The Triumphant Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem — The Bossuet Project

From Meditations on the Gospel, The Last Week of the Saviour, First Day. The triumphant entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem. He is acknowledged King, son of David, and the Messiah (John xi. 12-20; Matt. xxi. 1-17; Mark xi. 1-17; Luke xix. 28-48). These sermons or discourses will teach us about the triumphant entrance of […]

via The Triumphant Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem — The Bossuet Project

My Tribute to Dave Lorency

One of the hardest parts of getting older is seeing loved ones, friends and colleagues pass away.  It’s not often that I do a tribute to one of them, in part because a) my audience is very diverse, most people aren’t known to a wide range and b) if I did it I would pretty much dominate the blog.  But I’m making an exception in this case for my friend Dave Lorency, who passed away suddenly early this morning.  Dave is best known as the President of Operation Compassion, the relief organisation that has been to so many disasters, including the many tornadoes and hurricanes that have struck our country and world, and even the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

David Lorency
Dave Lorency. Photo courtesy of Church of God Chaplains Commission.

Most of all, though, Dave was my friend.  I’ve met many interesting people and great men and women of God in the Church of God during my two score in it, but Dave is, to use the Latin phrase, sui generis.  His ministerial career was unique, and the way he brought Operation Compassion to the forefront of Christian relief work illustrates both how he leveraged the strengths and transcended the weaknesses of the Pentecostal denomination which he served for so many years.

Dave started out in what used to be called the Tidewater area of Virginia.  His ministerial career–and don’t be silly, that’s the way many of our ministers look at it–was not out of the ordinary until he got involved in and was made Executive Director of Operation Compassion.  To make a relief organisation like OC successful requires a skill set that is different from many of our ministers, but Dave was God’s man for the hour, so to speak.

What a great loss. He was a powerful force in humanitarian work and a dear friend of mine. He will be missed more than we will ever know. He was one of Mercy Chefs earliest supporters and advocates. I will miss him terribly.  Gary LeBlanc, Mercy Chefs

oclogo-headerTo start with, he was committed to the ministry body, soul and spirit, which is important for the success of any ministry.  I have always been impressed with the energy and dedication of many of our ministers, and he was certainly exhibited both.  Beyond that, he had the organisational skills to put it together.  Operation Compassion’s mission is simple but vital: to gather food and other supplies and then to deliver them to places and organisations which in turn would distribute them to those in need.  That doesn’t sound like much of a mission, but a relief organisation that arrives empty handed won’t bring much relief.  OC helped to avoid that problem.

To do that requires not only organisational skills, it requires the supplies, either donated or bought.  For the former he had extensive relationships with corporations of all kinds who would donate their surplus to OC’s warehouses, from whence they went to the field.  Beyond that Dave was an effective fund raiser, not only in the Church of God but also outside of it.  OC started out as an integral part of the Church of God; it was “set loose” (made its own corporation and given autonomy) in 2006, when Dave was made President.  As he reminded us frequently, much of the cash income they had came from Roman Catholics, a crossover rare for an organisation with Pentecostal roots.  And he did all of this while keeping the overhead below that of many other relief agencies and ministries.

Operation Compassion’s warehouse, with supplies ready to go to the field, 2005. Photo courtesy of the Church of God Chaplains Commission.

As for me, I first got to know Dave when I was the webmaster for the Church of God Chaplains Commission, which I was from 1998 to 2010.  Both OC and the Commission are under the umbrella of the Care Division of the Church of God, even with OC’s status as a separate corporation.  After I left the formal employment of the denomination I was appointed to the Care Board, which oversees the ministries under its umbrella, including OC.  In both of these I got to know Dave as a friend.  Unpretentious and straightforward in his opinions of people, ministries and churches, he was in many ways an atypical minister.  In his passing I am shocked and grieved.  Our General Overseer Tim Hill said that he “…has left a legacy in the Church of God that will never be duplicated,” and that’s an understatement.

My heart and condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues, his passing leaves a hole in our lives which will not be filled until we see him again on the other side.

What Will the Church Look Like? — Ad Orientem

Father Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in a 1969 radio broadcast: The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely […]

via What Will the Church Look Like? — Ad Orientem

A Break from the Worship Wars

Last post I quoted a missionary to the Middle East who was having good ministry in spite of the social distancing restrictions.  In a place like that, not being able to gather en masse isn’t as big of a change as it is here.  But not having live services has spared me a conflict that I was stuck in going into this lockdown: the “worship wars” that have engulfed our churches for a long time.  It’s easier to handle from a distance, and easier since I don’t have to interact with my church people on the subject.

