Saturday, 1 March 2014

On Retirement and Things I Would or Would Not Do Differently

As retirement approaches I find myself wondering about what I think I’d do differently if I were starting out again.

One thing I wouldn’t change is being Anglican. I love the way we worship. I love the theatre of it, the drama, the colours, the visuals and the way the divine narrative is covered year after year whether we want to, or not. I love the amount of Bible in it; read out and set to prayer. I love the way it’s always all about Jesus. It picks me up and carries me along no matter how I’m feeling or how engaged I am.

As always, Matt Marino, Episcopal priest in Arizona, puts it well when he describes how Anglican worship works in one of his The Gospel Side blog pieces: To Donald Miller and anyone else considering dumping church: The church works best when you like it least, in which he quotes another Arizona Episcopal priest, Gil Stafford:
The liturgy is like a rock falling into a stream. It rubs the rough edges off of us week after week, year after year. It is an infinitely slow and quiet transformation that is about being with other rocks in the stream as the Spirit works through the years, the prayers, the Sacraments and the community of faith. 
I love it all; the daily offices, the church year, the chanting, the bread and the wine each Sunday. I love the traditional prayer book worship in Shakespearean language and the contemporary rites according to our rather gracelessly entitled Book of Alternative Services. I love the routine, having to resist ennui, the cycle of the church year, the politically incorrect Scripture passages that slip through on Sunday mornings despite attempts to protect our delicate Anglican sensibilities. I love the Englishness of it and having to abide by the pastoral direction of a bishop. I love the way the liturgical system draws me into something much bigger and older than me. I have to serve it. It is not there to serve me and meet my needs.

Marino describes it in a rather lovely Eugene Peterson-esque way, also in the aforementioned post:
It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is about consuming Jesus and being consumed by him. And, I am convinced, the church works specifically best when we do not like it! When we choose to engage and to cooperate with the prayers, and surrender to the Lord of the prayers, and come, kneel, reach out our hands and receive, and “taste and see that the Lord is good,” then we truly worship.
It works best when I don’t like it. It works best when it doesn’t feel as if it’s meeting my needs or feeding me. I like the awkwardness and real-ness of that.

I’m a soon to be retired Anglican priest and I’m okay.