Today the Episcopal Church honors Thomas Bray, a priest and missionary who our Anglican forebears dispatched to the Maryland colony around 1700. What caught my attention about this man was his passionate belief in the importance of learning for both clergy and laity. He founded nearly fifty lending libraries here and filled them with books on theology and critical thinking. Some consider him the father of American libraries. He wrote and preached about prison reform, enslaved Africans and Native Americans, all well before American independence.
As I learned about the Episcopal Church before joining, I admired its cornerstones, the “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition and reason. Our church is not static; we are to use informed reason to live out the Gospel mission. Indeed our Catechism states that “we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.” The God who made us with brains expects us to use them. Thomas Bray knew this
So I’m wondering how we’re doing with our learning and reasoning. I recently called a time-out in my social media presence. It feels like many are accepting that truth—even God’s truth—is about personal justification. Reasoning seems more like the Corinthian clanging gongs and clashing cymbals. The broadcast media are only slightly better. Although I love newspapers, I find decreasing enlightenment for navigating what I perceive as a moral and spiritual quagmire. And with apologies to Rev. Bray, I don’t walk up to my library. (In truth, though, I’m a voracious reader.)
So God bless St. Alban’s. We are continually urged to learn, to think again, to consider and reconsider. My office is down the hall from where the Wednesday morning Bible study meets, and I love it when I can overhear noisy discussions. Parishioners read challenging books together, and covenant groups and classes of all kinds increase knowledge and accountability. Sunday forum series contribute new insights from the “outside” world. The sermons we are blessed to hear offer us a compass for this journey, and God has fixed the points.
As the Rev. Carol Flett noted in her fine sermon a few days ago, and as Thomas Bray must have intended, this is the time when the Church must take the lead. We can model listening, questioning, respecting and learning. We can continue to grow as the Holy Spirit leads us so that reason will prevail. Jesus challenges us to be the Light of the World, and the world needs so much more light. May we continue to support St. Alban’s in equipping the saints—that’s us—so that we might be good students and teachers of God’s way.