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Friday, February 24, 2006

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Harold Warren

As for a bias against working class people, I guess there are some...many perhaps...who would wish to select the members accepted in the churches of any faith trdition. But to go back into what, to us, would feel like ancient history, even if it was only a hundred years ago, perhaps it would be the right time to tell a bit about how St. Andrew's came to be.

A hundred years ago, as a mission project from the church that is now our local Cathedral, a Sunday school was started. after a few years, with much help from members of the brotherhood of St. Andrew, this group asked to become a parish.

The Diocese granted this. Shortly thereafter, during Holy Week, a tornado destroyed the building housing our young parish.

As I understand it, the Diocese wanted to fold our parish into another local group. Fiscally it made sense, but given that many of our own founders worked for the members of THAT parish, these people wanted to have a church for the working class, not just join the bosses.

This is not to say that the second church is not, even to this day, a lovely place to worship..it IS.

But it was working class people who gave to build my parish church home. Given what they left for us, even if I did not know of the ladies who carried casseroles downtown, EVERY workday on the streetcar to run a lunch counter to raise money for the church, for years, I would still find St. Andrew's to be a holy place.

But the effort those ladies, and the countless others after them have given, is not the nature of those who see the curch as a place to be seen.

No, St. Andrew's has been and IS a place for the hungry and the broken to find a sfe place.

Again, I state that ALL are welcome at St. Andrew's.

I'm afraid that this is all I am able to post at this time, though I hope it helps.

Thanks-

harold

Mike (The Monster Truck Guy" McKenzie

Greetings and peace. Thank you for taking the time to listen to that "train wreck" I so aptly titled "Monster Truck Liturgy."

First off, let me say how touched, moved, and-even inspired by the debate and comments from everyone, including those who are not amused. But because of their love of Christ, the Liturgy, corporate worship, and the spirit of agape, have taken the time to diplomatically state their discomfort.

That's beautiful! That's why I love being an Episcopalian. Color me naieve, however I'd like to think that Episcopalians aren't so much like-minded as they are willing to either agree to disagree, or at least hear each other out.

This is also affirmation to me that God has planted me with the right group of people for corporate worship.

My motives, or creation of this thing wasn't for attention or personal gain.

I was simply hit by "the goofy muse."

I write and produce radio ad campaigns for a living. When I have down time in my studio, I will blow off a little creative steam. When I go back and look at other pieces I have done, I notice that most of them base their humor, or punch line, on polarity.

"Monster Truck Liturgy" is not just a source of amusement for me. It is inspired by the overwhelming joy I receive from the Eucharist. It is an abstract way of showing the endless fascination I have with the paradoxical nature of our Liturgy.

Maybe it's because I am a creative person. Maybe it's human nature. But, I am attracted to paradox the way a moth is attracted to a bug zapper.

I was "corn bread and fed" in a Baptist Church. For the first 11 years of my school career, I was educated in Baptist Schools. I was reared by a God-fearing, loving southern Mother and a loving, progressive-minded atheist Father. (I know you're asking how did that happen-they met at Halloween weiny roast in south Alabama and the weekly cow-tipping olympics had been canceled so there was nothing else to do that night)

But, you can see why my whole existence has been about contrasts.

Mom had my sister and I in church every day the doors were opened. And even then some, as she being church seceratary had her own set of keys.

Having grown up in the - (pardon my baggage here, okay?) -the "fire and brimstone modus operundi" where you are fed by the fear of God, and really have no spiritual, let alone intellectual concept of the love of God. I was about fed up by the time I was old enough to not have to go to church.

The day after my 19th birthday, August 30, 1983, I walked away from the church for what I figured would be forever.

Over the next 22 years, I might, every-once-in-a-while, attend a service at a church here or there. But, only because I had a crush on the girl who invited me, or for some other alterior motive. I was always up-front about my motives and objection with what I called "organized and institutionalized religion."

Then came Easter Sunday of 2005.

By invitation of my cousin, I attended Easter Mass at St. Andrew's. (no, I didn't have a crush on him-I know this is Alabama-but gee whiz)

St. Andrew's is what folks here in the south will call "high church." Depending on how far south you go, the word "high" can have more than one sylable. For instance, a proper southerner, like my cousin would say "HIIIIIIIIIIIIGH church."

So, Easter Sunday, I dawned a coat and tie and went two blocks from my house to "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH church."

Even though I held no affiliation, nor fondness of the Baptist church, it was-after all, all I knew about church. And, the particular congregations I grew up in were real bad about the "we're right and everyone else is wrong" kind of thing. So, I was not without my own pre-concieved notions regarding "HIIIIIIIIIIIIGH church."

