A Life Update: Ordination in the Church of England

Southwell Minster - view from the north west

Southwell Minster – view from the north west (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Russell Mosley

 

30 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

As Lauren and I have told some of you over the last few months, we have been in the process of discerning a call to ordination in the Church of England. It all began several months ago when a friend and new colleague at the university suggested it. She seemed to think I had skills and qualities necessary and needed in the Church of England. I must admit that this sounded crazy to me, at first. However, I could never really forget what she said, it just sat in the back of my mind.

Lauren and I had already made a switch from our previous church in Beeston to St Nicholas’ Church  (an Anglican church) in the City Centre of Nottingham. Being part of this community, plus that nagging voice in the back of my head, brought up again notions of the possibility of ordination in the Church of England. Many other things began happening to seemingly confirm this calling from God. I remembered feelings I had in the past about simply being ordained, a longing I had had as a child for England (and had subsequently gave up when we moved here, thinking staying completely out of the question). So I decided to start seeking advice.

I started emailing friends to seek their advice; I had frequent conversations with Lauren about it. In the end, having spoken both with the Rector at our church and with my supervisor, who is both an ordained Anglican priest and a professor of theology, I went on a retreat to Mucknell Abbey. As I told you in my last letter about that retreat, I was there to discern the Lord’s will for us and came away feeling that we had truly been called to ordination in the Church of England. I came back, told a few friends here, and Lauren of course, and our vicar (Rector, vicar, and priest all, amongst many others, terms I have to become familiar with now).

Today, Lauren and I had a meeting with Steve, the Rector of our church. We talked about ordination and both what it means for Lauren and I separately and together. Having had this meeting, I finally felt able to be open about what we were doing. I didn’t keep this a secret out of shame and only a little out of fear. Instead, I kept it quiet because I didn’t want to say anything until we had made a decision.

What this means for us now is a whole host of new things we’ve never expected or experienced. One of the things I really like about Anglican ordination is that I do not make the final decision. Having told Steve he then refers me to the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, or person provisionally in charge of people who want to be ordained in a given area). She will meet with us and then I go to Diocesan Panel (assuming the DDO approves of me). At the Panel I’ll be asked questions about why ordination and why the C of E, etc. From there, I’ll go on to the Bishop’s Advisory Panel which, as I understand it, is a weekend away where again, I’m asked lots of questions, along with other ordinands. Should everything go well, I will then begin training at a seminary somewhere, hopefully by next September. From there, honestly, who knows.

I want to be very clear, Lauren and I are not joining the Church of England because we’re fed up with the Restoration Movement or anything like that. It is more that I see this as an extension of RM ideals, especially the unity of all believers. The C of E is well placed to dialog with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. It has that blend of liturgy, tradition, and the Scriptures that I particularly appreciate. I feel very firmly that God has called us to this, but if he hasn’t I trust he will tell us in one of the many stops along the way.

This letter is getting over long. I want you all to know how much I desire your love, support, and prayers as Lauren and I begin this journey in our life. We are very excited to see what God has in store for us. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or concerns about this decision we’ve made. In the mean time, I will keep you all updated both about how the ordination process is going and how my thesis is coming, as well as my usual posts of Faerie, books, poetry, theology, and the Church Calendar.

For now I remain,

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

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Happy Michaelmas: Celebrating the Reality of Angels

David Russell Mosley

 

Icona della Chiesa Ortodossa Russa dell' Assem...

Icona della Chiesa Ortodossa Russa dell’ Assemblea dell’Arcangelo Michele. Tempera su legno. La rappresentazione dei sette arcangeli. Michele al centro, sopra la mandorla di Cristo. Gabriele and Raffaele in piedi a fianco rispettivamente a sinistra e destra. Dietro di loro, da sinistra a destra Jehudiel, Selaphiel, Uriel, e Baraquiel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michaelmas 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today is what is often called in the Church Calendar Michaelmas or Michael and All Angels. Today we celebrate the fact that we are not alone in worshipping and serving the Lord our God. There are troops, whole companies of angels who do his will, his bidding.

Perhaps this is just my own problem, but I certainly often find myself forgetting about angels. I spend so much time, at least in my own head, combatting popular theology which says children or all people become angels when they die (because they do not), that I forget to give proper thought to real angels. The Scriptures are replete with angels and the hosts of the Lord. Last night for Vespers I read accounts of Elisha being surrounded by fiery chariots and a great host, the same it would seem he saw taking Elijah. This morning, the passages I’ve read have either centred on how the angels also worship the Lord, how they help Christians in our times of need, like Peter in Acts 12, or how they combat the devil and his demons (Revelation 7). The truth of the matter is angels are not only very much real, but the good ones are working alongside us to spread the Gospel, the story of God incarnate, of salvation, redemption, deification.

