Archive for February, 2018

Happening Now

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

A member of our parish recently arranged for my associate and me to be trained in the use of Instagram.

The wildly popular social media app features photos that provide a visual entry into one’s personal “story”–or, in the case of Incarnation, into our parish life. Ideally we should not only post photos of past events but should report on events that are about to happen or are happening.

Our tutor, a social media expert at a top PR boutique firm, remarked that she often checked her Instagram account in the evening to see if there was anything interesting happening. If some post caught her eye, she would drop everything and follow the Instagram lead.

This is clearly a different culture from that of the Church, whose life is carefully planned and whose year of holy days is set for centuries in advance. All the more reason we need to maintain a sense of how we are being led by God in what theologians call, “the Eternal Now.” —J. Douglas Ousley

Line Fishing

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

I’m not a fisherman, but I understand that there are two kinds of fishing: net fishing and line fishing.

According to the Dean of the General Theological Seminary, who recently gave a talk to a clergy group I’m a member of, our Episcopal Church does evangelism on the analogy of line fishing. That is, we don’t sweep in large quantities of converts as though we were fishing with a net. Instead, we hook people in, one-by-one.

This accords with my own experience of the church in Manhattan, where people come from such diverse backgrounds that you have to offer many different ways to introduce unbelievers to the way of Jesus Christ. Moreover, our denomination has a substantial intellectual and aesthetic component that has to be grasped over time, with each seeker proceeding at his or her own pace.

All this makes church growth come irregularly, in fits and starts. But it also means that new believers value what they have come to hold in their minds and hearts. —J. Douglas Ousley


Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

I will go to considerable lengths to avoid controversy. I recognize, though, that many people thrive on conflict.

Particularly in the political realm, you find men and women who love to make outrageous statements. On both the left and the right, there are lots of activists who seem to enjoy notoriety.

They even look with pride upon the antagonism their positions generate. They see themselves as “prophets”–in the biblical phrase, “speaking truth to power.”

However, in many cases, this posture smells of cheap grace: “If I’m hated, I must be doing God’s will.” Jesus was certainly not afraid to speak truth to power; his teaching got him crucified. But reveling in controversy doesn’t in itself help others to do the right thing politically. Popularity isn’t an end in itself, but neither is unpopularity.

What matters is speaking the truth as we know it in such a way that others see that truth. In that way, the Truth makes us all free. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Book Challenge

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Incarnation members have been challenged this Lent to read or re-read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. This witty, clever, and spiritually wise book is one of Lewis’s most popular writings; it has sold millions of copies.

I have re-read and dipped into the book several times over the years. Returning to my copy recently, I was surprised to note from the flyleaf of the book that I first encountered the book when I was twelve years old! I believe it was a gift from a favorite uncle.

In any case, it is a testament to Lewis that the book still reads as fresh and as provocative as if I were opening it for the first time. There is an insight to ponder on virtually every page and yet it proceeds smoothly like the fiction it technically is.

Whether you are a member of Incarnation or not, think about reading The Screwtape Letters this Lent. —J. Douglas Ousley