Archive for the ‘Life as an Episcopalian in Georgia’ Category

Fully Vaccinated   2 comments

As of today, I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Today marks two weeks since I received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.  Until such time as I may need a booster dose, I am 95% protected.

I thank God that effective vaccines against COVID-19 exist.  I also thank God that all those who helped to make this possible did do.  And I thank God that all of we mere ordinary citizens who have become vaccinated have done so.  Public health experts consistently say that getting as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible is crucial to ending the pandemic.

Yet some people stick their proverbial heads into equally proverbial holes in the sand.  Some deny that the pandemic is real.  I recall an unpleasant encounter I had in August 2020, while working for the Census Bureau.

I was wearing a face mask, in accordance with Census Bureau policy.  It was a nondescript face mask.  I knocked on a door.  The man who opened the door was a far-right-wing conspiracy nut who told me that the face mask I wore “represented Satan.”  Neither did he want to answer any Census questions.

Some stick their proverbial heads into equally proverbial holes in the sand.  Some do this on the basis of misplaced distrust of expertise.  Experts in a field know more about that field than those who have not done what is necessary to become experts in that field.  Expertise deserves respect, not emotional and anti-intellectual misplaced populism.  The informed opinion of an expert should matter more than the uninformed opinion of a man or woman “on the street.”

Yes, I know that some vaccines carry temporary side effects.  The shingles vaccine, I hear, really does.  Yet the disease in question is worse than any side effects.  And many side effects are exceedingly rare.  Statistics should matter more than isolated anecdotes.  I report that I had soreness at the injection site for about 24 hours following my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  I also report my side effects after the second dose.  I report that I had soreness at the injection site for about 48 hours, and that, on the day following that dose, I had to take an unplanned nap.

In an age of anti-intellectual, anti-science populism, anecdotes and half-baked memes cloud the thinking of many people.  This is extremely perilous during a pandemic.  Objective reality remains objective reality, even though many people do not believe in it.  The COVID-19 virus continues to mutate, as viruses do.  Speeding up the rate of vaccinations is crucial.  That is not all that is crucial.  We–governments, corporations, small businesses, communities, congregations, individuals, et cetera–all need to behave responsibly.  Policies need to be morally responsible and grounded in science.  I practice social distancing and wear two masks in public.  I may even wear two masks in public when doing so is not necessary.  If I err on the side of safety in this matter, so be it.  That is better than erring on the side of danger.

We all belong to God and each other.  Mutuality, built into the Law of Moses, informs my morality.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  And we are all accountable to God.  Wearing two face masks in public at this time is consistent with my interpretation of the Golden Rule.  And, during this pandemic, I accept temporary upper arm soreness and an unplanned nap as small prices to pay for acting according to the Golden Rule.  I refuse to be a selfish cry-baby.  Besides, COVID-19 is far worse than any temporary side effect of a vaccine.

Many people cannot get vaccinated yet.  Some have a medical reason.  Others are too young.  Others seek and cannot get an appointment.  Many people have difficulty getting to a vaccination site.  And other people live in places where no vaccine is available.  Those fortunate enough to be able to get an appointment, are old enough, have no medical reason not to get vaccinated, are legally eligible, and have yet to get vaccinated have a moral obligation to get vaccinated as soon as possible.  This is for the common good.

Despite being one of the fully-vaccinated people, I remain more comfortable worshiping in front of a computer screen, at least for a while.  My parish now offers two in-person worship services on Sunday mornings.  There are strict rules.  For example, attendees must register, masks are mandatory, and people are spaced apart.  Also, there is a limit on attendance at each service.  I feel less stress sitting alone in front of a computer monitor at home.  I can also say the Prayer of Spiritual Communion.  For a while yet, I will maintain a different type of social distancing while worshiping.

Yet knowing that have 95% protection reduces my pandemic stress load.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Twenty-Nine Years an Episcopalian   2 comments

Above:  Some Items on My Writing Desk, December 22, 2022

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I became an Episcopalian 29 years ago today.  At St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, in the Diocese of Georgia, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I had made an important decision as an adult; I had chosen my affiliation.

I had a Low Church Protestant upbringing.  My father, ordained a Southern Baptist in 1975, had switched to The United Methodist Church in 1980.  I, baptized at North Newington Baptist Church, Newington, Georgia, in November 1979, formed theologically in rural United Methodist congregations.  Yet I did not quite fit in.  My attachment to Holy Communion, which I got to take once every three months, marked me as an outlier.  So did my interest in ecclesiastical history, most of which the congregations in which my father served were oblivious.  Furthermore, my inherent attraction to Roman Catholicism stood out in the rural communities and towns in which I lived and worshiped.

