Tag Archives: church

Marian wants YOU for Community of ONE

Well, constant readers, it’s been a looooong time since the last posting.  In my defense, I’ve been up to my eyeballs learning Biblical Greek, an ordination requirement of the PCUSA.[i]  You’ll be happy to know that after ten grueling weeks, I can now say, in grammatically correct Koine:

βλεπο νεκροι ανθροποι.  Αυτοι και ουκ γινουσι νεκροι.[ii]

Besides turning into a Greek geek, I’ve been helping overhaul the church universal.  Which may be a bit of an overstatement – or not, depending on how historians choose to tell the tale.  Turns out, I’m not the only person tooling around Denver wondering why hip, intelligent, inquisitive people refuse to darken the thresholds of church buildings[iii] and, more to the point, how to serve spiritually hungry people without coming across as a mealy-mouthed snake oil salesman.

Fortunately, I don’t have to come up with an answer, because my friend Tim is working on it.  Getting to help with this project has been the spiritual equivalent of being invited to eat lunch at the cool kids’ table.  I could go on and on about what we have planned, but Tim already did that, too.  So, without further ado, allow me to extend a heartfelt invitation to tomorrow night’s inaugural gathering – just in time for Advent – of Community of ONE.[iv]


Community of One

Hope to see you there![v]

[i] As is Biblical Hebrew.   This is because Presbyterians like their pastors professorial.  I hear that when you successfully complete your language training, they give you a tweed jacket with those sexy suede patches on the elbows.

[ii] I see dead people.  They don’t even know they’re dead.

[iii] You know, other than the obvious.  If you don’t know about the obvious, please sample some of Marian’s earlier postings.

[iv] Those of you who don’t live near enough to Denver to attend are invited to send good vibes.  I have it on good authority that they will return to you three-fold.  Like a brochure.

[v] Just, please, don’t bring up this blog.  I still don’t know how the PCUSA feels about liberal use of the f-bomb in pursuit of deep theological understanding, although I’m pretty sure they’re okay with “shit” because Paul used the word in Philippians 3:8.  What we piously translate as “dung,” (σκυβαλον) actually means “shit.”  File this under “Things You Can’t Say in a Sermon, No Matter How True They Are.”


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013


God’s silly side in a small, small world

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways.  Quite frankly, I find God’s ways downright frickin’ bizarro most of the time, but that does lend certain capriciousness to life that I think we could all use more of.

Case in point:  I spent half the day last Saturday in the company of 150 of my closest Presbyterian friends[1] at a class entitled “Dangerous Elders.”  Upon arriving, I was crushed to discover that kung fu fighting was not part of the day’s agenda[2], but I soldiered on until we came to lunchtime.

Suddenly struck by the necessity of socializing, I donned my faux extrovert persona and scanned the crowd for familiar faces, trying not to appear pathetic.  Thankfully, I found some friends from Leadville, CO[3] who were too buzzed on all the oxygen at 5200 feet above sea level to notice if I looked pathetic.  Then, a member of one of my favorite rural churches found me and we and some other folks spent the next ten minutes catching up on a perennially relevant and riveting topic to Coloradans:  road construction.

At one point, another solo attendee and I bumped elbows and exchanged a few funny words and then we all got in the lunch line.  I was hoping to sit with my fellow asphalt aficionados.  But when the seating hostess called for two people to fill in an incomplete table, I threw caution to the wind and volunteered.

The hostess sat me next to the other solo flyer I’d run into – literally – a few minutes earlier.  We started chatting (like you do), immediately hitting it off (which is altogether too rare), and the conversation, inevitably, turned to our occupations.

My companion – whom I’ll call Fiona, because that’s not her name – told me that she was in the marriage and family therapy business.  Since I know exactly one marriage and family therapist, I said:  “I realize there are about seven million marriage and family therapists in the world, but I don’t suppose you know Artemisia Donohue[4]?”

She-who-shall-be-known-as-Fiona’s jaw dropped.

“How do you know Artemisia?”

“Her daughter, Electra,[5] and I have been best friends since the fifth grade.”

Fiona started laughing.

“Artemisia and I went to graduate school together and have been best friends ever since!”

Yes, it’s a small world and God moves in mysterious ways.  But the biggest mystery is why Artemisia and Electra both wound up best friends with two Presbyterians.[6]

In any case, the encounter reminded me of God’s wacky, whimsical side.  When we’re tempted – which, in my case, is often – to fixate on the sternness, unfairness, remoteness, and inscrutability of God, it’s important to remember that, for some reason that doesn’t really matter, God invented duckbill platypuses.  God may also have a hand in the discovery of five-dollar bills in the pockets of thrift store purchases.[7]  I’m pretty sure God inspired whoever invented tapioca.[8]  God has got to be behind the darnedest things that kids say.[9]  And I am positive that an almighty creator God with a kick-ass sense of humor is behind wild kingdom behavior like this:

Take time to laugh this week.  Spring is coming.[10]

[1] Which is to say, I was sitting closer to these Presbyterians than to any others at that particular moment.

[2] Thankfully, I took and passed the Colorado DOC’s Pressure Point Control Tactic Training twice.  The second time, one of my sparring partners was a five-foot-tall, ninety-pounds-soakin’-wet chaplain named Gillian.  If you ever find yourself in any of the CDOC’s finer correctional establishments, please, take my advice.  Do not fuck with this chaplain.  She will take your ass down faster than you can say, “Hallelujah.”

