Archive for the ‘The United Methodist Church’ Tag

O, For the Wisdom of the United Methodists!   Leave a comment

I spent much of my youth as a preacher’s kid in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Thus I became familiar with the mechanics of church polity regarding the process of appointing ministers.  The one-year renewable terms ran from June to June; appointments (of less than a yea) that began in other months were rare.  On mornings in certain Junes my family and I awoke in one parsonage.  By midday we were settling into another one, as my father’s successor was settling into the one we had vacated.  The process was quick, with just a few hours separating pastoral terms.  The process was not without its flaws, though; the terms should have been longer than a year.  (I have concluded that a four-year term would have been better.)  Nevertheless, the appointment system has demonstrated its virtues.

Recent events in my Episcopal parish have caused me to deepen my appreciation for the United Methodist appointment system.  In August 2015 my rector suffered a stroke.  Supply priests filled in while she remained the rector, going on disability in June 2016.  Our third supply priest continued to serve until late 2016, when our interim rector began to serve the parish.  The search process, which will include a survey leading up to the writing of a parish profile, will take at least a year.  I have not seen a survey yet.

Had I been a United Methodist parishioner, the district superintendent would have moved immediately in August 2015 to change the appointment of the pastor who had suffered a stroke to disability leave.  The district superintendent would also have moved quicklty to appoint a new pastor, to serve until at least June 2016.  There would have been no ongoing saga, with its stresses for the parish.  I know this because, a few years ago, when my father, then a retired minister serving in Americus, Georgia, became unable to serve his congregation due to the regrettable progress of dementia, my mother called the district superintendent, who retired my father fully, appointed an interim pastor immediately, and, in short order, appointed a pastor to succeed the interim pastor.

O, for the wisdom of the United Methodists!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Reflections During an Interlude in the Renovation of A Great Cloud of Witnesses: An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days   Leave a comment

january

Above:  January, by Leandro Bassano

Image in the Public Domain

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The first phase of the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days has ended; I have completed the first twelfth of the process here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  The number of posts at this weblog has hovered around 1500, give or take a few posts, as I have added, deleted, and replaced some posts and revised others.

Thinking about saints and contemplating sainthood are rewarding spiritual practices.  They are foreign to the spiritual traditions of my childhood; the Southern Baptist Convention and The United Methodist Church do not encourage keeping a calendar of saints.  Nevertheless, observing an official calendar of saints (in The Episcopal Church) and creating my own such calendar has come naturally to me.  I, as a historian, emphasize the great men and women of the past.  Also, my inclination is toward the Roman Catholic end of the spectrum in certain ways.

Nevertheless, as helpful as Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox calendars of saints have proven to be and continue to help me with my own project, I have chosen not to restrict myself to their selections of saints and their assigned feast days.  This tendency has proven to be a manifestation of the Protestant side of my spirituality.

Rome has spoken,

many Roman Catholics say, meaning it as a statement of finality and authority.  At least half the time I think,

So what?

I learn and import much from Holy Mother Church, but I also walk my own path much of the time.  After all, Rome took more than 300 years to rescind the pronouncement that Galileo Galilei was a heretic for stating the scientific fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun.  The Church also canonized Robert Bellarmine, Galileo’s inquisitor who chose ignorance of good science in lieu of tradition and bad theology, as well as condoning to burning heretics at the stake.  (The Ecumenical Calendar does not include St. Robert Bellarmine.)

As I contemplate saints with feast days in January (at least on my Ecumenical Calendar), I understand them to be quite an assortment of people.  Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, for example, held one opinion regarding the nature of knowledge and certainty; Lesslie Newbigin argued for a different position.  Some saints were ascetics, but others lived comfortably.  Some were spouses and parents; others chose never to marry.  Some were traditionalists, but others were pioneers.  I would have liked to have known some saints, but I would not have enjoyed the company of certain others, such as St. Jerome.  Some of these saints would have accused me of heresy, but others would have agreed with me, at least partially, or disagreed with me respectfully.  So be it.

