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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We made the Front Page!

Check it out! (for a day or so I'd guess)

Direct link to article HERE.

Video

Pics


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:05 PM [+]
+++
24 comments


24 Comments:

I liked the video content - much better to hear your priest's direct comments about Theophany than to read the journalist's summary of what it means and why people come to Orthodoxy.

-Eric John

By Blogger Hilarius, at 10:12 AM  

________________________________________________________________

Shall we crank up the same debate as last year on the subject??

You out there Patrick? :o)

Are our churches brimming over with fresh faces from the publicity? Our parish got the same article last year, but I haven't noticed anyone who came to church because of it.

We didn't get the cool modern photo of the priest flying in the wind, though. Maybe that will impress the Evangelicals.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

________________________________________________________________

I was hoping to hear from you :)

We'll see.

I'm still of the opinion that it will not hurt to get some free publicity.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:04 PM  

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Steve,

I am personally never interested in "advertising." We run no newspaper ads. I am interested in our church being a visible and active part of the Poulsbo/Kitsap community. There's a difference. I'm not trying to hook anyone. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm the laziest "evangelist" there is. Furthermore, I haven't the slightest interest in impressing anyone. I've never been a Protestant, let alone an Evangelical, and have none of that baggage.

Furthermore, I have no illusions about converting anyone, ever.

We've been doing that outdoor blessing since the mission was started, as is called for. This is the first year we ever had press coverage. Still, we were there to bless the water, not promote Orthodoxy.

But, because the press was there, through that article some people will get to know that we're here. People bump into us in all sorts of ways. Some are hungry for what we are and stay. Others aren't and don't. In order for that to happen, people need to know we exist. Should our parishes have unlisted phone numbers and no websites as well? Should I never wear a cassock in public? Should we not have an information booth at local festivals? These are all ways people have come to learn about St. Elizabeth's and Orthodoxy and have become Orthodox.

I have no illusions about this guaranteeing that even one new person will come to St. Elizabeth's. I strongly feel, and I preach this all the time, that our job as Orthodox Christians is to continually struggle to be icons of Christ. If we do that, everything else will happen according to God's will.

The annual Theophany article is just another way for people to know we're here...and a chance to be in some cool photos!

Steve, let me know if you'd like an autographed poster of me. I'm only having a limited quantity made. :-)

FrC

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:01 AM  

________________________________________________________________

Here we go again James!

You are completely 100% wrong to equate the public display of the Church's rites with something like modest clerical atire or a contact on the website. The equation of those two things is ridiculous. Honestly, what would the ancient church say? They had no qualms about witnessing or making their presence and their convictions known. But the rites were extremely private. Even the doctrine or talk *about* the rites was private. I'm not advocating a return to that, but to march through town and invite media coverage for a sacred event in a society that has no experience of this... It is NOT "what is called for", as you know, the service books often assume, even in thoroughly Orthodox countries, that the priest will NOT be observing an outdoor blessing.

You could respond by saying that in Russia or Greece, the rites are very public and it's not a problem. But that begs the deeper question: are our historical circumstances more like early Rome, or more like 12th century Byzantium? It boils down to Fr. Alexander Schmemann's question: are we going to honestly deal with the world around us, or are we going to pretend that nothing since 1453 has happened, and continue adverising our ancient and colorful rites as if the context doesn't matter??? As if people don't see in our rites the very opposite of what we see?

To say that I don't want the sacraments being splayed about in the newspapers is not at all to say that I'm ashamed of Orthodoxy or of our Lord. I'll trust you to not take the argument in that direction.

To say that you're not interested in advertising but that you need to do things publicly or else no one will know you're there... it's just double talk. The whole thing is just a very secular, unprecedented and gaudy display, the kind of things the media loves. All it accomplishes is allows the World to put the church in exactly the box it wants us in.

