Recently in personal Category

A few days ago I read a blog post from Fr. Robert Hendrickson, friend and colleague, Curate at Christ Church New Haven, and developer of the new and wonderful ministries of St. Hilda's House, Ascension House, and Church of the Ascension in the Hill district of New Haven.  In his blog entry, we spoke about the centrality of worship as the hallmark of Anglican Christianity and the Church's experience.  From his blog entry:

I have found that this exercise has emphasized that which we have always struggled with as Anglicans - uniformity of belief. Throughout our history we have navigated the Catholic and Reformed strains and struggled with the melding of politics and religion. Through all of this, we have maintained our identity through common worship. We have prayed together, broken bread together, and listened to one another with a common language, with a common prayer.

It may sound nonsensical or naive but I truly think the most crucial task for the Church is not growth, justice, discipleship, survival, nor restructuring. The most crucial task facing the Church is worship.

Please read his entry at his blog, The Curate's Desk

This morning, I thought it might be interesting to see how Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar, writer, and poet) wrote a couple particular chapters in the book of the Bible known as the Revelation (you know, that strange, last book of Holy Writ) in his version of the Bible known as "The Message".  Upon reading his short introduction on Revelation, I was reminded of Fr. Hendrickson's blog post above on worship.

Peterson writes,

Worship shapes the human community in response to the living God.  If worship is neglected or perverted, our communities fall into chaos or under tyranny.

Our times are not propitious for worship. The times never are. The world is hostile to worship.  The Devil hates worship. As The Revelation makes clear, worship must be carried out under conditions decidedly uncongenial to it. Some Christians even get killed because they worship.

We are wise if we heed such instruction and insight from both.

Tiny Victories -

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Give a listen to a great Brooklyn band - Tiny Victories

Website: http://tinyvictories.bandcamp.com/

Considering what is going on in the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church right now with regard to resolutions related to changing the Church's reaching to official acceptance of the unbaptized being given Holy Communion, I want to make more accessible the piece I recently wrote on the topic.

The piece that I wrote focuses to how emerging generations (younger folks) may or may not engage this issue (topic, point of contention, disagreement, fight, or whatever-else-it-might-be-called).  Primarily, what I say is that if we make this change for reasons related to "welcome" or "inclusion" or the removal of supposed "obstacles" to new people coming to our churches, that such reasons for such a fundamental change may play well with liberal-minded, Baby-Boomer sentiments, but it will be irrelevant for younger people.  Younger people deal with such issues from very different perspectives.

So that anyone who may want to read the essay/commentary without wading through irrelevent stuff, I have made a "Page" for my 2-cents worth of commentary.  Of course, you could just scroll down.

Here is the link:
http://www.hypersync.net/mt/communion-without-baptism-emer.html

For a Good Future

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We all have a part to play in the creation of a good world, a fair and just society - all for the emerging generations that are coming after us.  To be selfish, to be self-centered, to be arrogant in our assumptions that all revolves around "me" or "us" or "our generation" or for only "our people" or even for "our specific time in history" is ridiculous. It is self-deceptive and in the end self-defeating - as individuals, as a culture, as a people.

There is much to indicate that things are bad and getting worse.  If we learn from history and receive the wisdom of tradition, we know that this has always been the case.  What makes a one people different from another is, perhaps, that one dwells on the "bad and getting worse" and one dwells on "what can be." Another difference might be this - if a people reside within a collective hubris or whether within a collective humility.

While I do not believe the locus of "salvation" rests with human endeavor, I do believe that the way humanity works and believes and behaves will certainly lead to either a good or a terrible end.  Such potential in the faces of our young people, but we as adults have an obligation and a call to make sure that the potential is realized not for ourselves or for the here-and-now, but for a good future!

The Future is Ours from Michael Marantz on Vimeo.

A Day at Washington Square

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To see all of the small photo set "Washington Square," go here: Flickr

Annihilation

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"Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds -- justification, confirmation, forms of consolation without which they can't go on. To really ask is to open the door to a whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner."

- Anne Rice

I've posted this quote before. I want to assert that this both reflects a damning accusation against much of American religious experience and then presents what the Christian experience is all about.  If we truly ask and seek, the door will be opened. We experience God in the whirlwind, and we are annihilated. Then, perhaps, we can begin to gain wisdom and understanding beyond what is "normally" so or presumed to be known or commonly acknowledged as absolutely true.

Finding love...

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Code/Space, Story Telling, and Artificial Intelligence - we all just want to find love. :-)

A presentation by James Bridle at a recent Lift conference entitled, "WE FELL IN LOVE IN A CODED SPACE"

From an airport check-in space (just a warehouse with angry passengers if the software fails) to the fact that most of our culture and literature now abide/live in "coded spaces."

After giving a "canonical" example of an airport check-in space being turned into "warehouse of angry people if the software fails," James Bridle goes on to say:

I want to push the metaphor... I suggest that most of our cultures lives now and particularly our literatures are lived in code spaces.

We live in a world where we increasingly outsource our memories and experiences to the network; which is fine and good but it has these intensive consequence for us. Our time is spent in negotiation with the network in order to understand these memories and experiences that we have. Our experiences are co-created with these repositories of memory experiences and so on online and on.

