The more that I have gotten involved in things in this diocese, the more that I realize that we in the Lay Order really don't realize that in the pyramid of the church, we are really the top of it. From what I have seen, it seems as though most of us think that we are at the bottom of the pyramid, and it seems that the clergy realizes it. Let me tell you why this topic is on my mind.
At the 2007 Good Friday service at my congregation, we did the Stations of the Cross after the service. Now the service was bilingual, which I had no problem with, but for the Stations the pastor proceeded to do the entire opening in Spanish. At the first station he has one of the Spanish to read the station. We get to the next station and he asks one of the English speakers to read, and as we go through station to station we alternate between the languages. As we go through each station, he calls upon a different person to read it. Then we get to the final station and all of the other English speakers except for me. He then asks if someone would like to volunteer to read this station. He start to raise my hand and he picks someone else.
That Sunday I ask during Coffee Hour if I will be permitted to read one of the stations since I wasn't given a chance to. I was told how wrong I was and that it was all my fault and the one to blame. I kept trying to explain that I had raised my hand, but I was told that I hadn't, and without using the word, I was told that I was lying.
At no time through this whole thing was I told that I could do one of the stations, and I took it as him saying “NO”. Since the whole thing was my fault according to him, I decided that I was going to go to another church the next Good Friday.
Since I do the Stations throughout the year at the church, I decided one day that I wanted to have a copy of it at home. I typed “Stations of the Cross” into Google, and was amazed at the number of hits I got. So I decided to tighten the search even more by added “pdf” into the search. I was amazed at the number that it found. As I looked, I noticed that there were a number of different ones, with some using themes related to other topics such as AIDS, War, and others. I printed out one and read through it.
Now the congregation that I am in does not do the Stations during Lent except for Good Friday, but I had been going to another congregation that did. The more of these Stations that I looked at, the more that I realized this could be something interesting to do in my own congregation. I sat and wrote a letter to the pastor asking that I could lead a series of Stations for the 5 Fridays prior to Good Friday and that these would be done in English. He read it and proceeded to tell me that doing this the 5 Fridays before was a Spanish thing. I then explained that it wasn't just a Spanish thing to do, and that I had been going to one at another congregation. He then said that the one that we had was bilingual, so that it could be in both languages. I then showed him a couple of the ones that I was planning on using, and unless someone was going to translate them that this was going to be only in English. I had to ask again in a few weeks if he had a problem with it and if it was OK to do. He said OK.
As I looked at more and more the different Stations that have been done, I began to think that it would be interesting to write one of my own that surrounded some them. I thought about doing it based around Racism, and some other topics came to mind, but I knew that their was some topic that I could write it one.
I am involved in a subcommittee of a subcommittee in the diocese that is dealing with trying to find some ways to deal with Reconciliation because of things that have happened in the diocese. One of the other people involved in this happens to be my pastor. One night he mentioned the idea of a Stations based on reconciliation. Within a couple of hours after getting home, I have written the first draft. Over the next few days, I proceeded to do redrafts as ideas came to mind on how to do it. That Sunday I handed him a copy. He was real surprised.
Emails passed between him and the others involved with this group, and someone had a problem with the idea of doing something like this. I explained what we had just done in the church and the purpose of this, and he seemed OK with it.
As time went on, I kept doing redrafts, and I feel that I have come up with something that I am almost happy with. Come the night of the meeting of the larger group, I had made some copies and as my pastor mentioned the idea of stations, I reached into my bag and threw the copies that I had made onto the table. They grabbed a copy and proceeded to look through it. Someone had mentioned using a liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, but as he and others proceeded to look through what I had done, they seemed to become happier and happier.
Then something hit me. I suddenly realized that I was in a room where of the 10 people in it, I was the only one who wasn't or wasn't thinking about becoming a clergy person. I quickly added it that the idea that I had in mind was to put something together that doesn't require a clergy person to be involved. This was something that could be used not only by a congregation, or diocese, but something that could be used by a family where each setting could remove the included stories and insert their own.
I have a feeling that the end result will be something that will require a clergy person to be involved. I think that if I see it going into that direction, I will ask if the curtain that Jesus tore down was being put back up by them. I hope that I am wrong.
Over the last few days I have been sitting and thinking about the curtain, and the more that I think about it, the more that I realized that the church has put part of the curtain back up. I'm not talking just about the Episcopal/Anglican Church, but most churches and society in general. We look and think about the clergy as being higher than the rest of us in a way. Think about it. Have you ever found yourself being careful about the words that you use or what you say when you are around someone in clergy gear? Have you ever asked a clergy person to Bless you or something? Do you find yourself talking about the things in the Bible only when a clergy person is around? Think about it. Jesus basically got rid of the “middle man”, and said for us to deal directly with God.
Now don't get me wrong, as I feel that we need to have the clergy as a reminder and as a teacher to us about the Good News that the Holy Trinity has for us. We need our clergy to be our spiritual guides. We need our Priest to give the Good News in our congregations, and for our Deacons to take the Good News into the streets and elsewhere.
The thing that most of us in the Lay Order forget is that the other Orders within the church can not survive without us. For the other Orders to have buildings, get paid, etc., it take the Lay Order to sit in the pews and make financial offerings. What purpose would Grace Cathedral and the National Cathedral serve if the Lay Order isn't around? Think about it. Do you really think that you won't get into Heaven if you Baptized someone, performed communion, or blessed someone and that person then decided to dedicate their life to the Holy Trinity?
I hope that if a Stations of Reconciliation is done, that the final product is something that doesn't demand that someone from the clergy be involved, and that it is led by someone from the Lay Order. Now don't get me wrong, as I love our clergy, but I think that it's time for us in the Lay Order to do some work.
I know, I know, I have posted several things not to far apart in days after not posting anything here in months, but some things have been on my mind lately.