I anticipate the next phase (February) of the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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

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Above:  City Hall, Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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On the morning of Tuesday, August 9, 2005, I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to begin doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA).  My major professor, to whom I refer to as “John Doe” in this post, dashed my hopes and killed my program within sixteen months, however.  I dropped out of UGA in December 2006, for I knew that I would have no third year and perceived no reason to complete the second year.  The graduate supervisor of the department advised me take a M.A. degree instead.  I informed him that I had one already.  Take a second one, he replied; the second M.A. will be from a “superior institution.”  My succinct reply, via email, copied to my negligent major professor, who was stingy with feedback, was, “No.”  The powers that were in the Department of History had tried to convert me into something I refused to become:  someone who could not pass five minutes without saying or thinking “subalternate.”  I liked people who changed the course of history and left documentation about it.  Subalternates did not interest me very much.  I finished Fall Semester 2006, holding myself together with the emotional equivalent of twine and duct tape.  Blazing Saddles, in five-minute-long increments, also helped greatly.  (Thank you, Mel Brooks!)  “To thine own self be true,” as Shakespeare wrote, placing those words in the mouth of Polonius in Hamlet.  I maintained my integrity in the face of pressure to do otherwise.

I still find subalternates boring.  Institutional and Great Man and Woman history retain my interest.

I also refuse to call what happened to me anything other than what it was:  academic abuse.  Judgment and mercy on the guilty parties rest entirely in the purview of God, I am not the judge of Dr. Doe and those in the department who made excuses for him.   Grudges do not build me up anyway, and any quest for revenge would damage me and be contrary to my Christian principles.  The trauma of my short-lived doctoral program has left much spiritual scar tissue; I need not add any more to it.  On the other hand, my stress levels today are much lower than they were when I was a graduate student at UGA.  I conclude that the Department of History was not a healthy milieu for me at that time.

Athens, however, has become my home.  Of all the places I have lived it is the one in which I fit best.  The intellectual life of the city is agreeable to me.  And, after all those years of feeling like the damned, marginalized liberal and heretic in South Georgia, I find myself slightly to the right of the center in most circles in which I move.  I have not even changed my opinions much.  I have, however, ceased to be an outcast.  I also refuse to make those to my left feel like outcasts, for I have no desire to do unto others negatively as others have done to me negatively.

I have never lived in one place this long.  I, born in Rome, Georgia, spent my earliest years in Chattooga County, Georgia–a few years in Trion but mostly in the ancestral family home in Summerville.  When I was six years old my parents moved my sister and me to South Georgia.  Starting in 1980 we took the grand tour of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  From kindergarten to Twelfth Grade I attended schools in six counties.   Then I attended college in three more counties and lived in four other counties prior to relocating to Athens-Clarke County.

I have changed spiritually since I arrived in Athens in 2005.  I have, by grace and through trauma, become a better human being.  I am more aware of my weaknesses and my complete dependence upon God.  I am more forgiving, of both others and myself, for being weak.  I am more aware of my responsibilities to others, especially my students.  I know what St. Paul the Apostle meant by “dying to self,” although I cannot express that meaning in words.  I have received abundant grace via human beings and know of my responsibility to function as a vehicle of grace for others better than I did.  I have experienced spiritual death and rebirth.  I know well the pain of the death and the elation of the rebirth.  I am quite aware of my dark side, of my unworthiness, and of the immeasurable riches of the love of God.  I know that the light shines most brightly in the deepest darkness.

I do not know how long I will remain in Athens or its vicinity.  Neither do I know how long I should continue to live here.  I hope and pray that I will remain here as long as that is appropriate and that I will then move along to the proper subsequent location.  Meanwhile, I am glad to reside in Athens-Clarke County.

May my twelfth year in Athens be positive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

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My Easter Triduum 2016   1 comment

Marker March 26, 2016

Above:  My Father’s Grave Marker, Americus, Georgia, Saturday Morning, March 26, 2016

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Most of my Easter Triduums are meaningful yet similar to each other; they run together in my memory.  The Triduum of 2016 was an exception to that rule.

The Reverend John Dodson Taylor, III, my father, was a minister of The United Methodist Church.  Complications of Alzheimer’s Disease forced his retirement a few years ago.  He died, not quite 71 years old, on October 30, 2014, less than a year after entering a nursing home in Americus, Georgia.  For reasons I choose not to explain in this post the interment of his cremains did not occur until Holy Saturday, March 26, 2016.