So do not, like me, forget the angels, but also do not worship them, they never allow it themselves, and they are just as created as we are. I would argue that because we are related to angels through our intellect, just as we are related to all creation through our materiality and the lower levels of our soul, and just as all that creation will be lifted up with us in the final days, so too will the angels be raised up through us, because we have a share in them. This is the idea that humanity is a microcosm, a little version of all things created, being related to all things in creation. This includes angels for angels are intellect and we have intellect (just as rocks are material and so are we; or plants seek nutrients just as we do; or animals emote and move, etc., and so do we. Because we are a microcosm and all things are related to us, as we are deified all things will be raised up with us, this must include angels who are part of Creation. Thus we should not worship them, but welcome them, sing their praise, be thankful to and for them, and allow them to lead us closer to Christ.

I leave you with the Collect for today:

12th century icon of the Archangels Michael an...

12th century icon of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel wearing the loros of the Imperial guards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministry of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

My Time with the Monks

David Russell Mosley

26 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Lauren’s parents left us bright and early this morning at 4:45 after a tearful good-bye. It’s been a good visit with lots of time to relax. This trip did, however, mean for me no time to do a proper post on how I spent my weekend before my in-laws arrived.

From the 13 to the 15 of September I stayed at Mucknell Abbey down near Worcester, Worcestershire. There I lived and prayed with the monks and nuns. Mucknell Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery with about 12 Brothers and Sisters. I went there both to refresh my soul and to discern the Lord’s will for some things coming in our future. What I got, in many ways was so much more.

One of the first things I realised when I had spent just a few hours at the Abbey is that I’ve become too dependent on technology to fill the silences in my life. I tend to describe myself as a self-abnegating  neo-Luddite. IMG_0704Well I certainly despised myself for how often I would turn to my phone (having left my computer behind) during the silences in my room at the abbey.

I had brought a few books with me, two of them unnecessary as it turns out, as well as a couple of journals to record any thoughts or ideas I had while there. Nevertheless, having no one else there with me to talk to about these experiences made it difficult for me. I am most definitely a people person, but I need to learn to better appreciate disconnected solitude. In the end, I think I would have been better off bringing my computer so I could do some writing for my thesis or for fun. Equally, an option I did not take advantage of or perhaps should have, was to do some work with the monks and nuns of the abbey. I would have loved to work in the garden, but thought I should try for almost total seclusion. In the end, this was a bad idea for me.

The morning of the second day was perhaps the worst and the best. As I said, I went to discern the Lord’s will on some choices I had before me. In the silences of the abbey, my soul was laid bare. All the fears and doubts, all my trepidations were laid out before me. I could hear the voices telling me I wasn’t good enough, I was too sinful, this was too hard. I spent much of my time wandering about the grounds of the abbey, taking in the beauty, and arguing with myself, the tempters, and God.IMG_0713

 

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In the end, the main thing that saved me were the divine hours. These monks keep seven hours, or at least seven in which I was allowed to participate: Readings at 6; Lauds at 7; Terce at 8:45; Eucharist at 12; None at 2:15; Vespers at 5:30; and Compline at 8:30. IMG_0707I only had one full day of the hours, but it was so very moving. In the divine hours time and eternity meet in Liturgy. You begin to understand what time is in the hours. You learn that time is, like you, a creature of the Creator, longing for its own transfiguration, longing to more resemble Eternity in which it participates. In the hours you learn that time was made for us, not us for time. Time is our brother, not our master nor out slave. We work together with time to proclaim the Lord’s Incarnation, the Lord’s death, the Lord’s resurrection, and the Lord’s promised return. Both before and since my time at the abbey, I have tried to keep three of the hours, for me, Mattens, Sext, and Vespers. I’m not always successful, but I will continue to work at it.

My time at the abbey was difficult. It was perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a long time, but it showed me God. God’s glory, God’s will were in those brief moments I allowed myself of silence and in the longer moments when I read were made clear to me. In the weeks to come I will be able to divulge more about why I went to the abbey, but for now all I can is highly recommend going to a monastery if you have things you need to sort out with God, and to make sure that you work as well as pray while you’re there. Below are some more pictures from my time at the abbey.