The Millennial generation does not imagine they are accepting or rejecting the Christian Faith--they imagine they are entering into formation for a new way of life, and they expect the Church to initiate, guide, teach, equip, and send them. 

What follows delves into how this may play out when considering the practice of "communion without baptism."

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The Lord GOD has given me

the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain

the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens--

wakens my ear

to listen as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

 

Isaiah's words ring loudly if we take up the challenge to understand our times forthrightly and consider candidly the looming debates within the Church. I humbly pray that we as a Church may be as one who knows how to "sustain the weary with a word." I pray that we all are awakened daily by the Lord with ears "to listen as those who are taught."

We should recognize, even if unable at present to understand, that within Western culture and particularly American culture, we are undergoing a profound, long-term change.   This is absolutely true for the Church and Christianity in general, also. One advantage we have in the enduring Christian Church is that we've been around for a very long time and have seen this all before. The question is whether we will learn from the past or whether we will simply repeat the past mistakes and be subsumed by the present, temporary, and thin zeitgeist. Change is inevitable, and can be very good, but we have to question and examine the reasons and means for change - why, why now, how, to what degree, what might be the unforeseen consequences?, and so forth.

One of the current travails within the Church is how to stem the tide of decline so that we might again thrive. One of the aspects of change we are examining for the Church (and here I am speaking specifically of the Episcopal Church, the institutional expression of Anglicanism in the United States) is how to engage younger generations (really, for too many people it revolves are how to "appeal to") younger generations.  One way proposed to appeal to younger folks is to remove all assumed "barriers," including the need for baptism before the reception of Holy Communion, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are we, after all, to deny them something that doesn't belong to us, anyway, right? The problem is - that plays well with Baby Boomer sentimental thinking, but not particularly well with younger generations in the aggregate.

So, what follows are some thoughts I have about "communion without baptism" as the issue plays out in the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA this summer.

 

Introduction:

communion from the cup2.jpgThe focus of this commentary deals with how the debate within the Episcopal Church over "communion without baptism" may be conceived of within the cultural melee experienced by "emerging generations"[i] and the place, needs, and hopes of younger people. The demographic we are primarily considering is the generation known as the "Millennials" or "Generation Y" - those who are roughly 11-29 years-of-age. This is a complex generation, and even while we are all still figuring out what makes them a coherent generation, there are reliable generational characteristics that can be generalized.

When dealing with the many theological, sociological, and pedagogical considerations concerning communion of the unbaptized, within the context of Millennials there are additional considerations that need to be taken into account: 1.) The influences of previous generations on the upbringing of this group of people; 2.) The general cultural context that this generation now inhabits and how they function within it; and 3.) The foundation upon which this generation builds its understanding of life, humanity, personhood, and the world and their engagement with it - their default "faith" or worldview. Each of these will be briefly dealt with below.

These additional considerations are couched within the overarching goals of being present with young people within their constantly changing contexts so to be a witness of God's reconciling and regenerative presence and love, to learn how to translate the enduring,[ii] living Christian Faith in ways that will resonate with them, and to discover the best means for bringing the emerging generation into the mystical Body of Christ and ultimately the parish community.

Finally, over the last ten years, I have repeatedly heard and read from young people that the older "leadership of the Church does not listen to us!" We are continually trying to reconfigure the Church and its worship attempting to be relevant and accessible in ways we presume younger people will like. Yet, they are not impressed, literally. We recognize this by their growing absence. What they are seeking is something worthwhile to live for - something that proves to them that it is important enough, big enough, and hopeful enough for their consideration and devotion.[iii] Many are finding this in other expressions of Christianity, even as studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the hope and life of historic Anglicanism is primed to take advantage of the spiritual disposition of Millennials.

"The mind of a person with understanding gets knowledge; the wise person listens to learn more." (Proverbs 18:15)

 

Influence of Previous Generations:

It has been said of Baby-Boomers (born between 1946 to around 1960[iv]) that they are the first generation to reject lessons learned from the past. There was and continues to be a generational suspicion of, if not outright rejection of, established institutions, convention, and what came before them. The generation untethered itself from the past in order to create a new world. A continuing example of this can be seen in TV commercials extolling how the Baby-Boomers are overthrowing traditional thinking and remaking retirement for themselves. Yet, Baby-Boomers were enculturated and formed as children within a society that still valued the sense of continuity and understanding that rests with tradition and elder-wisdom. There was a collective rejection of how they were raised.

It has been said of Generation X (those born around 1961 through 1981) that they are the first generation to draw meaning from popular culture. They are the "MTV" generation. This seems to be a natural progression from the Baby-Boomer rejection of lessons learned from past generations and their values. Where else are GenX'ers to find meaning, if the past is moot and untrustworthy - even dangerous? They find meaning from what is - now. Of course, the "now" is constantly morphing, particularly when considering the advent of the Internet and the continual re-framing of what is and can be known as true or final or valid - all ideas, all theories, and all concepts are equal on the Internet. Generation X is the first generation to be raised with the growing sense of being unconnected to anything sure and trustworthy.

Research reveals that the Millennial Generation (those born after around 1982 until somewhere from 2001through 2004) is the first generation where social networking and technology predominate in their everyday lives. They have access to more information and the ability for connectivity than any other generation. Members express a strong sense of abandonment by adults. As a result, Millennials have created for themselves a hidden subculture that most adults do not see or understand.[vi] Their lives revolve around fast changing, capricious, and often-manipulative fads perpetuated through a pervasive media. Underneath all the hype and hoopla, our young people are weary and wary even as they express hope for the future.

