November 24, 2014

June 6, 2012


Politics and the Parish - a Parable

You are the rector of a parish full of families and their high school kids (yeah, we’re already in fantasy land if you’re Episcopalian).

About half the teens attend Matt Kennedy High School, and several of them play on its football team.  The team is just about to play for your city’s berth in the state championship playoff.

The other half of the teens attend Sarah Hey High (you don’t know how long I’ve wanted to type that).  Lo and behold, several of them play for their football team, which is set to play Kennedy high for that playoff birth and a year of major bragging rights.

Matt Kennedy High sits in an affluent neighborhood.  The students are mostly white, rich, academically proficient and headed for promising futures.  They have case upon case of trophies for both athletic and academic triumphs.  College scouts frequent their games. They’ve also beaten Hey High for fifteen straight years.

Sarah Hey High sits on the edge of your crumbling downtown.  Its students are a mix of poor whites and third world immigrants.  Many of their families are on some form of public assistance and few of the families have both parents together in the home.  Their graduation rate is among the lowest in the state.  Although they have a couple of promising players this year, college scouts seldom come to their games.  Did I mention they’ve lost to Kennedy High in the big football season ender for the last fifteen years?

So, here we are on the Sunday before the game.  Parishioners are sporting school colors and have tributes to their player kids painted on their cars.  The parish is a microcosm of your city - everybody’s thinking about the game. 

So, does God care who wins?  How do you acknowledge the upcoming game during the liturgy, if at all?  What behaviors will you consider appropriate and inappropriate for your parishioners, whether during the liturgy, announcements or coffee hour?

Do you go to the game?  If so, do you sit with the families in the Kennedy bleachers or the Hey bleachers?


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20 comments

Hey, hey, all the way.
Sarah Hey High will rule the day!

That does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it Tim?

[1] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 6-6-2012 at 10:35 AM · [top]

“The parish is a microcosm of your city”.
I know the Lord has returned

[2] Posted by Carpe DCN on 6-6-2012 at 11:34 AM · [top]

Sarah Hey High sits on the edge of your crumbling downtown.

That doesn’t sound quite right.

The last I heard, she was still running Old Mother Hey’s Charm School for Wayward Boys. 

Strictly a private institution, no visitors allowed.  No football team either.

Did the authorities finally shut that place down or did it just crumble?

[3] Posted by episcopalienated on 6-6-2012 at 11:54 AM · [top]

RE: “Matt Kennedy High sits in an affluent neighborhood.  The students are mostly white, rich, academically proficient and headed for promising futures.  They have case upon case of trophies for both athletic and academic triumphs.  College scouts frequent their games. They’ve also beaten Hey High for fifteen straight years.”

I knew it.  I knew that Matt Kennedy was a snooty prep-school pansy white rich boy!

I’m with the underdogs. Sarah Hey High rules!

RE: “So, does God care who wins?”

I think God cares who grows, win or lose.

RE: “What behaviors will you consider appropriate and inappropriate by your parishioners, whether during the liturgy, announcements or coffee hour?”

Stoical silence is what I consider appropriate during the liturgy and announcements—as always.  And quiet, discreet, reserved comments about the weather, the spring blooms, trivial business matters, and the upcoming church picnic is appropriate during the coffee hour—as always.

RE: “Do you go to the game?  If so, do you sit with the families in the Kennedy bleachers or the Hey bleachers?”

I go to the game and sit with the folks in the Hey bleachers. Half the vestry and staff was assigned to sit with either side.

[4] Posted by Sarah on 6-6-2012 at 01:04 PM · [top]

I am intensely curious as to the pronunciation of Ms. Hey’s surname. I have heard it suggested that it is pronounced much like the word high, although from its appearance, I would think it more likely that it is pronounced in a manner similar to hay (as the interjection or word sometimes used to gain someone’s attention is also commonly spelled hey but pronounced like the hay, the form of dried fodder).

