It was a royal pain to wake up at 2am to see the royal wedding. As I had seen William’s parents wed, I felt it my duty, since I had not sent a gift. So I enjoyed all the traditional music, recalling times living in Scotland, as well as listening to composer John Rutter perform. The setting was awesome, I loved the trees that lined the aisle. I thought at first that we could do that at St. John’s, then remembered that it wouldn’t work as there’s no sun in San Francisco. I loved Archbishop Rowan William’s beard looking neither trimmed or combed, like some theological scrubland, just awakened. Despite my joy in the tradition, I couldn’t help but wonder if Catherine and William really put it all together. With the archaic King’s English, ritualistic prayers and patriotic (English only, nothing for the rest of Britain) and ultra traditional songs (not wedding appropriate at all) did anyone have any idea what they were talking about, what they hoped for and meant to each other as a loving couple? No wonder folks think the church has nothing new to say and that worship is a lot of fairy-tale drivel that has no relevance in the real world. It’s reason enough for people never to set foot inside a church. Sorry to mire the royal atmosphere, but this is the only real threat to the existence of marriage that I’m aware of!
Last week the Crystal Cathedral, Hour of Power, founded by Rev Robert Schuller 60 year ago in Orange County, California after filing for bankruptcy, sold its property. It has an incredible sanctuary designed by the late, great architect Philip Johnson – an incredible sanctuary of glass, towering upward. I had been there a number of times and was struck by its grandeur. This was the first “mega-church”. It started in a drive-in theater and catapulted, along with the population, as orange groves were replaced by homes. So much of change for churches is about the demographics of the area. Now the cathedral is surrounded by malls, office space and elderly who are less mobile. To watch the cycle of this church with its expensive buildings, elaborate cemetery, statuary, pageant productions, personalities in the pulpit and founding pastor struggling to pass on the legacy to his children, is heartbreaking. How easily any church can believe too much in itself, grand strategies and successes, and rely too little on God’s desire to attend to those who are struggling, who lack for justice and peace. It’s easy to say, but hard to live. On the wall behind my desk is a photo of a church, which closed and was turned into a petrol station in England. Ironically, the church’s name was St. John’s. I keep that picture to remind me that God’s plans are beyond what we may only momentarily catch a glimpse of, and anytime we think we have THE PLAN to be church, we have another think coming.