So, you ask, where do I stand in the worship wars?  I feel like I’m in “No Man’s Land” on the Western Front during World War I.  On either side are two implacable foes which shell and/or gas attack each other.  Occasionally one goes over the top, but no matter how many people do that or get themselves killed in the process, neither side makes a lot of progress.  All the while I’m hunkered down hoping that we can have a Christmas Truce or something like it, or that someday someone will actually have a victory before there’s no one left to fight.

So how did I get caught in the middle?  That is the result of the way I got to this place.

As many of you know, I was raised in the High Episcopal Church.  We used the 1940 Hymnal, the hymnal that didn’t have “Amazing Grace” in it.  (It’s a great hymn, but I find its endless repetition tiresome.)  Unless they brought a rock band in (which they did once) the pipe organ was the only instrument used in church.  I actually liked the hymnody I sang in the paid youth choir.  That would mark me as a traditionalist in most places but the Anglican tradition isn’t really the same as in other Protestant churches.  For example, we sang different hymns on Palm Sunday and Easter than, say, the Baptists did, and our hymns were far superior to theirs.

When I swam the Tiber and went to Texas A&M, I was introduced to Catholic folk music.  I didn’t like Catholic folk music to start with because a) it was American (and I preferred what came from the UK) and b) it was folk music, and I was a progressive rocker.  Eventually I came around, although I’ve discovered that the folk music we did wasn’t all there was or even the best.  From there I moved to Dallas and was introduced to the Ann Arbor/South Bend worship style, which is very worshipful but also has its own musical limitations.

After a few more peregrinations I ended up in the Church of God.  Worship in the Church of God in the early to mid-1980’s was the end result of many years of Southern Gospel built up by campmeeting songbooks and a lively musical tradition that is different from “nominal” Protestant churches, to say nothing of the Anglican/Episcopal world.  In the hands of the gifted, it is a great worship style.  I thought, “this is where I’m at, I’ve arrived, it’s not what I’m used to, but I expected that.”

Silly me: late in that decade the “praise and worship” music from Integrity came bubbling up and the split in what music to do at our church began in earnest.  Praise and worship music is a moving target, both with the sources and to a lesser extent the style.  The problem is that it is always at any given moment presented as what’s being done in the “throne room,” which means that those who don’t like it are not in the throne room and possibly never will be.  It also means that those who don’t like it (or at least the way it’s presented at any given moment) get “aged out,” and for someone who teaches college students for a living, that’s galling.

At this point we are split into two camps.  The traditionalists (and keep in mind it’s not my tradition, but theirs) have retreated into the “Red Back Hymnal” version of Verdun, that being the Church of God’s Church Hymnal, produced in the early 1950’s and the most successful gospel hymnal ever published.  (One retired Church of God State Overseer refers to it as the “Red Neck Hymnal.”)  On the other side are those who lead worship with basically what’s going on in the vast majority of megachurches in the Anglophone world.

I really don’t have a dog in this hunt.  One of my responses is to create the “Music Pages” on this site, so I can propagate (and enjoy) music from the “Jesus Music” era.  This music was a stylistic step forward from any Protestant or Catholic music of the era, and joining a Church of God was a step backward in many ways.  It was also produced before the excessive commercialisation that has plagued CCM and praise and worship music ever since.

But now, with the break we’re having in physical corporate worship, it’s worth nothing that there’s a lot out there in terms of worship and music style.  Don’t like what’s going on at your church?  Check it out.  Many of you already have been doing this.  It beats complaining, and it gets better results.  And it certainly makes life in “no man’s land” a lot easier.

For Some, COVID-19 is an Opportunity

I saw this in a recent newsletters from missionaries in the Middle East.  Although they’re not Americans, they were in the U.S. for medical treatment unrelated to COVID-19.  They dodged the chaos of cancelled flights and quarantines to get back to the field and report this:

We thank God that he protected us and gave us a fine return. Right now, it is a time to minister through the media. As everywhere else people are panicking here with the great difference that in [country they’re in] most people do not have the opportunity to ask for prayer from any church or person. In the midst of this crisis there are several people who have made a decision for Jesus Christ over the phone, something that we had not previously seen.

We are praying for a great harvest and asking God to use us with healing miracles to help this people in need. At the moment within our community and co-workers there is no one affected by the plague. We pray for you and declare in your lives Psalm 91 believing that no plague will touch your homes and families.

