Monday, July 13, 2009

The woman who wanted a Bible

Our store is in the middle of our annual Summer Sale. Part of the sale includes what we refer to as Porch Books. They are books that were on sale last summer and then throughout the rest of the year, and still have not sold. We put them in display boxes on our front porch (well, it is hardly a porch, but it is outside the front door).

Another part of this story concerns a few of our visitors who see the world differently than I do. One woman came in this week carrying two Porch Books. She asked, “Are these Bibles?” One was a full-size hardcover book that was a Church Annual that lists all of the congregations, their addresses, and the names of the clergy. It is certainly not a Bible. The other was a non-descript paperback book. It was very obvious to me that neither of those books were Bibles. I replied to her, “No, those are not Bibles. Do you want a Bible?” “Yes,” she said and immediately deposited those two books on the counter and went back outside. She then came in with two other books and asked if they were Bibles. Once again I said “No.” And, I asked if I could help her find a Bible. She wanted a Bible for one dollar but we did not have one for even $10 that I may have given to her for a dollar. She finally purchased a dollar book that included some Bible quotes in it.

What was obvious to me was that this woman could not read. She had no idea about what the words inside a book looked like to be called a Bible. I was deeply saddened that she was so handicapped that she could not determine on her own the kind of contents that was in a book. A bible usually has written on its cover the word “Bible.” She could not determine even that much. Another feeling that I had for her was worry about how vulnerable that woman was to anyone who could read words when she couldn’t. How easily she could be taken advantage of or be harmed by people who know the meaning of written words. At the same time, she knew that having a bible was important and she wanted one, even if she could not read it.

Ah. My heart hurts for her.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Changing or remaining steadfastly the same?

I had an E-mail conversation (several messages back and forth over a few hours) with Barbara, a parish secretary or administrator in an Episcopal congregation. Her congregation has not moved along with the rest of the Episcopal Church in the past several years. In the Episcopal Church the Scripture lessons to be read in church each week are listed in the back of the prayer book. Perhaps nine years ago there was a move to change the lessons. The Revised Common Lectionary is the new listing of lessons to be read in church. They are “revised” from the previous list. They are “common” meaning that several different denominations, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and others have agreed to use the same list of lessons. A “Lectionary” is the list of lessons.

Six years ago the Episcopal Church, nationally, agreed to begin using the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for “trial use.” It was up to dioceses and congregations whether or not they use them. Three years ago was the time for all congregations to use them, but the old Lectionary was still permissible to use. Beginning this Advent (the beginning of the new church year near the end of November) the old Lectionary will not be able to be used and we are all supposed to be using the RCL.

Barbara’s congregation, probably with the leadership of the priest, is not changing to the RCL. They are continuing to use the old Lectionary. She wrote to me wanting to order the calendar that they have always used, the one that lists the old Lectionary readings on it. Barbara said that last year’s calendar did not have the old Lectionary and it has been a burden to them that she wanted to correct. I explained that the calendar publisher was not including the old Lectionary on their calendars now.

In a series of messages Barbara kept coming up with other questions and possible solutions to find a calendar that will list the old lessons for each Sunday. I could read her feelings of stress in needing a calendar to meet her congregation’s needs.

I was saddened and felt sorry for Barbara and her congregation. The Church, in many of its denominations is moving onward. Throughout history things have always been changing in the Church and they continue to change. Barbara’s congregation has decided not to change. This is coupled, in my opinion, with the results of the “me, now” generation. That is, the “I want it my way and I want it now” view of life. In the past generation this has become the norm for those of us living in this culture. Barbara’s congregation has not changed and kept up with the changing Church, but they still “want it my way and want it now.” She did not get as indignant as I may be presenting it, but the underlying concern of Barbara’s was “What do you mean that we can not obtain the calendar printed with the lessons that we want on it?”

It is, to me, a sad situation for Barbara’s congregation. They, or perhaps just the priest who is their leader, have made the decision to stop growing in the life of the Church. Part of that decision results in the rub, the pinch, that comes from wanting what no longer exists.

What a corner we box ourselves into sometimes by wanting things to remain as they have been but can not be that way any longer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some help for keeping up with General Convention 2009.

Are you curious, interested, fascinated, or urgently need some information and insight on the progress, events, and actions of the Episcopal Church’s triennial national meeting, General Convention, being held in Anaheim CA?

Here are some links to blogs from participants. Perhaps you can browse them and find one or two that “speak to you.”

From the Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington State) participants:

* Young Adult Deputy Katrina Hamilton
* Bishop Greg Rickel
* Diocese of Olympia deputation

From the Diocese of San Diego CA participants

Twitter links:


Offering one-stop shopping for worldwide coverage of General Convention, this site features video, audio slideshows, news stories, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, Flickr photo galleries and more. Visit it here.

Do you have other sources to suggest? Add them as comments or E-mail them to me and I will consider including them in this list.