Wednesday, January 28, 2009

perichoretic rhythm ala wynton marsallis

Have you ever been able to get inside a moment? I mean, when you are aware of two realities: the very event that you are participating in and the subconscious reality of the moment at hand, and all related interactions as if you're outside of the event analyzing it, appreciating it. This double-space reality is one of the gifts of living in God. Words and language never accurately articulates this reality it can only be sensed even as it is happening. This must be the place from which Jazz artists can operate. Once they learn their voice, their notes, their contribution they are able to play, but resting back into a deeper reality of listening to and enjoying all the related voices integrating with their and theirs with the groups.

This is the perichoretic life and this is what its all about. This is the authority, the panentheistic presence around which all of life revolves and penetrates. It is relational, communal, hospitable, humble and constantly concerned with the other, whether we are present to it or not. One of the greatest frames for this life that is always so hard to describe can be found in a book by wynton marsallis Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

"When I was growing up in Kenner there was a crazy lady on our street named Geraldine. She was an old woman, chewing on no teeth with deep, empty-canyon eyes, but she dressed like a little girl and wore her hair in pigtails. Everybody knew she was crazy. You never knew what she would do: life up her skirt or follow behind people and hit them with switches. As kids, we made fun of her. But my mama used to say: "Don't talk about her like that. She's got a life she's living, too." My mother wanted us to see that she wasn't just Crazy Geraldine; she was a person, with a history and a life that included us." (66)

Monday, January 26, 2009

In Class All Week...

This week I'm with my doctor of ministry cohort down in cave creek, az. On Wednesday we have a missional church conference with Craig Van Gelder and another dude, along with some workshops one of which I get to lead, "The Listening Church" or something like that is what I'll be wondering around. I don't even know this other dude, we'll see and hear soon.

While Craig self identifies as late-modern, which I think is VERY true, he definitely has helped to enlighten me to connect missiology and ecclesiology which for many is not connected. What I mean is this, most understand the sending aspect of the church as one of its many functions. This type of thinking compartmentalizes missionaries as those who go out from the church, usually to foreign land, to convert the masses in dominant, oppressive, arrogant and imperialistic fashion.

What missional church instead suggests is that the very sending aspect is the essence of its primary nature, the very thing that it does all the time. The church is created by God as community to live in the world for the life of the world as called through the Spirit. And so, this is all framed around who God is as a sending God, i.e. God sends the Son who sends the Spirit. And so too, the church engages in this centrifugal mission in partnership with what God is already up to in the world. this preachy? Perhaps. Is it significant? Absolutely. This is no small blog post as an update. The implications for this are enormous for new and innovative ways for being church that already exist, as well as new experiments are emerging.

It has been in conjunction with this entire way of growing to understand who God is that I have come to understand who the church is, and in particular, the emerging, fresh expressions of church, church in a beyond modern culture.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Diana Butler Bass | October 2009 Conference Grand Canyon Synod

Two years ago I attended an Anglican conference in Richmond, Virginia on "Church in the 21st Century", including speakers Phyllis Tickle, Peter Rollins, Karen Ward, Brian McClaren and Diana Butler Bass to name a few. I connected with Diana following one of her sessions and asked if she'd consider coming out to Phoenix sometime to speak. She wasn't available the particular time I wanted but a couple years later she is coming...and thank God. Her's is a helpful perspective, a bridge-voice. She will help to navigate and provide insight for our own wondering around our missional concerns as a synod, individually as congregations and the some emerging perspectives. She will be coming sometime October 2009 to speak to the rostered leaders of the Grand Canyon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

I asked her what she's immersing herself in as of late to get a sense for what's shaping her own thinking even as she engages congregations. The following is a list she sent me today in a reply email I sent her a couple weeks ago:

"In the following mode, however, I'm re-reading a lot of Niebuhr (Reinhold), Bonhoeffer, and Nouwen at the moment. I'm also reading a host of pilgrimage literature--everything from Egeria to pop stuff (Graceland, etc). Marcus Borg and Dom Crossan have a new book on Paul coming out--and it is brilliant. And Barbara Brown Taylor has a fabulous book on practices coming out, too: "An Altar in the World." I'm also reading two bios on FDR, struggling through a bunch of international political theory, poking around in books on the history of the Social Gospel and the Depression, and reading some novels. See the movie, "Milk." It is an awesome piece on movement-building and leadership. Finally, I just read a new book called "Claiming the Beatitudes" by Anne Sutherland Howard--it has a real emergent spirit and I like it very much. Perfect for a Lenten study in a church.

Other than that, I'm writing--my new book on church history comes out next month--"A People's History of Christianity." You can already pre-order it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble."

Thanks Diana for passing this along.

Hope this is a helpful list to get some insight into where she's probing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Transforming Theology Theo-Blogger Consortium

I'm looking forward to participating with Home Brewed Christianity in an up and coming blog-dialogue. Of course, if you're a blogger as well and would like to join in, feel free to email Tripp and get on board.

What's this all about? Well click above and read what they're all trying to do. I, for one, am particularly excited that there are those who actually want to think about who we are, what we're doing and saying about God and how it all works its way out practically in new and innovative ways. I'm also excited as one who loves to read, process and integrate theology into what we're all up to as church, working critically where mind and heart converge! It'll be interesting to see where are this engaging takes us.

So my best guess is that soon I'll be given some suggested reading material to critically engaging around through blog posts. I also hope that many of you as well with follow along and give your feedback on what you're thinking and hearing.

btw - Home Brewed Christianity is a great resource for downloadable podcasts. Check it out!

Friday, January 23, 2009

'what is emerging about emergent?'

An interesting way of framing the emerging church is moving away from the notion of "emergent" as an adjective describing church to a way for discerning how the Spirit is being birthed in new and creative ways. Follow this link to Thomas Brackett's blog Church Planting Central for more on how the Episcopal church is navigating this conversation. Thomas is the program officer for Church Planting and Redevelopment for the Episcopal Church. What, he says, if we begin asking: “What of the Spirit’s work is longing to emerge in my life, right now?” Sounds a lot to me like the missional church frame: What is God up to? What is God wanting us to do? This is why the two, emergent and missional church, have a lot in common, more than what I've been hearing. Emergent is a highly contexualized form of missional church that is just unrecognizable to many.

social pulpit | social god

Johny Baker does a great job of framing the importance of technology around the political influence Barak Obama has been able to effectively cultivate. Baker suggests that Obama gets it because Obama is native to the culture of communicative involvement through this technology. You can check out the rest of the article here.

But what is of particular interest to me are some underlying theological connections as it relates to who we are as church as extensions of the very nature for who God is.

The listening church as I'm calling it, the church as "table ministry" or "church in the round" as Letty Russell suggests from the early '90s, is not merely a technique that individuals learn for the potential of membership acquisition within church community itself, nor as the place where people come and just sit passively listening to the expert resident theologian. Rather becoming a listening community as church is learning to form, in a new way, how we engage in the world as church.

What this listening looks like is to engage beyond our familiar denominational tribes in new ways around learning the richness of Christianity over the two thousand years of Church allowing voices to speak like the ancient celtic faith, Eastern Orthodox faith and the monastics. Equally church needs to make space for listening to those who opt out and find no home within our communities. It is these places that will expand our engagement of church through the act of listening. In essence the challenge and change for church life in its very engagement as a people of God will be through the act of listening, and the act of listening as participating in the very life and way of God.

There's a lot of talk these days about the phrase "the world is flat" that Thomas Friedman coined. This flatness is occuring through these emerging online networks as opportunities to have a voice in ways that previously people weren't able to have prior to this form of technology.

And so when we ask the question "what is God up to?" we need to realize that this move may be creating significant openings for us as God's people, to get on board with, not only what God is up to, but equally who God is as a social, holy and divine, community.

For me, the challenge for being church stems from being the presence of God at work in the world through the very way we engage and embody this holy presence with others. The listening church will then learn skills for what it looks like to better engage as God's people making more and more room for more and more voices at the table, discerning together what God is doing in the world and in us too!

I think some of these initial skills are:
*learning to make space for the different opinions of others
*learning to live with ambiguity
* asking ourselves 'who's not at the table who could or should be at the table?'
* learning to listen as community, not merely individuals, and taking that communal practice to the streets to be lived out from our insolated and isolated spaces we've grown accustomed to.