Respectfully,
Keith Töpfer

[5] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-6-2012 at 04:04 PM · [top]

H.Potter - I am favoring the Hey = High pronunciation.  Those who will not follow this obvious convention should simply read John Boswell’s irrefutable scholarly work or refrain from commenting on things that the New Testament writers could not have understood, not being a bunch of modern tools like ourselves.

[6] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-6-2012 at 04:07 PM · [top]

And for anyone who doesn’t speak German, assuming anyone is curious, I will be happy to post a description of how to pronounce the umlauted o (ö) upon request.

Keith Töpfer

[7] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-6-2012 at 04:08 PM · [top]

[6] Timothy Fountain,

Thank you for that, although I suppose I should have specified “how Sarah pronounces her surname,” which I would take as the correct pronunciation. Please pardon the mental lapse on my part.

Keith Töpfer

[8] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-6-2012 at 04:11 PM · [top]

I prefer to answer to the pronunciation of “Your Majesty.”

Another pronunciation option might be “Your Highness” or, in informal situations, “Ma’am.”

If we are at war, you may refer to me in the third person as “the Supreme Commander” and in the second person as “Commander.”

[scuttling away]

[9] Posted by Sarah on 6-6-2012 at 04:55 PM · [top]

Do you have to say the name right?

If she would pronounce the name of her school the way most people wind up pronouncing it the fans could sing

Nah nah nah nah
Nah nah nah nah
Hey Hey Hey High
Goodbye…

Around here there is a High school named Hough High. There is no good way to say that one. If you say “Huff High” you are right but it sure sounds wrong. If you say “Ho High” a lot of girls are going to be upset.

To answer the question, you preach the Gospel, you go to the game and give the Invocation, you pray to Jesus outloud using the P.A. system, you get hauled off by the school board, miss the game, and you are off the hook for taking sides1

[10] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 6-6-2012 at 09:04 PM · [top]

Yes… what precisely is meant by “football” in the above scenario?

(also scuttling away)

[11] Posted by MichaelA on 6-7-2012 at 02:26 AM · [top]

Football: a social reality of great personal or symbolic importance to a large group of people.

[12] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-7-2012 at 06:49 AM · [top]

As Sarah “Your Majesty” implied, I think God cares not so much who won or lost, but how they played the game.  You sit in one end zone the first half and the other endzone the second half (but never on the fence). smile

[13] Posted by Milton on 6-7-2012 at 08:03 AM · [top]

MichaelA #11 - I am slow, but not quite dead yet.  I just realized from another thread that your query is based on your AU status. 

While I was using American Football in the story, I completely admire the kit (esp. the hat!) worn by officials under Australian Rules.

[14] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-7-2012 at 11:52 AM · [top]

Sarah:

I prefer to answer to the pronunciation of “Your Majesty.”

But you’re a devoutly religious person who probably has a vocational calling that‘s gone unrecognized so far.  Wouldn’t you prefer it if everyone had to call you “Reverend Mother” whether they liked it or not?  You could make the people under your command do all sorts of things.  Of course, you’d have to dress up funny, but what’s wrong with that? 

Undergroundpewster:

Around here there is a High school named Hough High. There is no good way to say that one. If you say “Huff High” you are right but it sure sounds wrong. If you say “Ho High” a lot of girls are going to be upset.

They could split the difference and call it “How High.”  Many of the students aren’t likely to mind that at all, and if the parents object, the ACLU can take them to court.

MichaelA:

Yes… what precisely is meant by “football” in the above scenario?

In your country, emphasis is on the foot.  In this country, emphasis is on the ball and the scholarships and advertising contracts that come about from knowing how to use it.

In both cases, any player who scores should immediately genuflect, make the sign of the cross, and recite the Hail Mary prayer.  That’s practically a requirement in the NFL these days.  The number of players on each team who are also willing to do that before the game starts helps God determine who should win. 