When I joined The Episcopal Church, I came home.  I departed The United Methodist Church amicably; I was not angry about anything going on the denomination.

I have changed greatly since December 22, 1991.  Lutheranism has become more prominent in my variation on Anglicanism, which stands between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  I have given up the United Methodist refusal to acknowledge Single Predestination.  Now, even if I wanted to do so, I could not return to The United Methodist Church and be intellectually and spiritually honest.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has become my denominational Plan B, even though I have not identified as a Protestant for a long time.

Consider the items in the photograph at the top of this post, O reader.  There are three Marian images, two versions of The Book of Common Prayer, a Daily Prayer book from The Church of England, and a devotional book a minister from the United Church of Christ wrote.  I identify as an Anglican.  I identify as an Anglican in the collegial sense of Anglicanism, not the Donatistic sense of that word.  I object strenuously to the use of “Anglican” as a Donatistic label for congregations, dioceses and congregations in the United States of America.  My variety of Anglicanism is open and cordial.  It also has prominent Marian tendencies.  These tendencies spill over into my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, in the Diocese of Atlanta.  I, as the parish librarian, maintain the parish library as a collection of books and as a Marian shrine.

The Protestant boy I used to be has long ceased to exist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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This is post #2150 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Fifteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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I grew up moving with my family every two years, on average.  Since 2005, however, I have lived in Athens-Clarke County.  I have recently acquired my third address within Athens-Clarke County.  I have put down roots.

I moved to Athens-Clarke County on Tuesday, August 9, 2005.  I was about to start a doctoral program in history at The University of Georgia.  My major professor cut me from the program in the Fall Semester of 2006.  This action was unjust.  I was neither the first nor the last graduate student to run afoul of a misanthropic major professor.  I remained in Athens, though, and build a new life.

I have been active in St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church since August 2005.  As time has passed, I have become more active, in different ways.  People have come to think of me whenever a task needs an organized person to complete it.  I have, therefore, come to lead the lectors and the money counters, to choose movies for a film series, and to teach a Sunday School class.  That class has moved to Zoom on Thursday evenings since the pandemic started.

My life has been in a drawn-out transitional state since Bonny died on October 14, 2019.  Her death drew boldfaced double lines through my life, with “before” on one side and “after” on the other.  Parts of my life have fallen away.  I have not regretted the departure of most of them.  I have been in a stage of simplification, reorientation, reevaluation, and rebirth.  The process has not ended.

I wonder what I will become.

I still hope for a new, professional relationship to The University of Georgia (UGA).  I bear the university no ill will.  I also recognize that I am the kind of person who can fit in there, if only someone will answer one of my applications for full-time employment there affirmatively.  I have no relationship to UGA, as of today.  Whether that status will change depends mostly on others.  A university or college campus is my natural habitat.  UGA offers an inviting habitat with many opportunities to put skills and talents to productive use.

2020 has been a terrible year, mainly because of the pandemic.  2019 had been my worst year to date before COVID-19 started spreading as far and wide as it has been doing.

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that I will be alive and well a year from now, I wonder what my life and the world will be like.  I pray that the answer will be “much better.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

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A Few Reasons I Am Grateful   Leave a comment

I am grateful for many reasons.  If I were to do nothing but count all of them and elaborate on each one, I would spent much time doing so.  I have learned that the best way to proceed is to focus on a few at a time.

A few reasons I am grateful follow.

I grateful that experiences of great loss become opportunities of grace.

Grace is free, not cheap; it carries with it the obligation to extend grace to others.  I seek such opportunities.

Bonny died last October 14.  Her sudden, violent death has created a persistent, open wound in my psyche.  I have accepted that I will never be the person I was prior to that fateful morning.  My life changed that day.  Since then, parts of my life have been stripping away.  I have learned more clearly the distinction between the necessary and the desired.  That has been a form of grace.

And, just as I have learned who my friends really are, I have gained experiences I can use to help others experiencing their own emotional traumas.  I have begun to wonder to whom God may send me so that I may, out of my pain, contribute to healing.

I am grateful for my parish.

