Lately I've been wondering if I should change churches. I miss the monthly luncheon my childhood church hosted; it let you get to know people. My churLately I've been wondering if I should change churches. I miss the monthly luncheon my childhood church hosted; it let you get to know people. My church, my city, my age demographic, is marked by fleeting transience. And the church I currently attend has such a vast staff that one can feel anonymous and unnecessary. Not so the small church. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..."
This is a wonderful, warm, funny memoir about Jason Byassee and his family's time ministering in small, rural churches. As such, it's not what I expected - a straightforward pastoral ministry book. It IS pastoral, but autobiographically, not in a technical way. Byassee's writing style took some getting used too but it grew on me. He offered a lot of gracious reflections on the people in the churches he and his wife served in - earnest, conservative, blue-collar types in sharp distinction to his more liberal, Duke-education. Byassee often compares the small church to the megachurch - the intimacy, fidelity, often clumsy character of the small church contrasted to the hip, professional, anonymous megachurch that offers loads of programs. The author knows that the small church forces people to rub shoulders with friends, rivals and even enemies and that this can be tremendously vital to one's sanctification. He praises as well as calls out the triumphs and failures of the small congregations and their rag-tag, needy, saints but as he reflects on the scenarios and situations he found himself in, he also makes us aware of his own errors and laments what he could have done differently.
Byassee is United Methodist and that denominational identity hangs heavy over this memoir as Byassee explains how the UMC places its ministers and the tension that sometimes grips a mainline denomination that also has evangelical, conservative members in it. As well, the "rural" is just as much a part of this book as the "small," which disappointed me a bit because the changes things significantly. A small church in a rural area is much more clearly one of the main gathering communities whereas small churches nestled in metropolises have much more competition between not only other small churches but new church plants and established megachurches. How might Byassee's experience and narrative been if the churches he writes so tenderly about in this book were located in Houston or Minneapolis rather than Zebulon county? But Christians seem to have difficulty meditating on the city - the novels of Wendell Berry and Marilynne Robinson are set in small towns.
This is a hagiography of the small church and it is beautiful....more
In this short encyclical letter, Pope Paul VI reaffirms the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to birth control. Paul VI outlines the vision for the fIn this short encyclical letter, Pope Paul VI reaffirms the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to birth control. Paul VI outlines the vision for the family, the partnership between husband and wife and sex's role in the procreation of children. The pontiff is also astute in pointing out how modern man seeks to bring all of nature under his own authority - in this case, by preventing pregnancy and the birth of children. Certainly the fact that "Humanae Vitae" was released in 1968, in the midst of drastic sexual and cultural revolution in the West is important to note. The Pill had already spread among the populace, offering a convenient way to skirt the responsibility of parenthood while engaging in "free love." The letter rightly ad forcefully rejects abortion.
"Humanae Vitae" acknowledges the findings of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control that released its own report in 1966 that proposed acceptance of lawful contraceptives (I suspect this would exclude abortifacient methods but I cannot 100% confirm that) but insists that the Commission's reports were wrong (although the Commission DID include laity, theologians, bishops and cardinals). The argument against the acceptance of contraceptives relies heavily on natural law and the unique authority of the Magisterium to correctly interpret moral teachings. The letter insists that natural birth control (intercourse during a woman's infertile periods) is a lawful way to avoid pregnancy. I can see merit to this as a way to instill self-denial (marriage is all about self-sacrifice) and discipline, but it is taken to an extreme and is ultimately unconvincing for those who reject the Magisterium's authority and who have criticisms of natural law (indeed, many conservative Protestants, as is so well known, acknowledge the importance of natural law while disagreeing on its applicability on this point)....more