Dialogue with Catholics and other nonevangelical Christians offered some correction to the Church Growth movement's fixation on cultural accommodation and baptism rates. However - save for those few who converted - evangelicals attracted to other Christian traditions have made those traditions their own. They assemble do-it-yourself liturgies from a hodgepodge of monastic prayers and mystics' visions. They lionize medieval dissenters - Celtic monks, or renegade Franciscans - but don't understand their broader Catholic context. Without quite realizing what they have done, evangelicals often use these ancient teachings and practices to confirm, rather than challenge, their own assumptions. History becomes a sidekick to one's twenty-first-century journey with Jesus.
A year ago, I was at a dinner in Amsterdam when the question came up of whether each of us loved his or her country. The German shuddered, the Dutch were equivocal, the Brit said he was "comfortable" with Britain, the expatriate American said no. And I said yes. Driving across the arid lands, the red lands, I wondered what it was I loved. the places, the sagebrush basins, the rivers digging themselves deep canyons through arid lands, the incomparable cloud formations of summer monsoons, the way the underside of clouds turns the same blue as the underside of a great blue heron's wings when the storm is about to break. Beyond that, for anything you can say about the United States, you can also say the opposite: we're rootless except we're also the Hopi, who haven't moved in several centuries; we're violent except we're also the Franciscans nonviolently resisting nucelar weapons out here; we're consumers except the West is studded with visionary environmentalists... and the landscape of the West seems like the stage on which such dramas are played out, a space without boundaries, in which anything can be realized, a moral ground, out here where your shadow can stretch hundreds of feet just before sunset, where you loom large, and lonely.
In a city it's impossible to forget we live in places raised and built over time itself. The past is underneath our feet. Every day when I leave the house , I may walk over a place where a king killed a wolf in the Royal Forest of Stocket, one of the medieval hunting forests , where alder and birch , oak and hazel, willow, cherry and aspen grew. The living trees were cut down , their wood used to fuel the city's growth , it's trade, it's life.The ancient wood , preserved in peat, was found underneath the city(The site of the killing is fairly well buried -the wolf and the king had their encounter some time around the early years of the eleventh century)It's the same as in any other city, built up and over and round , ancient woodlands cut down , bogs drained , watercourses altered, a landscape rendered almost untraceable, vanished.Here, there's a history of 8, 000 years of habitation , the evidence in excavated fish hooks and fish bone reliquaries, in Bronze Age grave-goods of arrowheads and beakers, what's still under the surface, in revenants and ghosts of gardens , of doo'cots and orchards, of middens and piggeries, plague remains and witch-hunts, of Franciscans and Carmelites, their friaries buried , over-taken by time and stone.This is a stonemasons' city , a city of weavers and gardeners and shipwrights and where I walk , there was once a Maison Dieu, a leper house; there was song schools and sewing schools, correction houses and tollboths, hidden under layers of time, still there