Thursday, August 27, 2009

Phone Book Church-anomics

(Or how to define criteria to help you choose a church, which is more helpful than looking at phone book ads.)

I really wish I could remember how the conversation got started. Old dead philosophers were involved, and complex philosophical and theological terms too. (Oddly enough, we were driving down to see the philosopher's sister when this came up. Most of these types of deep conversations occur when we're hiking, so that in and of itself is unusual.) I think maybe Augustine was involved (he usually is) and perhaps some Macintyre too. But don't hold me to that.

Anyway, what stuck with me after the conversation what what we were talking about towards the end - what aspects of a church are "necessary" to us, and what aspects are merely "important"? In other words, if you had to choose from among less-than-ideal churches, how do you organize the criteria?

What showed up on my lists? (I'm a librarian, of COURSE I make lists!) I'll list what I can remember. There was much more, I know. But it's nearly the weekend after a very long week, and my brain is mushy to the point of running out my ears. So I'll hit the high points and make weak promises to post more at some vague future time!

In the 'Necessary' Column

Preaching Christ Crucified
Biblically sound

In the 'Important' Column
Follows the church year
Good music (more traditional than contemporary)
Liturgically based
Vibrant small groups & Sunday school

I feel like I at least have some of my priorities in the right order; that the preaching and teaching is more important than the music, for example. But I also realized that there are some "extraneous" things that really are important to me, and fall closer to the "necessary" category than perhaps they should. So it's been a good exercise, and I'm sure it will come up again in our musings together.

The philosopher's lists were decidedly more.... philosophical. And theological. And granular. Which is why I won't try to reproduce them here. But if we end up on the Pinhoti one of these days and this topic comes up again, I plan to pull out my steno pad and take some notes!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The G.S.E.: Church D

The Great Sociological Experiment churns onward! The philosopher and I crossed the Tiber last Sunday and visited a local Catholic church. Now, I must preface this with a qualifier: We Are Not Catholic. We don't want to *be* Catholic. We both believe that one must agree with a church's teachngs on all the first order issues. And we have some disagreements with the Catholic Church. At our core, we are Protestant. Conservatively Protestant, even. Heck, we are ANGLICAN! But we also know that, if we can't go to an Anglican church locally, then we need to find another place to worship with a body of believers. (And you've read all this before, because I've said it more than once. Sorry for the repetition!)

Anyway, the closest thing to Anglican liturgy is Catholic liturgy. So off we went. This is the "parish church" of the county, so the sanctuary was completely full. Which was good, because there were no bulletins and no way to really follow the service. So we relied on watching the folks next to us to do the whole sit-stand-kneel thing. The music was uninspired, and we did get a couple of the bad 60s Catholic folk hymns. I don't claim they're any worse than some of the vapid modern praise choruses, but I also don't claim they're any better either. There also wasn't much in the way of Sunday school or small group offerings.

Another interesting observation: there also wasn't much in the way of welcoming visitors. We were far-to-overwhelmed with welcome at Church A, what with special visitor parking and golf cart transportation. Church C had the deacons point out the visitors to the pastor during the "passing of the peace" and the pastor came to say hello. And the other churches we visited had greeters at the door and encouraged us to fill out a visitor card (both so they could know we visited and so we could get more information if we wanted it). Here? Neither. So to me that was a bit odd too. Of course, none of this is a deal breaker. Not being able to take communion unless you're a Catholic, that's a bit more prickly. I'm not an advocate of open communion - I believe you need to profess Christ before taking of His body and blood. But I also have issue with the Catholics not accepting most other forms of Christianity.

The Anglican Catholic Church, our former church in Virginia, is in an interesting position in regard to the Catholic Church along those lines. There's a Catholic canon law that allows communion for non-Catholics of certain other churches with the permission of the Bishop. And the ACC is potentially one of them. Since we're still a member of the ACC (we never transferred our membership) we could conceivably ask for special dispensation to receive communion.

So our Experiment continues. We may go back to Church B this weekend, unless the philosopher has something else in mind. He was saying something about finding a Greek Orthodox congregation, but I'm hoping he was just kidding. ::weak grin::

As an aside, we had a nice long talk about what is "important" or "necessary" or just "nice to have" in a church home. If I can remember all the philosophical terms he used, that might just become another post.

Pinhoti Trail Hike

Yes, we are crazy. Yes it is August, and we live in the deep south. And yes, we went on a 6-mile hike last weekend. We hiked the Pinhoti Trail from the trailhead at the Chief Ladiga Bike Trail and went south to the Oakey Mountain shelter, then back again. It was a surprisingly comfortable hike, as our neck o' the woods was experiencing an unusually cool and not-so-humid day.

There's a beautiful spot just before the Pinhoti leaves the bike trail called the Terrapin Creek Watershed. (And I must apologize for the poor quality of the photos - we forgot the Canon and had to rely on the cell phone. And we don't have one of those fancy high-tech versions!)