De facto, I have belonged to St. Gregory the Great the Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, since August 2005.  My membership transferred slightly later.  For nearly fifteen years, I have, so to speak, become part of the woodwork of my church.  I have assumed leadership roles (usually ones I did not seek) and formed relationships.  This parish has seen me through the darkest times of my life and functioned as a vehicle of grace.  Individual parishioners have also prevented me from falling too far into the abyss and proven that I am not alone.  They have taken care of me when I have needed that.

As long as I reside in Athens-Clarke County, I will remain part of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church.

I am grateful for necessities fulfilled.

I had plans at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.  They were rational plans, not half-baked, magical thinking.  Then the pandemic and its economic fallout derailed those plans.  Through it all, I have never been at risk of going hungry, becoming homeless, and not being able to pay my bills.

The fulfillment of necessities continues by a variety of means.  Words are inadequate to express my gratitude.

I am grateful for a better understanding of what constitutes a necessity.

Simple living is a blessing.  We live, we accumulate, and we die.  Then others decide the fates of our worldly possessions.  Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, although one does need certain possessions.  Taming one’s appetites for consumption is a good spiritual practice.

Now that I am in the midst of packing to leave my apartment, full of memories that grieve me, I am grateful to rid myself of many possessions.  My identity is in God, not my stuff, for lack of a better word.

I am grateful for the joy that comes from serious Bible study.

I have spent hours at a time studying texts, consulting commentaries, pondering what I have read, taking notes, and synthesizing ideas.  I have derived much pleasure and fulfillment from doing so.

I am grateful for wonderfully bad movies.

I mean movies that are so bad they are good.  If they make Ed Wood flicks seem like plays by William Shakespeare by comparison, so much the better.  We all need harmless, escapist pleasures, do we not?

I am grateful for good movies.

Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and John Huston version of The Maltese Falcon, among other fine films, enrich my life.

I am grateful for my intellectual nature.

I descend from a long line of bookworms.  I am suited for life in a college or university town.  I recall the intellectual stagnation and the anti-intellectualism of many of the communities and small towns in which I grew up and my father served as a minister.  I cannot honestly deny that these experiences helped to shape me both intellectually, spiritually, and politically.

I would starve intellectually and spiritually in many towns and congregations.

I am grateful for the Incarnation, the life of Christ, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

Thereby came the atonement.

 

I saved the best for last.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

Human Dignity   Leave a comment

Above:  A Yard Sign in Athens, Georgia, June 6, 2020

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Celebrant:  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people , and respect the dignity of every human being?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

–From the Baptismal Covenant, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 305

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Below:  A Yard Sign in Athens, Georgia, June 6, 2020

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Feast of Elias Benjamin Sanford (June 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of Connecticut

Image in the Public Domain

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ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD (JUNE 6, 1843-JULY 3, 1932)

U.S. Methodist then Congregationalist Minister and Ecumenist

Elias Benjamin Sanford comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Sanford was simultaneously of his time and ahead of it.  He transformed his time.

Once upon a time, in the United States of America, anti-Roman Catholicism was a dominant characteristic of Protestantism.  (It remains a dominant characteristic of fundamentalism and much of evangelicalism.  The mainline has repented of its anti-Roman Catholicism.  For example, the United Church of Christ, with Puritan/Congregationalist heritage, has become a haven for married former Roman Catholic priests seeking a way to continue in ordained ministry.)  This bias was the mirror image of a negative Roman Catholic attitude toward other branches of Christianity prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), when the rest of we Christians, whether Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox, formally became “separated brethren.”  This was a declaration that echoed Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903).  Not all American Protestants were anti-Roman Catholic, just as not all American Roman Catholics thought that non-Roman Catholic Christians were bound for damnation.  Nevertheless, these hardline attitudes were baked into religious cultures.  In 1928, when the Democratic Party nominated Governor Alfred Smith for the presidency, Smith’s Roman Catholicism became a political issue.  During the primary season of 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy campaigned for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, his Roman Catholicism became a political issue.  George L. Ford, Executive Director of the National Association of Evangelicals, wrote a pamphlet, A Roman Catholic President:  How Free from Church Control?  (I own a copy of this pamphlet.)

Above:  The Cover of the Pamphlet

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Sanford’s life and ministry played out in the culture of anti-Roman Catholic Protestantism.

