January 2011 Archives

New or New Again

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Part of the mandate of the Imago Dei Initiative is to understand emerging culture and emerging generations so that the Church can meet people where they are - outside the prevailing, some call "normal," walls of the Church and ways of thinking about life and faith.

This isn't easy, often times, because pouring new wine into old wine skins more-often-than-not results in the rupturing of the old wine skin.  This makes people nervous!  This makes institutions nervous, even while the people that are the institutions know that change will occur regardless of thought, comfort, or even permission.

Currently, the Imago Dei Initiative is experimenting with a few different things under a tag-line that goes something like this: "Finding new ways of living a profound Faith in simple ways."  Again, more-often-than-not, these "new" ways are really the discovery again of the ways that have resonated with the human heart and soul from generation-to-generation.  All things are made new again.

If we pay attention to the demographic data, emerging generations are seeking out those kinds of faith expressions that demonstrate something that is tried, is proven, is not trendy, that actually proclaims a belief in something specific, and is lasting.  There is an expectation for questioning and wrestling with the issues, but there is an appreciation for honesty and being up-front about what is believed and proclaim to be true.

For example, churches all over the place that are full of young folks are picking up the Book of Common Prayer and are finding in its ancient forms and liturgies something intriguing, life-giving, and that has been missing in most of their faith experiences.  The Anglican Tradition of the Christian faith is well situated for this generation - an openness to difference, debate, and questions; simple belief assertions that get at the core of the Faith; and the slow, formative elements of ancient liturgies.  Although, the preoccupation of political and theological warfare going on in the Episcopal Church (and the break-way new "Anglican" denominations) right now does little to draw younger folks to the institution that is supposed to be the  holders of the Anglican Tradition in the U.S. - the Episcopal Church.  We've got to experience again is not politics or social-agendas, but the experience of God in relationship.

Younger folks also think very differently about pet issues that the Church has been wrestling with for the last 40 years (since the rise of the 1960's/Baby Boomer mentality).  Younger folks don't look with disdain and mistrust upon institutions.  There is a draw to that which is ancient in the Tradition.  Younger folks do not think the same way about issues of race, sexism, homophobia, political and social liberalism or conservatism.  These are not the issues most younger folks dwell on (with exceptions, of course) - and not that these issues are unimportant.  

For example, most younger women I've encountered and talked with don't have the same issues with gender-inclusive language as do Baby Boomers.  Younger women realize that the Scriptures and the Tradition were developed in a different time under different circumstances, so if male pronouns are used today (in accordance with the actual Greek or Hebrew word in Scripture that is male) there isn't the same feeling of disenfranchisement or diminishment or exclusion or an expectation of subservience to males.  Their womanhood is not threatened by male language or imagery in their original forms.

So, considering all this, how does the Church do things differently without a preoccupation with trendiness?  We focus on Christian formation within our relationships with God and one another.  Another way is to rediscover or relearn the ancient forms of the Tradition - that which has survived through persecution and trial among a multitude of cultures throughout the past 2,000 years.  This is what we are trying to do. 

How?  Well, here are a couple things:

1. The Imago Dei Sunday Evening Service at St. Paul's Church - we are a new and still small gathering of people who wish to experience the presence of God in contemplative and meditative ways.  We use the tried and true form of Evening Prayer (perhaps Evensong at some point) with lots of time for silent/quiet contemplation.  We hear the Word of God, we pray for our needs - most importantly we desire to grow closer to God.  We end our time together with the celebration of Holy Communion in a very simply form.  We meet Sunday evenings at 5:00 PM and the service lasts almost an hour.  We attempt to form a spiritually conducive atmosphere with candles, bells, incense, quiet, and a beautifully rich physical space.

2. The Imago Dei Red Hook Gathering - we are organizing a small group of folks in the Red Hook neighborhood that come together to support and challenge one another to live more fully into our Christian Faith in simple ways.  The main purposes of this kind of gathering is to build relationships, to hear how we are growing in our Faith, and to support one another in all the challenges we face in our chaotic world.  We are meeting in a more public space twice a month for about an hour and a half.

