Monday, December 29, 2014

In Defense of Jane Shaw

Dr. Jane Shaw, the new Stanford Dean of Religious Life has gotten a bit of attention lately for saying the following.

I don’t think church is to be more churchy. I think church is about, anyone should be welcome. I’m really interested in how you welcome many different kind of constituencies, certainly not convert them, not even necessarily to do religion all the time.

I’ve even heard Rush Limbaugh refer to this and give her a bit of a hard time.

Now it will not surprise that Dr. Shaw (as I’ve always addressed her) is not my flavor of Anglican.  And I should give the disclaimer I have not seen her in action for some years.  But I was a frequent worshipper at the Chapel of New College Oxford back in Michaelmas Term 2007 when she was the Chaplain.  So I can speak to how she applied her philosophy of church there.

And I have to say that, unlike many who like to use the word, she was genuinely inclusive.  She made me feel very welcome and was even enthusiastic on occasion in so doing.  (And that even though I kidded her about a global warming sermon she gave at Christ Church on the coldest, most miserable Sunday of term.)

She stuck to the traditional liturgy and did not play any games with it that I noticed.  Even the sermons there were good.  In her recent comments, she mentioned use of art.  And, if I recall correctly, one of the guest sermons that term looked at a painting, a Rembrandt I think, and drew a touching Christian message out of it.  It was excellent.

In sum, she conducted services in a way that made even this hard-core liturgically nit-picking orthodox Anglican feel included and edified.  She certainly helped me to learn and worship that dark cold autumn.

Now I understand how some could read her comments and envision her turning a college chapel into a circus that would horrify and drive away the orthodox.  But my experience at Oxford in 2007, at least, indicates that is neither her style nor intent.

And, as much as we differ on any number of matters, I am still grateful for her conducting the Chapel of New College in manner that greatly included and blessed me.

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