The whole lynchpin of your arguement is "it's what is called for." Take this away, and all the rest is dross. It's really very similar to people who build a church in a residential neighborhood and then put in a huge set of bells and ring them at the services, because "it is appointed", as though the public ringing of bells isn't *intended to be heard.* But to the people who live nearby, it's just noise, often not desired.

Sorry to be blunt, but I figure a famous man, a person who appears in the papers, can take it!! :o)

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 PM  

________________________________________________________________

Fr. C,

Another challenge: who ever said that the "church in a community" equals "the parish"???

It's a huge assumption.

I don't know if you've noticed, but your parishioners are mingling in the community all the time. They don't cease to become ORthodox at Monday morning at 6AM. They're sufficiently visible to the only One whose Judgment matters. Their integrity and love for their neighbors is no less Orthodox if it's "secret."

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 PM  

________________________________________________________________

You can trust that I won't be taking this argument anywhere. I definitely disagree with a number of points you've made, but I have no desire to argue about this as I can see nothing productive coming out of this.

I'll make sure you don't get the embossed invitation to the celebrity blessing of the waters in Poulsbo planned for 2010.

FrC+

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:06 PM  

________________________________________________________________

Steve I've spent the better part of three days now answering questions about Orthodoxy and the Church from people who to varying degrees knew or did not know of our existence. I personally found the conversations to be wonderful and thoughtful. I've many of these conversations before and they ARE of the sort that leave people thinking. I've no doubt numerous other parishioners will have similar experiences to share Sunday. And they would not have happened without the news coverage. God can use it, no?

God will judge motives (everyone's - even mine) and the Holy Spirit will ripen whatever fruit there may be to bear.

Come the end of January the WORLD (Orthodox or not) press will be FLOODED with media images of these very services taking place in Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Middle East etc etc...the various news agencies (even here in America) will pick them up and run with them. Why not also let those around the area here see that this does not only take place in such "foreign" places?

People are always...ALWAYS going to fit us into their boxes - unless we avoid all contact with them. Even as private Orthodox individuals we will be put into their boxes to whatever degree we don't live the way they live and they notice it. And, I assume we all agree they ought to notice something different about us - and surely not simply that we play with water every January 6th.

Many a newcomer to our services arrive with NO intention of converting. They may even hold what we do with complete contempt, and yet we do not toss them out when we ask that only the faithful remain. Perhaps we should?

We bless the waters. We do so in public. People watch. The local media finds out (by anonymous tip of sorts [grin]) that we do this and decide to let folks know why we are there. It's their call to report it...we did not pay for it...we did not lobby for it. We would have been there regardless of the media's presence. We didn't even lobby for a bigger turn out because of it...we simply did what we do.

As Fr. C noted our simple presence at Viking Fest a couple years ago led to a couple coming into the fullness of the faith. I suppose we could be critical about that, but if so you are a braver man than me.

Fr. C may be the "laziest" evangelist [:)], but I'm not. I will go on publicizing the existence of our wonderful community in pretty much ANY way I can. UNASHAMEDLY. I believe that once people come to know of us and then come to meet us, they are well on their way to fully experiencing the love we have in Christ and THAT'S when evangelism really begins. It absolutely also happens in our everyday lives too...I just don't see it as an either/or.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:32 PM  

________________________________________________________________

So it *is* about the publicity? You're using the Great Blessing of Waters as an Evangelism opportunity. Perhaps you're saying the publicity is a incidental opportunity of something that must be done in any event.

Question: given the weight you're putting on the opportunity this presents, I assume you'd be OK with some parish doing it just for the publicity.

Look, gentlemen. This is a liturgical rite. There are other processions. The church books call for "Krestnyi Khod" pretty much whenever you want. Whatever circumstances you would use to decide that a Krestnyi Khod is called for, would, it seems to me, come into play in adding the same krestnyi khod, or Khod na Iordany (Procession to the Jordan), to the blessing of Waters.

