In Necessariis, Unitas

In necessities, unity; in uncertainties, liberty; in all things, charity.
— Archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis

If you want a case study in identity politics, there’s no need to look any further than the church down the street.

Christians are forever dividing themselves into rival gangs, like the Sharks and the Jets.

Catholic or Protestant? Sprinklers or dunkers? Pipe organ or rock-‘n’-roll praise band?

These differences are all well and good, but it’s easy to get so absorbed in them that we forget our commonalities. In the service of Christian unity, I invite you to spend a few moments reflecting on the things that unite us.

After all, no matter whether we are folk-Mass Catholics, high-church Anglicans, TULIP Calvinists, or PowerPoint evangelicals, at least we can all agree on our theology of atonement and the means of salvation.

Ha ha! Just kidding! But here are a few traits we do share:

Weak Coffee

Have you ever had a good cup of coffee in a church? Per the Anna Karenina principle, good coffee may be all alike, but bad coffee — especially church coffee — is always bad in some unique way: In one parish, the coffeemaker hasn’t been cleaned since the Eisenhower administration. In another, the water is hard. In a third, the grounds are carefully doled out by a dour team of Coffee Police, who insist that one tablespoon of Maxwell House is plenty for a fourteen-cup pot.

Don’t get all snippy with me about Bishops Blend. I have drunk it. Probably in your church. And it was terrible.

Giving Out Keys Like Candy

“Can I leave my laptop in here?”

“Of course! It’ll be perfectly safe.”

“Really? How many people have keys to this office?”

“Oh, a few.”

“How many is ‘a few?'”

“Oh, you know, not too many. I think there’s a list somewhere.”

I defy you to find me a congregation where this conversation has not been had. The average parish loves giving out keys, but hates keeping track of them. At the height of my key-havin’ days, I carried keys to three separate churches: One I attended, one where my Girl Scout troop met, and one for no earthly good reason except that I was friends with the priest, who had pressed the keyring into my hand and said, “Here. Hold onto these. Just in case you ever need to get in.”

If you are familiar with this phenomenon, perhaps you have also borne witness to its close relative, Issuing Several Dozen Key Variants Without Keeping a Master List of What They All Open.

papyrus font

The Dusty Tract Rack

Caveat: While every church seems to have one of these, the tract content varies a bit by denomination and region. In my tradition, the rack usually features an even split between:

1) How to become an Episcopalian; and

2) What to do about your loved one’s drinking problem.

I can’t explain this away.

(Spoiler alert: The answer to #2 is “Become an Episcopalian.”)

Pretending Everyone Has a Trauma History

dwight

Telling Everyone Exactly What We Think About Sexual Minorities, Irrespective of Whether They Have Asked

Look, since I’m gay myself,

I find signs like these to be a great time-saver.

But I have one question:

Are there that many of us?

church sign

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2 Responses to In Necessariis, Unitas

  1. Dad says:

    What a great Post! Love, Dad

  2. I too find it helpful when churches wear their particular biases on their sleeve, er, sign. Saves on those uncomfortable conversations dancing around the word “diversity.” Although those can occasionally be hilarious too – like the time I sidled up to the question of how welcome gays were at our church in Bedford, MA (visit St. Paul’s sometime, by the way) and the rector looked at me a little quizzically and said, “Uh, yeah. I’m gay and my partner and I were married in this church.” Me: “Oh. OK. There’s that, then.” Hence it became “our church” for the year we lived in MA.

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