Articles and Projects: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Articles and Projects
I should be writing an article. Instead, I am repairing and polishing a brass hinged bracket that will be used to secure a processional cross or a bishop’s crozier in the sanctuary of the small Anglican church I attend. This is the third project that I’ve undertaken this week. The first was to install ribbons into the binding of a new, old Gospel Book that had been donated to the parish. Having a ribbon will allow the priest to carry the Gospel Book in procession into the midst of the congregation and then to open the book to the portion of the Gospels appointed for the day. The other project was undertaken earlier in the week and consisted of patching a wall above a side chapel altar where we had shifted statues of St. Mary and St. Joseph to a location that was more in keeping with the architectural demands of the space.
Now, if I had not undertaken these projects, I might have written an article by now. The problem is, however, that I am less and less inclined to write about the topics that appear to push people’s buttons. Yes, our national approach to the Covid pandemic has been less than perfect. Compared, however, to other nations, between vaccinations and therapeutics, we are in perhaps a better place than we really deserve, especially considering the level of vaccination resistance and disinformation endemic in some quarters. As we approach a million deaths in America one would think that this might be a time for mourning or, at least, sober reflection. Instead, we engage in endless debates on the efficacy of masks and treatments, all the while looking for someone to blame.
Speaking of someone to blame, I could have written an article on a variety of hot button cultural and/or political issues. Anything that includes issues of race, or sexuality, or political identity, will be sure to get a response, even if what is actually written is not read. Recently, I made the observation that during the time of the writing and formation of the New Testament there were eleven Roman emperors. There were almost continual struggles for political power. As a result, small scale civil wars broke out. Mystery religions were all the rage, often incorporating a fluid sexuality inclusive of transgender adherents. Brothels, catering to a variety of sexual expressions, were common in all the cities of the empire. Slavery was normative. Gladiatorial games were held not just in Rome, but in all the provinces. Infanticide was a normative practice. Divorce was common… I could go on… From my reading of the New Testament, however, I fail to see the writers addressing all these pressing political/social/cultural issues with great specificity.
Instead, for the New Testament writers it was about being the Church and modeling a life in Christ. The moral and ethical standards of the Early Church were not based upon a laundry list of the deficiencies of secular society, but on the example and teaching of Christ and how that was made real or incarnate in the life of the Church. It was not a legislated morality. It was a lived morality. The measure was not an abstract view of society or the body politic of the empire. The measure was the person of Christ. For the Early Church the Christian cosmos was two-fold. It extended far beyond the borders of empire to the furthest extent of creation, while at the same time the entirety of that Christian cosmos could be found in the smallest gathering of believers in the most insignificant village. It was dependent not on power or influence. It was dependent on presence… the presence of Christ.
I could have written a better article, but I’m glad that I did my projects. The bracket will, in a small way, beautify the sanctuary. The Gospel Book is ready to be carried and the Gospel will be proclaimed in the midst of the congregation. The side chapel is prepared for those who wish to pray. Upon reflection, I think that I made the better choice…
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
You wrote an excellent article! The mundane aspects of life-flat tires, changing diapers, changing the heater filter, doing homework, paying bills-goes on in spite of all of the drama around us. COVID seems to be becoming part of the daily fabric of our lives. My school doesn’t trace cases any more, but I’m watching the uptick in cases and back to double-masking. But, I still show up for work on time each day.
i know the daily mundane of life doesn’t continue in many other parts of the world (Ukraine, for instance), but we are blessed to be able to carry on and deal with (or not) the craziness of our existence. I often turn off the news and bury my way into a stack of tests. Grading a task gives me some sense of accomplishment, even when the world around me continues to spin out of control.
Where I am finding I can do the most good is to pray and treat others kindly, even when I don’t agree with their opinions and they find me grating. Maybe treating each other well will lead us at some point to be able to approach some of the issues you mentioned in a more unbiased and cool-headed manner. Maybe we will really be able to listen to each other.
Many thanks… Yes, listening is what’s needed.
As you know, Benedictine spirituality emphasizes both the passive or contemplative life, and the active or material life. Both are needed and both need to be held in balance.
Outside a monastic community, it’s sometimes difficult to get the balance right…😁
Duane, from what I’ve been told, it can be equally challenging even inside the walls of the monastery. 😎
Thanks for the article.
I’ve heard that as well… but there is at least a chance of “enforcement”…😁
I’ve had a very public “ministry” for a couple of decades now, but by choice and necessity I am transitioning to something more private and local.
My mother is sliding into the darkness of dementia and I have limited energy to spend on attempting to engage a culture that is only interested in conflict and bias affirmation.
The goal is to find the same satisfaction in being unseen as there was in being seen…
Many of us make that transition. Not an easy one…
Michael, I am living with my youngest daughter and she thinks I should be tested for dementia….. Ouch! ! !
Praying for you both now
We’re all slowing down…I don’t see any decline in you over the years…
On this subject, a classic is ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence. If you have not read it, you should…
my wife knows that the list of projects is an endless line of endeavors that keep me from writing. She insists, like this weekend, we go somewhere I cannot get sidetracked and then leaves me alone with my computer to write. It’s not about procrastination or weighing relative value–it is about choices in the moment. I’m equally proud of one task completed as an essay rough drafted or a chapter edited.