Archive for December, 2017

In the Himalayas

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Therapists refer to the holiday season as “the Himalayas.”

That is because so many of their patients encounter extreme “ups and downs” during this season. They may be positively moved one moment by the cheerful spirit of Christmas and the hopes of a new year–only to be plunged into depression as they recall the political and social conflicts of the past year.

There’s not much that can be done about these ups and downs. They come with the territory.

But we can still remember the reason for the season. If we happen to fall into a bad mood, we can remember that Christ is still incarnate in his church, and he still brings light to a dark world. Whatever we feel at the moment, we can always turn to him. —J. Douglas Ousley


Us v. Them

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I recently participated in a forum on religious diversity that was held at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

I joined Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in discussing the major concerns our respective religious bodies had in this day and age. The FIT students present were respectful and asked good questions.

My own reflections that evening focused on what I think is a problem that the major religions share. We all have conservative and liberal factions, and those of us on the more progressive, non-fundamentalist end of the spectrum are constantly seeing the other side get the lion’s share of media attention. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist fundamentalists–however different their beliefs–seem to always to present the outrageous beliefs that grab the headlines. Meanwhile, the calm and reasonable attempts at explaining our respective faiths that we mainstream clergy propose are ignored.

The solution to our problem eludes me. But it is certain that we will need to do a better job of getting our message out. —J. Douglas Ousley


Jesus Movement?

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Last week, Incarnation had the great honor of hosting the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Church Pension Fund. Officiating at the Eucharist and preaching was none other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.

This was clearly a great honor–there are over 10,000 individual Episcopal Churches, so clearly most parishes never see a Presiding Bishop.

Bishop Curry spoke as he often does of our Church as “the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” I certainly couldn’t disagree with this description of our church. But I wonder if it sounds a bit too evangelical?

God knows, we need evangelism; our membership continues to decline. But we want to be sure to draw a contrast between our branch of Christianity and fundamentalist Evangelicals. Still, if we let them claim exclusive rights to be followers of Jesus, we’ve certainly lost something!

And at any rate, the word, “movement” is apt. Our church sometimes seems to be so bound up with tradition that we can’t change or “move.” And everyone, young and old, is happy to be part of a movement that is going forward, growing and contributing to the joy of the world. —J. Douglas Ousley


Is Advent An Anachronism?

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

As the church season of Advent begins, many clergy sermons bemoan the difficulties inherent in trying to observe a solemn and holy Advent while we are immersed in the Christmas rush.

Even more of a problem is that people are more likely to be thinking of peace and joy instead of the Last Things traditionally discussed in Advent: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Advent hymns on these themes just don’t compete with Christmas carols!

Yet the themes are not irrelevant to the world of today, where rogue nations and unpredictable leaders threaten massive conflict–where, as in Hawaii, nuclear warning systems are now in place and regularly tested.

All the more reason to worry less about how busy we are–and to think seriously about the serious questions of this and every season: Where are we going? What do we value? How will we be judged? —J. Douglas Ousley