The participants and their parents are still free to recite verses from the imprecatory Psalms aimed at their opponents, although that approach isn’t considered half as effective unless both teams are made up of the Truly Reformed.  But this often results in a tied game and seemingly endless overtime while heaven struggles to arrive at a final decision.  tongue rolleye

[15] Posted by episcopalienated on 6-8-2012 at 09:32 AM · [top]

So, does God care who wins?  God cares that the church completes the mission it was given. Period. We get distracted by trivial (in God’s plan) concerns.

How do you acknowledge the upcoming game during the liturgy, if at all?  Only to set up the presentation of the Gospel (orientation, identification, illumination, application, inspiration).

What behaviors will you consider appropriate and inappropriate for your parishioners, whether during the liturgy, announcements or coffee hour? See Ephesians 4:29

Do you go to the game?  If so, do you sit with the families in the Kennedy bleachers or the Hey bleachers? Why not. Depends on who issue the invite first (free ticket).

[16] Posted by Festivus on 6-8-2012 at 10:00 AM · [top]

“So, does God care who wins?  God cares that the church completes the mission it was given. Period. We get distracted by trivial (in God’s plan) concerns.”

I like this.  As you read the NT, there is very little concern with the church getting to particular outcomes, at least as far as the culture around it.  There are definite concerns about outcomes in the lives of individual Christians and in the church itself.  And there are instructions to go out and proclaim Christ, without a call for some particular outcome other than that the message go out.

I like your appeal to Ephesians 4:29, but just invoking that verse begs the question, don’t you think?  You’ve given Biblical language to my question, but push on and see if you can list some behaviors to which that verse would be the right rebuke.

Thanks for thinking through some of the questions!

[17] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-8-2012 at 10:15 AM · [top]

RE: ” . . . probably has a vocational calling that‘s gone unrecognized so far.”

Yes.  I have a lot of attributes and little-known callings that have gone unrecognized.  Greatness, for instance.  Supernatural talent.  And money-making gizmos.  All have gone unrecognized.

RE: Ephesians.  I do think that probably heckling and cheering mistakes and trash-talking is not edifying. I’ve thought—actually—a lot about that kind of thing, having both competed at a low level and also been an avid fan before.

[18] Posted by Sarah on 6-8-2012 at 10:50 AM · [top]

Tim@#17 - I can’t comprehend why Kennedy or Hey High would be mentioned in the liturgy, much less announcements. As far as coffee hour, I’m quite a simple person. A church member who would tear down another for their team allegiance is wounding the body and being a poor ambassador for Christ. Too much of the world will be in the football stands. Much more of Christ needs to be in those in the body (Philippians 2 ).

Now I remember why I used to avoid hypothetical questions when religion/church/God/Christ was attached to them.

[19] Posted by Festivus on 6-8-2012 at 11:05 AM · [top]

When the subject of competitive activity comes up, I hark back in my mind to an image from an old Our Gang comedy of Chubby grooming his pig for entry in a pet show.  Who knows how much of a chance those two would have had of winning a blue ribbon, but they were both clearly full of confidence and weren’t about to sit things out. 

If I remember correctly, chaos erupted when all of the animals broke loose and the judges never did get around to awarding any prizes.

That is the way of it sometimes, but the moral of the story is that Chubby and his porcine pal were willing to give things a try, and didn’t shrink back in the face of what must have looked like stiff competition, although Chubby wasn’t in the best of shape and neither was the pig.

I think that is the kind of indomitable “can do” spirit St. Paul must have had in mind when he compared the grace of final perseverance to the training that an athlete has to undergo as he strives towards his goal.

On a spiritual level, the end result should be a Church for “all sorts and conditions of men,” with or without a softball team, where at least as much as can be said for Chubby and his little friend can also be said for its members. 

From a divine vantage point, I’m guessing that must look like one big Special Olympics for all concerned anyway, which is why God is in the business of bestowing theological virtues and enabling graces upon us instead of ribbons and medals, although appropriate trinkets may be available to those who reach the end and are still interested in that sort of thing, including any pets we may have relied upon to make us look good because we couldn’t play football.  LOL

[20] Posted by episcopalienated on 6-8-2012 at 12:57 PM · [top]

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