The King is dead. Long live the King.

Posted 11 February 2009 by

Fr. David Marshall visits Spokan Gary at St. Dunstan'sThe period between rectors at St. Dunstan’s Parish is just about over. Last Sunday (February 8, 2009) our senior warden announced that the Rev. David Marshall is our new rector.

This will be the first time my presbyter at church will be younger than me. This could be a big deal.

I’ve had younger bosses before. That is no big deal. If the person knows what they are talking about, advocates well for me to upper management, and generally makes it possible to get the job done, who cares?

But, why did I use that word “presbyter” when I said he is younger than me? After all, I am an Episcopalian. This word looks like it belongs to another denomination.

The word “presbyter” comes from the Greek word that, when in reference to the church, essentially means “priest.” On a more literal level, though, it means “elder.”

Fr. David is my elder.

I guess having someone younger as your elder happens to every lay person in the church one day, should we live long enough.

I’ve supported the recent trends in ordination in the Episcopal Church for priestly vocations. That is, we typically don’t ordain twenty-somethings to the priesthood these days (although there are calls to go back to ordaining those this young). I’ve always thought that it made more sense to have my elder to have some life experience.

This isn’t necessarily the same for deacons. By vocation, deacons need to be a bit of a firebrand. They bring the needs of the world to the Church, as well as directing the Church to the needs of the world.

Stephen in the Book of Acts was one of the first deacons because he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He was also the first martyr of the Church because of he was a visible success.

I’ve heard more than one priest (presbyter) point out that Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin was like a first-year seminarian’s sermon. That is, he talked too long and was a firebrand. The underlying message to that is that a presbyter would have known better than to do that.

So, how do I relate to my presbyter that is younger than me?

From looking at his website, Fr. David is somewhat the priest that I would have called. In his life before seminary, he worked at Microsoft as a programmer and manager. (I note that his personal website uses Microsoft technology, not some UNIX variant technology. How much of a geek does this make me?) He is interested in using technology as a tool for reaching out.

There is a concern with all this, though. It is that his comments on use of the web technology seems to be all hopeful theory. Some might say it was a vain thing, fondly invented.

For example, Fr. David writes on his website about using a wiki to build Christian community. The trouble is that I haven’t seen a wiki build something I would call a “community” anywhere else yet.

Wikipedia is a great resource. But Wikipedia isn’t a community. I don’t feel in communion (same root as community) with anyone just because that person has written for Wikipedia.

I don’t consider blog followers to be a community, either. This method may be faster than postal mail or a newspaper to share ideas. But, this blog isn’t up-to-the-minute interaction, even when leaving a comment.

It is not that I am saying that technology cannot be used to build some sort of community. Some on-line forums have community (see Ship of Fools).

In additon, I’m starting to gain some appreciation of Twitter as a builder of community. It is two-way communication (same root, again), sometimes in the moment and sometimes informal. How else could you find out that an NPR reporter working in the US Capitol building needs a latté?

Twitter aside, I more see most web technology as the new Mars Hill. No, I’m not making a reference to the home of old-fashioned misogyny and fundamentalism found in a hip wrapper in Seattle. I’m referring to the place where the Apostle Paul was able to grab a piece of pavement and place his ideas before the citizens of Athens for consideration. It is a great place for debate.

Unfortunately, debate only convinces people like C. S. Lewis to identify with Christianity. Generally it is still true a person becomes a Christian because they know a practicing Christian. (And, all Christians are “practicing” Christians because none of us have gotten it right yet.) Besides, C. S. Lewis was in community with people like J.R.R. Tolkien as a part of his conversion. So was it the debate or the community?

So, I now get to see just how much my younger elder is really going to try to use technology to build a Christian community. It’s another Christian paradox!

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