I have no problem with singing patriotic hymns in a service. We regularly pray for those who are serving in the armed services and name those who have died in action. We do display the US flag as well as the Episcopal Church flag and process with it at important services. I believe this all stems from the 'established church' history of the Episcopal Church. We seldom have special services for Memorial Day or July 4th but we may choose to use prepared liturgies for those days. Most parishes don't but perhaps sing a patriotic song. But I do have strong reservations about highly militaristic songs being used. Battle Hymn of the Republic or Onward Christian Soldiers give me the willies.
I also think that it incumbent upon me as a preacher to address various issues in our nation in my sermons. I am careful to bring the Gospel to those issues without taking any partisan political stand. At present I believe that the impasse we have in our Congress is a problem for both parties. What I try to keep before the congregation is a way to make decisions and to hear alternating concepts. Besides, I know that other preaching colleagues will come from a different perspective and that in itself will allow for balance. I NEVER support a particular candidate from the pulpit even when they are members of the parish. But I do encourage my folk to vote.
I never stop the Gospel just in my nation. The Gospel helps me take the issues that we as a people need to look at in our nation to the whole of the world. The Gospel is always about peace and I use that as my rule of thumb when dealing with national issues in my sermons and liturgies.
With various vacations and travels, we didn't hear from other matriarchs this week, but I will toss in my two cents. Though I grew up in congregations where both the Christian flag and the American flag were displayed (and in Vacation Bible School, we even pledged allegiance to both flags and the Bible), I feel fairly strongly about not displaying the American flag in the sanctuary. In my current call, when we visited the congregation during the discernment process, the American flag was in the Fellowship Hall, not the sanctuary. We (my husband and I are co-pastors) were then surprised to learn a few months into our call here that the American flag was typically moved to the sanctuary for Memorial Day and the 4th of July. We talked with the Pastor Relations Committee about our objections to this, and then we had a series of pastoral conversations with individuals in the church who were likely to feel a bit hurt by the absence of the flag (primarily widows of WWII vets). They understood our reasoning (as Baptists, our congregation has a strong sense of separation of church and state, which is why it came as a surprise that the flag was brought into the sanctuary for these national holidays), and they appreciated the pastoral concern for their feelings. We proposed displaying the flag more prominently in the Fellowship Hall for these holidays, and everyone seemed to find this acceptable.
We do make a point to pray regularly for those serving or having served in the armed forces, as well as their families, as well as those serving in the military of other countries (as well as those civilians in harm's way in other countries). My husband and I pick the hymns for worship and don't select patriotic or militaristic hymns; our Choir Director typically doesn't select patriotic anthems either. We've had no complaints. I feel like people who are looking for patriotic speeches or music can find that in so many other places, they don't really need it in church, though we certainly do discuss and pray about issues of national import. I'm not entirely sure how I would handle it if I were in a congregation that was more divided about these issues, or where there was a strong sentiment towards having expressions of patriotism within the worship service. I'd be very interested in hearing how others have dealt with this.
So, if you have experience to share, please do so in the comment section! And our queue is empty once again, so this is still a great time for sending in a question for the matriarchs to discuss. Email us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.