I spent part of Maundy Thursday, all of Good Friday, and half of Holy Saturday in Americus.  The Maundy Thursday service at Calvary Episcopal Church was the Prayer Book liturgy with part of the rites for Good Friday tacked on the end.  It was Johannine, for, in the Gospel of John, Jesus died on Thursday, not Friday.  The community-wide service of the Stations of the Cross at Calvary Episcopal Church at Noon on Good Friday was also meaningful.  The lessons I took away from those liturgies were:

  1. Love is evident in the sacrifice, and
  2. We mortals stand at the foot of the cross, not in the position of judgment.

I knew both of those already, but hearing a priest remind me of them was helpful.

The most potent moment of my visit occurred on the morning of Holy Saturday.  My mother and I were among the small group which gathered for the interment of my father’s cremains in a garden spot on the grounds of Fellowship Baptist Church, a congregation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  The Reverend Wendy Peacock, the pastor there, used the Service for Committal from The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), appropriately.  Covering the container for my father’s cremains with soil was an emotional moment.

I had to return to Athens-Clarke County, so I did.  That night I attended the Great Vigil of Easter at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church.  The liturgy was mercifully brief, for there were just four readings, including the Gospel.  The day had already been long for me, so a marathon of a vigil would have been out of the question for me.  The vigil was glorious, as was the 10:30 Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday, but I remained subdued.  I had, after all, just buried my father.

I have known of my mortality in a visceral way since my junior college days, when I almost died violently, with someone choking me.  Being dead has not terrified me, but thoughts of manners in which I might suffer and die have scared me.  Watching my father’s deterioration did nothing to calm those fears.  My father’s death made my sense of mortality even more real.  Burying him has made my mortality even more concrete in mind.  Burying him has given me much to contemplate solemnly.

Doing so will require as much time as will be necessary and proper.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TUTILO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUNTRAM OF BURGUNDY, KING

THE FEAST OF KATHARINE LEE BATES, U.S. EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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A Related Post:

https://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/grave-marker-of-john-dodson-taylor-iii/

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Feast of St. Nerses Lampronats (July 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, a.k.a. Little Armenia or Lesser Armenia (1198-1375)

SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS (1153-1198)

Armenian Apostolic Archbishop of Tarsus

A brief tutorial of parts of Armenian history is essential.  This is hardly a comprehensive list of Armenian political stages to 1375, but it is what I have cobbled together with the help of the 1962 Encyclopedia Americana, the 1968 Encyclopedia Britannica, and Jeremy Black’s World History Atlas (London, UK:  Dorling Kindersley, 1999).

PERTAINING TO THE ARMENIAN HOMELAND

Territory of the Persian Empire (550-331 BCE)

Territory of the Macedonian Empire (331-323 BCE)

Territory of the Seleucid Empire (323-190 BCE)

Kingdom of (Greater) Armenia and states it subsumed (190 BCE-429 CE)

Roman-Sassanid Partition (387)

Territory of the Roman/Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire (387-641)

Territory of the Sassanid (Persian) Empire (387-641)

Territory of the Islamic Empire (641-885)

Kingdom of (Greater) Armenia–Bagratid Dynasty (885-1045)

Kingdom of Vaspurakan–Ardsrunid Dynasty (914-1022)

Territory of the Byzantine Empire (1045-1157)

Territory of the Great Seljuk (Turkish-Persian) Empire (1157-1235)

Mongolian Invasion and Conquest (1235)

PERTAINING TO CILICIA/LITTLE ARMENIA/LESSER ARMENIA

Founded by Refugees from Greater Armenia

Principality of Cilicia (1080-1198)

Kingdom of Cilicia (1198-1375)

Egyptian Mamluk Invasion and Conquest

Our story occurs in Ciclica/Little Armenia/Lesser Armenia.

St. Nerses Lampronats (1153-1198) was born at Lampron, Cilicia.  Educated at Skeyra Monastery, he became a noted theologian, biblical scholar, and linguist expert in Greek, Coptic, Latin, and Syriac.  Ordained in 1169, after the death of his father, the saint lived as a hermit before becoming Archbishop of Tarsus in 1176.  He translated many texts into Armenian.  These texts included the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great and the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia.  He also wrote hagiographies of desert saints, texts of hymns, treatises on liturgy, and commentaries on the Bible.

The saint favored the union of the Armenian Apostolic Church with the Roman Catholic Church.  He worked for that union for years, and died on July 14, 1198, six months after witnessing its culmination.  That union, more theoretical than actual, ended with the Mamluk invasion and the fall of the kingdom in 1375.

