Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Going to NYC!

  On June 1 2015, I will be embarking on a two month adventure at the Stony Point Center's 6th Annual Summer Institute. There I will be studying faith and interfaith interaction, practicing a self sustaining lifestyle, and taking action towards social justice with my group. It is truly an honor to be accepted for this mission, and it shows that my 7.5 hours of typing my application payed off. I am now on a mission to fund-raise to help cover the cost of my flights and medical insurance for the 7.5 weeks I will be studying in New York State. Anything and everything is appreciated. When I am finished I hope to use this experience as backing to further myself within my faith studies and journalism to even greater and more amazing accomplishments. Thank-you and God Bless!

If you wish to throw me a bone or two, just fallow the link below. 

But personally I am just hoping I survive the Subway ride!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Church #38. St. Benedict's Chaple.

Garth Brooks may have friends in low places, but I have churches in odd spaces. Let me tell ya what I'm rambling about ;)

So majority of you that live in our fine city of E-town have likely gone under this church at-least a few times. Yes I said under. For this church we need to go up. Way up.  
And by that I mean the 3rd floor of City Center Mall. So after you ride a few of these magical moving staircases, you will find this.
And if you look over your shoulder to the right you will find this.
Normally I would take photos of the inside, but I saw a notice indicating no cellphones. So I will do this old-school, and describe the inside in text. It is a single elongated room with an office in the back. Strangely enough, the front of the alter faces the narrow part of the room only allowing 2 rows of seating in front of the alter, while having many rows flanking the side of it. Maybe there is a reason for this? But I honestly have no idea why they set it up this way.

Besides the alter there was a large crucifix on the back wall, a podium for speaking, giant Bible,  candles, old style icon of Marry and Jesus as a baby and an image of the Shroud of Turin.
Its kind of a cool mystery behind it all. Take a read if you like.

back behind the alter on the left side of the wall was this box. It kind of struck me as  a remake of the ark of the convent but I knew that could not be it. It had a cross on the top of it, and the sides were decorated with images of what I am guessing are the 12 disciples?

Fun fact! Did you know that the Ark of the convent is describes so well in the told testament that it actually comes with full construction specifications? Like down to the Cubit! The wide spread availability of this information has inspired a few to take theses detailed measurements, and bring this historical artifact back to life! 
I imagine what kind of a conversation piece this would be at the next patio BBQ?  The possibilities are endless!

The demographics of the room were interesting. Only about a dozen older ladies in the room when I showed up, plus a family or two. But looking around at the end of the service, I could see the population had doubled. A surprisingly large Filipino population attends this church.One thing that took me  back was how quite this church was. I showed up 10 min early and you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was dead silent praying. some had rosaries, others were kneeling. I looked down in-front of me and discovered that even though the room is populated with single chairs, each individual chair has its own built in kneeling bench. So I thought, might as well join them. I was only one of two people that sat in the squished 2 rows in-front of the alter.

You know how sometimes you will see something and it will jog your memory about something else? I saw this one lady praying, She was wearing a large crucifix, with her arms crossed over her chest, bible in hand, eyes closed in serious prayer. And what did that remind me off you may ask? PRETZELS!!!!
No it was not because I was hungry. There is actually a point to this. I cant remember where but I was reading somewhere, and it explained that the reason pretzels are shaped the way they are. Apparently they are supposed to look like "praying arms". Back in the days of old Europe, crossing your hands over your chest was the most common manner used while praying. Pretzels were used as treats that were given to good children.
The priest came up to start the service. I was kind of surprised when he started speaking. I could hear we he hand a mic on. I thought it to be a unnecessary tool considering the room was small enough that one would likely have the ability to project their voice to fill such a condensed space. It ended up that this priest has a very soft and somewhat mumbly voice and definitely needed the assistance of the sound system.

I am gonna be honest with ya. I could not hear half of what this guy said. But I will do my best. The topic was forgiveness. And one of the points being that we need to recognize that we have done something wrong before we can fix it.  There was a scripture reading.

Matthew 18:21-35New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
There was a point to this I'm sure. But I could not understand the guy.
The topic of they day was a heavy hitter. Abortion. Yep, that can of worms. He opened it.
With surprising grace I may add.

He briefly mentioned the story of a man that was responsible for opening an extensive network of abortion clinics across the USA. One day this man was preforming an abortion and then came to the realization that the fetus that he was removing was still alive. After witnessing that moment his life was forever changed in spirit and in mind. Another story he mentioned was a speech given by a young woman at an event. this young lady stood up on stage and said that she prays for her father every day, and that she has never met him in life. She told the crowd that this man raped her mother and she has never met him.
I know the current pope stands on the idea that the church should be a "sanctuary for life". And I would be all with him, it was not for the fact that it is a pie-in-the-sky ideal.
I used to take a very hard stance on the pro-life argument. But after sitting down with some of my friends that know people that have had abortions, and told their stories, I have had somewhat of a change of heart. Some of the stories have made me think these women were justified in their actions. Some I will still never agree with. With all this influence I have taken much time to think, and  I have come to the conclusion that I am pro-aviod-getting-to-that-point. We can do a lot to lower the rate of abortion, without taking way women's right to choice. When we reduce domestic violence, rape, underage marriage, lack of support for teen mothers, social stigma, poverty, lack of sex education  and access to contraception options, and negative vibes around adoption. When we deal with all that, the WANT for abortion radically decreases and therefor so do the rates. That where I stand anyhow.

