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Episcopalians & The Way Of The Seashell

An Episcopalian reader e-mails:

Oooh—a rousing Episcopalian snarkfest over a sculpture recently installed sculpture on the Cathedral in Boston.

The fun starts here.

The link goes to the blog of an Episcopal priest who objects to a lighted sculpture of a nautilus shell erected on the Episcopal cathedral’s pediment. The video I’ve embedded above is the cathedral’s explanation of why it chose to install a seashell on the pediment rather than a Christian symbol. Father Tim writes:

But what really set me off was the artist’s description of his vision — a vision the cathedral community enthusiastically embraced. He says in the video that the cathedral is “not just a church for Episcopals.” Okay, ecclesiastical grammar aside, I understand the cathedral sees itself as a House of Prayer for All People (Isaiah 56:7) — a Biblical slogan popularized by the Washington National Cathedral. They live into this motto by offering a place of prayer for the local Muslim community on Friday afternoons and opening their doors to “all sorts and conditions” of people.

Yet, unless you first place your stake in the ground as the epicenter of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, a community of disciples following Jesus Christ, this slogan can easily delve into “A House of the Least Common Denominator for All People.”

The artist goes on to say, “I was trying to think of a symbol or an image that would be spiritual but not be religious.”

What?! A Christian cathedral by its very nature is and must be “religious.” It should be a beacon of the gospel and, as the dean says in the video, “the spiritual heart” of the diocese. If our core is this theologically squishy we may as well just tear down all of our crosses and erect nautili (what is the plural of nautilus?) on all our parish churches.

Sounds like the inside of a Twinkie has a more solid core than the cathedral community’s theology, though it’s probably not as white. Heh. The Episcopalian reader adds:

You know it’s a rockin’  Episcopalian argument when somebody uses the word “ghastly.”  That’s like chair-throwing in any other fight.

See, this is why I love the Episcopal church.  The sturdy common sense of the laity, in spite of the woo-woo wing of the leadership.

My favorite comment:

“The real loss is that this church, which didn’t really look like one to begin with, looks less like one now. If I saw it across the Common, I’d assume it was a bank that had been repurposed as a disco. The video makes the parish itself seem like one of those places where unreconstructed lefty baby boomers keep grinding their same old axes lo, these many, many years later. And if ever there was a dying idea of Church, it’s that one. Those baby boomers kids and grandkids want specificity, not watered down ‘spirituality’. I predict the nautilus will last maybe 20 or 25 years. That said, the dean has got a grade-A, wicked ‘pornstache.’ So, there’s that…”

Check out the entertaining Fr. Tim comments thread here.  My favorite is the one where the guy says the glowing nautilus makes the cathedral look like Joe’s Crab Shack.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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