Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Newsletter two

Chris at St. Marks Newsletter 2

On September 20th I turned 22 years old. This was the first time I’ve celebrated a birthday without some family present. I was a little worried that it would be a really trying and emotional birthday. Lucky for me the Wayper, Sarah Carroll, Viktor and Yan wouldn’t allow that. The night before my birthday Yan, Viktor and I drank “Mommas” (Corona with tomato juice) and watched "Napoleon Dynamite" (both sort of quirky American things to do). The next day when I wandered out of the shower in the morning I was greeted with "Happy Birthday" being sung in German and Slovakian. I received a birthday card from a couple from Central, the Lutheran Church in Eugene, and Jon, Sarah, and Liz (the warden and his family) gave me a book about the history of Saffron Walden. I also got crispy chocolates called "Maltesers" from Victor, Yan, and Sarah Carroll. Then we went to Cambridge, bowled and ate at a Portuguese chicken place.

Anglicanism revisited:
In my last newsletter I painted a picture of The Church of England as a church with less spiritual charisma than “the frozen chosen” and characterized their worship as extremely slow. All these characterizations were thrown out the window when I showed up at St. Barnabus (or as members call it St. B’s) in Cambridge. This place would incense the most fervent Baptist or Pentecostal! They have a praise band, people wave their hands in the air, a few people even get up and dance erratically! I was quite impressed (and more than a little surprised) with the worship! They gather tons of young college students and the sermons are all very practical. Last week the sermon was about singleness, the week before it was about prayer. In some ways they are more like lectures than sermons. They are far from fitting Luther’s view of the sermon, that it should convict and forgive, but still very interesting.

Other Churches in England:
For the first time in a long time I’ve been church shopping. It’s interesting, especially because I’m a stranger in a strange land. I’ve been to a Baptist church and a United Reformed Church. The Baptist church used laptops and projectors throughout the sermon, whereas the Reformed Church was much more traditional, the preacher sat down on a chair in front of the altar and just started talking. The Baptists had very upbeat simple songs projected onto a wall; the Reformed Church had hymnals that looked to be very old.
What has impressed me the most about the churches here in England is the style of preaching, it is very logical, very step by step, very intellectual. It is sort of like hearing CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” in sermon format.

After an intense four days of training I am now certified by the Grand National Archery Society as an archery instructor! I’ve already taught a lot of kids.

No one knows where anything is in America! Which I suppose is fair, as I hardly know where anything is in England. Still, it can be frustrating at times because a lot of people ASSUME they know where things are in America. For some reason most British people believe Oregon is slightly North of Florida.
Once I realized no one had a clue where Oregon is (let alone Wyoming where I went to high school) I started to tell them “I’m from Oregon, its right above California.” This opened up a whole new set of unexpected problems. “Do you know George Lucas/Hayden Christensen/ Michael Moore/Jim Carry/Darth Vader/Orlando Bloom etc.” The first couple times I got asked this I thought it was a fluke, but by about the fourth time I realized that wasn’t the case. My eventual response to this do you know X Hollywood was. No, do you know Margaret Thatcher/Tony Blaire/ Niel Gaiman etc
Yan, Viktor, and I were comparing notes the other day and we realized British children have no clue what accent goes with what country. Most people assume I am… Irish! I know what you are thinking, Chris, are you trying to sound British, because your accents really aren’t very distinct or good. No, I’m talking like your typical mush mouthed American. One kid went so far as to try and place my accent. He was convinced I was from Indiana.
As for Viktor, the German, they all think he is American. And Yan, the Slovakian, he is Transylvanian.
The Monk:
A little fact about St. Mark’s College that not everyone knows. Its haunted by “The Monk.” I’ve yet to meet him, and I have a distinct impression that he may just be the old wiring in the Abbey, as well as the damp air messing with the smoke detector, but when a light flickers, or a door closes on its own, we say “that’s the Monk.”
A very short story:
The Monk
747 years trapped in these walls. At first I thought it was another exercise, like meditation, or patient suffering, or the Rosary. After a while though, I… I started to question why I am here. I started to wonder if maybe, maybe I was not saved or sanctified.
Then I decided I was waiting in this Infirmary where I died so long ago, for a reason. Maybe I was kept here in this Abbey as a sort of gateway, an umbilical cord between the two worlds. I could see the auras of the sanctified immortals, the Saints bobbing around the crosses and the dim lit halls. So too could I see the dark faces of the living. Maybe my job was to give a holy feel to this place and allow the two worlds to touch. And so I created a certain serenity at St. Mark’s.
For the last two weeks we’ve had St. Edwards, a school in London, staying with us. Its pretty amazing, we get 30 twelve year olds through here every day for 8 days. We are their religious instruction. Each group has a different subject we examine with them from a Christian perspective. When their 24 hours are done they have to go back to St. Eds and give a 10 minute presentation to the rest of the school.
I’ve been getting to do Epilogue with the kids. Epilogue is more or less a brief evening worship service. I pick a Bible passage, read it, then sort of extemporize a sermon out of it on the spot and close in prayer. Its amazing how many things you can relate 1 Corinthians 12 to!
As some of you know when I preach I always have verbatim notes at my disposal, so free styling like this is really new and exciting to me!

