Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Episcopalianism and A Sense of Style

This is following up on multiple conversations on the front of the Episcopal church, beauty, art and style with Jackie and Gale. Jackie would love to have hipsters at her church; Gale teaches her students (sometimes in vain) that a sense of style is important in the White House and the American identity. These are fruit for thoughts. Lots of blue-blooded Episcopalians have a profound sense of beauty and culture - though, curiously, this is not the same as being hip. Are English hymnals and William Morris hip? Probably not - it's probably considered old-fashioned. After all, IKEA made this rather vicious campaign against English "chintz," urging the English to throw out their Victorian furniture in return for Billy bookcases and Paong chairs. But what English hymnals and William Morris have is a sense of coherence: they are linked by tradition and a set of values.

Jeremy and Gale came to the conclusion long ago that one of things that make us and our group of friends not so "bobo" is that we went to church. Most church people are not exactly hip. (And what is the sociological makeup of hipsters anyway? Gale, any thoughts? Do they not come from Episcopalian families?) Being cultivated is not the same as looking glamorous - there aren't many dandys around in this country. But the value of hipsters is perhaps their youth and their glam. If everyone thought that it was so "cool" to help out at St. Paul's soup kitchen, then social justice might be advanced. So how do we make social justice hip? (Why isn't it? Eating organic surely is.)


Jacqueline Schmitt said...

Making social justice hip.

I do know that last spring there were like 4 applicants for each position in the new "diocesan intern" program here in MA -- a combination of Micah with something called "relational evangelists" that was funded by big bucks from Trinity, NY (talk about coals to Newcastle: surely the only dioceses richer than MA are NY and Southern Ohio -- and that because of the Procter money -- and the use of the phrase "coals to Newcastle:" is that a marker of Episcopalianism? of understanding the "in" references to English culture?)

Anyway, even this skimpy a program was full of applicants, most already with master's degrees (most of them, unfortunately, MDiv's) and many of them longing to live and work in Cambridge or Somerville.

I have lobbied hard for at least one or two of them to work and live here next year, and to team up with the Lutherans and Jesuits, and to have this settlement house be consciously multi-race (not so odd for these programs) and (this is different) multi-class, to include college and non-college young adults, folks who graduated high school or joined the military or some other non-college track and who want to do something meaningful and reflective in their young adult years.

I think in MA that cities like Brockton are overlooked by the class dominance of Boston and the North Shore. It's poor and immigrant, but not glamorously so. The Portuguese-speaking immigrant diaspora (which has been in MA since the 18th century whaling days)is less visible to the liberal establishment; Spanish speakers ride the wave of national prominence.

So, social justice is hip: but how to make it hip here? That's one of our local challenges. I think adding other partners to our project, beyond the Episcopal Church, will enable us to get things done.

Second challenge: what is the character of Episcopal leadership in a multi-faith, multi-cultural inititative? Such leadership should reflect deep sacramentality, and embrace without embarassment "high cultural" values of beauty and the need for time for thought, prayer, reflection. How do it without arrogance or hegemony?

That commitment to Anglican theology was the other prominent aspect of Cram and others of the Anglo-Catholic aesthetic revival: I think they really believed in prayer, sacred places, beautiful churches, the unapologetically spiritual role architecture and art play in society.

Joyce Cheng said...

See my comment previously re: soup kitchen qua brasserie. Do you think it could work?

Jacqueline Schmitt said...

Yes, Joyce! Fabulous idea! We are blessed with some remarkably good cooks, a few retired professionals. They are deeply empathetic with the people they serve -- and have fabulous skills at pulling deliciousness out of the oddest ingredients. So yes, they have the skills and the empathy to mentor apprentices. I have a tiny bit of grant $ left to begin a pilot apprenticeship.

One of the problems with some people getting jobs are their criminal backgrounds, no matter how minor. We can provide training in food prep, catering, baking, without screening those "offenders" out, and perhaps even help them start a business.

The goal must also be to move this from a "soup kitchen" to a community kitchen, with more of a cooperative -- shared leadership.

All these ideas keep popping out - I have to pull together a board and some leadership to get it off the ground!

and oh, to have a community choir ...

Joyce Cheng said...

Not there to help you in person but I would look up simple recipes for community kitchen. I'll think of a slogan for your project. "Eat for Social Justice" or "Cook for Social Justice"?