Friday, September 24, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Altar/Eucharistic Candles

The following is the third installment of my bulletin insert series:

Altar/Eucharistic Candles - We are blessed to have our acolytes, Sydney Bensing, Chase & Drew Braden, and Matthew Stepp (well trained by Lois Ketterer!) adding to our worship of God each Sunday. But, what is behind their lighting of the candles? Is there any meaning to their actions?

Originally, candles were used in order to provide light in a world without electrical lighting. However, the two altar candles have remained to this day with a rich symbolism.

First, within the place of Christian worship, all candles primarily symbolize Christ who is the Light of the World. Thus, anytime candles are lit in the sanctuary, we are reminded that Christ is present with us.

The two altar candles symbolize Christ in a special way. They symbolize the fact that Christ is fully God and fully man. As Article II of the Articles of Religion states: “. . . two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided.” Thus, we have two altar candles.

Not only is it significant that the altar candles are lit at the beginning of worship, symbolizing Christ’s presence with us, but also the way in which they are extinguished at the end of the service is quite significant. Our acolytes always re-light the lighter before extinguishing the candles. They then recess out with the flame. This reminds of two things. First, Christ goes with us, when we leave this building. Second, we are called to carry the Light of Christ into the World . Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), but in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world!” - May Christ shine through us in our world!


Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle McGee. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room.  1962.

Stafford, Thomas A.  Within the Chancel. New York. Nashville. Abingdon P. MCMLV.

Wilson, Bishop Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. New York. Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1938.

Tolkien & the Holy Sacrament

Are you a Tolkien fan?  Are you passionate about the Sacraments?  -  Then you might enjoy reading J.R.R. Tolkien's comments on the Sacrament found at Rev'd. Daniel McLain Hixon's blog, Gloria Deo .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Clergy Shirt/ Clerical Collar

The following is the second installment of my bulletin insert series:

Clergy Shirt/Clerical Collar - Interestingly, a number of people identify the clergy shirt or clerical collar as being Roman Catholic. In fact, it is worn by a number of pastors in a number of denominations: Episcopal/Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, and United Methodist, just to name a few. The association with Roman Catholics may be due to the requirement of priests and to the sheer number of Roman Catholics.

Actually, the clerical collar, as we know it, was of Protestant origin. It was invented by the Rev’d. Dr. Donald McLeod of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics did not adopt them until later, in the 19th Century.

Clergy shirts come in two basic forms. The full neck-band shirt and the collar tab (the little rectangular, white tab in the very front of the neck). The traditional color for the clergy shirt is black, though other colors are worn. The purple or reddish-purple shirts are usually reserved for bishops.

I tend to wear a clergy shirt when acting in an “official” pastoral role. I do so for a few reasons. First, whenever anyone sees a pastor in a clerical shirt, their thoughts immediately are turned to Christ and/or the Church. It becomes an instant witness in our world of Christ and our call to follow Him. Second, it provides an opportunity for ministry which otherwise would likely not happen. People have/do stop me, when I am dressed as a pastor, in order to talk with me, or to have me pray with them, or to seek spiritual guidance. Third, it identifies my role as a spiritual one, rather than that of a business CEO. And, of course, it is quite Wesleyan! I have yet to see a picture of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, without the 18th Century version of a clerical collar!


Information gathered from the following resources:

Collins, Ken.  http://www,

McCarter, Julius. "Collared: Why I Wear What I Wear," Sacramental Life. Vol. XIX, Number 3, Summer 2007. OSL

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Alb

This Sunday I will begin a series of short bulletin inserts on the various sights and sounds, etc. that we encounter in the sanctuary (at Centenary UMC).  I thought that I would post that series on my blog (with some slight modifications, given the difference in setting).  -  Please understand, this series involves short (bulletin insert size) articles intended primarily for the congregation at Centenary.  They are not nearly as detailed or technical as they might otherwise be.

The following (with those aforementioned modifications) is my first installment:

After talking a bit, I thought that writing a series of short articles as bulletin inserts on the various sights and sounds, etc. that we encounter in the sanctuary might prove to be interesting and perhaps even deepen our experience of worship.

I have heard that some are puzzled by my “robe,” so I thought I would begin the series with that. It is called an:  Alb - An alb is a full-length white tunic, often gathered at the waist by a rope cincture. Some albs include a hood.

In the first century, the tunic was the first article of clothing to be put on in the morning. During the first four centuries of the Church, people were baptized in the nude. (While I’m usually all in favor of being in continuity with the ancient Church . . . I do think we should “pass” on a revival of that particular practice!) Anyway, when they emerged from the water, they were immediately clothed with a white tunic or alb. Therefore, the alb is a reminder of our baptism, a symbol of purity and a symbol of the resurrection.

Anyone leading in worship, clergy or lay, may wear an alb. In fact, I’m not the only one who wears an alb at Centenary. The white “robes” that our younger acolytes wear are actually called “cottas” (KAHT.teh) and are a version of the alb. (I’ll write another article about that and another version called a surplice (SUR.plis) in the future.)

The alb is considered a very ecumenical vestment. It conforms to the practice of the ancient Church. It was the attire of Jesus. And it is the particular attire officially recommended for pastors by the United Methodist Church. (Plus, my alb was far less expensive than most preaching/academic gowns/robes!)


Information was gathered from the following resources:

Lang, Jovian P. Dictionary of the Liturgy. Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York. 1989.

Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cowley Publications. Cambridge/Boston MA. 2000.

Collins, Ken.

Stephen Hawking and the Existence of God

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.  I am a pastor; theologian in residence (if you will) at Centenary United Methodist Church.  Not being a scientist keeps me out of trouble, sometimes.  At other times, the fact that I won't pretend to be a scientist may get me into some trouble.

Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, is a scientist and has played one on TV, as well.  I have to admit, I thought it was quite cool when Stephen Hawking played himself in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Descent, Part I.  In that episode, Commander Data played a game of poker (thanks to the holodeck) with Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking.  While the other two were (of course!) played by actors, Stephen Hawking was really Stephen Hawking.

You know, while I do think it is cool that Hawking takes time to step out of the scientist role in order to "play a scientist on TV," he would likely do well to refrain from attempting to play a serious theologian.  Certainly, everyone is welcome to their own theological beliefs and opinions.  They are welcome to promote them as they wish.  However, in attempting to "do theology" in a way that is supposed to be received on the same level as his scientific writings, Hawking finds himself well over his head.  -  He does not seem to realize this, but ask a theologian, or even one who, like myself, is a reader of theologians, and it becomes clear.

This isn't an attempt to slam Hawking.  I like him, especially since he was on Star Trek!  Rather, this post was prompted by an article I read from Mail Online by Professor John Lennex.  I really only wanted to point readers of my blog to his article.  I find it refreshing in that it exposes the false dichotomy that many atheistic scientist, on the one hand, and many fundamentalist Christians, on the other hand, like to promote.  I find that promotion of war between science and religion to be completely out of place for Christians.

As I said, I like Hawking . . . and I like Star Trek!  I would like to see the two together again.  But for now, I would commend to you Professor Lennex's article, "As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong.  You can't explain the universe without God."  You can find the article by clicking here.

Another interesting article found at the same source provides ++Rowen Williams' (Archbishop of Canterbury) dismissive response, as well as comments from other religious leaders.  It can be found, here.

Live long and prosper!