A Coptic fellowship resource: review

A couple of weeks ago I purchased two British Orthodox Fellowship publications online. There’s plenty to say about the fellowship itself,  about the publications and how I ordered them, but today I want to focus on one book: Our Daily Life.

It’s a 156-page trade paperback, and intended to be a guide book and worship book for isolated and gathered fellowship members.

Apart from a couple of unfortunate references about gay people (and the underlying assumption that this church only appeals to traditionalists) there’s a lot to learn from this book.

Its preface and introduction greet readers with a remarkably wide “come and see” welcome. A 30 day devotional guide, based on the Gospel of Mark, features a verse of the day, a featured passage and a reading from an ancient work. (With a multicultural mix and a surprising number of women’s voices.)

Then come services: full and abbreviated morning and evening prayer, with directions on how to use them alone or in groups. Suggestions for novices, too

The following section is a guide of spiritual disciplines, but I have not read it yet.

A voluminous calendar of the saints and helpful directory of fellowship officers close the work.

Something to consider now: Unitarian Universalists, certainly the Christians, have examples of all the resources already, and have a tradition (through the Universalists) of handbooks for the laity.

The British Orthodox Church background

A word for my readers on the left wing of the Reformation, which is by no means exhaustive and subject to amendment and correction, particularly by my Independent Catholic readers.

The British Orthodox Church is a small Oriental jurisdiction; that is, they recognize the authority of the first three ecumenical councils but not the later four widely accepted in Eastern Orthodoxy and in the Western Church. (While almost all Unitarian Universalists renounce the creeds of those early councils, our ideas of ministerial jurisdiction and collegiality echo back and perhaps depend on the rules they established.)

The “heartland” of the Oriental churches is from Egypt and the Horn of Africa through the Middle East to India. The great antiquity and mystery (to the West) of these churches have long made them a subject of study and exoticism. They also make a lively challenge to post-Puritanism as an authentically primal form of Christianity. Little wonder one finds the occasional weary Unitarian looking East when the first Oriental missions reached the West more than a century ago. (And as an inspiration to Unitarian liturgists like Frederic Henry Hedge, who used the Alexandrine Liturgy of St. James as the core of his communion rite; this is how I came to study this.)

Like today’s “commercial” yogis, missionaries for this ancient wisdom often had their own ideas about its application. Many were far from theologically orthodox. There was little structure or oversight, and the nineteenth century distance from the United States or England to Syria or Malabar was very far indeed. Let it be understood that churches like these could be, charitably put, quite eccentric.

Which is what makes the British Orthodox Church something of a success story. It put away some of its particular ways — how much of a change this is I cannot say — and has been habilitated into the Coptic mainline. So in Britain today there are sibling churches of Egyptians, Ethiopians, Eritreans and native Britons. (To simplify the ethnic situation there.)  So the British church worships in English, has a British outlook and ethos and has a great company of saints native to the British Isles in its calendar.

It’s small, and has a mission to welcome new believers. So let’s next consider the mechanics of their fellowship.

Notes from another church fellowship

American Unitarians and Universalists have, for about a century, kept and extended fellowship through a series of institutions, the largest and most notable today is the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

The British (and independently the Scottish) Unitarians and Free Christians have a similar fellowship. And the Quakers have one globally.

But when I discovered the Coptic-jurisdiction British Orthodox Church had one,  I knew I had to investigate. And thus the background for the next couple of posts.

Now! the new Unincorporated Nonprofit Association act in D.C. (and other business organization forms)

Back in June I assumed the Unicorporated Nonprofit Association act become law in the District of Columbia. See, we have this window where the Congress can zap legislation so it’s not always clear until the “birth announcement” is made. The change was a part of an omnibus bill that revamped Title 29 of the D.C. code, which also includes the provisions for corporations, LLCs, cooperatives and the like.

Well, it seems that the law became active January 1, 2012. I say seems because that’s when the new fees became valid, but since there’s no filing requirement for the unincorporated nonprofit associations, there’s consequently no fee and so no reference in this notice.

Occupy: D.C., New York, Davis or where-have-you

I’d hate for my readers to think that my few comments about the Occupy movement suggests I’m uninterested. Far from it. Indeed, I’m very mad and deeply concerned about yesterday’s pepper-spraying of student demonstrators at University of California Davis. Google for it, if you’ve not seen this now-iconic photograph.

But I comment mostly by Twitter, Identi.ca, Google+ and Facebook.  And if you have the means to support your closest Occupy encampment, I encourage you to do so.

History needs to repeat: a ministry for affordable housing

I was reading the Universalist Register for 1912 to plan ahead for blog posts for next year. (What I don’t do for my readers.)

I noted a ministry affiliated with the old Massachusetts Convention: The Bethany Union for Young Women.

Its object is to maintain a home for respectable young women who are forced by the keen competition of a large city, to work for small wages.

Gauging by the horror stories I’ve heard in D.C. about housing, particularly among the 20-something set, even moderate wages get ground to nothing under the weight of student loans and a heritage of real estate speculation. Could use such a ministry in D.C.

It’s moved from its former location in the South End, but the Bethany Union still exists in Boston.

A notary public to marry?

On March 11, the District of Columbia Council published an intention to introduce legislation, B19-142, the sole outcome of which would be to allow notaries public to solemnize marriage. (PDF)

I’ve been watching for this because I know the person who put the bug into the ear of a member of the Council. (I’m also watching for another bill, but I’ll announce that when it becomes law.) But why would this be a good idea?

  • There’s a shortage of officiants willing to do a non-sectarian or secular service. Surely not a small concern in a town as secular was Washington, and where same-sex marriage is the permitted under the law.
  • Notaries can already execute oaths. Notaries can solemnize marriage in South Carolina.
  • Lawyers, in neighboring Virginia, can solemnize marriage. This would make the process of getting married in D.C. a bit easier.

I think this law would be a improvement, even if — as a credentialed marriage officiant in D.C. — it might cost me some business. (I’ve always been open to conducting a purely secular service because of the shortage of options, but I rarely do a wedding these days.)

The part that makes me smile? I’ve asked my employer to sponsor my commission as a, um, notary public.

Good, best campaigns for women with obstetric fistula?

I can think of few medical conditions as debilitating — but treatable — as obstetric fistula, and I’d like to do a part to help.

In the Wealthy West, it doesn’t ordinarily come up in discussions of reproductive health or choice, but that’s what it seems like to me. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum, or vagina and urethra. They’re caused by over-extended labor, which causes the tissues, under pressure, to die. I can only imagine the stigma, the disability and the peril to health.

I know about them from sensitive news reporting, and from them, to organizations that campaign against fistula. One such report is on Al Jazeera, which you can watch online while you keep up with North African and Middle Eastern news: see “Fistula Hospital” in the Birthrights series.

Some organizations or campaigns seem to train midwives to make childbirth safer. Others seem to fund reconstructive surgery. Others seem to be educational.

Just raising the issue here, but do you know the obstetric fistula organizations and have found one you particularly admire? Is there interest in learning more about how to help?