This is the point: the listening church doesn't use listening as technique for some market ploy to get people into church or to bore people to death by mere passivity to listening to the resident expert. Rather the church is the very space of allowing listening to convert the church itself as well as seeing this practice for what it is as the very participatory work for engaging with God as life itself to the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

missional church | table ministry

I'm starting a new conversation on Facebook with others from my Doctor of Ministry class in Missional Church (congregational mission and leadership, CML) at Luther Seminary.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the title 'emerging church.' Not that I don't share the values and deeply embrace what it stands for, but realize that it comes with too much misunderstanding and freakin frustration to explain it to those not even willing to give the time to try and understand it. There's evidence everywhere that people are wanting to distance themselves from this language from the recent Luthermergent article to a conversation I had recently with Dan Kimball at an Outreach Convention in San Diego back in November when he said "we've grown beyond that term and don't even want to associate ourselves with it anymore." We are at a significant period after ten years of emergent where significant contributors are reflecting on where it all stands today over at Next-Wave Church and Culture online site.

I think everyone is ready for some new language. My hope, in the end, is that we're really all trying to contextualize church within a theological framework grounded in God as we learn to become the people of God faithfully in and for the life of the world.

I'm going to start using the phrase "Table Ministry" as a better descriptor of the particular Missional Church we're cultivating at The Flagstaff Abbey. While we'll always have an emerging ethos because of new DNA and maturing community, the word is slowly falling out of our vocabulary. This idea of Table Ministry is so much richer and clearer, at least for me, and makes helpful relational connections to the very source and ground of its description, that is, it's God's table that becomes an extension into our lives, in and through our discernment to participate with who we are already claimed and called to be in the world.

It's not that I think this will be the new term, but for me this is the metaphor for the very emergent concept we're all trying to gravitate toward: who's not at the table who should be at the table? Who is God calling to nourish for the life of the world? I'll be leading a workshop on this next Wednesday down in Scottsdale for the Missional Leadership Conference at Spirit in the Desert.

When it comes down to it these are the primary convictions around God's banquet table:
1. God is already at work in the world before we even show up, duh?!
2. God is calling us to figure out what that work is.
3. God is calling us to get on board with that work, actually show up together and do something about it.

So, if you're interested in listening, sharing and shaping the conversation, I sure would love to have you with us. You don't even need to be Lutheran, and to God I hope you're not because we need all the help we can get to break this thing open into new territory. The more voices sharing at the table the better.

Again, you can check us out on the FB Group titled "Congregational Mission and Leadership, CML DMin. Program at Luther Seminary."

Living Out Our Callings

Introductory Note: The heart of missional church is collectively discerning an imagination for what God is up to in the world and how God wants the community to respond to God’s discerned presence. I have, however, particular questions regarding a “sending” model that does not also consider the continued formative aspect of the church as well especially when those being sent are contributing to the consequences. Too often, I’ve observed communities that go out with a charity mind sight with no regard for how those to whom we’re sent are used by God to equally challenge us, not too unlike church groups that go to Mexico and build a home without learning about the people or the CEO who attends worship on Sunday only to continue heinous work environments overseas. Therefore, this paper focuses on a reciprocal approach for a missional calling in congregational life as it relates to God’s use of society as lens by which God is calling for the continuing conversion of the church itself.

The missional calling of congregations with God in civil society is the fulfillment of reconciliation realized in service to the world. The missional assumption that underlies this conversation is that God is already at work in the world and that we have been grafted into this work of God and called to reflect this work, reconciliation, by the way we hold and embody the place of this work in civil society.

The heart of this missional calling is the willingness to take seriously the transforming and converting work of the Spirit of God. That is, God is equally doing something in the church as well as through the church. This is a dynamic process of living Spirit, not a static place from which we move from one place of certainty to another. The church is called to live the words of Jesus we hear from Luke, inaugurating God’s Kingdom work in the world.

“He (Jesus) stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.” (Luke 4:16-20, NRSV)

It would be theologically correct for the church to piggy-back on Jesus’ words for getting out into the world to show the world the love we have received from God. It is also theologically correct that this functionality entails opening eyes to how God is at work in the world, offering opportunities for us serve the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed.