What are those circumstances? The presence of a large body of believers who couldn't attend church, or couldn't fit inside the temple. The presence of a surrounding community that would regard the Khod as something joyful or in some sense welcome. Nice weather. To just confront people with a demonstration in which they don't even know what religion you're representing, seems pretty "out there."

But these things aren't written in the liturgical books, because we need to use our judgment in deciding when and how to apply them.

Many things in the worship tradition are not "optional." A parish must bless water on Theophany. It is part of the expression of that feast to be sure. But it is not at all dictated in the service books that the procession is an essential element of this.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 AM  

________________________________________________________________

So it *is* about the publicity?

What do you mean "it"? The fact that I called the Kitsap Sun and invited them to offer an explanation to the people of North Kitsap as to why we were there? Yes, THAT act of MINE was about publicity - at least in large part. However, whether or not the editors of the Sun opted to do the story would have had no bearing on whether we blessed the waters or not.

You're using the Great Blessing of Waters as an Evangelism opportunity.

No more than I "use" the Divine Liturgy when I invite someone who is not Orthodox to attend.

I assume you'd be OK with some parish doing it just for the publicity.

That's a HUGE assumption. in the same spirit, I might as well suggest you are ashamed of Orthodoxy for all you have suggested - had you not asked that I don't. As a side, I'm quite certain I've done things in Church for all the wrong reasons personally...so I would not judge the motives of an entire parish unless they blatantly tell me as much.

But it is not at all dictated in the service books that the procession is an essential element of this.

So perhaps you can be specific for me: I thought you are advocating that we should NOT go out and do the lesser blessing of waters outside. Or is it the actual procession to get there alone that you object to...I'm not clear there.

If you are suggesting we should abandon blessing outdoors, why exactly? Because we don't live in an Orthodox country? Doesn't the blessing of those waters hold some richer sacramental meaning to us regardless of what any given onlooker may see or believe?

Personally I find it a beautiful thing to go out and ask God's blessing upon those rivers, lakes, or seas the surround us and provide for us. It is rich with meaning and I would miss it terribly. Additionally, I've no qualms in explaining to people who know nothing about it why we do it. And in doing so that gears fruit - well then Glory to God.

People who will look ill upon the whole affair would no doubt do so without any help from me or the Church, but I know for a fact that there are many MORE people who might stand to benefit from knowing of us.

I've met more than one newcomer who showed up on a Sunday and said: "Wow...I had no idea you guys were here" after hearing how long we've been in the area. I don't think that should be the case at all.

It's really that simple in my simple mind. What we do is beautiful and I don't mind sharing it. I personally draw the line (in terms of evangelism) at being "in your face" and tossing tracts out and such. A simple "human interest" news article is PERFECT in many ways.

As the story goes (and you it know it as well as I do) one could argue that Constantinople was "using" the Divine Liturgy as an evangelism opportunity by inviting the representatives of Vladimir to their services. Do we know if they had to leave at the dismissal of catechumens?

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:29 AM  

________________________________________________________________

Steve, let me know if you'd like an autographed poster of me. I'm only having a limited quantity made. :-)



Father, bless,

I want one. Grin! It was a fantastic article and a fantastic photo.

By Blogger Mimi, at 1:09 PM  

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Our liturgical tradition has a lot of beautiful things in it. It's a matter of local judgment whether it's appropriate to do all of them.

A church with enough resources can have two choirs. Three choirs. Most don't. Having been in a full vigil with three choirs, i can tell you it is most beautiful. For a number of reasons, most churches don't do that. So to say that something is beautiful, doesn't mean that you must do it, or that it's even wise to do it.

A church might want to swing the lamps like they do in the monastery, or sing antiphonal psalms, or have services in a side chapel, etc. Most do not.

A church might decide to invest in a bell-ringing. Most do not. For a number of reasons.

A church might decide on a fuller liturgical schedule. How full is a matter of considerable judgment, as the local parishes clearly show.

