Posts Tagged 'herding cats'

Evangelism the old-fashioned way

As long as we’re talking about Western saints, here’s this item from Aaron D. Wolf (what a great name) by way of Ben at the Wittenberg Trail (to whom I’d love to link, but I can’t, because the Wittenberg Trail is evidently a private forum) by way of Alden Swan:

Here’s what I can’t figure out: How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all of those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? Aaron D. Wolf, The Mission of Souls: When Experts Attack

[…] Mr. Wolf raises some interesting questions and challenges to modern Evangelical concepts of evangelization and mission, contrasting the wisdom of being “pupose driven” to the pre-marketing (pre-modern) habit of simply proclaiming the Gospel.

Wow. What a concept.

This gets me thinking about something which has occurred to me before — I have to believe that liturgy is one of our better and more underappreciated evangelism tools. I guarantee you that St. Patrick wasn’t just walking around preaching and “performing occasional miracles” — he would also have been celebrating the Mass, with the Eucharist as his “mission statement.”

small country churchThe model of evangelism that would be wonderful, if cost-prohibitive, would be to go places where there aren’t churches and start by building simple, but identifiable, churches (such as Trinity Church in Antarctica of all places, pictured at right) where they would be visible and accessible, start publicly holding services so that people can tell that’s what you’re doing, and equip them so that they can host a soup kitchen or something similar. The problem with so many missions is that they can ill-afford being in a place where they would actually be visible and it would be clear what they are doing, so they wind up evangelizing only the people who are already there. Right now, at least in the Antiochian Archdiocese, you have to have some number of pledging families (25?) before you can have a priest assigned to you; that’s good business and fiscally responsible, no question about it, but who’s doing the evangelism in that case but people who aren’t necessarily equipped to do it? I’m not saying that any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country has the money to spend, say, a half million to a million dollars planting missions so that they have buildings, priests, and services for the poor at the outset, but I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be a better witness all around.

I’m still waiting. Actually, I’m waiting on a couple of things — one fairly big thing, and one thing that is big-ish, but not on the same level as the other thing. (Confused yet?) In the meantime, however, I can reveal that I’m presenting a paper at Indiana University’s Medieval Graduate Symposium on 29 March. I can also give a heads-up that my church choir will be publicly presenting music from Holy Week as part of  IU’s Middle Eastern Arts Festival on 29 March. (Yes, the same 29 March. It’s gonna be a busy day.) Details for the whole ongoing program are here, but here’s the blurb for this particular event (I’m not going to use the word “concert,” for several reasons):

Concert: Choral Music of the Middle East
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: chants from Holy Week in the Lebanese and Syrian tradition

March 29, 2008, 8 pm
St. Paul’s Catholic Center

The All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Christian Choir under the direction of Richard Barrett will present an evening concert of liturgical music from the Middle East. The program will highlight music from the Syrian and Lebanese traditions. Meditative and celebratory selections drawn from Holy Week and Easter services exemplify how this music became an integral and functionally practical part of Orthodox ritual. While the traditional liturgical languages for the Orthodox in the Middle East are Greek and Arabic, selections will also be performed English.

I didn’t write that, by the way. I will be writing a set of program notes, however, which I will post here. I can say that this is exactly the kind of thing I hoped we’d eventually be able to do, and I’m really encouraged by how the rehearsals have gone — it’s stretching them beyond what their comfort level has been, but in a very doable fashion, and it will be a good thing for us to participate in this kind of outreach. Hopefully I can post a snippet or two from the evening itself afterwards.


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