Consider that in the aggregate, the parents of Millennials (generally Baby-Boomers) are not raising their children in any particular kind of faith.  Many parents do not want their kids to be unduly influenced by what they consider to be antiquated and confining past religious expectations. This generational sensibility continues to compel adults to want young people to develop their own personal religious faith in their own time, if any religious belief at all. Yet, parents do not give much guidance or instruction to their children with respect to spiritual development generally or Christian formation specifically. A consequence is that adolescents without any formal religious education or experience arrive on college campuses or into the adult world without an understanding for making sound judgments of what is a legitimate faith expression or what is cultic, spiritually manipulative, or emotionally harmful. Thus, it is reasonable that a default, culturally generated faith such as "Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism"[vii] has developed to fill the void.

Consider that even for the Millennials who are being raised within institutional religious settings, particularly Mainline Protestantism, the general zeitgeist compels parents and adults to attempt to be more like coordinators who want to help young people discover their own beliefs rather than teachers of an enduring, consistent Christian faith. For their own good, we make our children take music lessons or attend athletic practices, but we do not make them be a part of the church. Thus, the example set by Baby-Boomer parents and adults generally does not convey to young people that this Christian Faith is important enough to teach and pass-on to the next generation. They believe Christian life is, therefore, not worthy enough for their consideration and involvement.

Consider that Millennials report having very good and important relationships with their parents. They believe in a positive future and have a sense of confidence in their abilities. They believe that the existence of the institutional Church is good and important, yet they do not believe that the Church has any relevance for their own lives. Ironically, part of the reason for this is that young people do not believe that most of those who go to church are in fact particularly Christian.[viii]

Adults rarely perceive their engagement with young people in these ways, but this is what younger people generally report experiencing.

Questions that might be helpful to ponder: Have parents abandoned their responsibility to be engaged as the primary movers in the spiritual formation of their children? Has the institutional Church relinquished its obligation to teach the enduring Christian Faith handed down from generation to generation? Has the institutional Church itself been overwhelmed and usurped by prevailing culture?  Why do we find ourselves in a situation where fewer people among the emerging generations find any relevance or alternative within the Church to what they experience in the world? 

 

The Cultural Dynamic:

The cultural environment within which Millennials have and are growing up is substantially different than any other generation in the history of the U.S. Family dynamics, the ubiquitous use of technology that enables instantaneous access to entertainment and communication, relationships that are not bound by geography or tactile presence, and the omnipresence of information and opinion are but a few significant considerations. There is the extension of the "latch-key" phenomenon of the 1980's and 90's where parents exert less and less formal oversight of and casual engagement with their children. For many Millennials, the parental project of raising their children and instilling an ethical system has been turned over to the schools. This same dynamic is occurring as parents turn over the Christian formation of their children to the institutional Church, if they engage any religious practice at all. Children are less likely to have family traditions, generational wisdom, or religious beliefs passed on to them by their parents. Finally, constant change has bred a sense of being disconnected to anything sure and a chaos that seems to rule their lives.

We are all enculturated from birth into ways of thinking and being within our social environs and within common culture. Enculturation normally occurs unconsciously as the prevailing social norms and expectations are conveyed through media, educational systems, family influence, and peer relationships. Religious institutions are playing far less of a positive role than in the past. Enculturation can "form" us positively and negatively. We are "formed" unknowingly, but for the Christian a process of intentional "re-formation" is important in order to identify and heal those aspects of enculturation that are negative and harmful to our individual and social good.

The reality we face as Christians living in the second decade of 21st Century America is that young people are "formed" by aspects of popular culture that work contrary to their spiritual health - the way of life we are called to by Jesus Christ that enables a sustainable society full of beauty and at peace. This is most significant because they lack basic understandings of Christian truths formerly communicated through the common culture of Christendom that mitigated aspects of negative enculturation.

Taking into account the coming and going of various Christian movements over the past sixty-odd years, we have seen great change in American Christianity. We are now reaping the results of Mainline Protestantism of the '60's through 70's and American-Evangelicalism of the 1980's with the resulting politicization and polarization of religion coupled with the ending of Christendom.[ix]  Church practice has developed into a kind of "therapy" church - within the churches it has become more important to try to make people feel good about themselves (and the Church) than to teach the enduring Faith tradition or challenge people to strive for the amendment of life through Christ. This kind of "church" has resulted in little Christian growth and maturation.[x]

We are well past the "Seeker/Church Growth Movement" of the 1990's as a phenomenon primarily among Baby-Boomers with its reaction against institutional Christianity and tradition. We are now beyond the "Emergent Movement" coming into its own during the 2000's, which was and continues to be a phenomenon among primarily GenX 'ers engaged in figuring out how to be the Church within Postmodernism, which among other things opens again an acceptance of mystery. 

Among Millennials, we are realizing the phenomenon of the end of the "Constantinian-Era" of Western Christianity - a "Post-Constantinianism." Aside from changes in technology and some social structures, we have entered into a social construct that has much in common with the way early Christians experienced life within prevailing cultures that were at best indifferent and at worst hostile to Christian faith and life.

