An introduction to Thoughts of The Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal (Houston)

By way of explanation, I have alluded to my coming to the Anglican Communion in the form of the Episcopal Church. The parish was “Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal”, which has had a widely reported existence over the last 40+ years. It has indeed been remarkable, not easily shoved into one ecclesial pigeon-hole.  The physical building has this Sunday (27 February, 2011) been “secularized” meaning it is no longer set apart as a church. The life of that physical plant is at an end, due to an unattainable cost of essential repairs. The life of the parish continues, but it leads into a mist through which none but God can yet see.

I intend today to write a more direct thought on my life vis-a-vis Redeemer, and how that relates to my “now” But first, I’ll take the lazy way, and introduce the subject by cross-posting from T1:9

One of the websites on my “blogrole” which I love as a consolidator of events in the Anglican world is Titus One Nine. There has been a bit of discussion there about the closure of “The Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal” in Houston at this link

http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/35100/

What follows here is my contribution to that discussion.

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I wish to second what “Neal in Dallas” said in #11. We were contemporaries there, although my path kept me there a bit longer, until the mid ‘90s I was confirmed there in ’77, married in ’79 and my children baptized there.

Those who read into the closure of the parish an indictment of liturgical style are reading their own bias into the facts, rather than letting the facts inform their bias. In the early 60’s, before the “liturgical innovations” Redeemer was in much the state it is now, although with a sound physical plant. The changes were part of the growth, not part of the decline!

My spiritual roots are Southern Baptist. This church, Church of the Redeemer, is  where I learned to love the prayer book, the articles, the “appointed homilies” It is where I learned (with George Mims as one of my chief educators, along with a good “Nashotah House” priest) that the “church” is not just the time of Charles Wesley, or tent revivals of the earlier 20th century –The church, as it is expressed liturgically and musically, is spread out over 2000 years –more, as it reaches back into the history of Israel. And it is not just the past, it is the present. Cut off EITHER leg, the past or the present, and our ability to “run the race” is severely degraded. So, plainsong (done AS plainsong) mixed very well with something written last week: trained and highly competent composers mixed their work with that of totally untrained folk musicians and even simpler types. And it worked – as to why it worked, that has been explored by my betters, and I’ll leave my own thoughts by for now, but I have never seen it duplicated. Some who have tried have said that it cannot be.
While at Redeemer I came to love the description of the church from Acts 2:42 (which I take as normative), from which Neal quoted; although I was a bit distressed by his (I assume inadvertent) omission of the fourth mark –the fellowship.

and they were continually devoting themselves to

  • The Apostles’ teaching
  • The followship
  • The breaking of bread
  • And to prayer

These were things which were done, and culturally valued by lifestyle and practice, to a superlative degree during that period, and it bore fruit of the sort Neal describes.

But Sarah’s question remains. And I can’t answer it. I can speak something of my own difficulties from the late 80’s onward, and more importantly, the resolution of those difficulties (and plan to in my own blog). Ms Duin has written, I think, compellingly, accurately and importantly on this topic as already cited. Others who were here during that late period will put it together better. But this is not the time for that.

In his excellent sermon at that building’s final Eucharist yesterday, the youth minister, Mr. Mark Ball, said many good things, at least one of which caught my ear: He spoke compellingly of the history of Redeemer as containing an admixture of the Glory of God, and the evidence of a sinful and broken humanity; as evidenced in the people to which God’s love was brought, and in those in the church who wished to bring it to them –there was indeed much brokenness.

As he ended his sermon, he rounded back on that theme: There were two (and only two) types of things happening at the Redeemer, those authored by God for His glory, and those things of a sinful and broken humanity, being redeemed by God for His glory.

I continue to find it so.

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