My very learned friend the Very Reverend Nicholas Knisely, Dean of the Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ, wrote a great blog today: Entangled States - he was making New Year's Resolutions about his study and preaching for 2011. He used words I haven't heard since we were in seminary together almost 20 years ago. Hermeneutics and others.
However, he proposed to look at traditional ways of approaching scripture in preparation for preaching and delve into other ways than we learned. He mentioned allegory - I like that since I do a lot of story-telling in the modern vernacular - a kind of allegory that helps people relate to scripture in a different way.
Our classmate, David Keill, posted a picture of himself getting ready for General Ordination Exams (GOEs) and mentioned that he had used a reference to the Simpsons in one of his answers. Unlike yours truly, David aced the exams, and I suspect that Nick did, too. People today seem to respond to the myth of a story - the essence that is true to life regardless of whether the story is factual or not. Helping people find the myth, the idea that will bring them closer to God is what we are supposed to be doing when we preach - at least I think so.
Also, Nick is going to take another look at atonement. Good Baptist that I have never been, I still think of blood atonement/sacrifice when someone mentions this. Atonement for our sins (okay, so I need a good definition of sin before this sentence began, but not going to happen) is mentioned many times in the scriptures, and Jesus' death and resurrection are the traditional way of thinking of atonement. God's son had to die to atone (make right) our sins. I have never been very good at atonement - especially not the stringent atonement that 12 step programs call for. And, I've never understood the idea that God's sending Christ to earth to die and rise from the dead could possibly do anything for my sins. Christ isn't my saviour because he died and rose from the dead; Christ is my saviour because he was God incarnate in humanity. He came to reconnect me and everyone else with God.
And, he's going to look at the energy situation as it relates to churches - of course, that's not how he put it. He said, "Energy Price impact on parish and diocesan life". Christmas Eve I was in a mega-church for a candle-lighting service. The technology was amazing, and I wondered if the techies were paid or volunteer. I wondered at the cost of heating and cooling such a huge arena - well, semi-circular with a large balcony where we sat. The seats were almost all full. Children covered the stage for the reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. The buildings of this mega-church were built when energy prices were cheap. They do not have any conservation measures. Lights are standard, the HVAC system will need major repairs or replacements soon, spaces are design conscious instead of energy conscious.
Small churches are closing their doors, not only because they lack trained clergy leaders but also because the buildings have deteriorated and cannot be maintained or replaced with energy efficient new ones. Other reasons contribute to this closure also...the number of people who are unemployed or under-employed, the cost of living (falling housing prices have distorted this), and general disillusionment with organized religion.
I admire Dean Nick a lot; he's also a physicist and writes about string theory and black holes and things I don't understand. But, I think he has some good ideas, and I'll probably follow along with his study during the year. I wish David Keill would post a similar note about his study and teaching for the coming year. David plays in a band, remodels houses and sells them, and has a wonderfully different viewpoint of life than Nick or me.
One thing I may add for myself is a closer look at the energy level of people. Living in a retirement village, I see all sorts of energy levels, but I wonder if the younger people (young adults through early grandparents) have enough energy to keep up with technology, make a living, raise a family, stay connected to extended family, do good in the world and have a spiritual life. My gut tells me "No", and then I wonder what's happening to our children who probably get less attention than they need.
I also intend to keep the litter box emptied more often since it is next to my computer.