Archive for March 2018

Gratitude for Athens, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Dome of the City Hall, Athens, Georgia, August 5, 2009

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-04138

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Seeking reasons for gratitude to God is a daily activity; it is an easy one, fortunately.

During the last few days I have been thinking deeply about a subset of those reasons; I have been pondering reasons I am blessed to live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Many such reasons–too many to enumerate in a succinct blog post–have come to mind.

A few follow.

A visit to relatives in Americus, Georgia, followed shortly by a lecture at The University of Georgia (UGA), started me down this path.  Last Tuesday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Richard B. Miller, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Religious Ethics at The University of Chicago Divinity School.  Miller spoke about St. Augustine of Hippo‘s concept of the common good and of its implications for today.  The full explanation of St. Augustine’s definition of sin as disordered love proved especially helpful.  As I listened and learned, I also thought about how fortunate I was to live in the town in which that event happened.  UGA, my relationship with which has been both positive and tumultuous, at different times, since 2005, made that lecture possible.

Indeed, I have may reasons to be grateful for and to UGA.  It creates a wonderful intellectual environment in Athens.  I care nothing about the athletics of a university, for the purpose of such an institution is supposed to be primarily educational, is it not?  The presence of UGA in Athens not only makes Athens what it is, but also makes me feel at home in this town, a colony of members of the intelligentsia.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in small towns and communities in southern Georgia.  The intellectual atmosphere (not in the parsonage, of course) was generally lackluster, even anti-intellectual.  (Nevertheless, I do recall that sometimes even my father angrily rebuffed some of my attempts at academic discussions, especially of the Bible.  There was no good reason to fear Higher Criticism.  No philosophical meat grinder will grind up the truth, after all; the truth will break the meat grinder.)  I usually felt like an intellectual outcast and the resident heretic.  (Today I wear the label “heretic” with pride.  As churchy as I am, given the option of avoiding church or facing allegations of heresy in a congregation, I would choose the former.)  Politically and socially most of the neighbors were or seemed to be beyond conservative–reactionary, actually.  Many were openly and unapologetically racist.

Of course I gravitated toward the left side of the spectrum.  I have remained a man of the left, although I have, with greater frequency, found myself in rooms with people to my left–sometimes far to my left.  I have shifted slightly to the right in some ways, and far to the left (relative to my former position) in others.  Overall, I have continued to occupy a center-left position.  (I tend to be center-right in liturgical matters and to the left politically, socially, and theologically.  My unapologetic Western Classicism in music is prominent in my daily life.)  I have ceased to be the resident heretic, for (1) I worship with people, many of whom are to my left, and (2) I worship in a faith community where nobody accuses me of heresy.  Charges of heresy have usually come from the right, not the left, after all.  (This is why most ecclesiastical schisms occur to the right and the majority of church mergers happen on the left.  Tolerance and acceptance are antidotes to Donatism.)

St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home since August 2005.  The parish has saved my life (in 2007) and become a means by which I offer gifts and talents to God.  I have, for years, curated a movie series, functioned as the librarian, and taught adult Sunday School, for example.  For nearly a decade I sang in the choir.  (I have many fond memories of that time.)  Although some people roll their eyes when I obsess over the proper arrangement of chairs, hymnals, and prayer books in the worship space, tending to that matter has long been something I have offered to God.  (I have come to long wistfully for pews.)  Also, the music has long been mostly excellent in the parish.  Last Sunday, for example, a string quartet performed at the 10:30 service and accompanied the choir during a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus.

As much as I enjoy visits to relatives in Americus, Athens is my place.  As much as I visit Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, occasionally, and find my spot in a pew there comfortably, St. Gregory the Great Church is my place.  As much as I enjoy visiting Americus, I also enjoy returning to Athens.

I am also grateful for friends and acquaintances. all of whose privacy I respect in this post by preserving in this post by naming none of them.  Some of them have saved my life and seen me through difficult times.  I have also performed my sacred duty and helped one friend to the point of self-sacrifice.  If necessary, I would do it again, without hesitation.

I hope to reside in Athens for long time.  The possibility of leaving eventually remains, of course; I admit that doing so might be proper one day.  That hypothetical day is one I hope is far off, if it is extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

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UGA and Me   22 comments

UGA Chapel

Above:  The Chapel, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Library of Congress

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UGA and Me or:  Time and Grace Heal

Once I had a tee-shirt I acquired at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Diocese of Georgia.  On the front was the shield of The Episcopal Church.  The back of the garment read,

GRACE HAPPENS.

(Grace is certainly preferable to what usually precedes “happens.”)  The shirt became a casualty of too much wearing and washing over the years, unfortunately.

I have experienced abundant grace throughout my life.  Some of that grace has occurred in the context of The University of Georgia (UGA), at which I arrived as a doctoral student in 2005.  Within sixteen months, however, my dreams had turned to ashes, and my major professor (as I write these words, in legal and professional jeopardy for domestic violence recorded on camera) had blackballed me.  I, embittered, dropped out of UGA at the end of 2006.

