Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Fr. Andrew Amendment

When I was in college, the priest at Prophet Elias was Fr. Andrew Mahalares. He was a pretty nice guy but, well, maybe a bit too pragmatic in his approach to a 2,000-year old religion.

One Spring day in 1985, my parents, sister and I were getting ready to head to church when the phone rang and my parents' best friends suggested they go golfing. In a New York minute, they were into their golf attire and out the door - leaving Sandy and me to head to church alone.

Apparently, similar calls went out to a lot of other folks that morning because there weren't a whole lot of people in church that day.

Of course Fr. Andrew noticed his diminished congregation, and he addressed the situation in his homily. He acknowledged that after a long, cold Utah winter during these first warm days of Spring it was tempting to skip church. He opined if a person says he or she is going to be with God on Sunday but goes, say, golfing instead that is a sin. (Sandy discretely elbowed me upon hearing that!) But, he continued, if you say you're going to be with God and go golfing AND thank God for the warm weather, rejoice in the fellowship of your friends and are grateful for the beauty of nature then you didn't need to be in church that day!

A lot of our fellow parishioners missed Father's point. It may have been just too pragmatic for them. Indeed it wasn't too much longer after that day that he was transferred to another parish.

But Sandy and I understood what he meant. If God is everywhere then He can be worshipped anywhere - not just at a church.
Over the past quarter of a century, I've recalled that homily several times, invoked the Fr. Andrew Amendment and skipped church to go to a ball game, hiking, or even to watch football on TV.

And I did so again yesterday. Rather than worship at Prophet Elias, our family worshipped at Lindsey Gardens Park - half a block from our house. And we were thankful for the snow, we rejoiced in the fellowship of our family, and we were grateful for the sound of children's laughter as we sled down the hillsides.

Don't get me wrong: The Fr. Andrew Amendment must be used judiciously and infrequently. Next Sunday we'll be back in our pew again.

I think when the boys grow up, they'll remember their years at Prophet Elias fondly. I hope the priests, Sunday School teachers and their dad can instill in them the deep faith we all share. I hope they look at their Orthodox Christianity as a blessing. But I also hope they remember that now and then we worshipped God by sledding down a snow-covered hillside!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm Sort of Mormon

I like to joke with my LDS friends that I'd make a pretty darn good Mormon. I'm pro-family. I go to church every Sunday. I don't drink coffee. They like to respond that I drink like a fish and can swear like a sailor. Oh, and then there's the whole gay thing...

One cannot escape the influence of the LDS church when living in Utah. Sometimes that does drive me nuts. Like their annual private breakfasts with the Legislative leadership. Then there are times I'm grateful for their pull. Notwithstanding the amazing efforts of my friend, the late state Senator Frances Farley, if the LDS Church leadership hadn't come out against the MX missile plan in the early 1980s, I'm sure those rockets would be in the Utah and Nevada desert today. And I can't deny that their support of Salt Lake City's anti-bias ordinance helped pave the way for a similar ordinance being adopted in Salt Lake County.

What I've learned is that in nearly every belief system good ideas abound. And long ago I discovered that some times all it takes to adopt those good ideas is to tailor them to fit you.

For example, in Utah you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a car sporting stick-figure decals telling fellow drivers just who comprises your family. Well, we are as proud of our family as anybody on the I-15. So our car rear window is home to a decal family too. Only, well, ours reflects our family.

It's funny. Cars will race up to catch us and look over. Often the faces we see in the other car are confused - you can almost see them doing the math in their heads...two dad figures, two men in the front seat... Other times we see smiling, laughing faces and people giving us a thumbs up.

The decals seem to be a never ending source of confusion. One of my uncle's friends saw our car parked in my parents' driveway, noticed the decals and called my uncle to ask if I had become LDS!
I hope he never finds out that once a week we have Family Home Evening, only ours usually includes Dad having a beer!

Like I said, the LDS faith has a lot of good ideas: once I've tailored them to fit me.