That summary is objectively accurate.  Know, O reader, that I refuse to condone religious bigotry.  I come from a Protestant background, mainly United Methodism in the rural South.  I, an Episcopalian, consider myself an Anglican, not a Protestant.  To be precise, I describe myself as an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, for “Anglican” and “Episcopalian” cover a great range of theological ground.  I affirm Transubstantiation, all seven sacraments, and the 73 book-canon of scripture.  How can I be a Protestant?  I am too Protestant to be a Roman Catholic and too Roman Catholic to be a Protestant.  And, as anyone who follows, this, my Ecumenical Calendar, should know, names of many Roman Catholics, whether Venerables, Beati, fully canonized, or not formally recognized, are present here.  To paraphrase what Martin Luther may or may not have said at the Diet of Worms (1521), I will do no other.

Above:  The Former First United Methodist Church, Thomaston, Connecticut

Structure erected in 1866

Congregation seemingly closed in 2018

Image Source = Google Earth

Sanford was originally a Methodist.  He, born in Westbrook, Connecticut, on June 6, 1843, graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut (B.A., 1865).  Our saint served as a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church (extant 1784-1939) in Thomaston, Connecticut, from 1865 to 1867.  Then he became a Congregationalist.  Our saint spent the first half of 1868 traveling in Europe.

Above:  The United Church of Christ in Cornwall, Cornwall, Connecticut

Structure erected in 1842

Image Source = Google Earth

Sanford, back in the United States, served as a Congregationalist minister in rural Connecticut.  He also studied at Yale.  Our saint’s first parish in his new denomination was First Congregational Church, Cornwall, Connecticut (1868-1872).  For the next decade, he supplied in Northfield and Thomaston, Connecticut.  Sanford’s final pastorate was the First Congregational Church in Westbrook, Connecticut (1882-1894).

Above:  First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Westbrook, Connecticut

Image in the Public Domain

Sanford made the transition to ecumenical Protestant work.  He, the Editor of Church Union magazine since 1873, served as the Secretary of the Open and Institutional Church League (founded in 1894, from 1895 to 1900), committed to opening church buildings for social service.  In that same vein, our saint served as the General Secretary of the National Federation of Churches and Christian Workers from 1900 to 1908.  Sanford generally opposed the organic union of denominations on the grounds that mergers brought branches of Protestantism closer to “submission to Rome.”  In context, Sanford’s Protestant ecumenism was a way of resisting Roman Catholicism.  He helped to found the Federal Council of Churches (1908-1950), a forerunner of the National Council of Churches (1950-).  Our saint served as corresponding secretary (1908-1913) then as a honorary secretary (1913-1932) of the Federal Council of Churches.

Sanford, 89 years old, died in Middlefield, Connecticut, on July 3, 1932.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd, thank you for tending to us, members of your flock.

May we, rejoicing in your work of breaking down barriers,

recognize each other as sheep of your flock, and therefore, work together, for your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 95

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

John 17:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Feast of St. Columba of Iona (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Columba of Iona

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA (CIRCA 521-597)

Celtic Missionary and Abbot

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In the midst of all his toils, he appeared loving unto all, serene and holy, rejoicing in the joy of the Holy Spirit in his inmost heart.

–St. Adamnan, on St. Columba of Iona

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St. Columba of Iona is one of the more popular Celtic saints.  He is a figure on the calendars of the Roman Catholic Church and various provinces of the Anglican Communion.  Furthermore, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) merge his feast with those of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne (circa 590-651) and St. Bede of Jarrow (672/673-735).  Those Lutheran denominations lists Sts. Columba, Aiden, and Bede as renewers of the church.  St. Columba is absent from the calendar of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), however.  That calendar does list St. Bede, however.  Furthermore, one should not confuse St. Columba with his contemporary, St. Columban/Columbanus (543-615), the Abbot of Bobbio.  x

Many hagiographies of St. Columba contain legendary and historically unreliable material.  I choose to ignore that content.

St. Columba was an Irish prince.  He, born in County Donegal circa 521, was a son of Feidlimid.  Our saint, benefiting from royal status, studied under St. Finnian of Moville and St. Finnian of Clonard.  Our saint, ordained to the priesthood of the Celtic Church circa 551, founded churches and monasteries in Ireland.  (Celtic monasteries were centers of missionary activity.)

Above:  Iona, the Holy Isle

Image Source = Google Earth

Circa 563, St. Columba and twelve monks relocated to Iona, apparently to get away from interference from certain Irish authorities, who were harassing some of his monks.  Our saint founded a church and a monastery.  He went on to found more monasteries in Scotland.  Monks from St. Columba’s monasteries evangelized Picts.  Many monks founded other monasteries, from which other monks went out and evangelized.