That bitterness has departed from me, by grace.  I would have been superhuman not to have been very angry at some point, but I would have also been wrong to have remained embittered for a long time.  The burden of the anger became so great that I gave it up to God.

I thank God for removing my bitterness.  Now, as I contemplate the legal and professional predicament into which my former major professor has gotten himself, I feel only sadness and pity for him and his family.  The man does have much to contribute to the academy and the world, after all.  I also pity the defenseless son.  I am morally incapable of rejoicing the in the plight of the professor who harmed me academically.  That fact is to God’s credit, not mine.  Also, just as the professor is responsible for his character, I am responsible for mine.  I seek to be a merely decent human being.

My once-uneasy relationship to UGA has changed.  Reasons for this include grace and the passage of time.  Another reason is the architectural change on campus since my time as a student.  Now I can (and do) go to campus and feel comfortable; my time as a student seems to have been from a previous life.

It was a previous life, in a way.

Perhaps the time to commence a new relationship to UGA is near.  I am open to that possibility.  UGA is, after all, an institution at which I should be able to find a niche into which to fit, given my bookishness and natural ease on a college campus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Posted March 20, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Life as an Episcopalian in Georgia, University of Georgia

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Star Trek: Discovery Does Not Occur in the Prime Timeline.   2 comments

As the great Doug Drexler has argued, Star Trek, in all its manifestations, is a period piece; each era has its look.  Technology is at a certain level.  The uniforms are what they are, for better and worse.  For all the inconsistencies in Star Trek series and movies since the 1960s, visual continuity within a particular period in a certain universe is essential.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-), supposedly set in the prime timeline, contemporary with The Cage (1964), the first Star Trek pilot, is so visually different from the Star Trek of the 1960s as to play out in what is obviously one of many parallel universes, which have been recognized parts of the Star Trek franchise since The Alternative Factor (1967).  That is fine with me; truth in advertising is not too much to ask.  Star Trek:  Discovery no more takes place in the prime timeline than does the first minute (before Nero breaks through into the past) of Star Trek (2009)–for the same reason.  The appearance of Captain Christopher Pike’s Enterprise  in the season finale of Discovery confirms my theory.  That incarnation of the NCC-1701 is, in some ways, more advanced than the refitted NCC-1701 in Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982), and Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984), as well as the outwardly identical NCC-1701-A we saw for the first time at the end of Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (1986).

Perhaps my age, which shapes my experiences, defines my perspective.  I recall life before Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994) and subsequent series and TNG movies.  I remember watching the original series in reruns on local television stations before and after the debut of The Next Generation, which debuted when I was in high school and ended when I was an undergraduate.  Older-style (relative to 2017 and 2018) visual styles do not bother me, not that I object to watching digitally remastered versions of episodes on blu-ray.  Yet, in those remastered episodes, technology and uniforms remain unchanged.  After all, each period has its own aesthetic.  Honoring that is vital within the franchise.

Creators of new canonical Star Trek material should thusly honor the franchise.  Talk of visual reboots is ridiculous.  Creators of new material should reserve visual reboots for parallel universes–and say so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   3 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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Posted March 17, 2018 by neatnik2009 in December, Saints of 29-199 C.E.

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Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Apostle (December 27)   2 comments

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist in Meditation, by Simone Cantarini

Image in the Public Domain

The Beloved Apostle

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The assigned readings, taken together, speak of the fidelity of God and the imperative of human fidelity to God, whose face Moses did not get to see.  Yet this deity is the same one who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth (however those Trinitarian dynamics actually worked; I have learned to avoid trying to explain the Holy Trinity, for attempting to make sense of the Trinity leads to a host of heresies.)

St. John was a brother of St. James (one of the two St. Jameses among the Apostles) and a first cousin of Jesus; Zebedee was the father of Sts. James and John, as well as an uncle (by marriage) of Jesus.  Our Lord and Savior called his first cousins Boanerges, usually translated

sons of thunder.

A now-deceased seminary professor I heard speak decades ago said, however, that the word actually meant

hell raisers.

Jesus and St. John were apparently emotionally close, not that St. John always understood his cousin.  After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus St. John helped to spread the nascent Gospel, a mission that filled the rest of his long life, which ended in exile.  Of the twelve Apostles Jesus called, St. John was, excluding Judas Iscariot, the only one not to die as a martyr.

According to tradition St. John wrote the Gospel of John, the three letters of John, and Revelation, a book with no “s” at the end of its title.  Certainly he did not write all of the above, although how much he wrote has long been a matter of scholarly debate.

Nevertheless, the life of St. John the Evangelist is a good one to consider.  If an overly ambitious hell raiser can learn the value of serving God endure suffering for the sake of righteousness, and survive opportunities for martyrdom only to die in exile, each of us can, by grace, take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, wherever he leads.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we,

being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John,

may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 92 or 92:1-4, 11-14

1 John 1:1-9

John 21:19b-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 141

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/third-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-john-the-evangelist-apostle-december-27/

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Posted March 17, 2018 by neatnik2009 in December, Saints of 29-199 C.E.

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Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr (December 26)   3 comments

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

The First Christian Martyr

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/second-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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