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Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

In Defence of Beer

David Russell Mosley

English: The Crown Inn Beeston Hardy Hanson pu...

English: The Crown Inn Beeston Hardy Hanson pub (now part of Greene King). The trees to the right were subsequently removed to make way for an apartment block Later became a Free House 1523868. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

18 September 2013
The Edge of Elfland
Windermere, Cumbria

Dear Friends and Family,

I’m in the Lake District on holiday with my wife and in-laws. This morning we were watching a morning news program on ITV where a brief story was given about police forces wanting to turn over dealing with drunks to private security companies. People who are drunk would be locked up in privately run cells and left there until they sober up, being charged a fee upon release. I don’t want to go into the politics behind these ideas, but I do want to write briefly about beer.

Britain is well known for its drinking problems, as is Ireland, and the USA. People are drinking large amounts of alcohol trying to get drunk, trying to get sex, trying to escape from their own problems. For whatever their reasons, people drink to excess and cause social and domestic problems. This, I want to argue, is offence to all who truly enjoy alcohol.

I love beer, especially local cask ales; I love wine, especially good dry reds; I love whisky, especially good single-malts. I love alcohol. I love pubs, proper pubs. In Beeston we have two excellent pubs, neither of them have gambling machines, nor televisions. They have musical groups in from time to time, they have darts and board games, one serves excellent food and both have excellent cask ales. They are bastions in a world of night-clubs and dive bars. They are strongholds against a world which goes to two different extremes, binge drinking and abstinence. For those of us who love the various kinds of alcohol for how they taste and the effects a temperate amount of them can have on us find solace in these places where a proper enjoyment of alcohol can be experienced.

G. K. Chesterton wrote an often forgotten novel The Flying Inn wherein a local British community has outlawed all non-government sanctioned inns, taverns, and pubs. A rogue sailor and inn keeper, join forces to combat this abstinence movement, by taking the sign of the Inn and moving from place to place, taking beer with them and exploiting an ambiguity in the law. In a sense, the point of Chesterton’s work is that abstinence from alcohol for all people is not the proper response to issues people can have with alcohol. I would argue, as Chesterton does implicitly, that alcohol, beer particularly, is a great part of Western Civilisation (though fermentation of liquids for consumption is Egyptian in origin). It therefore must, like all things in life, be enjoyed virtuously. Temperance, true temperance, is a middle road, between the extremes.

If you love alcohol as I do, stand with me against the drunks and the militant teetotallers. If others wish to abstain, bully for them, for don’t put that on the rest of us. For those who wish to abuse, well, they need to be taught how to properly consume alcohol and the purposes it serves. It is a social lubricant, it is a delicacy to be enjoyed for its subtleties. It is not for drowning our sorrows, or forgetting our problems, or releasing all our inhibitions. Let us also stand against cheap booze which is created purely for the purpose of allowing people to get smashed on the cheap. We must stand firm for alcohol and against the abuses. Let us stand with Chesterton and others who remind us of all the good uses to which alcohol can be put and against the abusers of this wonderful product of our civilisation. Remember, Christ himself turned water to wine and was called a wine-bibber because of the company he kept and the drinks he drank.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

What’s in a Name? Or, Why I Changed the Name of My Blog

David Russell Mosley

 

10 September 2013
The Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

For a long time now, I have contemplated changing the name of this blog. If I could change the web address as well without loosing comments or stats (and if I can and you know how, please tell me), I would. The reason I have wanted to change the name has only recently dawned on me: It is unlikely I will spend the rest of my life in Nottingham. Being an American citizen aside, even were I to find work here, it is unlikely that work would forever keep me in Nottingham. Nevertheless, I see a future for this blog. It has served me well in discussions adjacent to the academia, fully in the Church, and often from my own life.

The reason I’ve changed the name to Letters from the Edge of Elfland, perhaps requires a bit more explanation. Or perhaps not since my last few posts have centred around Faerie and theology. Nevertheless, allow me to give a brief explanation. In some of my favourite stories the main characters always seem to live right on the edge of Faerie, or Elfland (the terms being interchangeable). Anodos in MacDonald’s Phantastes not only has his bedroom turn into a forest, but it is a forest on the edge of Faerie; The Pevensies move into a house with a Wardrobe that leads to Faerie; even Frodo and Sam  and Merry and Pippin live near the Grey Havens from where the Elves sail to Valinor. The idea is that we are always living right on the edge, the balance between the natural and the supernatural (or in the case of Faerie the natural and the extra-natural). So wherever I am, it will be true to say that I am on the edge of Elfland, for I will always be at the intersection of Heaven and Earth, Faith and Reason, Super-nature and Nature, Elfland and the World.

