Guiding Principle: Anam Cara Community Will Attend to the Rhythm of Life

We’re beginning to discern our Guiding Principles for Anam Cara.

It will take some time.

Along with our Core Values, which we’ll elaborate on as well, the Guiding Principles are a field map to help us navigate work, ministry, and life together. Every community has them, whether they’re explicit or not, but we think it’s best to be explicit to help prevent us from getting lost.

Another way to think about it: the Core Values are what you hold dear. Your Core Practices are how you live out those values. Your Guiding Principles are the things that help you do both of those things well, like a map that steers you in the right direction so that you stay on course.

One of the Guiding Principles that Anam Cara discerned at our curator team meeting last week was that we would, like the ancient Celtic Christians who provided us with our name, pay attention to the rhythms of life when deciding what to do next.

Basically: we’re going to take Ecclesiastes 3:10 seriously and try to use it as a lens for our work and projects. We’ll constantly be asking ourselves, “What time is it?”

Is it a time to launch a new thing, or does this feel forced? Is it the time do record that offering, or is it out of synch with where we are?

When the pandemic hit many people prepped for summer planning and programming as if nothing much was changing. Some even sent out stewardship letters for the Spring that didn’t even note the health, financial, and emotional crisis we were all going through!

That’s an instance of paying attention to a different way of being in the world out of synch with the rhythm of life. Take a nod from our ancient siblings, we’re going to apply the wisdom of looking at the proverbial-and actual-leaves of the trees, the smell of the air, the feel of the river, to see where the Divine mind is pointing humanity.

Jesus spoke about this sort of thing all the time, by the way (Luke 12:56, for instance). I’m pretty sure his agrarian metaphors and parables were not just because he lived in an agrarian society, but also because he knew that, as part of creation, humans needed to listen to such teachers.

The idea isn’t that God is hiding revelation in the leaves of grass (though Whitman might like the idea), but rather that as creating creators humans must attend to the rhythms of creation. When we don’t, we kind of get out of whack.

And yes, that sort of rhythm changes depending on where you are in the world! Spring is in the air for our siblings in the lower hemisphere while, just this morning, my boys were celebrating that it finally felt like Autumn here.

The idea isn’t that it will be the same for everyone, but rather that it must be attended to depending on your context.

Context matters. We’re trusting that’s true, and so we’re trying to pay attention to it.

All of this is why, though we had some wonderful ideas for a podcast and an initial video and call to action at our last meeting, we discerned it wasn’t the time. The time is coming…we think we have a sense of when it will be, but the start date isn’t dependent on economic realities, convenience, or any of those other time-tables we’ve all forced upon our calendar.

No.

The start date is more aligned with the Liturgical calendar, with the movement of the earth, with the rhythm of our bodies.

In this way we think we’ll be able to keep our core values central, live and breathe our core practices, and be authentic to what we’re being called to form here.

More soon, but before you go let me ask you: are you in rhythm these days? If so, what keeps you there?

And if not, what would it look like to be more attuned to the heartbeat of the Divine in the world?

One Church, One Book

Today the church honors the person considered to be the founder of the Lutheran Church in America, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Missionary to United States.

Born in the early 18th Century, Henry was the seventh of nine children raised in Hannover, Germany. He started his professional life as a school master after graduating from studying at Gottingen and Halle, but soon felt a different stirring.

The Lutheran presence in America was scattered and disorganized. Three disparate congregations in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, New Hanover, and New Providence) sent a joint delegation to London and Halle in search of a pastor who would unite the Lutherans together in the colonies.

Muhlenberg was chosen and sent in 1742. On his way he spent some time in London to learn about America, and while there adopted a new clerical garment that would be used by Lutherans in the colonies.

Henry arrived in Fall of 1742 and gained the trust of both the German-speaking and Swedish-speaking clergy…no small feat! Muhlenberg struggled mightily to unite the many churches that were so ethnic-specific. He traveled incessantly, wrote constantly, preached in German, Dutch, in English, and became known for his powerful voice.

He established the first Lutheran synod in America, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, in August of 1748. The delegates met together and ratified a modern liturgy that remained the only authorized American Lutheran liturgy for forty years, and is still sometimes revived for use to this day and can be found in all the Lutheran hymnals up through the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). Muhlenberg had a dream of “one church, one book,” and he didn’t mean the Bible…that was already done…he meant a liturgy book.

Lutherans in this frontier land struggled with authority issues as it moved from a state-supported church in Europe to congregational-led communities in the colonies. Muhlenberg worked mightily with churches on both stewardship and education, two practices that could use a little reviving today. He even wrote a model congregational constitution, never needed in Europe, that helped to organize the disorganized faithful.

Muhlenberg was in favor of a distinct church in America, noting that local practices must hold hands with local customs. Despite this belief, he was quite pietistic, and had a low tolerance for chicanery or shenanigans from clergy or laity.

Muhlenberg and his children were leaders in American public life as well. His son John Peter dramatically left the parish to serve in the Revolution, becoming a brigadier general under George Washington. Another son, Frederick (also a pastor), became a member of the Continental Congress and the first Speaker of the House of Representatives…much to his father’s disappointment. Muhlenberg believed he would have made a much better pastor and should have remained in the parish.

Another son, Henry Ernst was both a pastor and the president of Franklin College where he excelled as an administrator and a botanist 9where did he find the time?

And Muhlenberg’s great grandson? He became an Episcopal priest who is honored on April 8th. Maybe that’s why Lutherans and Episcopalians in America love one another so much…

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg died in Pennsylvania on October 7th, 1787. You’ll find his remains under a monument where, inscribed in Latin, is this simple phrase, “Who and what he was future ages will know without a stone.”

Muhlenberg is a reminder for me, and for the church, that sometimes you can get a different calling in life (he and all of his children and a couple of vocations under the belts), and that listening carefully to that still, small voice can enable one to do much for the world.

-historical pieces from Pfatteicher’s _New Book of Festivals & Commemorations