3. The Imago Dei Home Group in Carroll Gardens - this is similiar to the "Gathering" mentioned above, but we meet in a member's home.  This affords us the ability for a little more privacy and intimacy.  We spend time catching up on each others' lives as we gather together, we transition into a time of quiet, of prayer, and then we discuss how Scripture interacts with our lives.

4. 2nd Saturdays for Good Works Initiative - every second Saturday of the month (well, almost every one - see the Events page for updates) we come together to do some sort of good work as we give of our time and talents to serve others.  Fundamentally, the purpose is to help us grow in our own faith by better understanding God's will for our lives, but other people receive the benefit of our work.  This past year, we adopted Coffey Park in Red Hook as our project.  We helped the permanent gardener (John Clarke) and community folks who volunteer to help keep the park in good shape.  It is great exercise, a good time to meet new people and grow closer to people we know, and it is good for the soul.

5. The "Faith meets Art meets Space" project - this is a formation project for artists of all kinds that focuses on how our Christian Faith influences our creative impulse. How does our faith and the physical space influence our art?  The goal is for the artist to create something new while investigating how faith and space inspire them.  There will be during May 13-15, 2011 exhibits and performances at St. Paul's Church that presents our new art.

6. "The Church and 'Post-Constantinian' Society?" The Imago Dei Society in cooperation with other groups is planning a conference during the late-fall of 2011 to discuss how we live as individuals and the Church within a culture and society that is becoming "Post-Constantian" - a culture that no longer supports a common Christian understanding of life and our place in the world.  More info coming...

These are just a few things that we are doing and would like to do.  The goal of an intentional-community where residents live for a time to help develop the habits of the Christian Spiritual Disciplines is in the works.  Anyone is welcome to help in this project of discovering new ways of living the profound Faith in simply ways.

Control

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We are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  It seems to me that we always attempt to persuade everyone else and fool ourselves - whether as individuals, groups, churches, assemblies, governments, dictators, et.el. - that we are the masters of our own destiny.  We put forth with much bravado our grand plans and schemes which we believe will secure our security, our affluence, our prestige, and our power.  Yet, nature and world events so often thwart our best laid plans.  Unexpected situations arise so quickly that we can't respond soon enough, and if we finally do we generally respond with violence of word or deed.

The events these past couple of weeks in Tunisia and now in Egypt have the potential to change everything having to do with world affairs.  If the Arab world is to realize freedom, a measure of prosperity, human dignity, justice and the rule of law, even peace, well, all these things will have to be won by the people themselves - against their own oppressors whomever they may be.  The reality is that the U.S. has come to be seen not as the defenders of liberty, but the supporters of dictators and corruption.  The world is not rejecting the ideals of our Founding Fathers, but of the increasingly bankrupt nature of our culture.

The problem the U.S. faces, which we should have known before the little warrior (whether it was actually him or his adviser manipulators) sent off our troops to invade Iraq, is that we cannot impose something like freedom, democracy, the rule of law, or security unless the people themselves both buy into it and are the vanguard in seeing it through.  If the people believe they don't have a stake in the whole affair, I don't see how it will honestly work. 

True revolutionary movements are not planned, they happen.  We can plan for eventualities; we can even attempt to cause the "revolution," but we are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  The fall of the Soviet empire, the shedding of dictators across the globe - the throwing off of oppression has to be the work of the local people.  We can aid the effort; and if we live up to the best of our ideals we will aid, not cause, the profoundly disruptive and often horribly violent events that are often necessary to throw off tyranny, but the aspirations of local peoples for freedom, dignity, the rule of law, and peace have to be precede and be the under-girding for the aid to actually help and not hinder.  

