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.”

Intiction: “I Don’t Think You Can Do That”

The raging COVID-19, “…like a roaring lion, is prowling about, eager to devour you.” (1 Peter 5:8 TCNT)  The way some people are reacting to this make you wonder.  I follow a fair number of people on Catholic Twitter and some of them have jumped the shark.  One trad even disparaged Thomas Aquinas because he had the temerity to point out that poison in the Host was not eliminated by transubstantiation!  I always thought a trad that disparaged Aquinas was an oxymoron.

In any case the celebration of the sacred mysteries has been seriously muddied by the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of this “lion.”  For Anglicans, one solution would be the increased celebration (face-to-face and online) of Morning and Evening Prayer, but after a half century of trying to “be like Rome” that may be a hard adjustment for many Anglican parishes, even though both of these services are in reality a form of “ante-communion” such as was practiced in Roman Empire Christianity.

One alternative that one would think is helpful is intiction, i.e., the practice of dipping the transformed bread into the equally transformed wine.  I’ve heard trads disparage that too, although Rome has never been keen on this practice.  (Aquinas clearly explains why they receive the Host in one species, too.)  Anglicans and Orthodox have used this for many years, and my experience with it, although a little strange, should be interesting to some.

My mother, brother and I were confirmed within a year of each other.  Our church assured us that the alcohol content of the wine would kill the germs for each person who received directly from the cup.  But my mother, raised on the big trays and Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology, didn’t buy it: she opted for intiction and I followed suit.  That’s the way I rolled at the Holy Communion until I was sent down Florida’s Turnpike to the St. Andrew’s School, that Episcopal education institution in the “land of lakes and pine” (soon to be surrounded by development.)

The 1960’s hit Palm Beach pretty hard, but Bethesda for the most part held back on change.  St. Andrew’s was another story; I endured two fairly liberal school chaplains until I swam the Tiber.  My freshman year there I went to my first “hippy dippy” Holy Communion complete with the inseparable companion to it: French Bread.

I don’t understand the fixation on French bread in Holy Communions or Masses like these.  To start with, it’s not authentic in any way.  At the institution of the Holy Communion, taking place in the Middle East the way it did, the bread there was probably more akin to pita bread or the matzos of the Jews.  Both have practical issues, but they pale in comparison to the French bread.  It’s crummy (in every sense of the word) and to break it in a common ceremony requires everyone to handle it, which is a good way to spread COVID-19 or any other plague that happens to be going around.

In the context of the 1960’s and 1970’s, French bread was “exotic” compared to the “light bread” that was standard issue.  One Soviet trade representative compared the texture of light bread to that of cotton, and he was right: even under Soviet socialism, bread was better than that.  If the standard issue of Anglican and Catholic churches doesn’t appeal, no matter what lose the French bread.  Bread has marched on, even if the superannuated hippies from the 1960’s have not.

Getting back to St. Andrew’s, one Holy Communion the French bread was rolled out.  So I took a piece and prepared to dip it in the cup, following my mother’s fine example.  The traditional Episcopal priest (and my Latin II teacher) administering the cup, a fine man named Raymond O’Brien, looked at me and said “I don’t think you can do that.”  I gave way, consumed both species separately and directly, and that was that.

I survived this episode, although St. Andrew’s presented other noxious challenges I had to face.  When I swam the Tiber, I thought I left this issue behind, but that was not the case: at Texas A&M our Newman Association Masses, especially those on retreats, featured the French bread, surely the low point of those generally good experiences.  My ecclesiastical wanderings eventually took me into the churches of the big trays and Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology, and so I thought I had left both the sanitation issues that worried my mother and those posed by the French bread behind.  That was partly right: there are sanitation issues with the big trays, which many churches need to address at this time.

Well, almost partly…in the last few years there has been heightened interest in liturgical worship amongst Pentecostals.  So just before this past Thanksgiving we had a communion service with–wait for it–French bread and several common cups.  Since the Scots-Irish penchant for binge drinking has forced Evangelical churches to ban alcohol, we were instructed to dip the bread into grape juice.  I know that Fr. O’Brien was rolling in his grave at that point, and justifiably so, but I went ahead and did it, my church oblivious and uncaring for someone who had a real history in this method of the Holy Communion.

At this point I think that intiction, if properly done, is one way to address the health issues surrounding this.  There are others that can be done.  But this post wasn’t meant to be a “how to” for either the theology, sanitation practices or practical considerations of the sacred mysteries.  It was meant to document a journey of one person through at least the last two of them, and hopefully it was found to be informative and perhaps a little entertaining.

“Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” Episcopal Style: A Continuing COVID-19 Saga

It doesn’t get any better for Chattanooga since the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Brad Whitaker, went about town with the COVID-19 he had contracted while at an Episcopal conference.  Among his many stops (which are documented in this article) is this one:

On Feb. 28, Whitaker led a memorial service for the Chattanooga Bar Association, the group of more than 800 local attorneys. The CBA sent an email to all members Friday evening alerting them they may have been exposed to the virus at the service and to contact the Chattanooga – Hamilton County Health Department.

If you live in this area you especially need to read the entire article and, if you have come into contact with Rev. Whitaker, to call the health department.  In the meanwhile the church itself is taking the following action:

The downtown Chattanooga church is sanitizing the building to slow the potential spread of the virus. In a Friday morning email to church members announcing the suspension of worship services and other gatherings, Whitaker said no other church staff who attended the conference with him are showing symptoms.

if-this-be-heresyIf only the Episcopal Church at large could be sanitized of the many plagues it has unleashed on its members and the rest of Christianity…