeptical at all and have embraced it. Sadly, they were not in the majority.

Now, many of the concerns of the Boomers are unwarranted. This includes concerns like offending people if a particular post/message was not worded correctly and misunderstood. This happens all the time. If you are using Social Media you are going to screw up on it from time to time. Guess what: You are going to do that in-person missionary work as well.

Without going into too much politics those of us in Generation X and younger have two courses of action: Convince the Boomers they are wrong and go full steam with using social media to make things for the better. Or, go full steam with using social media to make things for the better without convincing the boomers and say we were right all along. I sadly think after my experiences today that later option will be one taking shape. Which is really sad because as a Church we should be united in moving forward.

Anyhow, those are my raging thoughts.

On the Visitation

Today is a very unique festival that is also one that Anglicans (and many other Christians) pushed off to the side for a very long time. Today is the Feast of the Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth, better known as the Visitation. It is, oddly, a way to celebrate Advent while we are still in Easter.

Icon of the Visitation

The story of the Visitation comes from the Gospel according to St. Luke. In it the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has just received the news that she is pregnant with Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is herself with child: the unborn St. John the Baptist. Something amazing happens when Mary comes into the home of Elizabeth: the unborn John leaps in her womb. He reacts to the very presence of both Mary and the yet embryonic Jesus. That to me is telling of the power of Christ.

Christ, the Word made flesh, is Lord even in the Womb. Mary didn’t yet understand the magnitude of what she was carrying in her. The unborn John and Elizabeth recognized this through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Elizabeth gives her “Blessed are you among women…” speech then Mary finally gets it. She then says the canticle we attribute to her: the Magnificat or the Song of Mary. If you are an Anglican doing Evening Prayer you will say this every evening.

I truly think that the Visitation is massively under-appreciated. Also, while I do admit to have a conservative bias on liturgical matters there is one thing I am liberal about with this feast: the (new) date. Until the 1960s this feast was celebrated on the 2 July. While that doesn’t seem like an issue that puts it after the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on 24 June (which happens to be the date of my Daughter’s baptism). It seems a bit odd to celebrate a feast where Elizabeth is pregnant after the birth of the child she was carrying. The new date of 31 May is therefore a much better fit.

31 May also happens to be another special date for me: It is my wife’s Birthday.

Almighty God, who looked with favour on your servant Mary, and called her to be the mother of your Son, nurture in us the humility and gentleness that found favour in your sight, that with her we may proclaim the greatness of your name and find the mercy you show to those who fear you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect for the The Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth
Page 408, Book of Alternative Services (1985)

I like Rev.

I like the BBC2 series called Rev. It depicts the events surrouding the life of the Reverend Adam Smallbone, who is the Church of England Vicar of St. Saviour’s-in-the-Marshes, Hackney, East London. Until Rev. came on the seen in 2010 the average series surrounding an Anglican Priest would usually be in a rural setting depicting an England that didn’t really exist anymore, such as Vicar of Dibley (lovely show, by the way).

Rev. is different. It’s set in a primarily low-income area of London, at a Parish that is constantly in dire straights, in a world where the Church of England is becoming rapidly less relevant (perhaps irrelevant) and more multi-ethnic and multi-religious Britain. As well, Adam is married to a successful Lawyer rather than being single or his spouse being stay-at-home. To be blunt, it is highly truthful and modern.

In the latest episode (Series 3, Episode 6) things have gotten very, very bad for Father Adam and St. Saviour’s.

SPOILER ALERT

The Vultures (the Area Dean and Accountant) are circling, and trying to close down the parish. A (mostly) baseless complain is brought against him resulting in his suspension, something he avoids telling his wife. When an extremely exaggerated incident hits the press things get even harder.

One evening when Adam is home watching his infant daughter three youths vandalize the front of the Vicarage (his home), spray painting the word “PERVENT” across the front of his house. Before he can clean it up his wife (Alexandra) comes home wondering what is up. He decides to go to the garage and grab a large cross he was suppose to lend to another local Priest. Adam then literally (not figuratively) starts bearing his cross through the streets.

We then cut to Adam’s homeless friend, Colin, who is on the street begging for cash next to an ATM machine (aka a Hole-in-the-Wall). One of the local store worker comes by to take cash out and recognizes Colin. She recognizes Colin as being the “Flithly Vicar’s Mate”, and three times Colin denies that he knows Adam. After the third time a burglar alarm goes off across the street at a food place called the “House of Fried Chicken”. When this happens Colin says, “F–king Burglar Alarm! Get it fixed you massive Cock!” The shot then changes to the logo for the food place: A crowing Cock. (Oddly, the security alarm is with Cross Security Alarms)

Back to Adam he stumbles and falls, seeing unfriendly visions of the people he regularly encounters. As daylight breaks he finally gets to the top of a hill with his cross and puts it against a sign-post. Exhausted, Adam begins to sing the refrain to Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter, which includes the line “I [Jesus] am the Lord of the Dance”. Eventually Adam is joined in by a (presumably) drunk lowlife played by Liam Neeson. After sitting down and talking with the man, or rather listen to the man babble idioms, the man finally says “Adam, Adam: We all have our Crosses to bare.” This is down without Adam having said his name, implying that the man is God. God tells Adam he will always be here… and then disappears.

After a quick stop at home to let his wife know he is still alive… and has seen God, Adam goes to the home of the Bishop of London, played by Ralph Fiennes. The Bishop tells Adam that he has been cleared of wrong doing, ending with the word “Innocent.” Adam then replies, “You say I am”, oddly family with Jesus’ answer to Pilate about whether he was the King of the Jews.

Adam tells the Bishop he wants to resign his post as Vicar of St. Saviour’s, an act which will force the closure of the Parish. After the Bishop reminds him, Adam insists he wishes to leave. The Bishop goes to the sink and washes his hands. After drying them off he gives Adam his answer: “Ite in pacem“, or “Go in Peace”.

Our final scene brings us the pews and other items of St. Saviour’s being moved out and the lights being turned off to the Church.

It is very clear to me that in writing this episode Tom Hollander (who actually plays Adam) and James Wood are alluding to the Characters being three biblical figures.

First is Adam as Christ. With him carrying his cross through the streets of Hackney being jeered by people, signing “I am the Lord of the Dance”, and answers to the Bishop this is quite obvious. Second is Colin as Saint Peter. He denies know Adam (Christ) three times, and after the third time a Cock crows. Third is the Bishop as Pilate. The main point supporting this is the washing of his hands.

Now, this isn’t the last episode. That is coming out Monday. What will happen to St. Saviour’s? Where are Adam and family going next? Given the fact that the entire episode occurred in the context of Lent. I have the feeling that Adam might die to save St. Saviour’s, or at the minimum have a near death experience. We’ll see.

MA~

To my Neglected Viewers

Some persons have recently noted that I haven’t done any non-Lent Madness related videos since my series of videos for the 12 Days of Christmas. I want to let my viewers know that come Easter a few things will be changing.

Firstly, I will be producing content again for the most awesome 50 Days of Fabulous, which is spearheaded by Forward Movement. I am honoured and privileged to be doing work. At this point I only have ideas for one video but I would like to do at least 2 more.

Secondly, I would like to be producing a new video at 1-2 month intervals after Eastertide is complete this year. But for that I need some ideas. If you have any please send them my way via email: info@mapleanglican.com and I will gladly give you credit.

Thirdly, I would like to give a shout out to some people who have helped me immensely over the last year with my work:

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Pax Christi

MA~

Fred Phelps is Dead, or Why the Internet has Given me Hope in Humanity

Today one of the most vile men in the history of America has passed away. Fred Phelps, the former civil-rights attorney turned fundamentalist-Primitive Baptist Pastor, known primarily to his opposition to Homosexuality that was utterly vitriolic. His Church, which consists primarily of Family Members, is well known for protesting at funerals saying that almost everything bad under the Sun that happens is happening because of the acceptance of Homosexuality. Their protest signs are well known with “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”.

For a long time I remember seeing posts on the internet with people talking about protesting at his funeral in “revenge” for his protesting at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Action, and other victims of violence. And yet today I have seen NOT ONE posting on Social Media that is hateful towards Phelps on this, the day of his death.

I have seen friends post of Social Media asking for prayers to God for Mercy on Phelps. And, this isn’t coming from Christians on just one side of the moral issues surrounding Homosexuality. I have seen it from Gay Christians and their allies. I have seen it from Christians who think homosexuality is a grave sin but thought Phelps and his church were horrid and disgusting. I have not seen one person post anything hateful about Phelps today. And it makes me hope.

A lot of the time I see the worst in people be brought out on the Internet. Not so today. Today I might have seen the best.

Fred Phelps was a vile and hateful man. We need to remember that God, in his infinite mercy, can forgive Fred Phelps of his wickedness he can surely forgive us. Amen.

Christianity and Aliens

Some of you might not be surprised at all to learn that I am a bit of a sci-fi nut. I know, I know. Shocker. I have asked the questions around before, but I think is still relevant: If there is intelligent life out there do we as Christians need to Evangelize.

Now, given that we are presently not in contact with Extra-terrestrial beings (at least that I am aware of) the question seems slightly moot. However, the Universe is really, really big. Our Galaxy alone has about 100 Billion stars in it. The entire observable Universe has 1022 to 1024 stars in it. Even if one was assume the chances of sentient life occurring was astronomically small the fact that the cosmos is so utterly huge makes the chance we are alone in the universe to be extremely small. From a Christian viewpoint we run into an issue of having to ask ourselves If God created the Universe only for Humans then Why did he make it so utterly big?

There had been some discussion by some Catholic Theologians on the question that if Aliens existed they might have never experienced a fall like man did; They might already be in perfect Communion with God. While I find this idea fascinating I don’t think this is likely. However, if their are Alien species out there that have experience a similar fall from Grace like humans then, yes, they would be in need of redemption. But maybe not quite the same one we have.

We are also told by Christ himself to Go out and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. So, if we encounter Aliens does this commandment from him apply to us? In the Beginning of John’s Gospel we hear how the Word, Jesus, was made Flesh. So as St. Athanasius was concerned “The Son of God became man, that we might become god”.

I would categorically state my belief that if we did run into Aliens it certainly wouldn’t hurt to educate them about Christianity, and other religions of Humans, but that it is unnecessary. Simply put, the salvation of their own Species might involve having their own Christ; An incarnation of the Son of God becoming one of them. Now, this doesn’t mean that I am saying there is more than one Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. What I am saying is as far as I understand soteriology in that an incarnation of a Man-God was necessary for the Salvation of man so to would the Salvation of another species.

All of this is a bit of a moot point; But it won’t be forever. In fact, a part of me wonders if a situation might arise were Aliens land and say “Have you heard of the message of our Lord God and Saviour Xyualjualqak?”

alien_priest

What it is like to work with the Archbishops?

Note: I am not crazy. Some of this is based on Fiction. Play along.

Some people (okay, no one) ask me the question: What is it like to work with two of the finest minds the Church has ever seen when supporting Lent Madness. I tell them that it is awesome.

Thomas+ and John+

Thomas+ and John+

During the competition we, the voting public of Lent Madness, make a LOT of commentary on what we think is going to happen. The fact of the matter is that although we are all voting in the Contest we aren’t the Contestants themselves. And, we can tell from sporting and politics that some of the best commentary, and the best insight comes from veterans who have actually been in the running.

The issue with having a Contest involving Saints running is that Saints are, by very definition, dead and in heaven. There are a few, untrustworthy methods to communicate with the dead such as Ouija boards or Psychics. I didn’t think that would at all worthy of the competition and resigned myself to not being able to help out.

However, in early January 2013 I heard about a special, experimental device being developed in a top secret laboratory by a company that does not want to be disclosed. They wouldn’t let me buy one, however, they did let me lease one. The damage deposit was considerably high. I was able to do obtain the deposit in part from a grant by SnobPAC: The Political Action Committee (aka slush fund) supporting the infamous ChurchSnobTEC elected the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. After the device was sneaked through the world’s longest undefended border I was able to take possession of a Clairvoyatron 2000.

With my brand new Black Box in hand (sorry, I can’t show any pictures of it due to a Non-Disclosure Agreement) I then had to spend the time setting it up and then reading the vast amounts of documentation. Let me tell you folks there are a lot of rules to using one of these. For example Speaking with any deceased friends, or any relatives less than five generations back is strictly prohibited. Also, we are advised not to attempt to speak with any souls in the fires of hell as it “Could lead to a catastrophic failure of the device resulting in the destruction of the whole Universe”. Geez, if that could happen why not put in a safety mechanism to stop me.

Once I got it “online” it became an issue on seeing who was willing to become a commentator. I started going through the Saints who had competed in Lent Madness 2010, 2011 and 2012. Luckily, I was able to find Thomas Cranmer, the Martyred Archbishop of Canterbury. He recommended one of his good friends St. John Chrysostom, the fourth-Century Archbishop of Constantinople. I then learned that the Most Holy Trinity had imposed its own rules on them, or any other Saints using a Clairvoyatron. These include rules such as:

  • Not being able to state what the true Theological opinions of the Church should be on matters that we still consider rather controversial down here. Apparently we are suppose to work that stuff out for ourselves.
  • Forbidden from voting.
  • Can’t call the realm of the damned by the name we use a lot here on Earth and just refer to it as “That Other Place”.
  • Wouldn’t call Satan by his name; He is always referred to as “You Know Who”.
  • Can’t tell us a lot about heaven, and
  • If they break any rules they get sent to “The Penalty Box”, which is a part of Heaven near “That Other Place” where they have to wait until Holy Saturday.

The Archbishops and I decided to do some test footage for the two play-in rounds that occurred that year. With the blessing of the Supreme Executive Committee I continued to work with the Archbishops throughout Lent Madness 2013. However, there was something missing.

For starters people could only hear their voices. I gave some feedback to the makers and over the Summer of 2013 the Clairvoyatron 2000 was replaced by a slightly Clairvoyatron 2100. At the time it had upgraded hardware but had the same Firmware as the 2000. It wasn’t until the fall that the first of Several firmware upgrades went through allowing them to manipulate portraits. The result, I feel, is a better version for the Voting Public of Lent Madness. Sadly, we are still stuck with the same lame computer voices; Something the Archbishops bug me about constantly.

So, there you have it. A brief story of how I came to get a Clairvoyatron and produce the videos for Archbishops Thomas and John.