Maybe that was a good thing. Becaue, after all, sometimes you learn better when you find out things aren't always what you thought they were.

I expected the chanting. I expecting the "smaells and bells." But, what I didn't expect was how all of that came togehter and worked for a reason.

The moments of being quiet, truly quiet with a blank slate mind, let to a moment of crystal clarity. Then came a sudden feeling of sweet relief, not unlike the one you feel after having hauled your washer and dryer up three-stories of apartment building stairs.

Wait a minute. This isn't routine ritual. Despite all the flowery descriptive names for everything Episcopalian; the vestments, the ornate fixturesl, the incense, and pavlovian nature of standing and rising on cue. This is the royal protocol of welcoming The Holy Spirit as God manifests himself in that bread and wine.

Woah, what's that? Great HG Wells! I just stepped into a time machine. Christ himself, with an ever-so-sweet, assuring smile just handed me a piece of broken bread and has placed a chalice next to my lips.

This is truly an epiphany-or at least my personal definition of one; that being a simultaneous realization of both heart and mind.

This isn't just to honor Christ. This isn't just "do in rememberance of me." Christ is here with me. I am here with him. He's not at all unhappy with me. As a matter of fact, he's real happy I am here. And, he really seems to like this goofy, white boy just the way I am.

Well, needless to say, I became a junkie, hankering for my next bread and wine fix.

Let me say too, that had it not been the fact that the man behind the pulpit was Fr. Marc Burnette, I don't think it would have been that moving an experience. No, he's not a prophet, per se. But, he's not a preacher. He's a FABULOUS TEACHER! He is also someone that I can identify with. He's not some out-of-touch, stodgy, self-important wind bag. This is a guy who has walked in my shoes. And I his. He has a profound sense of humor.

And he really digs the same kind of music, movies and books I do, too!

I can't begin to tell you just how much my quality of life has improved because my renewed faith, and loving relationship with God, through Christ.

And I am so thankful to, and for, all of you for being able to share that.

It is not my intent to be the least bit irreverant when it comes to God. After all "....I am fearfully and wonderfully made...."

The Lord's Peace, my friends, and keep laughing

Warmest Regards
-Mike McKenzie

Harold Warren

I'm the current Senior Warden at St. Andrew's. Though I also laughed myself to tears when I first heard this ad, I have to thank Mike and Fr. Marc for more than a laugh.

This bit of humor may not tell the true story of what a service at St. Andrew's is like...we DO take our liturgy seriously...but sending this message out has made me have to step back and say to myself "you know, it is a good thing to be able to laugh at ourselves...otherwise we, or at least I, find it too easy to fall into the trap of making church out to be about myself rather than God."

Yes, I believe our liturgy is indeed IN GOOD TASTE, but at least at St. Andrew's, even though there are some who are beautifully dressed, what someone is wearing is about 93rd place on the list of what is important when we show up for worship...the family of God is not about who has tasted and who does not...it is about sharing what we've been given and about trying to draw closer to God and his creation.

We've got some of about everybody at St. Andrew's...and the ONLY things we all have in common are that God made and loves us, and that this is where we find our church home.

I'm not knocking the other churches out there...how could any one corner of God's family represent ALL that is the God in who's image we were made? I mean GOD...way to much here for any of us to reflect the whole.

Yes, it was a risk to send this out, even on the internet, but the faith I embrace...what I see all over at St. Andrew's...is not all squeeky clean...nor is what we have something that WE have the right to lock away in a vault.

The church may be God's, but even if we are in relationship with our creator, we DON'T OWN GOD.

It is for reasons like this that I believe Fr. Marc regularly reminds all who have come through the doors that THIS is God's house...YOU are God's people...so by definition, you are welcome here.

If any who read this would like to come find out more of who we are, what we believe and see first-hand the colorful community that is St. Andrew's, we are to be found at the corner of 11th Ave South and 12th Street in Birmingham, AL.

There are opportunities for study, worship, fellowship and service to be found here...as well as much love.

Even though one individual out there posted wishing to rip the roof of of St. Andrew's and fill it with mud, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I had never stepped through "the red doors."

Karen

Although I love the ad itself, what's been even more interesting to me is the comments I've read and heard in response to it. While most folks laugh when they first hear it, I've also read/heard my share of disdainful comments that have a clear bias against working class people. As someone from a a working-class background it's been quite interesting for me to see the distance that a lot of 'piskies seem to need from NASCAR racing, "trailer trash," and anything that hints of less than good taste.

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