"We want to be better."
"We have made mistakes."

 At some point after this the priest sees me with my note pad and asks, "Are you doing a report?" I said sort of and I would be happy to tell him more after the service was over. He said he wait for me after the service. He continued. then the time came to receive communion. This one involved holy water and rice crackers. The pretest approached the gold box at the back wall of the alter. briefly knelt before the gold box, opened it to reveal it contained a large decorative cup full of  rice crackers for communion. he stepped off the alter platform, stage left. While the congregation lined up to receive the "Body of Christ``. I did the same. But as I approached him he pulled away, refused to offer me the communion piece, and told me he would talk to me latter and walked to the other side of the room.

For lack of words on how I felt about this, allow me to relay this too you visually.

I am really not sure how long I stood in the middle of the room with my mouth hanging open in disbelief and shock.I remember some of the church members who saw this giving this look like "WHAT??!!??" I don't think they could understand it ether. eventually I sat back down.

The service was nearing the end. And he once again was standing at the later and asked me what I was doing exactly. I figured the guy really wanted to know so I stood up and in my best Television trained voice I explained the room, who I was, what I do, how I do it and what my goal is. He voice was very quite and mumbled but I am sure he said something to the extent of the fact that he really wished that I had asked him before coming in and taking notes. I think he might have said he wanted to talk to me after. He asked me if I had a business card. I said I did and when I got it out he asked me to hand it to a senior Filipino lady seated next to me. He closed the service and the lady that I gave my card too walked it to the office and put it down like it was some kind of toxic substance.

Eventually after removing some of his robes the priest came out to speak to me. He once again reiterated that he really wished that I would have asked him before doing this, and that if I do this again and ask him first he will allow it. He said that me sitting at the front of the church with a note pad is very unnatural... hold on.... let me put on my goggles.
There we go... much better. I was feeling normal there for a moment. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

After all this I had to ask him why he refused me communion. In a baffled manner he immediately asked me "Are you Catholic???!!!???" and I said yes. And if you know me, you know that's what my paperwork says, but that is the extent of it. He also stated that he didn't feel comfortable in offering me communion  and he did not know who I was. He was a nice old fellow and did his bet to make it clear that he didn't mean to offend me.

I hate to tell you Bro, but I am 100% offended.

This is the first church out of 38 in which I have been refused communion. This is not the first one to notice me scratching down my notes, but this has defiantly been the most negative reaction I have received from being noticed.
And no I refuse to let the church leader know ahead of time, for it may give them the opportunity to change some things they may regularly say, giving an inaccurate impression of the beliefs or practices of that church.
And no I will not fully research the exact deals of the rules and practices of each church before going. Takes the fun and entrainment out of it. I also believe that it gives an inaccurate measure of how these churches will react to a person that is new and wonders off the street knowing nothing and speaking God's love.
And yes I know Catholics have their rules. But the way I see it, rules were meant to be broken. Jesus was a Rabi that was constantly in trouble with the local religious authorities for challenging the social, cultural, and political standards. He faced execution, I might face grumpy people with keyboards. My danger is a hill of beans in comparison to what Christ suffered.

On a completely unrelated note, if you are of the crafty and rude-mouthed persuasion I suggest this

Personally, I cant help but feel this one to be my favorite.
Thows out a line*

Hopping for a better catch next week.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Church #37 Celebration Church.

When it comes to getting to church, some walk, some drive, some hobble and some wheel. But this church picks you up (if you know which buss stops to stand at.)

It was kind of a small crowd on the buss, but I was not too surprised considering we were just coming off of reading week. We squiggle our way through the university area, down Whyte ave, and then headed south.

 I had seen the location of this church in passing, but it is not in an area I frequent. In-fact it is pretty well back  and out of the way of most residential area. Its pretty much located in an industrial area. That was rough. Not the ride, not the church. The tough part was riding through the industrial area seeing all the small business with boarded up windows. In my mere 24 years on this earth I have not yet seen/remembered what a bad depression looks like. I have heard the horror stories, some say the bust we are going through is minor and that things will pick up in the spring. People also thought WWII was only going to last  6 months when it dragged on for 7 years. So I take it all with a grain of salt.