The questions to ponder within current cultural contexts are these: How does the Church respond within a culture that no longer supports Christian notions of the human being, of ethics, of our world, and of our place in the world?  How does the Church respond to a generation of which the majority of members have no formal religious education and very little meaningful religious experience? How should the Church respond to younger people who seek a kind of "spirituality," but have little notion of what that means or how to attain it outside of cultural trend, whim, or fickle personal feelings?

 

The Default Faith of the Millennials:

The "National Study of Youth and Religion"[xi] reveals that younger people have developed a sense of spirituality that the authors define as "Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism." This is not just another variant of the Christian Faith, the authors stress. It is an uncritical something-else that has developed among younger people as a result of their enculturation. They are usually not able to coherently articulate this as a spiritual belief-system, yet it well describes their sense of a supreme-being and how they engage with such a supreme-being and how that supreme-being engages them, including how they are to behave. This god is out there somewhere, doesn't really have concern for human affairs, but is expected to hopefully bail us out of trouble when we need it, and the highest moral ideal is to be nice (which is not the same as loving your neighbor as yourself).

Regrettably, the authors write that this default "faith" of younger people is not a result of churches teaching the Christian Faith badly. This is, in fact, the "faith" that primarily Mainline Protestantism is now teaching by example to its young people.[xii] As a priest recently said, "My church is full of unconverted people." It is very difficult for those who do not effectively know the Christian Faith and the life resulting from such a Faith to instill in the emerging generation a meaningful and consequential Christian understanding and experience. We are collectively living a deficient form of Christianity, and young people know it.

Consider that with respect to religious or spiritual beliefs, an understanding of the self, and knowledge of Christian faith and praxis among emerging generations, research reveals the dire need for clear and consistent teaching from the Church. We need to reengage our teaching ministry - the process of catechetical formation among people who know little about the Faith. In these days, an institution that cannot clearly articulate its beliefs, its purpose, and its uniqueness will quickly lose the interest of younger people. Too many other things are gaming for their attention.

Questions to ponder as we think about faith development among younger people: If the culturally inspired, default spiritual understanding of a growing majority of Millennials is no longer built upon a foundation of historic Christian thought and practice, how must the Church respond? What is the teaching responsibility of the Church when approached by those who know little or nothing about the Christian understanding of humanity, the world, and God's call to us? How do we live in ways that bear witness to a God who is personal and comes among us, who is engaged with us through history, and who desires us to come into the fullness of Christ?

 

Final Considerations:

Consider that there is a difference between respectful listening so to learn how to better engage and teach emerging generations and, alternately, a kind of listening that ends up relinquishing the obligation to teach so to avoid controversy or perceived affront. It is always easier and less controversial to be an impassive spiritual guild rather than a forthright teacher.  We tend to think that being less demanding and more vague will mean more interest and participation. This way of thinking is continually shown to be false.

Consider, too, that there is a difference between giving the consecrated elements of Holy Communion to unbaptized people for pastoral reasons and the giving of the elements to unbaptized people as a matter of course for reasons surrounding hospitality or inclusivity. As is evident in the aggregate, that emerging generations are not responding to an increased focus on "hospitality" and "inclusivity." There is a desire for community, fellowship, and diverse environments assuredly, but these things are not understood by Millennials within the same concept of "hospitality" or "inclusivity" that is proffered by many leaders within the Church at this time.

Consider that notions that emerging generations are not interested in their spiritual lives, in church attendance, or learning about the enduring Christian Faith are all simply myth, often used by leadership to make excuses for the absence of young people from the Church. There are a plethora of churches and Christian groups that are growing and thriving among Millennials. The problem is that our Church, along with many, have all lost the collective ability to not only experience the fullness of the Life in Christ among present members, but have relinquished the project of learning how to translate and pass on the enduring Christian Faith and practice to the next generation in ways that resonate with them.

Could it be that we no longer listen to learn, effectively? Could it be that we no longer are able to give comfort with a word in ways that emerging generations can receive?

 

Conclusion: Bringing it all together -

The churches in which I grew up considered both baptism and the Lord's Supper to be only symbolic. We were baptized at an age of accountability only as an outward sign of a decision already made. We received communion crackers and grape juice only as a remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection. There was no sacramental understanding and no "means of grace" held within the elements. The church in which I spent eight years as a lay campus pastor before becoming an Episcopalian is growing with over a million more members in the U.S. than the Episcopal Church (with probably two million more showing up on Sundays) and approximately 70 million members worldwide - nearly as large as the entire Anglican Communion. Yet I can say authoritatively that the continued growth in these kinds of churches is not because people have a warm feeling of welcome as a result of being allowed to take communion regardless of where they are in their personal or spiritual lives. And, these are not churches where the members leave their brains at the door.

Most all indicators among younger people point in a direction where clear teaching, rigorous yet fair expectation, and deeply held beliefs-proven-over-time are what they are seeking. They do not want to be told what to believe out-of-hand. This can help explain their declining interest in Evangelical and Roman churches. Yet, they seek something efficacious by which to be challenged - not just the same, old thing they experience in a wearying common culture.

We know that there is an increasing sense of loneliness and narcissism among emerging generations.[xiii] Technology is passé. Moving forward, an important ministry of the Church will be to re-teach in word and by example how to have and maintain low-tech, tactile, supportive, and multigenerational relationships.