From an international affairs perspective, what is happening right now in the Middle East is striking.  We shall see whether it is the right time for the people to rise up and demand something better of their governments and their rulers.  Once again, for politically expedient reasons (which, sometimes, is justifiable) we have supported a more-brutal-than-not dictator.  The people are rising up against the corrupt dictator and his government.  We are, once again, on the wrong side because our concern is not for the freedom and dignity of the Egyptian people, but for our political interests in the area. 

The people know this, despite the billions we give to Egypt in foreign aid. Where that aid goes might be a wise question to ask, but only if we really want to know the answers and if we might truly do something about the problem. The people know this and so do not see the U.S. as the defenders of freedom and dignity, but as the supporters of their oppressors.

So, our embassy is attacked.  We wonder why.  We make the excuse in order to absolve us of any guilt in contributing to the oppressive regime that these are just enemies of the U.S., jealous of our prosperity, enemies of freedom-loving peoples everywhere, but the people in the streets want freedom and security and so they simply attack the symbol and the power behind the corrupt government that rules over them.  We bare the unintended consequences of our actions, our neglect, our profound hubris.

There is just the sense in me that we are on the cusp of significant change in our political, social, and economic structures, world-wide.  We like to think we have things under control, but suddenly everything changes.  We are in such times and heading more deeply into a fundamental shift.  I'm not sure where the shift will takes us, but it has begun.  

Stereo Mike

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I came across this '90's song and video.  I like it! It is one of those songs that gets into my mind - it has that hook effect.  I love the voice of the black woman singing (don't know her name).

The old electronics - cutting edge back then - could fetch a bit of money these days for the nostalgia effect.  Too bad their drinking in LA got a little over done and led to the smashing of that bitchin' Mac laptop (before the OS went all Unix) they were using to make their cool groves.  The song is from "Bran Van 3000," a group out of Montreal (I think).  By the way, they have a new album that came out in 2010.

Official website: http://bv3.ca/


I just read a great blog post entitled "Tuscon: Liturgies of Anger" by David+ from "As kthe Priest."  It deals with the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and the role vitriolic political and Culture War rhetoric plays in the escalation of violence. While many extreme-minded people on the Right tend to down play their role in all this (and people of the more extreme left are not exempt, either - it takes two to tango, after all), the author brings into the discussion a very interesting idea.

For those of us in liturgical Churches, we well understand the role and effect of the liturgy within and upon people - their thoughts, their lives, their dispositions, their sense of selves and their place in the world, etc.  The repeated rhythms and foci of liturgies have a transformative effect on and in peoples' lives. The words of Scripture, prayers, confessions, and reflections get into us, and we believe the Holy Spirit uses all these aspects of liturgy to change us to better reflect the imago of God and to be made evermore into the image of Christ.

If we understand the transformative role of the liturgies and the repeated forms, then we also know that the continual drone of vitriol, character assassination, etc., has a deleterious effect on our culture and upon the thinking and acting of ordinary people - all of us. To deny such a thing is to deny the understanding of Madison Ave. and all the ad-men/women who pump out billions of dollars of advertisements to get us to buy products, to change our minds on certain causes, and to vote for certain people.

Living within a society that champions free-speech is one thing, but engaging in false witness, in manipulative speech designed to denigrate and vilify one's opponent, designed to tear down responsible trust in our government (particulalrly the courst), etc., will only result in this kind of thing. These are the actions of frustrated people who know that their positions have become unaccepted and unbelieved by the majority of people.  Their arguments are not persuasive for the majority of citizens, and then suddenly the end justifies whatever means they can devise to win.

I've been saying for a few years now that if we continue on down of our current political and Culture War path, a representative democracy will not be possible.  This is the kind of outcome that we allow! If we don't stand up and demand civility among our elected officials and demand to stop those who strive to manipulate the process and populace when their arguments to persuade the rest of us of the rightness of their cause fail them, then we deserve what we get.

By the way, a former seminary-mate of mine one year behind my class, The Rev. Cn. Amy Coultas, is one of the contributing priests.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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