Sunday, August 18, 2013

My friend made me aware of this lecture series and I attended a couple of them last week. It was thoughtful of the organizers to leave off Thursday night so I could get to mass for the Assumption.

I enjoy visiting this charming part of NJ along the Delaware River. So much Revolutionary War history! Lambertville is especially quaint, like in some time warp. The architecture of these old churches says so much about the congregants' theology back then. It is supremely ironic that liberal denominations, like the PCUSA, have inherited these traditional structures while conservative offshoots branch into temporary space, in rented theaters, high school cafeterias and store fronts. At Sunday night's meeting, someone observed that the Baptist church was converting to a music hall. The first of the mainline denominations to fall prey to those hipster churches.

Granted, I went to the lectures with some interest in the announced topics but, as I generally find, Protestants spend much of their time talking about Catholicism. It's their "foil" and the darnedest thing. This speaker, with his experience in ecumenism, used medieval Catholicism as a contrast in how not to do "church." So he told of a Catholic German king whose palace had two chapels. The king met with his Protestant nobles in one and his family and clergy in the other. Somehow this was unsatisfactory to our speaker - "A poor understanding of church!" Seemed perfectly fine to me!

The speaker expressed having great hope in Pope Francis's papacy, and his favorable remarks garnered some positive acknowledgement from the audience. In other words, he didn't receive any "boos." The speaker said that, in his opinion, St. Francis of Assisi was the most Protestant of the Catholic saints, in terms of seeking church reform, so anyone taking Assisi's name is announcing personal interest in contemporary reform. The good professor ought to read up on Catholic saints - there were plenty of reformers among them. And St. Francis was extremely Catholic.

I was sorry not to attend each lecture. Four consecutive nights is a commitment, especially an hour drive each way. During the Q&A, a visitor asked why the church displayed the American flag in one corner of the sanctuary and the Christian flag in the other corner. No one seemed to have an answer, not even the pastor of the church. "Just always been there." "Well, since when?" Some were troubled by it. Our speaker said that his German friends are offended by civil flags in churches because for years German churches were commanded to display the swastika. Excuse me, but the American flag has nothing to do with swastika and our government doesn't demand it.

First Presbyterian Church of Lambertville

Stockton Presbyterian Church

RAnn's weekly question: my religious autobiography


Christian LeBlanc said...

"Protestants spend much of their time talking about Catholicism." That's how they have unity: they ain't Catholic.

Moonshadow said...

Common enemy, yes.

But there can also be a genuine interest that makes them uncomfortable. During Q&A, someone mentioned having an inexplicable attraction to the Catholic monastic tradition - to which our speaker was quick to point out the recent formation of "Protestant alternatives."

Since I had visited a Trappist monastery the weekend before, I should have spoken up and encouraged a field trip. But they stop short. They don't trust the impulse. They satisfy themselves with the edgy, uncomfortable preoccupation without taking the investigative, next step. Someone ought to kick them in their seat.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you lived in NJ! I am originally from NJ, I visit there three or four times a year. I was recently in Margate visiting Lucy the Elephant. God bless you...

Moonshadow said...

I don't consciously keep my home state a secret, Ellen, though it has an 'uge image problem.

I took special interest in your post from late May about your husband's "brush with the law."