St. Columba, revered as a living saint during his final years, died in his sleep during the night of June 8-9, 597.  He had been copying a portion of the Psalter by hand immediately prior to resting.  His corpse wore a smile.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Almighty God, who filled the heart of Columba

with the joy of the Holy Spirit and with deep love for those in his care:

may your pilgrim people follow him,

strong in faith, sustained by hope, and one in the love that binds us to you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 475

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O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba

you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland:

Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance,

we may show our thankfulness to you by

following the example of his zeal and patience;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Luke 10:17-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 417

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Gracious God, by his preaching your servant Columba

brought the light of the gospel to Scotland;

give us grace to follow his example of zeal and patience and

to expand our energy on winning others to faith in your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

or

Glory to you, Spirit of God, for the preaching of Columba,

aptly named the dove, and for his companions at Iona;

though we may never banish monsters from the river Ness,

help us, like him, to be loving to everyone,

happy-faced, in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 66:18-19

Psalm 18:31-37 or Psalm 47

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Mark 4:35-41

–The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia

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O God, you girded your servant Columba with the cincture of holiness

and made him a pilgrim for Christ in the midst of the Irish and Scottish peoples.

Grant that, having his life and labours in remembrance,

we may rest upon your love and be cheerful in all adversities,

as we await the redemption of all things in

your well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ;

who is alive and reigns, with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Psalm 89:20-26

Luke 10:17-20

–The Anglican Church of Canada

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Bigotry, Social Media, and Psychological Self-Defense Mechanisms   2 comments

Above:  The DVD Cover for Series Eleven of Doctor Who

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Never underestimate the human capability to ignore one’s faults yet recognize them in others.  All of us need to be vigilant in efforts to be honest with ourselves about ourselves.

Recently I spent much of a Saturday participating in Dismantling Racism Training at church.  The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta offered the training, required for those who lead in their congregations.  The training was valuable and has remained thought-provoking.

My society influences me, of course.  It influences me for better and for worse.  One cannot grow up without learning preferences and biases.  In my case, the better angels of my nature affirm that any human being who has both a pulse and brain waves also has unalienable rights.  Nevertheless, I admit that I learned certain sinful biases from my culture.  I thank my parents for raising me not to be a racist and acknowledge gratefully that their lessons dominate my thinking.  However, I am not immune to other influences, which I resist in my mind.  I, as a heterosexual Caucasian male, have a different set of experiences than many other people do.  I, as a decent human being, can learn from the experiences of others and question many of my seemingly innocent assumptions, rooted in ignorance.  I do so and seek to continue to do so.

Social media have done much to unleash the ids of many people, unfortunately.  Entertainment franchises have become targets for many online expressions of bigotry.  For example, before Jodie Whittaker filmed her first scene as the Doctor, many people on social media complained about her because she was a she.  Later, many of these individuals complained about socially progressive messages in the new episodes.  How many of these people watched serials (Yes, I understand the difference between serials and episodes.  A serial consists of episodes.  Inferno, from 1970, is a serial consisting of seven episodes.  Please do not refer to Inferno as an episode.) from the classic series (1963-1989)?  (I covered some of that ground in a recent post.)

Sometimes I listen to people discuss a series I have watched then wonder if they have watched the same series I did.  Consider Star Trek (1966-1969), for example.  I hear people contrast it with the contemporary substandard shows, such as Discovery and Picard.  Some points of criticism of Discovery and Picard are legitimate.  I even agree with many of them.  Dropping F-bombs in Star Trek makes me want not to watch a Star Trek series guilty of that.  Nevertheless, the condemnations of socially and politically progressive messages, as if they are unusually preachy for Star Trek, contradict objective reality.  As I consult my copy of The Star Trek Compendium (1986), part of my library since 1988, I notice many “bonk, bonk, over the head” episodes.  I know that Gene Roddenberry designed the series to consist of morality plays.  Cold War allegories pervade the series, as in Errand of Mercy (1967).  The name “Vietnam” is absent from A Private Little War (1968), but the allegory is obvious, and dialogue hints at Vietnam.  Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (1969), with the black-and-white inhabitants of Cheron fighting each other until all are dead, is hardly subtle.  The Mark of Gideon (1969) addresses overpopulation, one of the major concerns of the time.  The Cloudminders (1969) has to do with social stratification.  Patterns of Force (1968) is a story about a recreation of the Third Reich, down to the uniforms, on another planet.  I could continue, but why belabor the point?  Who can legitimately claim that the original Star Trek series was not preachy?

The space Nazis in Star Trek:  The Next Generation and Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine are the Cardassians.

My theory, not original to me, is that many of these vocal critics of socially progressive messages in media feel threatened.  Why else would they be so vocal?  A basic grasp of human psychology points toward this conclusion.  I also factor in an unfortunate social reality that is either worse that it used to be or seems to be worse that it used to be; offending people across the spectrum of opinions is easier to do these days.  Too much is needlessly partisan.  Objective reality is objective reality.  The preponderance of scientific evidence points to certain conclusions.  Not liking objective reality does not negate it.  Finding scientific evidence offensive does not change it.

Other “offending” series full of socially progressive messages include The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1965), two of my favorite classic series.  They are full of “bonk, bonk, over the head” moments.

We should be less defensive and more self-critical, individually and collectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Feast of John H. Caldwell (March 12)   2 comments

Above:  First United Methodist Church, Newnan, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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JOHN HOLLIS CALDWELL (JUNE 4, 1820-MARCH 11, 1899)

U.S. Methodist Minister and Social Reformer

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We have sinned, and God has smitten us.

–John H. Caldwell, Newnan, Georgia, June 1865

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INTRODUCTION

The great Galileo Galilei warned many who were conventionally orthodox and sat in judgment on him for making shocking and revolutionary statements (such as that the Earth revolves around the Sun), that they may actually be heretics.  John H. Caldwell, in the middle of his life, concluded that he had been a heretic regarding slavery.  He chose actual orthodoxy.

Caldwell came to my attention years ago, when I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.  I was researching Methodist history regarding slavery; my focus in graduate school was the intersection of race and religion in the U.S. South.  Slavery was the rock upon which the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) split in 1844-1845.  I knew that already, but I wanted to know more details.

I was a United Methodist from 1980 to 1991.  Then I became an Episcopalian.  I have never looked back, for I have concluded that I am on this planet to be an Episcopalian.  Besides, my theological development subsequent to my confirmation (St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, December 22, 1991) has led me to become a Single Predestinarian Anglican-Lutheran, contrary to Methodist theology.  My increasingly liberal and inclusive social views have placed me substantially to the left of where many of the more conservative elements of society are.  So be it.  I affirm that all human beings with both a pulse and brain waves possess unalienable natural rights, including civil rights and civil liberties.  Call me a radical, if you wish, O reader, but there I stand.  I will do no other.

I write this so that you, O reader, will understand that (1) I know whereof I write, and (2) I have no animosity toward The United Methodist Church.

I recall, as early as the middle 1980s, talk of The United Methodist Church being two denominations in one.  If the General Conference 2020 plays out the way I predict it will, 2020 may echo 1844.  Even if the General Conference of 2020 does not play out the way I predict it will, The United Methodist Church will continue to live into the typographical error and Freudian slip “Untied Methodist Church.”  This is an objective statement.  To quote William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming,

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

The big tent encompasses only those who choose to live within it.  Donatism did not die in norther Africa long ago.  No, it is alive and well, unfortunately.

As The United Methodist Church comes asunder and as the United States of America observes the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday, pondering another schism–that of 1844-1845–as well as the cause of it, should lead us to sober-minded contemplation of orthodoxy and heresy, actual and alleged.

JOHN H. CALDWELL, DEFENDER OF SLAVERY

John Hollis Caldwell as a white Southerner.  He, born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on June 4, 1820, was a son of James Caldwell (1768-1825) and Jane Wardlaw (1772-1822).  His family moved to Georgia when our saint was an infant.  He converted to Christianity and to Methodism, in particular, at the age of 16 years.  Six years later, the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) licensed Caldwell as an exhorter.  Our saint joined the Georgia Conference as a full minister in 1844.

The Methodist Episcopal Church concluded its General Conference of 1844 with a divorce agreement.  The cause of the divorce was slavery.  In particular, the question was whether James Osgood Andrew, the bishop assigned to the Georgia Conference, should continue as a bishop, despite owning slaves, in violation of church law.  He had not owned slaves in 1832, when he had become a bishop.  Yet Andrew had received slaves as inheritances over the years.  State law forbade him from freeing his slaves during his lifetime.  Slavery was still morally wrong, of course.  The MEC had been backing away from this moral truth since just a few years after its founding, as slaveholders joined.  The denomination finally issued a firm antislavery message again in 1864, shortly before the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution went to Congress.