Millennials are seeking something that is not bound by the chaos of constant change. Those who are truly trying to find God and develop a spiritual understanding of life are seeking examples of real alternatives to the morass of prevailing culture among people who claim this enduring Faith. They are seeking something that is not trite or superficial and something that proves to be profoundly consequential.

Changing the Canons and teaching of this Church to provide as normative communion without baptism will have profound consequence concerning what this Church has taught and lived for centuries as part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and for our ecumenical relationships, but such change will not cause a re-engagement of Millennials with this Church. It will not provide for younger people collectively an example of vibrant and significant belief. It will have little consequence for the Church as it tries to attract a new generation of faithful Christians.

By providing an open invitation to come and explore this radical Christian reality, we give young people who have little real knowledge of Christian belief and practice the freedom to seek and question and wrestle with the implications of this Faith. When they believe themselves ready to heed the call of Jesus to enter into more formal relationships with God and other parishioners in the context of the mystical Body of Christ, we make available to them baptism - the initiation into the Church. Finally, when they believe that they are ready to take upon themselves the profound significance of Christ's death and resurrection through the reception of the consecrated elements of Holy Communion, they have a good understanding of what they are getting themselves into. They have then determined for themselves that this life in Christ is truly what they seek.  This is not an effort to usher them into an exclusive club, but to meet them where they are as they seek that which remains sure and true over time and demonstrates a way of being that is life altering, with immense and eternal consequences. Centered on Christ, this is a word that sustains the weary.

(Special thanks to The Rev. Amy Coultas for the beginning summation!)

Respectfully submitted for consideration by:
The Rev. Robert Griffith, SCP
Imago Dei Initiative
Brooklyn, NY



[i] By using the term "emerging," there is recognition and expectation that the process of understanding a new generation is forever a process in flux, always emerging along with the young people who are growing up.

[ii] By using the word "enduring," there is the recognition that within the deep and ancient stream of Christian Tradition are aspects that remain constant over time, through trial and persecution, within a plethora of cultures and languages, and that always inspire the worship of and relationship with Almighty God.

[iii] Research studies are numerous, but consider the "National Study of Youth and Religion" (NSYR) and the Barna Research Group findings as examples. For a brief list of research organizations and for a short bibliography of articles and books pertaining to changing culture and emerging generations, see http://imagodeiinitiative.org/inquiry.  (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[iv] Dates based on Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. See for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss-Howe_generational_theory (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[v] See the research findings reported in the books: Clark, Chap (2005). Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers; and (2011) Hurt 2.0. Grand Rapids: Backer Academic.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] See below for a fuller explanation of this default "faith."

[viii] See the report from the Barna Research Group: Kinnaman, David, & Lyons, Gabe (2007).  unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. See: http://www.unchristian.com/ (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[ix] For our purposes, we are defining: "Post-Christendom" as the end of official social institutions supporting and encouraging a Christian worldview; "Postmodernism" as the philosophical system that has come to predominate educational and social understanding, but more specifically expressed on-the-ground and within everyday life; and "Post-Constantinianism" is recognized when even the culture and social-fabric no longer support or encourage a Christian worldview and when within local contexts Christianity becomes the minority belief system.

[x] See the article: "When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity," Christianity Today Online; posted June 8, 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/june/when-are-we-going-to-grow-up.html?utm_source=connection-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=2407189&utm_content=128084430&utm_campaign=2012 (Last accessed 6/16/12)

[xi] NSYR website: http://www.youthandreligion.org/ (Last accessed Apirl 19, 2012)

[xii] See - Dean, Kenda Creasey (2010). Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. For more information: http://kendadean.com/almost-christian/ (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[xiii]Marche, S. (May 2012).  Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Atlantic Magazine. Retrieved April 13, 2012, from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/8930/

We keep hearing so often how we must change our structures - change our organizational, institutional way of being - because the structures of the organization are failing us.

I don't have a problem with organizational change, but it is too easy to believe that the problem is with the structure itself. Sometimes it is, but more often than not the problem comes down to the people inhabiting the structure! The problem is us!

WE have to change, and if we do change the old structures may well work just fine. If we don't change within ourselves, all the restructuring in the world will make little difference!
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to cloth them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am."
(Isaiah 58:6-9)

In these days, I sometimes have knee jerk reactions toward the "social service crowd" or the "political activism group" within the Church. (I've done social service and political activism, BTW.) I do so, I believe, because there has been the tendency to replace relationship with God with the doing of things.  The way the institutional church, and here I'm thinking primarily of Mainline Protestantism, has gone about all of this is often far more anthropocentric than theocentric, and I think this has greatly lessened our intimacy in relationship with God and thus the power that should be behind our doing of stuff.

Another part of why I have this knee jerk reaction, and coming out of the anthropomorphizing of Christianity, comes out of the notion that if one overthrows systems or institutions or other such things that then the evil is put away and the people will flourish.  Overthrow evil, exploitative, unjust capitalism with egalitarian, virtuous, good socialism and all will be well.  Overthrow "godless Communism" with "God-ordained democracy" and a glorious future will be realized.  Any such things will work. 