You have evidently decided that the full outdoor procession at the Great Blessing of Waters is something "that we do." You keep assuming that it's obviously mandated. But it's not. To not do it is assumed in many liturgical books. (Or are you saying that the received practice needs some *renewal??*) The burden of proof is on you: how did you decide to do it? Once you've decided to do it, it's a whole 'nuther discussion about whether to call the in the media.

I'm not *against* outdoor blessings of water at all. They're part of the tradition, as are many other processions. Whether to draw from the tradition in that particular way should be made independently of opportunities for evangelism, which by the way you're greatly over-rating. You've decided to take a rite that is frankly pretty sublime and are exposing it to a public that sees religion in a certain way. For every person that is curious, how many others form a more negative impression? And how many of your parishioners don't show up because they don't want to worship on camera?

Bottom line: Processions are **meant to be seen**. That's why we dress up and carry banners. They're an Orthodox Parade. If no one watching you has any concept of what you're doing, then it's no longer a Parade, but a Demonstration. Big difference. To call this *evangelism* is so impoverished, so far fallen from the Apostle's call for us to be all things to all men, to engage people where they're at, it's no wonder that most (90%!) of the children leave, and no one even knows we're here.

And can you not see the difference between what you're doing and Constantinople? On the one hand, you have emissaries who were told to visit the greatest cathedral in Christendom in an age when everyone believed in ceremony and report back, and on the other we have a very small and frankly humble mission displaying a ceremony in a country that is allergic to religious ceremony, a ceremony that no one asked to see or even understands. And by the way, that's just a legend; Russia was not missionized as a result of this.

You're using many of the same arguments that people use for having ethnic festivals/ fundraisers. People say they raise funds, bring publicity, and expose people to the faith. Who would be so bold as to oppose that? In reality, over time, they do none of the above, but you'll never convince the promoters. This feels like the same argument to me.

It's oddly similar, too, to the promoters of vesperal divine liturgies. The thought is that more people can come in the evening, and who would oppose that?? The reality is a deeper damage is done, hard to explain to the enthusiasts.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 PM  

________________________________________________________________

It's not the same since they left the Suquamish church and used to bless Puget Sound at the ruins of the old ferry landing. It used to attract tens of thousands of curious onlookers.

Somewhere on the internet I think there's a video of Fr. Alexander Schmemann doing the blessing of water outside. I guess it's just what they did in that part of New York.

By Blogger bob, at 9:21 PM  

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If you really wanted a beautiful practice that is much more authentic, and wanted to attract some publicity, you'd go back to baptizing people in the buff.

- Pope Honorius

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

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Anonymous poetry...nice touch, real classy - point clearly made. Why does the internet always seem to bring out people's inner need to be snide, cheeky, and rude?

My guess is the anonymity grants one the internal permission to just go ahead and be a jerk and then dash along the keyboard to spout more nonsense somewhere else without having to deal with the consequences of one's rude behavior.

I'm weary of it. Commenting moderation is now turned on...expect that your comment will not show if you are clearly just taking shots across the bow with no real intention of engaging.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:35 AM  

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You keep assuming that it's obviously mandated. But it's not. To not do it is assumed in many liturgical books. (Or are you saying that the received practice needs some *renewal??*)

I don't think I'd be presumptuous enough to assume anything of this sort without a large willingness to be corrected...again and again and again. I remember going to St. Paul before we blessed the waters of the creek down the road - but my assumption was always that it was simply too inconvenient for them to find a good spot close enough to do such a thing.

The burden of proof is on you: how did you decide to do it?

Burden of proof? Prove what? Orthodox Churches all over the world do this - a vast majority perhaps - why not us? Heck even amongst the Muslims in the Middle East they do this...I saw pictures of the waters being blessed in Baghdad...can one imagine a MORE hostile environment??? I don't see anything to prove here.

For every person that is curious, how many others form a more negative impression?

