Some Straight Talk About the Holy Spirit
The choir fundraiser last Sunday was a joy. “Hats off to England” was the theme of this delightful tea following the 10:30AM Service of Morning Prayer. The hats were indeed stunning, both on and off. Sally Jennings had perhaps the most difficult parish assignment of the year in the hat judging contest. Judy and Christie Burns came up with a smashing fundraising concept and we thank them both and Carly Crewell for making it all happen. We do such gatherings well as a parish. Before long our choir will be on the tarmac in the land of the Mother Church.
A high point at the tea was the singing of two humorous ditties by the choir. They began by offering a “public service” piece about crossing the street safely set to Anglican Chant. It revealed that just about anything can be set to Anglican chant. Then followed those classic reflections of an anonymous Episcopalian set to church music about what it means to be an Episcopalian. The piece was a comic litany of the old saw that Episcopalians are more concerned with good taste than good theology.
Such jokes are legend, of course. For example, St. Peter refusing admission to heaven to the Episcopalian who misused her salad fork. We could add another about how many Episcopalians it takes to change a light bulb. The correct answer is two. One to change the bulb and the other to stir the martinis.
Even as we continue to offer up a good laugh to these things, we sense the grain of their truth is waning by the day. The Episcopal Church has changed. Even an historic church like St. Peter's has changed. The reality is that a cleansing movement is afoot. It is the retention of the liturgical good taste with a movement away from mere cultural Episcopalianism. We sense a deepening of things.
I have entitled this article “Some Straight Talk about the Holy Spirit” because that deepening is the work of the Holy Spirit. God only has so much patience for a religion of salad forks. We know that we are largely tongue-in-cheek about such self-identifications, but there is also this undiscussed truth of our discomfort at being thought so thin. Yes, we are in a time of rearrangement and we know it. There will be things we miss of the salad fork days, but they are going and almost gone. The Holy Spirit is reversing our course. Good taste will be giving way to good theology.
Jesus said, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32.) This Kingdom is the real life of the Trinity holding the Church: God as Father, Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit as the giver of life; One God in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being.
When we look at our greatest spiritual inheritance, the gift of The Book of Common Prayer, we see the depth at every turn. When we are ordered by it from top-to-bottom in our common life from liturgy to theology, we soon lose interest in salad forks. We encounter an elegance beyond any contrivance of mere man, any pageantry of our own lesser grasps at royalty or dignified comportment. I think of the prophet Jeremiah when he cries out to God, “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.” (Jeremiah 20:7a.) So it is with the action of the Holy Spirit within our common life through the Prayer Book.
Newsletter of St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church
107 State Street, Albany, New York