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Weekly Standard on China

As most of you know China's rise to power is one of my foreign policy pet peeves. China is a rather illiberal country that is the only strategic competitor to the US. The Weekly Standard proposes that it may be the next Germany, Japan, or Soviet Union.
My thought is that because of its long cultural history it is more likely that China may simply want to dominate the region, setting up a sort of Asian Monroe Doctrine.
One weird thing Boot said was that there should be created an Asian NATO. My thought was "There is! SEATO! Duh!" So I did some searching and I found out that SEATO was disbanded in 1977! I had no idea.
Maybe we SHOULD try and recreate SEATO. Call it the Asia-Pacific Treaty Organization, include India (one of the US's new favorite post-cold war buddies!), Pakistan (see, this type of alliance might keep the subcontinent from blow itself up!), Japan (I'm not sure how this type of alliance would work concidering the McAurthur constitution), Tailand, Laos, Afghanistan, the Philipines, and... Taiwan. That last one might be too much. That might be enough to start World War 3 (or 4, or 5 depending on what you think about the Cold War as well as the current "War on Terrorism.")
Two problems I see with creating these alliances are:
1. I think back to George Washington's farewell address, but in a global world issolationism is really not an option any more.
2. I think of WW1 being caused by alliances that got out of hand. Creating APTO could make something like a 1 on 1 confrontation between Taiwan vs China into a war between China and its allies vs. the US and its allies, it could spill into Vietnam, Russia could get involved. It could get downright ugly.
That's my international policy thought for the day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Recreation: The Salvation History of God

I have 2 days worth of presentations for the kids from St. Edwards to get ready. The first theme is Caring, the second is Recreation. Here is my attempt at a recreation play.

Characters: God, Narrator, Human

Act 1 The Flood
God: Look at them. I gave them Earth. I gave them utter perfection, yet they turn it into perdition; their wickedness is so great. They are corrupt and do much violence, so I will flood the earth, blotting out their transgressions.
Narrator: Thus the rain began, the waters were shed upon the earth, and the flood came. Yet God’s creation is good, loved by God, and redeemable. So God found a man, the best man of his generation, Noah, and said to him.
God: Noah, Child of God!
Noah: (small and frightened) Yes?
God: Build me a boat to carry the animals of the earth, that my creation may be spared. With it I will create a new world.
Noah: Oh… okay.
Narrator: And so Noah made the Arc, and with his family and the animals of Earth God’s creation was spared.

Act 2 Abraham
God: Oy Vey, they create towers, idolatrous things to make themselves gods. Even after the flood humans are still wicked.
Narrator: And so God thought and thought about what he may do to recreate his creation. He would bless one family, one line of people, so that his blessing of them would spill out to all of creation.
God: Abraham, Child of God.
Abraham: Hu?
God: Go from your country and your kindred, and your fathe’rs house to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and by that blessing all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Abraham: I shall go LORD.

Act 3 Jesus
God: I’ve lived with my people. I have died for them. And now I rise from the dead, in glory, that they may be glorified through me!
People at tomb: You have risen!
God: All of you, Children of God, Go, make disciples of everyone, baptize them, teach them to observe my commandments. I am with you, my new creation.

Act 4 Paul
Narrator: Jesus’ disciples had went out and proclaimed the good news of His resurrection, and the new creation that was taking place. There was a man named Saul who threatened the disciples with death.
God: Saul, Child of God, why do you persecute me?
Paul: Who said that?
God: I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Paul: Forgive me Lord.
God: You are my chosen instrument. You will tell of my new creation to the non-Jews who do not know of my life, death, and resurrection.

Act 4
All: Now, all of you, Children of God, you have been redeemed by Jesus. Go, work within God’s creation towards “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”