This does not mean I’m only going to write about fantasy literature from now on, or poetry, though I will continue to write about those things. My posts will continue to be a mix of theological reflection, extracts from my scholarly work, reflections on the Church and the Christian Life, reflections on my own life as a Christian, husband, theologian, PhD Student, and someday soon (I pray) PhD graduate. Nevertheless, as my time here in Nottingham winds down, I thought a change here at the blog was in order. This way, no matter where I am, my letters to you will always be coming from the edge of Elfland.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Faeriean Metaphysics: A Diet of Poetry

David Russell Mosley

6 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday I wrote to you about the importance of being poets and theologians. In order to be excellent poets and theologians, however, we need a steady diet of poetry ourselves. With that in mind, I submit to you some excellent poets, poems, or books of poetry for your consumption. Read and be transformed.

This post will focus primarily on Western poetry since that is the poetry I know best. This isn’t to say Western poetry is the only good poetry, the only theological poetry, or the only poetry concerning Faerie. It is simply what I know and love personally.

The Psalms

1631 Book of Psalms

1631 Book of Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first poetry with which all theologians need to familiarise themselves is the poetry of our Hebrew ancestors. The Psalms teach us the importance of confessing our faith, our pains, our confusion, our rejoicing, our worship, in song and verse. The Psalms have been a traditional part of the Church’s worship since the Church’s inception. We must remember that the Psalms are poetry and read them as such.

The Iliad and The Odyssey

Homer was also called Melesigenes (son of Mele...

Homer was also called Melesigenes (son of Meles) by the name of the brook which flowed by Smyrna, and today, through İzmir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the first epic poems, I highly recommend these two works by Home (probably) as some of the earliest evidence that poetry tells stories as well as describes Nature. Homer teaches us that poetry can truly be epic.

The Aeneid

The great Latin poet, Virgil, holding a volume...

The great Latin poet, Virgil, holding a volume on which is written the Aenid. On either side stand the two muses: “Clio” (history) and “Melpomene” (tragedy). The mosaic, which dates from the 3rd Century A.D., was discovered in the Hadrumetum in Sousse, Tunisia and is now on display in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Along with Homer, Virgil must also be read. Perhaps lesser in talent, Virgil’s work was part of the common fare of the Latin Church. His images and words, his story of the founding of Rome became part of the common imagination.

Gregory the Theologian

Andrei Rublev, Gregory the Theologian (1408), ...

Andrei Rublev, Gregory the Theologian (1408), Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gregory as I noted in the previous post, was a poet. We need to be reading his poetry to see what one of our best theologians put into verse to help give us ideas and concepts for our own. You can find a copy of these in translation here.

The Divine Comedy

Profile of Dante Alighieri, one of the most re...

Profile of Dante Alighieri, one of the most renowned Italian poets, painted by his contemporary Giotto di Bondone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dante is perhaps one of the most well known Christian poets, along with John Milton and John Donne. Dante’s Inferno has received various, and primarily awful, treatment in the past. You must read the whole comedia to truly see the brilliance of Dante both as a poet and a theologian.

Beowulf

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written i...

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written in alliterative verse and paragraphs, not in lines or stanzas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the earliest poems written in a language we can technically call English, Beowulf is a shorter epic poem about the triumph of good over evil. Beowulf teaches us about the power of goodness against the evils of Satan.

The Pearl Poet

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The anonymous poet who, more than likely, penned the three works Sir Orfeo, Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an excellent introduction into the Medieval Faerie tradition. His or her poems are wonderfully written and tell us stories of Faerie. These are necessary for anyone who is interested in the development of our understanding of Faerie.

George Herbert

Portrait of George Herbert (poet) by Robert Wh...

Portrait of George Herbert (poet) by Robert White in 1674. From National Portrait Gallery (UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Herbert is relatively new poet to me. An Anglican Priest, Herbert’s impact on Anglicanism cannot be undervalued as some of his own poems have made their way into the Common Worship.

John Milton

English: Portrait of John Milton in National P...

English: Portrait of John Milton in National Portrait Gallery, London (detail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milton’s Paradise Lost reminds us that even the brightest star can fall dim. We learn from Milton that Satan is wrong. It is much better to serve in Heaven than to reign in Hell.

