Thursday, March 30, 2006

Letter to the Emergent Soapbox

Dear Mr. Emergent Worship Seminar Leader:

I was wondering if you could come on down off your soapbox/pedestal so I could speak to you for a moment... I'll wait.

Took awhile didn't it?

I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you coming out to the middle of a red state (the exact region that helped change us from a blue state) and sharing your ideas for emergent worship. I was so inspired. I think everyone was, especially when it became obvious that your ideas were solidly based in reformed tradition and liturgical fact. Your passion and love for Christ was so evident and contagious. Even the grumpiest were taking notes.

Truly, your keynote was inspiring.

I went to one of your classes and would have loved if things had been more structured, but I understand 'ENFP's a bit and was willing to go with the flow. Again, your passion, energy, knowledge and committment to what you were saying and doing were evident.

You love the Lord. Amen brother, Amen.

I was wondering if you realized who you were talking to when you said, "get the flags out of the Sanctuary."

With that on the table let me say this I agree with you. We are not worshipping the flag. We are not worshipping America or our leaders. We worship God. I agree when we say, "God bless America" we should also be saying "God bless Iraq. God bless Afghanistan. God bless Sudan." Amen brother, again I say amen.

I wonder though if you were so high up on your soapbox that you failed to see that you totally shut down your audience. In the name of what you believe is right - and again I agree with you - you laid for naught everything else you had taught us.

I was seeing an opening, an opportunity to do something crazy and radical in my worship service - some might even say emerging - by moving the font into the middle of the Sanctuary and using it during the Declaration of Pardon. Heck, I already got it out of the back room and into the front on a permanent basis, what is one more step. But once you made your flag declaration and would not back down (fair enough) or graciously change the subject (why?) it was over for me and for every other pastor in there who is patiently paying their dues at 'We Have Never Done It That Way Before Rural Red State Church.'

Do you know what one of the first pieces of advice I give to new pastors out here? "Don't move the flag." Why? Because their ministry will not even get off the ground and my denomination is losing young pastors fast enough as it is.

Maybe you see me as a coward and believe me sometimes I call myself that in the mirror. I hide my cowardice under phrases like, "don't want to die on that mountain." So yes, I do call myself 'coward'.

I also call myself breadwinner.

I have rambled on long enough. Thanks again for coming out... I only wish that your visit would be remembered for all it really was rather than for what most folks will come out remembering.

You can climb back up now... I will hand you your guitar.

Peace be with You,
The Woman Who Heard We Cannot Do Anything Recommended by 'That' Man


St. Casserole said...

Whoa! What a post. Needs to be a must-read for all preacher people. I agree with you about the flag moving and I'm sorry your great speaker lost his influence because he didn't want a flag in the sanctuary.
I wonder if he would "hear" you if you told him about why people won't listen to him?

Quotidian Grace said...

This is so spot-on, Will Smama!

the reverend mommy said...

Hmmm... I think I attended that same seminar.

Actually moved the flag out of the sanctuary into the gym for the Boy Scouts to use. Someone noticed and so now we have TWO flags.

No good deed goes unpunished.

cheesehead said...


juniper68 said...

a pastor-friend of the family had a long and happy pastorate at a small-town church, which began when he insisted that the congregation remove the flag. they enjoyed their 10 years with him, bided their time, and put the flag back in the sanctuary the Sunday after his last.
Although I'm not a big one for flags in the church either, I gotta say that story is a good reminder about whose church it is.

Kathryn said...

Oh sad that the good bits got lost thanks to this! It does intrigue me, though, that the flag is such a huge issue in the, where the C of E is still the official "state religion", there doesn't seem to be any such devotion. Many churches have (and fly once in a while)a St George's cross, but the UnionJack...never, I think. It's interesting, isn't it?

will smama said...

Unfortunately Juniper I think that story is more of a reminder that your friend was a) incredibly lucky or b) not right out of seminary... or both.

will smama said...

Kathryn -

That is interesting. I am sure a book has been written somewhere about the varying allegiances of Great Britain and her unruly offspring... and why.

reverendmother said...

I would love to know if this speaker is the one I'm thinking of. Like revmommy I'm pretty sure I attended this workshop in this presbytery. Is his first name more suitable as a little boy's nickname?

will smama said...

RM - Yup, I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same guy. He can also be found in a popular kind of ice cream.

Again, passionate, knowledgable, talented... BUT

reverendmother said...

He did that same schtick here. Move the baptismal font, guitar-playing, ENFP looseness. And he probably did the flag spiel too, although the fact that I don't remember shows how differently that statement would play here.

Anonymous said...

I was at that conference. Went back excited that maybe we should talk about weekly communion. I suggested a time theological of discussion with the worship committee in order to explore what about this practice was faithful, scary, exciting... I assured that I didn't have a preference but thought that we would learn a great deal from the conversation.

The response? We'll ask people if they like the idea of making this huge change to radical communion, and if everyone is in favor of it we can talk about. Oh yeah. That's coming up again.

And then we got to talk about why the Lenten hymns may be theologically sound but will never be singable. And then the meeting was over. WITHOUT EVER MENTIONING THAT WE MIGHT WANT TO TALK ABOUT WORSHIP ON PALM SUNDAY, MAUNDY THURSDAY, or EASTER. Which are in two weeks!

I invited this discussion and was not taken up on my offer. They want to evaluate it after Easter is over.

Sorry. Is this my blog? Sorry. That just slipped out.

Lorna said...

ouch! I hope you sent it by email too? It needed saying!

in Finland the flag isn't such a big thing as in the USA - and last Sunday was the first time I saw the Estonian flag on display inside the church at all - it was the day of hte late presidents funeral. Most churches had a 1 minute silence.