Thursday, July 09, 2009

Community Prayer Events

I love my community and city, Gretna, Louisiana. We are, for the most part, well-governed and small enough to have access to the city council, chief of police, etc.

I get a lot of invitations to "prayer breakfasts" and "prayer dinners" put on by the city - which always strike me as odd, a weird admixture of church and state, and ultimately, a denigration of prayer. These events turn the privilege of addressing our heavenly Father into a kind-of political gala showcasing area movers-and-shakers - which a lot of clergy seem to want to be a part of. I believe our humble petitions in the Divine Service for our elected officials is a far more effective use of prayer than these spectacles.

Prayer is not about access to the mayor, but access to the Creator.

There's always something phony and cheap about these kind of things. Even the flippancy about the LSU tigers baseball team being a cause for prayer showcases the lack of profound belief at work - as though prayer is all just one big joke. And if the Christians don't take their faith seriously, why should anyone else? I don't know if it is more a Southern thing or not, but sports is truly a god to many people. Some of the same folks who think nothing of spending hours in a stadium (not to mention hundreds of dollars) cheering on a bunch of millionaires will gripe and moan if the Sunday service goes on for more than an hour and would think it ridiculous to put anything more than a couple bucks in the plate.

But what's worse, here is an example of the local Roman Catholic parish hosting a woman "pastor" to be the keynote speaker, and the local Roman Catholic pastor giving the benediction. The function was funded by the Knights of Columbus.

What a coup for Satan! How else could he get a priestess to lead a bunch of Catholics in prayer?

But, of course, to publicly object (or even to decline the invitation) runs the risk of alienating oneself and one's church from the community and from the local government. Christians who actually believe the Bible can expect to be increasingly marginalized in our own communities - even as other church bodies that don't ordain women see no problem with inviting them to lead prayers in the context of unionistic worship services.

This is a sad situation.

Here is the article from the West Bank Beacon, July 2009, page 35:

Gretna “Dares to Believe” at annual prayer dinner by Blair C. Constant

The 16th annual Gretna Prayer Dinner was held on Tuesday, June 23, at the St. Joseph gymnasium in Gretna. Those in attendance were entertained by Grammy award winner and local singer Irma Thomas, and were challenged to “Dare to Believe” by the event’s guest speaker, Rev. Kathy Radke Storey, who is the chaplain at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center and Rivarde Detention Center. Food was cooked and provided by the St. Cletus Knights of Columbus.

Belinda Constant, a councilwoman for the city of Gretna who chaired the event for the second year, and Ms. Jo Duhe, co-chair, enjoyed a record number of attendees at just over 550 people. “This was the largest crowd since the event began, and it was very exciting for me to see the community come together in such a meaningful way,” says Constant. “I was invited to be the chairperson two years ago and commit to chair the event for two years. I was incredibly pleased with the turnout despite of our competition that night,” says Constant. The competition referred to was the second game in the final series of the College World Series. While attendees later learned that LSU lost that night, the Tigers answered the prayers of many spectators by winning their sixth national title.

The Gretna Prayer Dinner was started by the Gretna Community Association under the direction of the Gretna Prayer Dinner cofounder, Ms. Jo Duhe. “Ms. Duhe is the only original volunteer still actively involved in the event, and much of the success of the prayer dinner is because of her commitment to her community and her efforts as a volunteer,” says Constant.

After Rev. Storey’s inspirational message, which resonated with many dealing with trials of the current economy, the Gretna Community Association recognized with awards two local community non-profit groups who have been serving on the West Bank: the Boys & Girls Club of the West Bank and the Community Center for Life, which is an non-profit group that cares for the needs of women involved in unplanned motherhood. With a final performance by Irma Thomas and benediction by Fr. James R. Day, the new pastor at St. Joseph Church in Gretna, attendees may have daring to believe for an LSU championship, but hopefully were inspired to believe in better days to come.


Ted Badje said...

Father Hollywood, there are people who think like you do. They are called the Wisconsin Synod. Why don't you check them out? I personally don't see anything wrong with civic gatherings if they all profess Jesus Christ as Savior. How else are the community of believers supposed to portray themselves to the outside world? We worship in the Lutheran church, but meet other Christians outside the church walls.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Ted:

For the most part, I agree with you.

The problem here is the woman "pastor." The RC Church (as do the LCMS and the WELS) does not believe women can ontologically be ordained to the pastoral office. We also believe it improper and sinful for women to lead men in prayer.

It's not that we simply disagree about it, be believe it is a sinful usurpation.

That's the real issue.

The lesser issue is the using of the faith to promote what is essentially a political meet-and-greet. These kinds of things are typically more about networking than praying.

But you do misinterpret me. I'm not opposed to all "civic gatherings." I have given the invocation at City Hall for the council meeting a few times, and I gave the invocation at the dedication of the Mel Ott Memorial.

Our brethren in the Wisconsin Synod would not have done any of those things. I disagree with them on that.

But I will never give the impression that women "pastors" are simply a case of To-MAY-to or to-MAH-to. The Christian Church simply has no women pastors. It is like a male mother or a female boy. For me to take part in such a prayer service would have been to mix Christianity with a pagan religion. I could not do that in good conscience.

Thanks for writing.

Past Elder said...

You're right about that FH.

When I was WELS, we were not supposed to even so much as participate in table grace with our LCMS family members (let alone the RC side)!

And yes the larger issue is not who is Christian but who is pastor, in this case.

Of course too you know God had no opinion on the College World Series this year, God being a Husker and the Huskers not being in it.

(Note to readers who may not know me: the last was a joke, I am from Omaha, and have been identified by FH as a bit of a rascal. But we appreciate you, er y'all, coming up here!)

Past Elder said...

PS - you still got a Half Fast Marching Society down there?

Anonymous said...

But what's worse, here is an example of the local Roman Catholic parish hosting a woman "pastor" to be the keynote speaker, and the local Roman Catholic pastor giving the benediction. The function was funded by the Knights of Columbus.

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not. Would that you could have seen one of the annual ecumenical Good Friday gatherings in my 'burb. It was held at a local Byzantine Catholic Church and the procession included the parish priest, priests from the local Benedictine Roman Catholic parish and their "pastoral assistant, an Ursuline Sister, and the lady "pastors" from the Methodist and ELCA parishes.

This is how the RC and the Protestant mainline will eventually make women clergy acceptable to their people -- well, in the Protestant mainline it's already a fait accompi.

As Catholic kids see women clergy more and more they will come to see them as perfectly normal. And this in a church that claims to have an "authentic" priesthood, apostolic succession and the Vicar of Christ.

Women clergy, especially "bishops" just don't look right in those funny hats.


Anonymous said...

Should have been "fait accompli", of course.