So here are my newsletter thoughts for February:

One of the blogs I follow (Midlife Bat Mitzvah) is written by Ilana DeBare and is (largely) an account of her preparation for her Bat Mitzvah.  In her most recent entry (“Let the Chanting Begin”) she talks about her preparation with her cantor.  The cantor had her do a dry run on some of the chants.  And afterwards, she commented, “That’s pretty good.”

 Ilana responded that she wanted to know these prayers well enough that if she were shipwrecked on a desert island, she could lead the service on her own.  The cantor nodded and seemed amused.  Ilana admits, however, that what she really had in mind had to do with concentration camps, and “those stories of random anybody Jews leading a Passover or a Shabbat service in the bleak, dehumanizing barracks of an Auschwitz.”  She wants to be one of the people who can keep Jewish culture and identity alive.  She wants to feel secure enough in her own knowledge of Judaism to pass the traditions on to the next generations.  And she adds that here, in California, the biggest threat to those next generations is not anti-Semitism, but Jewish ignorance and assimilations.

 And I found myself thinking that we’re coming up on Lent.  It’s a time for self examination and spiritual deepening for Christians.  How many of us, I wonder, know our prayers as well as Ilana wants to know hers?  How many of us are secure enough in our knowledge of our own faith that we would feel competent to pass it on to coming generations?

 I am not fighting the culture wars (against the culture around us) in the Name of Christ.  But I am, I think, fighting our own ignorance of our own traditions.  I think the biggest threat to the next generations of Christians is not the culture around us, but our ignorance of our own traditions — and in particular our ignorance of our own Bible.

 I think you all know I’m not real big on memorization (though I did memorize a short version of Morning and Evening Prayer while I was a lay person, so that I could say these prayers daily as I traveled to and from my “secular” work).  But we need to know our stories and our prayers and our traditions, even if we don’t know them by heart (i.e. word for word from memory) we should know them by heart (to know and understand them from the inside so that we are capable of using them and sharing them).

 At least, that’s what I’m thinking.