Another Adventure with Anglicanism

I’ve been attending an Anglican church for the last six months or so. (You can see previous posts on the adventures here and here).

There are many things I like about this particular Anglican church. It has a good mix of ages and a strong core of seniors. (I’ve really worried about churches that are missing an entire generation of Christians, especially when it seems intentional). I love the liturgy, and I love celebrating communion every week (I will admit I’m struggling with the real wine instead of grape juice, but that’s not a theological issue, it’s more a “my meds and wine don’t play nice with each other” issue).

My biggest learning curve, at the moment is the hymnal. There are so many hymns in Common Praise that are so new to me. And, when they do have “classic” hymns, in many cases the words are slightly different. Part of it is theological differences, and part of it is an attempt to be gender inclusive. For example, the other week we sang “To God be the Glory”, and the words were changed to take out the “He”s. I understand why they have done that, but it was just enough to trip me (and more than several people in congregation) up as we sang.

One song we sang a couple of weeks ago, has been bouncing around in my head because as we sang it, I began to question the theology of it. The song is Bring Many Names. Basically the song takes different images (in particular familial images) and puts them together to describe God.

So God is portrayed as strong mother, warm father, old God, young God, and great God.

My struggle is with the fifth verse:
Young, growing God, eager, on the move,
saying no to falsehood and unkindness,
crying out for justice, giving all you have:
Hail and hosanna, young, growing God!

I sing and I read it, and all I can think of is process theology. Does God grow? On the other hand, is the fourth verse any better, where it suggests the opposite that God is an old, aching God?
Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
calmly piercing evil’s new disguises,
glad of good surprises, wiser than despair:
Hail and hosanna, old aching God!

And I can’t even stretch it and try to explain the fifth verse as being about Jesus, because the entire hymn is directed at God the Father and not at Jesus specifically.

The last verse tries to capture the mystery and infiniteness of God, but ends up calling him “joyful darkness”:
Great, living God, never fully known,
joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
closer yet than breathing, everlasting home:
Hail and hosanna, great, living God!

I have no problem with the idea that God is never fully known, indeed that is very Scriptural. But He is darkness far beyond our seeing? Maybe I am too predisposed to imagery of Light in the New Testament…

  • http://politicaljesus.wordpress.com/ Rod of Alexandria

    Bring Many Names totally lends itself to process theism. Ugh.

  • http://www.ortlundsincanada.blogspot.com Erin

    LOL, I’ve never heard of that hymn–those lyrics are rather bizarre.

  • Anne Stevenson

    Haha, I finally gave up on trying to keep the updated lyrics straight on the most classic hymns. When my frustration level peaks with those I just sing the old ones that I know, kind of quietly so I don’t throw other people off. My husband calls the green song book Hymns for a Genderless People as the inclusive lyrics annoy him so much. The concept of the universal HE seems to have escaped the lyricists for some reason. That second hymn you mentioned is new to me as well. I agree with Erin that it seems quite bizarre! The real wine is interesting for my newly priested husband as well as he finds it very difficult to finish off the remainder in the cup some Sundays like he is supposed to. Our congregations are both small and so sometimes too much wine is put into the cup and so he encourages the congregants to take a significant drink from it. haha I love reading about your experiences in the Anglican church as I can relate to so many of them.

  • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com A.M.M.

    I didn’t realize that the priests are supposed to finish the wine! Wow, at least at St. Aidan it looks like Rev. Allen, Deacon Arleen and Rev. Denise share the last of the wine so it is not all on one person.

    I wonder how many priests out there end up a little tipsy after church?

    • Anne Stevenson

      Yes, St. Aidan has a great bunch who can share the last of the Eucharist wine. The funniest thing that ever happened to my husband when he was a deacon there was one Sunday when only he and Rev. Allen were there doing the service and there was a LOT of wine left over after Eucharist. Rev. Allen peered into the cup, then whispered to my husband, “Take a BIG drink!!” My husband got the giggles and nearly spilled the wine down his front. haha