I had some kind of idea of what this church would be like. Modern, large, majority of young people. all of which was correct. But it a way it was also kind of disappointing. You know that felling when an AMAZING  movie comes out and your a supper big fan? And then a few years ,they come up with the sequel and everyone is totally stoked for it??? Then you go to see it and you just walk out feeling like "meh, it was ok...." That's what it felt like when i start comparing this church to Christ City. The simple fact is that they just did it better. Christ City was Bigger, louder, more lights, more smoke machines, more enthusiastic pastor and church members. In all fairness Celebration church you do have a book store and a better selection of baked goods at your coffee bar. But that's it really.
I sat to the far right side of the front this time. I could not help but notice this one tall skinny young guy with a thick beard (aprox 21) in a red plaid shirt, sneakers, ball cap, typical university guy. This guy literally stood closer to the stage then anyone else. palms forward, but he kept them down by his sides. You can tell by the looking at this guy that his heart is seeking god, and he is willing to do what he needs get closer. Even if it means looking a bit odd by literally being the only one to stand out from the crowd. Kudos to you sir!

Some children were dedicated to the lord today.  Many of them were babies, but one little girl was about 6, she stood there with what appeared to be her single mother. The pastor explained in order to dedicate these children to god we much teach them in our example. Apparently it also says in the bible that god promises that if we train our children to walk in the ways of Christ that they will continue to make quality life decisions  through their lives. A group prayer was said for them.

As for this statement, I cant really be sure. I have a good friend  back in high school that grew up in a extremely Christian home schooled family, and the other children in the family are righteous godly people and my friend is that one kid that is just a mess.  My mother assures me that because he was raised in a christian family that we will eventually move back towards it, and get evened out again. I honestly hope that happens before he is dead or brain damaged. Toker buddy I miss you and I am praying for you! Some days I just wish we could rewind to the days of jamming in my parents basement and stealing beer out of the fridge!

"Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our suffering that we fail to see the works of god before our eyes."

 The reading today was from Luke 5-12. Today Jesus is healing a Leper.

On a further note I think some of your might like to know WTF is Leprosy???

Let me put it this way, unless you have a strong stomach don't look at Google images. It ain't pretty. This old world disease that like to pretty much eat away the body. Its bad, Just real BAD.

The thing that surprises me most however after reading about it is how non-contagious it generally is. Cause the Israelite's treated this disease like the end of the world! If you happen to know much about the laws of the Israelite's, you know how they delt with sick people. They kept an eye on them and if they were developing leprosy type symptoms and not getting better they would kick them out of the village and force them to live in the country side and beg along the roads. They could only ever some back on the chance that they would get better. Not a humane choice by any means, but they probably thought it was the best move they could make before modern medicine.

So Jesus is on the road and he encounters a man with Leprosy. This mans faith is interesting. He has heard of Christ, he knows what he does. So he asks him not "Can you heal me?" but instead he says "Will you heal me?" The point is that he is not questioning Jesus ability, but instead he is speaking towards god asking for healing and grace on his body and soul. Not only that, he comes from a condition that no one rarely shows love or compassion to him. Even the laws of the Israelite's (the so called Gods People.) have condemned him to suffer for the rest of his days, in seclusion and death. If you don't feel Fucked at that point, there is nothing that could get you down, honesty! The point is that he feels the need to ask if he is worthy of this grace. The nice part is that the bible makes it clear, in the fact that we are all loved and worthy of grace. Jesus heals the Leper.

"Sickness and disease were never part of creation"
"On what day did God create cancer?"
"These are things that came after the fall of man!".
"God acts as a healer in both the new testament and the old testament".
"Healing is both a gift and a ministry in the new testament"
"We have been given authority over the demonic realm."
"It is part of Gods nature to extend grace and mercy."
"You need to remove this idea that God not just some of your sins but ALL of your sins!"

A lot of the conditions that Jesus healed had very heavy stigma around them. Society at that time didn't see the people with these conditions not as having a bacterial infection with no cure. They saw them as people that had been punished by God, had been born unclean, were festering visual symbols of sin and should simply be avoided at all costs. And the crazy part is that this thinking is not restricted to the holly land in the time of Christ.

This still is very much an issue today. Notably in India. The crazy part is, this view of blind people and lepers as being "condemned and punished by god" is still very much believed by some groups of people in rural India. Untouchables. Look it up.


As for the building, well, it is pretty snazzy.

Book shop

You can also give your offering pre-service via debit.

Snack bar.

I would have liked to have time to stick around, but the buss was literately leaving 4 minutes after the service. So if I wanted to get home I needed to get a move on! I noticed this on the way in. Barbwire topped fence around the building.

 I don't know the area but it must have some kind of troubles? What would resort a church to having this? I got back on the buss.On the ride home I saw more singes of economic distress. normally church end on a high note for me. Not today. And with the announcement of WEM being announced as targeted  by not-actually-Muslim extremists, the future feels bleak. The radio station that was playing was Shine FM. Some of you that have accidentally found this on your dial, it is that one odd christian music station we have. I'm not a fan. I will try to listen to it on occasion, but i often just turn it off. I am yet to find a lot of worship music I like. But there is one album I can not get enough of. It is kind of ironic that it is made by a band called  BAD RELIGION, and it is their Christmas album to boot, but you will hear me listening to this in August.

Ps. Money from purchasing the album goes towards a organization committed to helping people that have been raped by Catholic priests.

But over all a good church. and just in cases you have any questions, you are always welcome here.

And roll credits....
That's a wrap!