George MacDonald

English: photograph of george macdonald, taken...

English: photograph of george macdonald, taken in the 1800’s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MacDonald is perhaps one of my absolute favourite authors in general. He truly teaches the importance of Faerie. His poetry is often undervalued, but it is nevertheless worth reading.

The Romantic Poets

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Despite often sliding into paganism, pantheism, deism, and other issues, the Romantics are excellent examples of both style and content. After the Enlightenment, they began the project of seeing nature as more than a passive object.

Chesterton, Tolkien, and Lewis

Writer

Tolkien

Tolkien (Photo credit: proyectolkien)

C. S. Lewis

Tolkien and Lewis are most well-known for their prose, but both authors were, at heart, poets. An education in poetry and faerie would be incomplete without them. Chesterton is perhaps more well-known for his non-fiction and essays (as well as for Father Brown) than for his poetry, but Chesterton too was a poet before all else.

There are perhaps many more poets who could be named, Seamus Heaney, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, John Donne, etc. This list is woefully incomplete, and as I said at the start, focuses almost entirely on the Western Poetic Tradition. Nevertheless, these poets/poems are some great places to begin. Reading these poets will teach us to see the world differently, will teach us to see Faerie, and will help us to do better theology, theology that is beautiful.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Faeriean Metaphysics: The Necessity of Poetry, Fantasy, and Faerie in Theology

David Russell Mosley

 

 

 

5 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

 

Gregory the Theologian (Fresco from Kariye Cam...

Gregory the Theologian (Fresco from Kariye Camii, Istanbul). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Dear Friends and Family,

 

Today I’m sitting outside, smoking my pipe, enjoying the wind on my face and my thoughts turned to my last post on the importance Faerie and Fantasy in the Christian Theology. I didn’t come to the importance of fantasy literature and today I’ll only touch on it lightly. What is more on my mind is the importance of poetry.

 

Writer

Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I think I’ve always associated poetry with faerie in my own mind, good poetry anyway. Poetry describes the world, ourselves, love, loss, pain, suffering, mystery, the supernatural, the philosophical, it, like Faerie, encompasses the whole world. Chesterton once wrote that while the Romantic poets wrote about Nature, describing their interactions with her, describing their impressions of trees, mountains, lakes, flowers, people it was the ancients and Medievals who truly understood nature. They peopled it with naiads and dryads, elves, fairies, giants, trolls, they saw that Nature, the sister she is to us, has a soul. They may have gotten it wrong from time to time, making it too much like us, fallen and broken in the same ways, but they understood that Nature is a creature just like us. Chesterton didn’t eschew the works of the Romantics, he merely pointed out that the Medievals and ancients also knew Nature even if they didn’t spend as much time describing their impressions of her.

 

In theology we need a return to poetry. Poetry as a word has its roots in a Greek verb, poieeo. It means to create. This is the kind of creation God does in creating our world. It is not inappropriate then, though perhaps anachronistic, to refer to God not only as Creator, but as Poet, the Poet and all our poets and poetry exist only insofar as they participate in the Poet and his acts of poetising, that is creating. Not only this, but God is also the Theo-poet, he is the god-creator, the deifier. He created this great Poem, Creation, in order to turn it into a Theo-poem, a created god. He does this through his coming into the Poem in the Incarnation and his Indwelling the Poem through the Holy Spirit in us in a special way and the rest of Creation in another. If all this is true we must have a return to poetry in theology.

 

Tolkien

Tolkien (Photo credit: proyectolkien)

 

The greatest theologian, or at least the only one outside of St John, who is called the Theologian in both East and West is Gregory of Nazianzus, or Gregory the Theologian. But Gregory the Theologian was also Gregory the Poet. Gregory understood the need for humans, theo-poems in the making, to create, to poetise. J. R. R. Tolkien also understood this when called humans sub-creators, and the writing of fantasy, which is the creation of little worlds of our own, sub-creations. This is an inherent part of our Tradition. We ignore it to our detriment.

 

We must return to Elfland, we must write poetry, we must create worlds because in doing so we participate in the Poet, we add to the Poem in a way that only we, human beings, theo-poems, can. It is through us that all Creation will be reunited to God. And while we cannot accomplish this task fully ourselves, while only Christ, who is both Poet and the first-fruits of the Theo-poem, can bring this about, we have our parts to play as well. Let us not neglect them. Let us write poetry once again.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley