Archive for July, 2015

Selma Revisited

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

We had a large and diverse group in last night to see the film, Selma. Most viewers had been too young to remember any of the events in the movie, so much of it came as news.

Perhaps predictably, the Christian element of Dr. King’s message was played down; I’m not sure the name of Jesus was even mentioned. On the other hand, the entirely black constituency of King’s early movement was accurately portrayed–especially worth showing since so many white liberals of the 60’s generation have made implicit claims to being essential to the movement from the beginning.

One final thought: while race relations are much better today, there of course remains much to do. With that need in mind, we should appreciate the role of the federal government in giving King the protection he needed. Sometimes, the only authority that works comes from the top. —J. Douglas Ousley


Hope Springs Eternal

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Yesterday, Incarnation welcomed a new Associate Rector, Adrian Dannhauser.

Adrian delivered a rousing sermon, complete with song. We all look forward to her ministry among us.

“Hope springs eternal,” the saying goes. But eternal hope is be incarnated in temporal signs. Incarnation can be proud that a talented and energetic priest has committed herself to God’s work here. Let’s pray for her and give thanks to God for this sign of hope. —J. Douglas Ousley


ASA

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Clergy looking to upgrade their positions will ask a church seeking a rector what their “ASA” is. “ASA” stands for “average Sunday attendance.” The figure is calculated for every Episcopal parish’s Parochial Report that must be submitted each year to the national church offices.

Of course, each church is free to count attendees as they like. Some will count anyone who enters the church during the time of a service; others will count only those who are present for the whole service. An early mentor of mine said such figures aren’t really much good; what is valuable is having the same person making the count year-in and year-out. Trends over time will probably signify growth or decline.

But students of the most recent downward trends in the Church of England have argued that attendance isn’t always the best criterion for whether a church is effective. After all, attendance in virtually every volunteer activity–from bowling leagues to Little League to Junior League–has been declining for many years. In fact, compared to these secular organizations, the church is not doing so badly.

I’m not sure I agree with this analysis. It still sounds like an excuse. For what it’s worth, Incarnation’s ASA increased 5% in 2014 over 2013. But from my point of view, we could still do far more to invite people into the fellowship of Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley


Same Old

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Never has a modern General Convention of the Episcopal Church attracted so little media attention.

Other than the election by the bishops of a new Presiding Bishop (the “first black…”), some procedural and organizational changes, special funds to black social activist groups, and the usual medley of resolutions for global peace and justice, it’s not clear what was accomplished. Thousands of people, millions of dollars, and a gigantic carbon footprint: let’s hope there will be peace and justice in the church for the next three years. And maybe some new members. —J. Douglas Ousley