It is an interesting piece to note, however, that Jesus’ response following this reading, as eyes were fixed on him in the synagogue, is this: “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This raises a number of questions. What is the relationship between the scattered work of God in the world and Jesus’ statement that this “has been fulfilled in your hearing?” Curiously, and somewhat cynically, I ask, “now how could it be fulfilled? How was life for the blind, oppressed and poor different minutes before Jesus read from Isaiah, a text that had existed for hundreds of years, and now all of a sudden new because Jesus merely reads it?”

I wonder however, if this is a reference to radical incarnation, the place of all those who suffer, now found and located within the place of God-in-flesh reality. If this is true, that the suffering of the world is the place where God is present in the world, what orientation or re-orientation, would that suggest for us as individuals within communities of faith? How would that affect our interactions with suffering? How would we see its place in our own formative activity as “life for the world?” What would it have to say about who we are as being shaped by God simultaneously to the world we are being called and sent to serve?

Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda makes similar connections when she seeks to articulate starting points for how to move forward as public church. Making moves away from the Lutheran hermeneutic of “two kingdoms”, she instead embraces incarnational theology as determinative for being public church for the life of the world. She says, “I have chosen to relocate the discussion of church in public life in the incarnation of Christ as seen in cross, resurrection, and living presence.” Moe-Lobeda also suggests that the incarnation can be fruitfully located within a couple of Luther’s theological frames including the Living Word of God and the Theology of the Cross.

Consider that the church becomes the demonstrating plot for God’s activity of sharing the struggle in the suffering of the world, and with that collaborative struggle comes the proclamation that there is re-valuing of humanity as reclaimed worth for the life of the world, and being restored as a living hope for the fact that God does not give up on the world. What this move makes theologically is developmental maturity between God’s work on us simultaneous to God’s work through us.

This is primarily what we are up to at the Flagstaff Abbey as listening community for the life of the world. God is restoring us even as God is calling us to be present in the world. This deep interconnected and reciprocal activity moves us out of a privileged place and into God’s continuing work on us. The church is the primary demonstrating plot for those being converted, changing minds for how it views itself in God and in the world, all for greater witness to the world as God’s reconciling community.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Living Out Our Callings

This is the reflection I've put together for my class. Looking at our revised schedule just found out that I'm actually ahead of the new post date!

Any way for those who are interested my paper, Living Out Our Callings.

The books I used for this paper:
Living Out Our Callings in the Community,Gary Simpson, Diane Kaufmann, Raymond Bakke, Published by Centered Life, an initiative of Luther Seminary.
Public Church For the Life of the World, Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.

Oh yea, this photo goes with it, footnote 6, but it was too much information to be placed inside the document itself.

writing way over due...

This morning, with the family away, I'm making my way through reading and papers long over due for my DMin program in missional church. Of course not stalling by writing this post, how dare you think that?

The specific assignment I'm working on is articulating the missional calling of congregations with God in civil society as we enter a new era of mission. The good news and the bad news is that it only has to be a five pager.

So where does one start? Interestingly enough I wonder that most people's experience of congregational life has become too isolated from our neighbor with individualistic tendencies, deeply reminiscent for obvious reasons of our american culture, of narcissistic spiritualism not too unlike the adrenaline that comes with lustful pursuits. Many continue to live out the privileged status as church with no regard for rethinking or teasing out what is of God for us as church, and what has crept in to taint, disrupt, distract and threaten the church's role in the world.

Does the conversation begin with ourselves as church, the imperialist power bringing Truth to the world? Do we begin with the culture, the world? Where is this beginning point of departure for a such a dream?

An interesting question for us to ask and ponder especially this weekend, inaugural weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr. (not to be confused of course with the 16th Century reformer Martin Luther). There is a hopeful spirit in the air. If we are honest that hopeful spirit comes and goes. Our hopes today will be our shattered dreams tomorrow.

But through it all perhaps one of the things that we realize is that we yearn to participate in a reality larger than ourselves, an event, one of a few events many will actually get caught up in through this communal celebration. What is the role of church? What is its place as community for the life of the world? And where is God in all of this?

Enough ruminating for now, something else is calling me. peace to you all this day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What is the flagstaff abbey?