I like intellectual saints.  I recall one of my father’s parishioners in a rural southern Georgia (U.S.A.) United Methodist church.  (Please do not tar The United Methodist Church as a whole; the denomination is more progressive and intellectual than many of its members in the South Georgia Conference.)  This gentleman, over lunch at his house one day, criticized intellectuals in general.  Such intelligent people, he said, had a type of faith inferior to that of non-intellectuals, such as my host.  In other words, dummies have superior faith, according to this gentleman.  I said nothing.  I disagreed, of course, but I was a courteous lunch guest.

As an Episcopalian, I acknowledge the invaluable role of reason in faith life.  It is part of Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool, which is really closer to a tricycle.  The human intellect is one element of the image of God.  If I am supposed to honor God with my whole being, that mandate includes my intellect.  To be blunt, the church is not supposed to be Holy Morons R Us, regardless of which see with whom is in communion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Saint Nerses Lampronats,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

Feast of St. John of Kanty (December 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Scholar and His Books (1671), by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, A.K.A. SAINT JOHN CANTIUS OR SAINT JOHN KANTIUS (June 24, 1390-December 24, 1473)

Roman Catholic Theologian

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in the South Georgia Annual Conference.  The United Methodist Church, like other denominations, is diverse, and its character varies widely according to settings, such as rural or urban, cosmopolitan or provincial, Southern or Midwestern.   By luck of the draw I got the short straw–rural southern Georgia, where, more often than not, intellectual tendencies made me suspect at worst and without many people to speak to intelligently at best.  I sought a church climate where I could find support and encouragement for my union of intellect and spirituality.  This quest took me into The Episcopal Church, where I am content.

So imagine, O reader, how much I appreciate St. John of Kanty.  Consider his life with me.

The saint entered this world at Kanty, Poland, in 1390.  He earned a Ph.D. in 1418, after which he prepared for the priesthood while teaching philosophy at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow.  Ordained a priest, the saint became rector of the school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulchre, Miechow, which was a prestigious appointment.  He returned to the Jagiellonian University in 1429 to teach philosophy.  There he remained for the rest of his life, except for a stint as parish priest at Olkusz, due to dismissal from the University due to internal academic politics and offended egos.  The saint became head of the Philosophy Department in time then left that post to lead the Theology Department.  He also lived very simply, cared for the needs of students, and helped the poor people of Krakow.

Pope Clement XIII canonized the saint in 1676.

One’s intellect is a gift from God; St. John of Kanty understood this well.  May we, like the saint, seek God with all that we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Almighty God,

your Holy Spirit gives

to one the word of knowledge,

to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Saint John of Kanty,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led

to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen

in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

Feast of the First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 (May-June)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1549)

Effective on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, During the Reign of King Edward VI

The Episcopal Church specifies that one observes this feast properly on a weekday after the Day of Pentecost.

The 1549 Book of Common Prayer, which, along with many of its successors, is available at http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/, was mainly the product of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and poet extraordinaire.  He translated texts from various sources, ranging from Greek liturgies to German Lutheran rites to the Roman Catholic missal and the Liturgy of the Hours.  Along the way Cranmer quoted the Bible extensively.  Thus it is a common Anglican and Episcopal joke to say that the Bible quotes the Prayer Book.

My first encounter with the Book of Common Prayer was indirect, so indirect in fact that I was not aware of it.  I grew up United Methodist in the era of the 1966 Methodist Hymnal, which is far superior to the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal.  The ritual in the 1966 Hymnal was that of its 1935 and 1905 predecessors, that is, based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.   So, when I saw the 1979 Prayer Book and read Holy Eucharist Rite I, I recognized it immediately, down to the Prayer of Humble Access.

Now I an Episcopalian.  As someone told me early this year, I left the church that John Wesley made and joined the church that made John Wesley.  The rhythms of the 1979 Prayer Book have sunk into my synapses and my soul.  I also use A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), of  The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which breaks out from parts of tradition creatively and beautifully while standing within the Prayer Book tradition.

I have become a person of the Prayer Book, thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church:  Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Kings 8:54-61

Psalm 33:1-5, 20-21

Acts 2:38-42

John 4:21-24

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