The problem is that people believe that the system, the institution in and of itself is where the evil resides.  I content that it isn't any of that.  The evil resides in the hearts and minds of the people who inhabit the systems or the institutions or the bureaucracies.  Overthrow capitalistic systems with socialistic systems and you will still have just as much, if not more, corruption, injustice, greed, exploitation, etc. because the hearts and minds of the leadership, the workers, everyone, are still unmoved, unchanged, or unredeemed.

If we want to overthrow evil, injustice, exploitation, and all the like, then we must change people - one heart, one mind at a time.  The kind of change we require as Christians is not attainable by our own effort, but by the renewing of our minds and hearts by the Spirit of God.  So, to protest against systems, to yell and scream for the downfall of the bureaucracy will get us no closer to a justice, peaceful society.  If successful, there will simply be a change in the group of people who do the exploiting, etc.

Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement are all fine - people participating in our democracy, which as a former Social Studies teacher, I love.  But for the Christian, we fight against what Isaiah spells out as true fasting not by attempting to overthrow the system, but my working for the change of the individuals within the system.  If the people become virtuous, the system will be redeemed.

It is far easier to rail against the machine and raise a fist in protest that to come alongside another person who needs to know freedom and peace inside so that they have no need to exploit others.  It is very difficult to go about the long and hard work of helping people into new life. If is sometimes embarrassing to some when we say, and this is our job as Christians, that Jesus has enabled us to have that new kind of new life - of freedom, of generosity, of graciousness, of peace, and to acquire the ability to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is very messy work, this healing of the heart and soul and mind of individuals.  But only in this will our world be free of injustice, strife, and hatred.

Now, and here I'm thinking of my days in American-Evangelicalism, when we spend all our time praising Jesus and coming nosey/kneesy in prayer yet ignore the injustice, the homeless, the plight of the oppressed, then our oh so pious fasting means nothing.

I've got to go to work.  No time, at the moment. to proof read and make corrections.  That comes later...
Yes, it is true, this is what many a New Yorker says.  I have to admit, I say these too many of these very things and too often!  This is one of the best "Sh*t [people] Say" videos!

Sometimes...

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Sometimes, I wish I was a liturgist, then I would be competent in liturgy. I wish was a theologian, then I could deal with theological issues more correctly. Sometimes, I wish I was Church historian, then I could expertly deal with issues past and present. I wish I was a biblical scholar, then I might feel like I actually have something to say. I'm none of these things. My interest - where young people, faith formation, and technology collide. That's where I want to be, but it means I will be none of the above.

Migration by Chance

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Here is a stunning video of migration - a group of Starlings.  As the videographer wrote, "A chance encounter and shared moment with one of natures greatest and most fleeting phenomena. "



Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

New Year

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Last day of 2011. I always have a bit of anxious anticipation thinking about what the new year will bring.  I've learned that when I'm open to whatever may come, I am generally amazed at what the past year brought forth - positive and negative. This past year has been no different!

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Order?

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Henry Kissinger and Chairman Mao, with Zhou En...

Henry Kissinger speaking with Chairman Mao.

The following quote by Henry Kissinger in his recent book, "On China," relates to the reasons for the profound one year change from near-war animosity between China & the U.S. to both governments preparing for Nixon's historic first visit to Mao's China. This is the "It" that begins the quote.  What lessons can we learn for our dealings with the prevalent proclivities we find in our antagonistic and animosity filled culture and the Church's engagement with it?

"It did so by sidestepping the rhetoric of two decades & staying focused on the fundamental strategic objective of a geopolitical dialogue leading to a recasting of the Cold War international order." (On China, Kissinger; p. 234).


Is such a reordering possible in our two-decades old U.S. Culture War that has perverted our governmental processes and the Christian Faith in the U.S.? 

What should we sidestep? How do we do it?  What remains of the enduring "strategic objective" of the Church - for those who claim Christ who desire to find a way beyond the hubris, the anger, the bitterness, the spitefulness, the willful ignorance, the vengeful attitudes and actions that subsume so much of what is the Body of Christ, today?

Discovery

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It seems, and I experience, that within the Christian Faith, which is by nature relational (contra to the religion that developed around it), the more questions that are answered or settled the more we realize what we don't know and what is yet to be understood and discovered! It is invigorating and confounding at the same time. It is infinite.

This, I think, is a similarity to the exercise of science.  Together, these both are the seeking of truth and knowledge, even though on different plains of experience, explanation, and understanding.

This song is beautiful and marvelously tells the story so many of us have experienced and too often hidden in our hears.  The announcer does a wonderful job introducing Adele.  The song, she, certainly does bring up memories and heartaches. This is a true performer and artist - she is able to bring the lyrics to life.

From the Episcopal News Service, November 28, 2011, reported the conclusion of the disciplinary charges made against the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence:

"The Episcopal Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops Nov. 28 said it cannot certify that Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence has abandoned the communion of the church.

"'Based on the information before it, the board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the church,' the Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., board president, said in a statement e-mailed to Lawrence and reporters."


Link to the article details...

I am thankful for this. After working 20 years in higher education, I can say that I've found (pseudo) liberals (in name only) to be particularly exclusive and spiteful despite their demand for the right of radical "inclusion." Whether I agree with this bishop is not the point - the point is that if we truly, honestly want a Church in the Anglican tradition of allowance of different perspectives, then he and his diocese have the absolute prerogative to be included. Whether I am personally gleeful, hurt, thankful, angry, or whatever emotion I might have related to their perspective is irrelevant. We are not a fundamentalist Church, whether the fundamentalists are liberal or conservative.