One week apart, in May 1845, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) formed, for the same reason:  slavery.  The SBC formed because Northern-controlled missions boards of the Triennial Convention did not permit slaveholders to become missionaries.  Andrew became one of the founding bishops of the MECS, and continued to preach to slaves that they should obey their masters.

Caldwell joined the MECS and rose through the ranks to become a prominent member of the Georgia Conference thereof.  He accepted the conventional wisdom of his culture and the dominant theology thereof.  Caldwell believed that God supported and ordained slavery.  He quoted the Bible chapter-and-verse to defend this position.  He preached to slaves, telling them to obey their masters.  Opponents of slavery were heretics, fanatics, and radicals, according to Caldwell.  He insisted that they sought to destroy not just slavery, but the freedoms of press, speech, religion, and thought, too.  As Mark A. Noll has written in The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (2006), support for slavery became caught up with the authority of scripture.  Many, if not most, of those who argued for slavery theologically believed they were morally correct.

Above:  Old Main Building, Andrew College, Cuthbert, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

Caldwell also helped to found Andrew Female College (now Andrew College), Cuthbert, Georgia, which opened in 1854.  He taught moral and mental science there.  He, a slaveholder (via inheritances), sold one of his slaves to pay the college’s debts.  Caldwell’s father-in-law, a wealthy planter, insisted that a Methodist minister should not own slaves.  Our saint owned up to four slaves at a time, though.

Caldwell, by 1860 the pastor of Trinity Church, Savannah, had moved to Newnan to by 1864.  During the Civil War he supported slavery and the Confederacy.  He assumed that God was pro-Confederate States of America.

JOHN H. CALDWELL, RELIGIOUS SCALAWAG

Then the proverbial scales fell away from Caldwell’s eyes in early 1865.  Confederate defeat threw many white Christian Southerners into a theological crisis.  They reasoned that surely God had supported slavery and the Confederacy, so how could they make sense of their reality?  Caldwell took a different position.  Over a few Sundays in June 1865 he alienated his congregation and most of the other people in Newnan by condemning slavery, secession, the Confederacy, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  He acknowledged, as he had in 1861, that the cause of the Confederacy had been slavery.  President Jefferson Davis had said as much in his Inaugural Address.  Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, speaking in Savannah in March 1861, had called slavery the cornerstone of the Confederacy.   He was proud of this cornerstone.  Caldwell surveyed the destruction of the Civil War and pronounced the judgment of God.  He also stated that the end of slavery was just.  The Confederacy had been sinful, too, the minister preached, and slavery tainted the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Caldwell’s time left at Newnan was brief.  The Presiding Elder (District Superintendent, in contemporary Methodist terms) removed our saint from the pulpit, at the request of the leaders of the congregation.  U.S. Army General George H. Thomas, who had authority in Georgia, reinstated him in September.  Thomas also ordered local U.S. Army personnel to to protect Caldwell.  Our saint left the Georgia Conference of the MECS in November 1865, after that annual conference voted to condemn the contents of his sermons.

Then Caldwell rejoined the Methodist Episcopal Church and helped to begin rebuilding it in the former Confederacy.  He became a charter member of the new Georgia Conference of the MEC in January 1866.  He ministered to former slaves, helping them build churches, not telling them they should have obeyed their masters.  Predictably, the new Georgia Conference of the MEC was mostly African-American; it was politically and theologically suspect, according to most Southern Methodist neighbors.  Caldwell remained in Georgia until 1871, shortly after “redemption,” of the return of the antebellum ruling class to power.  He helped to found schools for former slaves.  Our saint, a religious scalawag, favored the Radical Republicans’ ambitious civil rights platform and worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to help his flock.  Caldwell attended the state constitutional convention (December 1867-March 1868) and served in the state legislature.  He opposed the expulsion of all his African-American colleagues from that body.  Caldwell and his fellow religious scalawags were, according to Edward H. Myers, the editor of the Southern Christian Advocate,

miserable traitors to their brethren, their church, and their country.