[3] At 10,152 feet, Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city and second highest municipality in the United States.  I have no idea what the difference is between a city and a municipality.

[4] Totally also not her real name.  Duh.

[5] Seriously, people.  Not her real name.  How many times do I have to tell you?

[6] Actually, I suspect it’s because they were unconditionally predestined to be irresistibly attracted to our total depravity.

[7] Especially if you pray over them.  See Marian’s posting from March 8, 2013.

[8] For those of you not up on your highly toxic South American vegetable products, tapioca is made from manioc, which has a rather high cyanide content and is only rendered edible by boiling and draining it several times.  Who the heck stuck around to figure that recipe out?

[9] Granted, I make this last assertion as a non-parent who has derived an endless amount of entertainment from the darnedest things kids say.  Non-non-parents, which is to say, parents, may have a different opinion about things that issue from the mouths of babes.

[10] Unless you’re completely hooked on Game of Thrones, in which case, you know what’s coming.  Winter and dragons and some very ill-advised matrimonies, that’s what!


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

Palpitations for a dead theologian

I just met Friedrich Schleiermacher. [i]  I really never thought any theologian could replace Martin Luther in my heart of hearts, but the more time I spend with Freddo, the more seriously I’m considering having his name, elaborately lettered and wreathed in roses, tattooed on my ass.[ii]

Brilliant, sharply dressed Moravian with glossy blonde locks seeks frumpy Calvinist seminarian with an interest in exploring "total depravity."  Also likes long walks on the beach and salsa dancing.

Brilliant, sharply dressed Moravian with glossy blonde locks seeks frumpy Calvinist seminarian with an interest in exploring “total depravity.” Also likes long walks on the beach and salsa dancing.

As I’m sure you all know,[iii] this 18th century German Enlightenment scholar and “father of modern liberal theology” was one of the most influential systematic theologians who ever lived, right up there with John Calvin,[iv] Thomas Aquinas, and Karl Barth.[v]  I comprehend about 5% of what he writes.

But here’s one thing I think I can accurately articulate.  Religion, for Schleiermacher, isn’t about morals and it isn’t about elaborate cosmologies.  It’s about personally intuiting our intimate and integral connection, as particular individuals, to the universe entire and eternal; this includes God, the natural world, and each other.  Those capable of this kind of intuition are “religious” in a sense that seems very similar to our contemporary notion of “spiritual.”  The totally cool thing about this theology is that it calls upon individuals to live their lives authentically, i.e. uniquely.  Every thing in the universe is interrelated to every other thing in the universe.  Since we each have our own limited and particular viewpoint, it is only by sharing our personal intuitions of an infinite God that we, as a species, stand any chance of understanding who and what God is.

I love this definition of religion for several reasons.  First off, it honors the entire human community, comprised of infinitely unique individuals, as essential to the very fabric of the universe. This seems a worthy alternative to Christianity’s long history of doctrinal tyranny, imperialism, colonialism, and sexism.  Secondly, it’s an antidote to our contemporary notion of “spiritual, not religious,” which effectively rejects anything having to do with organized religions.  Now remember, per Freddo, religion is about personally intuiting one’s own relationship to the eternal.  So, for Schleiermacher, the true church is simply a group of people whose similar religious experiences give them a shared language with which to discuss their religious experience together.

Two hundred years ago, Schleiermacher described why I’m a Christian today.  In a nutshell, I’m a Christian because when I was five, I went to Sunday school and learned all the words I’d need to make sense of God in that particular way.  I want to be in community with other religious people in a way that helps me tap deeper and deeper wells of meaning and relationship with God.  I agree with Schleiermacher that there are an infinite number of ways to accomplish this, and believe me, I sampled a lot of them.  After years of dabbling in Wicca and Religious Science, I realized that I had no interest in becoming fluent in another “religious language,” so I returned to my Christian roots and got back to the business of intuiting God with people who intuit God in the same way – through the life and message and miracles of Jesus Christ.  As a religous person by temperament, I am confident that if I’d gotten my formative education in a synagogue or mosque, I’d still be there today.  And that would be okay.

Per Schleiermacher, another essential element to being truly religious is love for other people and their points of view.  This is why most of my non-church friends are not Christians.  As an introvert, I have to be selective about who I spend my time with and there’s only so much time outside church.  This is also why I attend an ecumenical seminary and seem to gravitate toward the Buddhists, pagans, and atheists.  I want to hear what they have to say, I want to see the universe through their eyes.  Doing so never fails to help me clarify my own religious experience within my own vocabulary of faith.

In this new year, I encourage all of my faithful readers to spend deliberate time with people who share their understanding of the infinite and people who see the world through very different eyes.  Both are entirely necessary to a full experience of one’s place in the universe, regardless of whether God figures into your vocabulary.  And bear in mind that for the truly religious person, every moment is sacred and every experience is church.

[i] Affectionately referred to by me and a handful of my less reverent classmates as Freddo Knickerbocker

[ii] Because I’m too commitment phobic to get a tattoo on a part of my body I can actually stand to look at.  Because, you know, unlike marriage, tattoos are so…so…permanent.

[iii] I’m totally kidding.  Who the hell is Schleiermacher and how come I never heard of him?

[iv] Affectionately referred to by me and everyone else as John Calvin

[v] I’ll leave it to others to add Charles Schulz to the list.


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

%d bloggers like this: