Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Holy Trinity Question

One effect of the American Revolution was that, in the USA, the Church of England became The Episcopal Church. And, it went from THE church to just one of many, and a small one at that.

I am a cradle Episcopalian, but haven't really attended in a LONG time. My Sundays have been spent working as a nurse for the last 16 years. I occasionally attended Unitarian- Universalist services, since I accept universal salvation, but the UU thing is just TOO political. They wouldn't even try to drive vampires away; instead, they would pass an "action of immediate witness" to study the needs of this oppressed minority group.

Now that I have every other Sunday off, it is back to the Episcopal Church. Plenty to choose from here in Greensboro, but I picked Holy Trinity because it is a) closest to my house, b) has plenty of bells and smells liturgically, and c) has a good choir and organist. I dropped by on Easter Sunday. Since it is the "Up Town" church here, I was carefully dressed - a charcoal suit (well tailored by that genuine artist with a needle, Ms. Sanije on Radiance Drive), Borelli shoes, and a John Comfort ( 10 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN) tie. I was, as the Brits say, "well turned out." My students would say I looked “bitchin”.

The clothes didn't make a dint in traditional Episcopalian frostiness. Not a single soul so much as said "good morning" to me, except during the passing of the peace, and that doesn't count (it is in the liturgy, Baptists, so greeting the person next to you is REQUIRED). Perhaps I was over-dressed? I couldn't help but notice that I was just about the only "suit" there. Many of the men weren't even wearing a jacket. The women were nothing to brag about either. Back in the day, if you wanted to see some beautifully dressed ladies, you just popped in to an Episcopal church on Easter Sunday. Times, it seems, have changed.

I dressed down a bit the second Sunday I attended. I guess I am a bit old for this specific combination, but I selected a blue blazer, khakis, oxblood loafers, blue shirt and Nautica tie. Well turned out again ( I mean, I once went to the Old Town Country Club wearing something of the sort, and they let me in, so...), but a bit less stuffy. Same result. I might as well have been the invisible man, even though the other men were a complete mess.

Time for an interesting empirical inquiry. Rather than just blowing Holy Trinity off, let's see how long it takes before someone walks up to me, offers their hand, and says something like "Hello, I'm Andy Anglican, welcome to the parish." One unkind so called friend has suggested that the correct answer is "never." "Bob", he said, "no one is speaking to you because they all know who you are, and think you have a proven track record as an asshole." I reject this uncouth answer out of hand, of course. But what will the correct answer turn out to be? Two more months? Four? Six?

I have tomorrow, May 22, off. So, let's gather more data. I'll show up in a very nice (Prince William wears one of their blazers) navy blue Bertolini wool/silk suit, the Borelli shoes again, and tie by Dani. Not too shabby for a nurse/community college instructor.

This is a lot of fun, and it has rich philosophical interest. Consider this - someone who guesses what turns out to be the correct answer is possessed of a true belief; yet the truth conditions for the belief have not occurred. That is, they presently hold a true belief about an event which has a) not occurred and b) whose nonoccurrence is perfectly conceivable. Does this mean determinism is true, and we Episcopalians should go across the street to First Presbyterian? A repugnant conclusion, surely! Does it mean that Bradley and McTaggart were right after all, and that time is unreal? Another repugnant conclusion. Are we facing a tentative argument for Leibniz's pre-established harmony? That can't be right; a world with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives is NOT the best of all possible worlds.

More after Church, followed by a sherry and cake on the lawn.

2 comments:

Kay Saucier Lundy said...

Bob, this is an interesting empirical study and I am absolutely clueless as to why church members are not overly friendly. You are in the south after all. I have only attended one Episcopal service in my life and it was a wedding, not counting an Anglican service at Westminister Abbey many years ago. I have however noticed the incredible informality of dress in our local churches (Metho Babs) with shorts, flip flops, etc. My mother was so strict about 'church' clothes that I had to get a once over approval before getting in the car. Too much eye make up..back to the bathroom to wash it off. No stockings, back in house to put them on. Etc etc etc. NO sleeveless dresses allowed, I have seen tube tops worn in recent years in our churches. I associated violations of such rules with my eternal future. Wear white after Labor Day?...would have had to ansswer for that faux pas to St Peter at heaven's gate.

Robert Newsom said...

Your Mother was like mine, apparently. She never left her own room without make up. Not "dressing" for church was an indication of a failure to take faith and the faith community seriously.

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Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Writer, Adjunct Philosophy Professor, and Nurse. Formerly an Attorney. Political and Religious liberal (with a capital "L"). Gun lover (I AM American, after all is said and done). Dog lover.