Go Beyond The Cover

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Judging a book by its cover... What is real and what is not?  This is a commercial, but "Zombie Boy" or "Rico the Zombie" or Rick Genest is absolutely real.

I find something very compelling about this guy.



There is something about this song!  Truly, "we will never be the same!"  One encounter... one taste... nothing is ever the same again.

James Vincent McMorrow

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I'm sure plenty of people have already heard of and either like to dislike (or perhaps are ambivalent toward) James Vincent McMorrow, but I just discovered him and think he is just great.  Take a listen to this song - along with the video.



Wither the Church

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I contend that a primary reason for the withering of the Church within the public mind is resultant of the Church - liberal and conservative - capitulating to the zeitgeist. When we simply mirror the prevailing culture or system whether political, economic, philosophical, whatever, we lose our significance, our voice, our purpose, our justifiable reason to be noticed.

RIP Steve Jobs

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I've been a Mac aficionado since the early days.  I used an Apple II when I was in college.  Then, my roommate Nick, who in 1984 worked for an educational entity that enabled him to buy the very first Macintosh at educational pricing, brought one home.  We were all amazed.  The product lived up to the commercial hype.



Harkening back a little further, to, say, the 1960's and the computer of the visionary film "2001."




I was in charge of technology support for Undergraduate Studies at Kent State at the change into a new millennium.  I was the Y2K guy.  And, well yes, I do like my Macintosh best.

Steve Jobs, who was not perfect by any means, not a prophet and all that, was a visionary.  He was capable to understanding what was needed and how to do it.  I do think he will be remembered as one of the greats!  Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.

Blogging & Facebook

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There hasn't been much blogging on my part over the last couple of years.  Frankly, most of my posting has been on Facebook or Twitter.  The inevitable progress of technology and the new-new-new thing.  What's next?  No idea.  Yet, I control this space all the way down to the cgi and I'm not being exploited by the data gathering crowd.  I like Facebook and all the positive stuff it provides, but I'm not naive.

If, in fact, I use this space as I say I do in the "Notice," well, I haven't been.  To keep the stuff I like and want to come back to here, I'm less beholden to anyone else.  So, perhaps a flurry of activity for a while.

On the other hand, I'm also considering that there might be a better venue for this kind of thing.  Tumblr, perhaps, but all the stuff is saved on their servers and I'm at their disposal.  Besides, with ten years of stuff, I don't want to just jump ship.  I can't import all past stuff into Tumblr, else I just might.

Unwanted wisdom

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Richard Rohr

Image via Wikipedia


"If you try to assert wisdom before people have themselves walked it, be prepared for much resistance, denial, push-back, and verbal debate."


- Richard Rohr,
(Falling Upward; via MINemergent)




This is very true.
There is also the reality that people who speak truth in these days, whose "yes" is yes and whose "no" is no, who and actually deal with the issues that become big, white elephants in the room, well these people are going to be resisted, are going to be accused, and are going to be opposed. (The vested interests of the status-quo will not recuse themselves easily, even as their failure is imminent.)

This is too bad, because when we speak truthfully, with consistency, and actually deal squarely with the real problems we face, then real, positive, and workable change for the better can occur.  This is, of course, called integrity. 

When we live within integrity, we then earn a hearing and garner respect from those who want nothing to do with the institutions to which we (I) belong - namely, the Church.

An End

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TITUSVILLE, FL - JULY 08:  People watch as Spa...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I haven't thought all that much about the ending of the Space Shuttle program - I mean I really have, but I don't dwell on the subject.  I'm having an emotional, visceral reaction.  I've always been so enamored with the future, technology, and space exploration.  The first launch in 1981 was an exciting event.

I wonder why the United States could not have or develop a replacement launch system to take the Shuttles place.  Now, we are at the mercy of the Russians to get any of our people into space.  Perhaps this is just a lull, but the decimation of the space industry that is resulting is not good for the future of our space program.

I also understand that the monies allocated to NASA could be better spent creating new systems for deep space exploration - by be in a glorified bus business.  I understand that.  Yet, at this point in time I don't believe that our situation is a result of a well planned out program.  I simply fear that with all of other national problems, the U.S. space exploration program may well be hampered, permanently.

We shall see, but for now there is no longer a means to get our guys into space.
I've been told from time-to-time, again just yesterday, that talking with me is like playing leapfrog - meaning that I tend to jump from one thing to the thing, from topic to topic.  I've been told I should be on Ritalin because I can't seem to focus for long on one thing.  I've always said - as a justification? - that I've developed a keen ability to free-associate, or something like that. I also say that I am constantly trying to find and figure out the connections between seemingly unrelated things.  I do believe that I am a generalist and finding linkages and connections is frankly very important to me. It drives me nuts, as well as my closer friends because I tend to process out loud.