I'd guess the same percentages are present amongst those who witness my life as an Orthodox Christian. I cannot help the way people interpret what I do, but I'm always willing to explain to any who may wish to listen. That's really all the article was about.

To call this *evangelism* is so impoverished

I believe I see your point Steve, but I think you are applying an extreme to my position out of your own context. The rite itself is NOT done for the sake of evangelism. Please read that sentence again. We agree. But, if I take your points to their logical conclusion I would never again invite a friend to attend a liturgy.

Taken to its logical conclusion Steve, your position seems to say that pretty much anything the Church has traditionally done in public should not be done here since we are such a pluralistic society now. Thus a procession (even around our own Church? Which is itself a public witness to our presence...why not just meet in homes?) is now rendered meaningless. As I see it, it is precisely because we are a diverse culture that a fair number of people are pretty open to seeing these sorts of things. I don't think the KS would have run this at all - let alone on the front page - if they did not think people would be interested in it.

In any event...Fret not, brother, Orthodoxy will endure both my shameless and indiscreet promotion and your staying home and complaining about it.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:56 AM  

________________________________________________________________

I had one last thought...that may perhaps lead to more discussion than an argument per se - if for no other reason than I am more thinking out loud than defending my actions.

Much of our liturgics (and prayers etc) find themselves now in a radically different context than when they were written...and as such do they not undergo a reinterpretation, if not change altogether? A small example might be "Royal Hours"...sure we still have them and have them by that name, but no royalty attend them...at least not usually. I'm sure there are many other examples as well....

...the point being...with regard to public processions I think we can agree that they do have a much different context now than then or "over there." So I guess then the issue becomes reasoning for either abandoning them or seeing them in a new context. I'd suggest the latter and that further their richness is not entirely lost simply because they are not done in an "Orthodox" social context.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:08 AM  

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Taken to its logical conclusion, many churches here in the US just pretend they're in Baghdad or Old Russia, or in Old Byzantium. This "let us pretend" approach is the overriding mindset that we need to overcome, a kind of idolatry. It explains our ethnicism, our seeming inability to be noticed, and a host of liturgical distortions.

As Fr. Alexander once pointed out, our worship life is intended to make the Kingdom of Heaven present, not Old Moscow.

To the degree you're doing the former, great. But your appeals to the Old World locations are suspect.

And to reflect on your very last post, which comes very close to what I'm saying, the changing context can actually change the internal meaning, if one is not careful. And the lack of care here is that a new evangelical dimension is being added. It's the sure sign of "contextual drift" in the meaning of this ceremony, which must, like the laws of physics, change the meaning of the ceremony.

You may say that the publicity is incidental. You'd do it with or without the media. And I believe you. But assuming the media did cover the event consistently, taken to a logical conclusion, your typical worshiper, particularly our children, will, over a generation of media events, simply assume that Theophany and TV cameras are associated. Much like Christmas and gift-giving. In places like the Middle East, that's what it's already become. It's just an ethnic/cultural thing.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:25 AM  

________________________________________________________________

By the way, by Burden of Proof, I'm asking you to defend your phrase, "This is what WE do." I thought you were saying that your practice is the Norm. It's a strong claim, but there's little evidence. It's like the people who say that the Kiss of Peace is normal in XYZ place, or in the XYZ Century. Great. But done today, it has other contextual associations that annoy people. So we don't do it anymore.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:28 AM  

________________________________________________________________

As long as we're bringing up old practices that mean very, very little, the topic of bishops and their work clothes is an obvious one. What ever the bad reasons were for them adopting the garb of the emperor, they are long gone. Looking into dressing them *down* to mere episcopacy would make them get taken a lot more seriously. They look like a one man plywood smuggling ring. The bishops are overseers of tragically small groups, incessantly "needing" more and more uniforms to overdress in.