A Challenging Coronavirus Take from an Iraqi Muslim

Dr. Manal Hadi Kanaan is a lecturer of microbiology and anatomy in the Technical Institute of Suwaira/Middle Technical University in Iraq.  She recently posted this on Researchgate, which means in front of her peers, about COVID-19.  Her English is not the best but her idea is clear (emphasis mine):

In light of the circumstances in the world today, we see situations of fear, apprehension, and caution filling the continents in light of the spread of this epidemic. Sometimes we ask ourselves about the reason for the spread of this epidemic, and some of us start blaming others about its spread and its invasion of the countries of the world, whether these countries are developed or developing, and we find ourselves powerless in front of this very small creature that does not see under the light microscope but rather under the electron microscope. Then we go back to ask how it spread and how it developed itself to be so strong. Is the reason is food habits and that it has moved from the original host has snakes and bats to humans, in my area as a scientist in the field of bacteria, when bacteria move to a place other than the place of their natural presence it may turn from commensals bacteria to pathogens. Was this the reason, or are we in a real confrontation between the creature that God has honored (human being) with the smallest creature which is the virus? Perhaps the presence of this challenge is a test for us from the Creator to show us that whatever we have reached in science and whatever we have evolved, we are unable to face the smallest creature he has. How much we harmed each other, how much we have forgiven our accomplishments and how much we have suffered from each other’s injustice, but today we are powerless in front of this so little creature. So, in your opinion, how can we face this epidemic?

To be honest this makes a lot more sense than the “judgement of God” musings going around certain Christian circles.  It’s more in line with, for example, what God told Job in Job 40-41.


Liberty, Prosperity and Life —

I’ve spent some time trying to figure out something worthwhile to say about the COVID-19 crisis and the challenges it has for our civilisation, but as I am wont to do I turned back to the history of my 144-year enduring family business to accomplish that.  Hope you enjoy it.

Although Vulcan would experience more than forty more years of life after it was over, Vulcan’s Centennial Celebration in 1952 was both a milestone and a high point in its history. The “capstone” of the ceremonies was the keynote speech by Vulcan’s President, Chester H. “Chet” Warrington, my grandfather. He put a wrap on the […]

via Liberty, Prosperity and Life —

From the Home Church, a Virtual Coffee Hour

I’ve discussed my home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, often, and plan to do so in the future.  Bethesda is in the middle of our current crisis.  Their Rector, James Harlan, was at the same conference where the rector that brought COVID-19 to Chattanooga attended.  And they, like so many churches, has taken their church online with streaming services (which they had before, only then with a congregation.)

The Coffee Hour is a well-established tradition in the Anglican-Episcopal world.  It’s one that indirectly got me in trouble with Kendall Harmon’s blog.  But Bethesda has shown some online initiative: they have a virtual coffee hour on Zoom, which they duly start like they would if it were live, i.e., after the (streaming) service.  They also running both their children’s Sunday School and Wednesday night gathering the same way.  This allows these to be interactive.

I’ve few nice things to say about the Episcopal Church in general, but this shows some practical initiative in a difficult time.  And there’s one additional benefit: it’s a lot easier to control the quality and type of the coffee.

Elevations on Prophecies — The Bossuet Project

This series continues from the last series, and is an interesting treatment of several topics concerning the Old Testament’s prediction of Jesus Christ: Prophecies under the Patriarchs The Prophecy of Moses The Prophecy of David The other prophecies Reflection on Prophecies The Appearance of God in a new way; and what does the promised coming […]

via Elevations on Prophecies — The Bossuet Project

Wednesday Night Church Online, and One of My Favorite People

My church has decided to go completely online to avoid the crowd issues of COVID-19.  This is our first crack at Wednesday night service online, called “Word at Home.”  It features our Pastor, Mark Williams, and a gathering of men to do music, led by Jeremy Richardson, formerly of the Christian group Avalon.  After that Mark interviews his dad, Bill Williams (that starts at around 26:45,) who like most in his generation has been through some tough times.

Bill Williams is one of my favourite people, for reasons I hope become evident.  He grew up in West Virginia, but spent many years as a pastor in Texas, where Mark was raised.  While there he became a University of Texas fan, but after he retired and moved to Cleveland I leaned very heavily on him to switch to the Aggie faith.  (Texas A&M’s entry into the SEC in 2012 helped.)   I told him one time that if he had been an Aggie fan from the start, his grandson Austin Williams would have been named College Station.

His response: “It’s not too late.”