Words shared last evening describing what our community is seeking to be:

The Flagstaff Abbey is an exploration in alternative church. We welcome the exploration of all streams that have together formed the pool of Christianity. We seek to become listeners in the conversation to one another and the ancient past, not afraid to be critical, and not pinned down to the certainty that their claims define. The real defining is the very work of becoming a Christ follower, as our lives unfold and emerge as a greater oneness of the reflection of God at work in and for the world. The confession of faith then is not merely orthodox doctrine, but orthopraxic transformation, as people being the presence of God, one to another, in the world. Through this listening, we engage as God’s people, together, being formed by God in ways of which we are aware, and yet, many ways for which we don’t have a clue. It is in our gathering, our engagement and sharing, that God is opening us to fresh expressions for becoming the people of God for the life of the world.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Necessary Podcast!

Homebrewed Christainity is a wealth of resources and information. If you haven't followed it, get on it!

One of the great pieces that comes through this site is their podcasting, many of which I've downloaded myself to my ipod and serve as important learning resources for anyone seriously wanting to be church and those leading it. In particular is this lecture from Tom Sine who, for over an hour, speaks about his new book The New Conspirators. This is a must listen for anyone who is going to be taking seriously what it means to be church, what we can expect in the future and how to best begin preparing for it as faithful incarnational embodiments of this church. This podcast by Tom Sine will help to contextualize the emerging movement, that's really just a conversation, for everyone who has been wondering and is still wondering, "what the hell is this thing?" Listen to this, and you'll definitely have a more complete understanding for what is going on here.

Other helpful podcasts can be found here as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Blog to Watch: Queermergent

I admire an open voice that takes seriously the struggle toward identity of self and in God, accompanied with the love and acceptance that slowly comes with both. My journey has taken me into the lives of several gay folks that have opened me up to a more expansive vision for how God is at work in the world.

In honor and inspiration of this new blog queermergent I want to share part of my own emerging story for being changed by listening to and shaped by a gay man...the first of many really that have helped me to learn a life of love.

I was 19 years old and serving a summer volunteer position in Holden Village. Words will never describe this place, you've got to visit this quaint little village nestled in the remote woods of Washington's Cascade mountains!!! That summer ('89) I attended an open forum on sexuality. Now you've got to remember Holden has always been more progressive than many other faith communities, even since its inception in the early 60's. During this session I remember watching from the balcony as one of the summer directors shared his own self discovery journey as a gay man. Of particular "wow-factor" for me was his direct invitation to the crowd toward the end of his talk. He said, "don't just judge me when you haven't even gotten to know me. If you want to know who I am, get to know all of me. So come and talk to me."

There it was, the invitation. I was so impressed and honestly very curious. I mean how many opportunities come along like that when someone says, "yea, get to know me I'm gay!" Not many I've known about.

That evening, guess who was standing in line with me waiting for some delicious Holden ice cream? Yep, you guessed it, this forum dude. And so i struck up a conversation saying, "I was listening to you today at the sexuality forum, you said people should just learn to make up their minds by talking to you. Can I talk with you? I'm pretty ignorant of this whole thing, but very curious, and I do want to make up my own mind, that is, by listening to you."

With that we arranged a time and later that week went hiking together. You know, interestingly enough I only can recall a couple things. One, that he never remembered choosing this life but that it was a gift from God. Two, and more than anything else, I remember feeling a shedding away of all preconceived notions for what gay people were like. My comfort level soared to new places that I never thought were possible. I wasn't afraid any more. I'd never really knew any "out" gay people before, but had my first encounter through this amazingly transparent, REAL and refreshing engagement that changed me for life.

This, although a simple story, had profound implications for me and my emerging openness to the struggle of gay people as well as offering a gift to me, the gift of being transformed by another person, learning to make space in me for another, and not to be threatened by it, but to celebrate it.

By the way, when my parents came to visit me a little later that summer, I had them hook up and go on a hike with this guy too. Turns out, this was one of the first encounters they'd ever had also.

To all those queermergents, gay and Christian AND gay and whatever, I welcome you, I celebrate you for the gift God has created you to be.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Coming...

More coming soon, I promise! I'm brainstorming ways to become a space set apart for interesting resources, lectures, articles, websites, podcasts, etc. I come across things all the time and want to desperately share them with so many of you.