So it’s official: my life as a grad student as begun. I am ready to go to bed at 10:30 on a Friday night.
In my defense, I have been TIRED this week. I don’t think that I’ve been going to bed early enough. My sleep habits haven’t been helped by the fact that my dear sweet boyfriend has called after I’ve fallen asleep every night this week. (And he tried to call earlier tonight, but that happened to fall in the last 30 minutes of the movie I was watching w/ Whitney, and after it was over he was busy. Grrr. Argh. The thought that I’m going to get woken up again after I go to bed tonight just makes me want to fall asleep right now. Time zones suck.)
My schedule is part of the problem too: it’s all over the place. I need to wake up at 6:40AM on Tuesdays, 9:30AM on Wednesdays, 8:00AM on Thursdays, and 9:30Am on Fridays. (I don’t have class Friday, but I ride into campus w/ Whitney and do research assistant work in the Theology Library for a few hours.) One of my friends said this week that she’s going to try waking up at the same time every day, despite her schedule. Seems like a nice idea, but there’s no way I’d be able to get up at 6:40 every morning if I didn’t have to. So the “going to bed earlier” plan it is! I’ll let you know how this goes for me.
I don’t have many plans for the weekend, which is kinda nice. I’m looking forward to just hanging out at home and getting some reading done. I’ve also got to write a 2-3 page paper for Tuesday answering the question “What should the role of Scripture be in the faith and practice of Christianity?” It’s such an open ended question, and not one that I’d ever really given serious thought to before, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I checked out of the library a copy of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, and John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, so I should have some help formulating my ideas.
A group of us went out to a sports bar last night to watch the Titans game. I’m usually a “stay at home and watch it in my pj’s” kind of gal, but since our tv’s still out of commission, I was willing to venture out. It was fun, despite the outcome (stupid NFL overtime rules), but it made for a very late night for me. (I managed to sleep through my second alarm this morning and overslept. Hate that “rushing around in the morning” feeling.) So yeah, I’m looking forward to a low-key weekend.
One thing that we do have planned is for several of us to attend Saint Mark United Methodist Church. (Steeni: I’m pretty sure this is the church we sang at the year we went to Atlanta on TCA choir tour.) I’m excited and hopeful. The church search (was going to say “church hunt,” but I couldn’t resist the rhyme) is beginning to get tiresome. Last week we visited a very small, non-denominational church close to our house. The pastor was fairly good, and the service didn’t make me uncomfortable (as so many non-denominational services in the past have), but it really didn’t feel like church to me. The service consisted of singing 4 praise songs, the song leader praying, the sermon, communion, and one final song. There were no communal prayers or call & response sections; the service felt really simple to me.
Now, maybe I’m biased because I’ve spent the last week and a half researching how one small ritual (the reception of new members) changed and evolved over 200 years of Methodism. But I truly believe that the ritual is important!!! The authors of and contributors to the Book of Common Prayer, and the UM Book of Worship and the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, and any other source of liturgy, could phrase things in way that is so much richer and more complex than anything I could think up in my head on the spot. There’s a reason that the Book of Common Prayer is 460 years old and we still consult it. Communion truly IS a “holy mystery” in which Christ has given himself for us. (I love that prayer. Such a great way of describing it. Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, whatever. It’s a holy MYSTERY. That’s the point.)
Relatedly, Thursday’s chapel service consisted solely of music. (Haven’t mentioned this before: every Tuesday and Thursday we have chapel at 11:00.) And I just have two words to describe this service: Amazing. Grace. Seriously, wow. The last verse, with the organ booming and piano playing and trumpet blaring, was transcendent. It was one of the more moving church moments of my life. (I blinked back tears.) Whoever says that hymns are old and stodgy and can’t help us commune with God has obviously never felt that.
And this is why I prefer hymns to praise music (especially during a Sunday worship service): hymns are all about the group, the congregation, the community worshiping God together. Don’t get me wrong, I think that everyone should have a personal, intimate spiritual relationship with God. (I’m a huge fan of Spanish Golden Age mystic and aesthetic poetry. Santa Teresa de Jesus’s “Vivo sin vivir en mi” gets me every time.) But I also feel like it’s important for us as Christians to all to come together as a community on Sundays and worship together, as one body of Christ.
It’s like the story St. Augustine relates in his Confessions: St. Augustine’s spiritual mentor Simplicianus told him a story about the philosopher Victorinus, whom he had known earlier in his life. Victorinus decided to convert to Christianity privately, and informed Simplicianus of his decision. Simplicianus told him simply “I shall not believe it or count you as a Christian until I see you in the Church of Christ.”
One cannot be a Christian alone, and hymns are a way of reminding us of that. And maybe some people get that from contemporary praise songs. But whenever I sing a praise song, I always feel like I’m a poser or something because I’m the only one in the room who isn’t singing from memory. And then the Powerpoint that’s projecting the words on the jumbotron (or whatever) invariably breaks or messes up, and suddenly the lyrics are gone and I’m completely adrift. So I’m just moving my mouth and mumbling and hoping no one else is noticing, and before I know it I’ve become completely self-conscious and am no longer worshiping God at all.
Ok, so this post has taken a strange, soapbox-y turn. Sorry bout that. I’ll try to keep my next one limited to topics completely unrelated to theology, like fantasy football and TV on DVD. (Although there might end up being a good deal of praying that gets done over fantasy football…..)