How does it relate to Theophany? One more strange eastern custom, along with "Royal" hours, that can be healthfully lost any time now. While we're at it, we seem to have an earthquake in Constantinople (??!!) commemorated on our liturgical calendar.
I don't think we need worry too much about what those outside the Church think about our unusual liturgical things. I worry a good deal more about what those IN it think. And how little thinking gets done by the hierarchy about the laity. The bishops have a virtual world to maintain, and leave a lot of reality out of it. See the last 30 years of the OCA.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:37 PM  

________________________________________________________________

As Fr. Alexander once pointed out, our worship life is intended to make the Kingdom of Heaven present, not Old Moscow.

To the degree you're doing the former, great. But your appeals to the Old World locations are suspect.


My appeal to the Old World was simply in answer to the question of whether it's "what we do." I note it only as a means of demonstrating that what we are doing is not something really out of the Orthodoxy ordinary. You would have to sit in judgment to suggest that idolatry is the root here. So, to be clear I would NOT say that every Parish OUGHT to be doing this...I only note that it CAN be done, it is often done, and it certainly NOT an innovation or oddity.

I mean, at some level, if questioned about any practice we would appeal to some sort of precedent of it traditionally being done elsewhere - or even in many places, no?

So suffice to say, I suppose if a Parish community finds the outdoor blessing of waters to be annoying then they can certainly exclude it - like the kiss of peace. But, if a community (like St. Paul's) retains it...well, then, "that's what THEY do." I reckon (without qualm) that the gentlemen in mitres can fret over it if they must, but I haven't the time, energy, or desire to do so to any large degree - except perhaps over a scotch at a LOG meeting with about as much certitude and authority as may be found in my ability to solve the Israeli-Arab dispute.

You may say that the publicity is incidental. You'd do it with or without the media. And I believe you. But assuming the media did cover the event consistently, taken to a logical conclusion, your typical worshiper, particularly our children, will, over a generation of media events, simply assume that Theophany and TV cameras are associated. Much like Christmas and gift-giving. In places like the Middle East, that's what it's already become. It's just an ethnic/cultural thing.

Well I wholly agree that this is something we must guard against...but I think we will have to do this regardless of whether or not the media shows up. Our kids are going to grow up in whatever religious context we raise them and they will be tempted to see it as "just what we do in our family." I believe our task as parents is to worry LESS about liturgical issues affecting our children and MORE about the extent to which we mirror Christ to them and the extent to which our love for them and Christ spills over and mingle with our love for whatever religious context we find ourselves in. Not sure if that makes sense...but there it is.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:54 AM  

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Anon...

as to the attire of our Bishops, I really MUST protest. Would you have them in a business suit?! My goodness man, as a subdeacon, I deplore your comment - your talking about MY JOB here! I'll not have MY JOB outsourced to the "Men's Warehouse."

Besides, let's admit it: those vestments are cool.

Bigger fish to fry, brother, whoever you are.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:59 AM  

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The bishop's clothing is vaguely related, in this sense. I find it concerning that many Orthodox find the most obscure things the "coolest." Monk hats, mitres, anticipation. This argument clearly points to two vastly differently underlying understandings of what we're about.

This statement:

"I believe our task as parents is to worry LESS about liturgical issues affecting our children and MORE about the extent to which we mirror Christ to them and the extent to which our love for them and Christ spills over ..."

You essentially admit the disconnect and say it doesn't matter, or say it will be present in any event.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM  

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"I believe our task as parents is to worry LESS about liturgical issues affecting our children and MORE about the extent to which we mirror Christ to them and the extent to which our love for them and Christ spills over ..."

You essentially admit the disconnect and say it doesn't matter, or say it will be present in any event.


Hmmm...well I certainly don't THINK I said it doesn't matter...but rather that the Liturgics (i.e. whether to process to water bodies or not) reasonably take a second seat to love. You know, that bit about "without love I am but a clanging gong." My point being to address your specific concern: our kids won't be ruined by saying morning prayers at night, for example.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 3:42 PM  

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