From the valley we hiked up, along the boundary of the Talladega National Forest, to a new shelter on OakeyMountain, built by the Pinhoti Trail Alliance.

To get to the shelter you hike along the ridge of the mountain for quite a ways. It's summer, and the trees are in full leaf, but we were still able to get one good pic from our eyrie across the valley below.

We've failed miserably in our quest to get a lot of hiking in this summer. Or perhaps we simply underestimated the allure of air conditioning in 95 degree weather with 70% humidity. Regardless, as the weather starts to cool next month, we have grand plans. ::heh:: And you'll be the first to hear about them!

Monday, August 10, 2009


I learned a new word today! Anamnesis (The philosopher would be so proud... well, he would if he actually read my blog. He's of the firm opinion that if I want him to know something, I should tell him face to face. He doesn't believe me when I say I'm much more eloquent on paper!)

Anyway, new word. I especially like the "Encyclopedia" entry in the link above.

So we did have a busy weekend, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. Friday we went to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta and laughed for a solid 2 1/2 hours at "The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged." We met up with some fellow Stand Firmers, Matthew (aka mousestalker) and his delightful wife. Much fun was had by all! It's amazing. We met folks with whom we have a lot in common, we went to the same college, we have similar religious beliefs, the same opinion of what makes food nasty (it's all about texture!)... and we never would've met if it hadn't been for blogs. How cool is that?

Saturday was my father's birthday. Happy birthday, dad! In three weeks we'll start up our Saturday Football days again, and I'm so looking forward to it. Go Noles!!!! WooHoo!

Sunday we headed south to my sister-in-law's house. Her family has grown by one with the addition of Milton the puppy, who was *completely* worn out at the end of the day by our niece, an active 2 1/2 year old. My mother-in-law was there too, and it was wonderful to visit with her as well. We arrived home late to the indignant protests of the cat. I had neglected to feed her before we left, and she was extremely cross. (as an aside - she had plenty of dry cat food in her bowl. I merely neglected to use my opposable thumbs to pop a top on a can of food.) Finicky beast.

So I have two days of work this week, then I get my last "mini-vacation" before The Holidays. I can't believe it's August already. So I'll leave off this rememberance of things past and work on completing today's projects!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Political Spectrum Quiz

OK, since everyone else is doing it... ::snort::

My Political Views
I am a center-right moderate social authoritarian
Right: 2.26, Authoritarian: 1.67

Political Spectrum Quiz

Not surprising at all. I'm a neo-conservative and a cultural conservative. (As probably any of my two readers would've guessed if they read my blog post about Crunchy Cons!)

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 4.06

My Culture War Stance
Score: 5.75

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The G. S. E.: Church C

So this Sunday we ventured forth for another installment of the Great Sociological Experiment! This time we visited another Baptist church, but one *very different* from Church A. Church C was founded in 1902, and maintained that "traditional" feel in terms of the sanctuary and facilities. It also proudly proclaimed itself as Southern Baptist, both on its website and in the bulletin. Oh, and no lobster tank! Instead, the baptismal pool was discreetly tucked away - visible to the entire congregation of course - but not clear-sided like what you find in Red Lobster.

I think powerpoint has become ubiquitous. Thppt. And they also had drums. But no electric guitars... just a piano, clarinet, flutes, and some brass... non-amplified. We sang a mix of music, some from the Baptist Hymnal and others from the current praise music scene. The choir was large, but surprisingly unenthusiastic. (More on that in the next paragraph.)

Here's an interesting side note, though. We suspect this congregation is currently in a crisis about their music styles. There were many more seniors attending, and from where we were stitting not a single one sang the praise music. They stood there stonily, not even pretending to sing (as one often does when one doesn't know the music). When we sang the hymns, though, the older folks were much more participatory. (Heck, who wouldn't sing along to "Victory in Jesus"??) So we think there's a conflict with the music leaders - the seniors don't hold for that new-fangled stuff! And we both noticed it independently, so it was pretty obvious.

The preaching was definitely of the "old-style Baptist". He said some good things. Using John 15:3-5... we should be cleansed from sin, then cling to Jesus, then cultivate ourselves in that relationship in Christ. Still, it's hard getting used to a 45 minute sermon!

This service was by far more comfortable than Church A. Church A was just so... LOUD. Too much flash and not enough time for prayer, maybe. Or when there was time for prayer, the music was still overpowering. At Church C there was a much better balance of prayer, and worship, and message.

I'm still not sure about their small group/sunday school offerings. There wasn't much info in the bulletin, and their website failed on that count as well. I just don't see any indication of a broad small group program of any kind. There's a college ministry, and a seniors ministry. and a singles ministry (The singles ministry, which has an announcement for a trip to Atlanta "Singles! Join us for a Braves game, and bring your family!" A little dissonant, eh? I know what they meant, but it just sounded wierd phrased that way.) But there's nothing on any other small group options.

So the experiment continues!