–Quoted in Daniel W. Stowell, Rebuilding Zion:  The Religious Reconstruction of the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 133

JOHN H. CALDWELL OF DELAWARE

Caldwell and his family to Delaware in 1871.  He had married Elizabeth Thurston Hodnett (1826-1902) on January 2, 1849.  The couple had had five sons and four daughters from 1849 to 1869.  Our saint joined the local conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and served as a pastor, a presiding elder, and a college president.

From 1885 to 1888 Caldwell served as the President of Delaware College (now the University of Delaware), then a men’s institution.  His time as a college president was unhappy for everybody involved.  Personality clashes abounded, and his inexperience created more problems.  Our saint perceived that people were conspiring around him.  They may have been, perhaps justifiably.  Caldwell was simultaneously of his time and ahead of it.  His antiquated moral disapproval of dancing led to some conflicts; he forbade it on campus.  Yet he favored admitting women to the student body; that was progressive.

Caldwell returned to parish ministry in 1888.

He, aged 78 years, died in Dover, Delaware, on Mach 11, 1899.

EVALUATING JOHN H. CALDWELL

Caldwell may have been, as one of his adversaries at Delaware College claimed, “cranky,” but he possessed courage, too.  Our saint had enough courage to change his mind on a central issue of his time and to contradict conventional wisdom, as well as to speak up at great risk to himself and his livelihood.  He had the courage of his convictions.  History has rendered its verdict in Caldwell’s case; it has ruled in his favor.

As one should know, presenting evidence is frequently the least successful method of changing a person’s mind, especially in matters that pertain to one’s self-image.  Facts should matter, but ego protection often overrules objective reality.  Human beings are usually more irrational than rational, sadly.

By grace, Caldwell found the moral courage, starting in June 1865, to admit that he had been wrong–horribly, sinfully wrong.  Then he repented, paid the price, and made the world a better place for many of the “least of these.”

That is sufficient reason to honor him.

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God of justice, we thank you for the example of your servant, John H. Caldwell,

who turned his back on the sins of slavery and, in the face of hostility,

labored for the civil rights of former slaves, his neighbors.

May we, by grace, confront our prejudices and, when necessary and proper to do so,

expose the foolishness of “received wisdom” and other ubiquitous assumptions,

for your glory and for the benefit of all people.

May the Church be on the vanguard of the struggle for social justice,

never on the side of the oppressors,

regardless of the price she will pay for standing with the “least of these.”

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 2:6-8

Psalm 71:1-6

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2020 COMMON ERA 

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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2020: Best Wishes   2 comments

Above:  The Middle Oconee River at Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, December 8, 2019

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I find myself at the convergence of turning points as 2019 comes to an end.  On the personal front, I deal with two deaths.  Professionally, I look to the future with a combination of confidence, hope, and uncertainty.  The result will be better than what it will replace, I affirm.  However, I do not know what will happen between now and then.  How long should I remain in Athens-Clarke County?  What I do not know outweighs what I understand.  I know, however, that I must not make rash decisions, especially while I grieve and adapt to my “new normal.”

Experience is a fine teacher.  A wise pupil heeds it.  One lesson experience teaches me is that a grudge is a burden one should never impose on oneself, regardless of how righteous one’s indignation may be.  I acknowledge objective reality.  (Why should I not?) I know that a particular professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) fired a torpedo into the bow of my doctoral program and sank it like the Lusitania.  I also understand that my anger over that example of academic abuse burned out years ago.  Whenever I walk on the UGA campus, I feel simultaneously at home, in a familiar place, yet on virgin territory different from a place I have ever been.  The area does look different than it used to, due mainly to construction on campus.  It is a place I want to call home again.  A relationship, however, has more than one party.

My congregation, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, keeps providing incentives to remain in town.  I am active in the parish, in which I have found my niches.  The emotional and spiritual support members of the congregation have been providing to me since Bonny’s death has become a source of much gratitude.  I can never repay them.  Perhaps I will have opportunities to “pay it forward” in time, not that I seek grief for anyone.

Praying for one’s needs is not sinful, but being selfish in prayer is.  With that in mind, I issue the following prayer:

May God’s best for each person be that person’s reality.  May you, O reader, receive all the help you need and provide all the aid you should.  May the light of God shine in your life, attract others to God, and strengthen the faith of many.  May 2020, by these standards, be a better year for you than 2019 has been.  May it be a better year for all countries, nation-states, peoples, and refugees.  May 2020 be a better year for the planet.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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