September 29th is the feast day for Saint Michael and All Angels.
O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angles and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;”
“…in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
“This is he (Moses), that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mout Sinai, and with our fathers…”
Thank you Lord for your holy Angels.
The architecture of Washington D.C. exposes the weird aping of Greece and Rome that motivated our founders and their progeny. Odd temples to Jefferson and Lincoln, strange statues of gods here and there, and the truly shocking Apotheosis of Washington painted at the top of the Capitol Dome. That picture portrays Washington where we would typically see God the Father or Jesus. He has a rainbow at his feet in this shocking display of American idolatry! But to me the ultimate oddity is the Washington Monument. At the center of the mall, in the heart of the city sits the strange Egyptian obelisk dedicated to our first President. What kind of sense does it make? Why are we erecting obelisks to Americans thousands of years after the Pharaoh’s have died out? What a bizarre country this is.
We are going to see Oasis with Jet and Kasabian tomorrow night! It’s been ten years since I saw our kid in the States and I can’t wait to go again. Though they aren’t quite the second coming of the Beatles that they seemed to be back then, they are still miles better than any sorry band from the States.
It goes without saying that suburbs generally are where jobs are in the post industrial age. Jobs have fled the crime and lack of parking in the cities. As cities have sprawled into decentralized exurban area the workforce has moved out and many jobs have followed.
Suburban architecture is still in its infancy if we take the long view. Some of it is obviously atrocious. There are wonderful examples of planned communities like Columbia, Maryland that have intriguing mixtures of affordable housing, green belts for walking, ponds, village centers, and greenery everywhere. In affluent communities there are golf courses and parks in abundance. The wealth of some of these communities is mind boggling and has generated aesthetically pleasing views. Some suburbs regulate the height and placement of signs so that the ubiquitous presence of billboards and neon is absent. On the whole the suburb can seem soulless in this regard, with no discernible downtown. However, the fact that people flock to live in this type of community speaks volumes to how they want to organize their lives in our age. People do not shop from street vendors, they are moved by automobile and so the decentralized suburban layout makes sense.
More and more colleges are either located in the suburbs or have branches there. Suburban libraries are generally plentiful, and in our interconnected age can supply about anything via interlibrary loan.
Suburbs are afflicted with an enormous spiritual poverty on the order of the physical poverty of many inner cities. People bow to the idols of appearance, money, drugs, influence, etc. The church in our day can no more ignore the suburb that it can the city. Both are vast mission fields with very unique challenges. Suburbs are constantly growing (thus exurbs) while the physical space of cities is and has been defined for some time. Churches attempting to reach inner cities tend to focus on physical need, but this approach may not be correct for the burbs. Of course proclamation and the sacraments are indispensable in both locations, but the set of needs in the suburb needs to be quantified. I suspect that the church must focus on broken marriage, sexual hedonism, adultery, abortion, and crass materialism in suburban ministry. And offering answers to those who have it all but feel that life is meaningless is a key challenge. Churches must not focus at one area at the expense of another, and some way to bridge the gap between bodies of believers in both locations needs to be made. We are after all one new man.
The suburbs take a lot of criticism in our day. Urban planners, opponents of sprawl, architects, and many others like to point out the shortcomings of suburban life. Many Christians have joined in this chorus, equating suburbia with vapid mega churches pedaling lowest common denominator truth. Other Christians feel that the suburban churches have abandoned the inner city and are guilty of isolationism. There is truth in all of these criticisms, but as a child of the suburbs I offer a defense of the suburbs and their way of life.
Suburbs are typically safe. This is of course a big reason why people live in them as opposed to city centers. Generally we do not want to expose ourselves to crime, so we try to live in places that provide more safety.
Suburbs offer commerce in abundance. Every kind of store under the sun is located within or close to a typical suburb. This is not a bad thing in itself. Goods and luxuries are gifts of God like anything else. They can become idols like anything else. Often in the suburbs pursuing wealth and goods does become an end in and of itself and the mall is an idolatrous center. This is not unique to suburbs however, and so elevating city life as more pure due to its poverty is not true.
Suburbs can offer a rich variety of Christian experience; churches of every stripe reside in many such communities. This is not unique to the suburb, but it does enhance their vitality.
Many times suburbs have a greater variety of cultures than an urban area. By this I mean that ethnic groups tend to be bunched into blocks in the city. In the suburbs you will see faces from all over the earth living in a common space, not divided into ethnic conclaves.
The church was here before me. It is not for me to remake it in my own image and to a form of my own liking. While my thoughts and ideas matter, and each age has a chapter to contribute to the story, it is not for us to make wholesale change based on our own arrogance.
Our church has a blog for our sister church in Rwanda. Check it out.
Famous sci-fi writer Phillip Dick wrote:
The basic premise dominating my stories is that if I ever met an extraterrestrial intelligence (more commonly called a “creature from outer space”) I would find I had more to say to it than to my next-door neighbor. What the people on my block do is bring in their newspaper and mail and drive off in their cars. They have no other outdoor habits except mowing their lawns. I went next door one time to check into the indoor habits. They were watching TV. Could you, in writing a sf novel, postulate a culture on these premises? Surely such a society doesn’t exist, except maybe in my imagination.
A very cool short story by John C. Wright: The Cry of the Night Hound.
Mr. Wright recently converted to Christianity.