Jon Meacham: Keep the Feast

At the largely full St. Jerome’s Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, historian and journalist Jon Meacham delivered a commencement address for Nashotah House Theological Seminary’s class of 2015.

Meacham, a proponent of a liberal perspective on same-sex unions, called himself a “diversity appointment” to Nashotah’s board of visitors, which drew laughter. Meacham described how his faith was formed by his years as a student of the University of the South (Sewanee) and a member of Saint Thomas’ Church, Fifth Avenue. He described both Sewanee and Nashotah as “small places devoted to big ideals.”

Drawing on sources ranging from Mark Twain to G.K. Chesterton to John Henry Newman, Meacham said the graduates have a vocation to transmit “the sacred in the midst of the profane.” He noted the challenges of proclamation in a culture that values the “new over the old.”

Meacham stated his central theme as a question: “By what means may the heirs of the apostolic tradition make the Word and sacraments relevant to a world more comfortable with tweets than Tractarianism?” He acknowledged that history and tradition are fallible, but that we have nowhere else to begin knowing what to do, except by learning what has been done.

Meacham said remembrance lies at the heart of Anglicans’ ecclesiastical and intellectual tradition. From the Psalter to the Last Supper, we are commanded to look back, in order to summon the strength forward.

“As priests of the Church and as faithful people of God, the most practical thing you can do is to remember; to keep the feast, keep the candles lit, and say your prayers. … Keep the lanterns burning, say the Office, sing the hymns,” Meacham said. “Your work is not about the social media. It is about the administration and preservation of the Sacraments.”

Meacham added: “Say the Mass, bless the people, and do it over and over again.”

The Rev. R. Stephen Powers


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