Archive for September 2009

Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia   7 comments

My father served as pastor of this church from June 1980 to June 1982.  Twenty-seven years later I recall the interior of the main church building, the fellowship hall in the back, and the parsonage next door.  Also, I recall the next-door neighbor (Ola Mae Bailey) and walking routes to the local store and the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

I remember that the pulpit of Vidette UMC is at the front of the building, with the choir behind it and a curved altar railing.  I recall three sections of pews.  I remember the parsonage, with its front porch and small, one-car carport, and no hallways, also.

I was in the Second and Third Grades at the time.  Here are images from then:

New Year’s Eve (December 31)   Leave a comment

Above:   New Year’s Eve, Sydney, Australia

Calendars are of human origin, and therefore artificial.  Yet they are useful in marking time and providing temporal milestones.  December 31 and January 1 are two of the more useful temporal milestones, for they mark the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, respectively.  These are excellent times to reflect on what has past and what might follow.

My hope and prayer for everyone is that the year that follows will be better than the one that has expired.  My standard for “better” is God:  What does God want for you?  May you have that.  May you come nearer to where you ought to be (in every way) than where you are now.



From Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time, and through the events in our lives you bless us with your love.  Grant that in the new year we may know your presence, see your love at work, and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

Posted September 15, 2009 by neatnik2009 in December 31

Tagged with

Feast of St. Clement of Alexandria (December 5)   18 comments

Clement of Alexandria


“The Pioneer of Christian Scholarship”


Over ten years ago, in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I heard a member of my father’s church disparage intellectuals.

Smart people don’t have the kind of faith common people do,

he said in a manner which indicated that he placed insufficient value on the intellect.  (So I have to dumb down to have proper faith?  No, I don’t!)  I did not reply for for diplomatic reasons.  Yet I refuse to check my brain at the church door.  Neither did Clement of Alexandria check his brain at the church door.  I like him.

Clement of Alexandria, a.k.a. Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrius, converted to Christianity from paganism.  (Paganism is a very broad term.)  He studied at the Catechetical School at Alexandria, serving as its director from circa 190 to circa 202, when he retired to Palestine.  Origen, his pupil, succeeded him.  Clement has been a hot potato for a long time.  Once upon a time he was a saint in the Roman Catholic Church; his feast day was December 4.  Yet Pope Sixtus V, of whom J. N. D. Kelly, writing in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), accused of repressiveness, decanonized Clement in 1586.  Nevertheless, The Episcopal Church celebrates him on December 5.  And The Hymnal 1982 (published in 1985, by the way) contains two of his hymns.  Hymns #163 and #478 affirm the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Why was Clement so controversial?  Why is he still that way?  There are reasons.

Clement, the Ante-Nicene Church Father most acquainted with Greek philosophy and literature, welcomed insights from them.  Philosophy was, he wrote, the necessary preparation for the Christian gospel.  Said gospel is sufficient and pagan doctrines are insufficient, he maintained, but even pagan Greek philosophy (especially Platonism) contains truth.  So, Clement continued, we ought to accept truth regardless of its source.

Clement sought to affirm orthodoxy; he was certainly no Gnostic.  For Clement, knowledge was the goal of Christian perfection.  This knowledge was manifest in Jesus, the Logos of God.  So, he wrote, this knowledge is in the world; it is not a secret.

Perhaps Clement’s unabashed, even elitist intellectualism explains his lack of popularity.  This knowledge, which is the goal of Christian perfection, is superior to the run-of-the-mill faith which common people have,  he argued.  Furthermore, he insisted, many people are incapable of walking in the better path.  Such a perspective is inconsistent with spiritual populism.

We all bring our baggage to the theological table; let us be honest about that.  I bring a distrust of anti-intellectualism, which I have witnessed.  Egalitarianism, despite its virtues, can devolve into a dumbed-down lowest common denominator.  We would not want to injure anybody’s self-esteem, would we?  I bring a dislike for that mentality also.  So I am an unapologetic intellectual, like Clement.  He might have been impolitic, but he was right about a great deal.  And yes, many people are incapable of certain levels of intellectual attainment.  He was also correct about that that.

History tells me that subsequent theological developments in Western Christianity included, for a time, reflexive rejection of pagan, pre-Christian philosophy and other learning.  The Byzantines retained such knowledge and the Muslims embraced it, but one reason the Dark Ages were so dark in Western Europe was the rejection of so much of the Greco-Roman heritage.

We are all prone to errors.  Yes, Clement was wrong about certain points.  But he was correct more often than not, which is a good way to be.  Perhaps Clement’s greatest legacy is his broad-minded approach to knowledge and truth.  All truth is of God, regardless of through whom God communicates it.  May we, like Clement of Alexandria, listen to and read attentively to that truth wherever we find it.








O God of unsearchable wisdom,

you gave your servant Clement

grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the source of all truth:

Grant to your church the same grace to discern your Word wherever truth is found;

through Jesus Christ our unfailing light,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Samuel 12:20-24

Psalm 34:9-14

Colossians 1:11-20

John 6:57-63

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010)