If We Kissed Rings

17 04 2008

Father Hollywood responds to rumours that kissing the pastor’s ring is required to commune at the altar rail, by explaining how the process would have to work if it were going to be incorporated by American Protestants:

First of all, we’d have to offer a choice: the “common ring” or the “individual ring.” The “common ring” would be the traditional practice of each parishioner kissing the gold ring on the pastor’s finger. My ring happens to be a Concordia Theological Seminary class ring (gold, with a garnet gem with a “Chi-Rho” design etched on top).

Obviously, some would be squeamish about germs and such when it comes to the “common ring.” We could create “individual rings” that each parishioner could take from a tray, kiss, and leave on the rail to be picked up after the service. CPH could produce some really cheap rings, making them out of inexpensive, disposable plastic – tastefully, of course (after all, these are sacred objects). Though some would advocate throwing the used individual rings directly into the garbage, the altar guild at Salem would have to find a way to thoroughly cleanse the rings (properly disposing of the water) before throwing them into the trash.

Secondly, some people who, no doubt, be uncomfortable with kissing, and would prefer a handshake instead of a smooch. Good pastoral practice indicates allowing communicants a lot of individual liberty in such matters, so as not to turn ring-kissing into a divisive or disruptive issue. Ceremonies have simply changed since Vatican II, and we need to be sensitive to these things.

I know plastic rings and replacing the kiss with a handshake aren’t ideal, but as we all know, many a congregation has been destroyed by pig-headed Fort Wayne pastors who insist on communicants kissing the “common ring” only. The practice is, of course, an adiaphoron, and we need to keep in mind that the “individual ring,” though not ideal, gives the very same benefit to the communicant as the “common ring.” Ditto for allowing the ring to be greeted with a (laurel and?) hardy handshake instead of the biblical kiss. We need to bear with one another in Christian love.

Now, I find that funny not because I am a staunch advocate for the common cup versus micro-cups. No, what I find funny is that it puts the finger on our predictable insistence upon being able to do things according to our own personal preference.

In modern Evangelical America, what issues cause the blood to boil and demand action? Not public indecency, hearing the Lord’s name being taken in vain, usury, cheating, trickery, slander… No, in fact we don’t take a moral stand on any of those things and we are so morally jaded that we don’t even pause for a moment of silence to mourn our insensitivity to them.

Rather, the modern Christian is more likely to go ballistic over not being able to receive a personal plastic cup of grape juice for communion from his democratically elected Pastor — or even the fact that in some church, some where in the universe, he might potentially be denied this fundamental right.

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