??Truth be told, I do need to figure out a way to stay on topic a little better than I now do.  So, I'm going to try - in a rambling, generalist kind of way.  One of the ways I'm going to try is by writing some short pieces about experiences in my life that add up to who I am now.  An experience I had a couple days ago with a couple clergy over the development of a new ministry that would require me to give up a lot and put myself into a situation that is more akin to living as an early 20's college student rather than a professional person nearing 50.  A newly minted priest-to-be, now deacon, in our threesome made a couple comments that I could have misinterpreted (I tend to think not, however, even in my own assumption), that I found personally annoying.  To me, they sounded condescending and presumptuous.  He did not know me at all, yet... Likewise, and this is where I near hypocrisy, my own presumption could be getting in my way of seeing things clearly.??

Anyway, I thought it might be good for me to detail an overview of some of my early experiences - if just for my own sense of personal history.  This is overview #1 - The Introduction. I have no idea where to begin.  Perhaps all this will be under an umbrella of "challenge."  I sense that as a society we are no longer particularly keen on be personally challenged.  Challenge is difficult, particularly when the zeitgeist demands that we have to feel good about ourselves, always. Being challenged is often very uncomfortable and in the short run not particularly "feel-good" inducing. In addition, too often being challenging is considered by the guardians of multiculturalism and identity-based Realpolitik to be an affront to diversity.  If we challenge such things as attitudes, behaviors, morals, spiritualities, religious beliefs, political ideologies of people belong to certain groups (of any kind in the favor with the guardians), then we are attacking the very person-hood or self-identity of the individual or the legitimacy of the group. I find this absurd, but that's why I don't fit in particularly well.  After spending twenty years in higher education and six years as a clergyman in the Episcopal Church, the driving force to capitulate to the "parity line" is profoundly strong.

??The challenges of life change.  Right now - being forced to look for another ministry position in an institution that is very challenging.  Right now - the way I'm feeling (feelings being quite fickle), the future looks like the diminishment of my life rather than a good, forward momentum. Right now, a real heartfelt loneliness (I've great friends, but they just aren't the same of the one with whom I share life and love).
??
If one would consider the "normal" life of an average late-forties American male, as difficult as that prospect is in such a profoundly varied culture and diverse population, I don't fit it politically, socially, or politically.  Materially, while I don't have nearly as much "stuff" as an average American male in his late 40's, I do have more than an average 20-something.  This affects (or is it effects?) what I can and cannot reasonably do without having to divest myself of nearly all that I posses.  At this point in my life and considering the amount of money I will conceivably make in the near future, I cannot afford to do that with an expectation that I will have to repurchase such items in the future. I'm considering a new ministry position, and it seems I may have to do such a thing - thus the feeling of "diminishment."
 
??Some may accuse me of snobbery of elitism when I say I don't want to live in that kind of situation or setting or in that run down apartment.  Well, too bad.  That "too bad" attitude comes from what I have willingly sacrificed over my life, and particularly in my early adult life after college that continues to impact my life even now.  Someone who doesn't know me of my life may easily assume such attitudes. I particularly get annoyed when someone makes that kind of assumption about me and knows nothing of my life.
?
?Challenge back then:
??
When I finished college, I remained in Bowling Green because at the time I wanted to continue working in campus ministry.  Campus ministry had a tremendous impact on my life.  My senior year, I and a couple other students began a new campus ministry-like group on the campus of Bowling Green State University out of an Assembly of God church that was not even two years old. In that short time, the church had grown to around two hundred regular attendees. We realized that the growth of the various campus ministry groups on campus was not a result of non-Christians or lapsed Christians coming into the groups, but just a shuffling around of those who were already fairly committed Christians.  We also noticed that the various groups on campus, and there were around 20 (if I remember correctly), rarely had anything to do with each other.  If anything, there was an antagonism between many of the groups due to theological and even political differences in understanding and action.  We wanted to form a group that helped bring together Christians from all of the different groups.  ?
?
In the end, we didn't want to just start another campus ministry like all the others, but something different, something unique, something that didn't exist to perpetuate a specific theological vain of thought or understanding, but a ministry that was creative enough and open enough to figure out ways to help bring unity and understanding among Christians that still allowed for the great diversity of opinion and practice among the various groups.  Frankly, we believed that the differences were good and helpful because they enable us wrestle with issues of faith and life that was not possible if we only stayed among our own.   ?
?
We decided on the name, Dunamis Outreach, because we liked the implications of Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  The challenge of creating something new, hopefully honestly new, was daunting to us as 21 year old with little real experience of life.  Yet, we didn't know any better; we didn't know that is "couldn't be done;" we didn't know that other people had lost vision and their ability to dream what could be - and be willing to go after the vision and the dream; we didn't know that we really needed to think about our retirement portfolio and to live on virtually nothing was a prudent way to live.  We just did it, whatever it took to do it, and had fun all along the way.?
?
Enough for now.  I could save this as a "draft," but when I do that I never come back to the draft.  So, just publish and since I'm really doing this for me, banish the concern about what others think.

Nice little video, along with great lyrics and music, from M. Ward.
 


There is nothing new under the sun - we all share, to one degree or another, the desire to know - why!  A broken heart, a long night, and how do we stay in the light?  Good questions all - questions the beg for an interior life that is so hard to find in our day. Quit, stillness, calm - the attitudes for and the results of being present with God.


Here is another one! I am just amazed at what some people have to endure, and yet come to such places.  Then there are others, who seem to suffer little, yet come to nothing. What enables some to do such as this young guy and others to come to nothing or realize not a hint of their potential?
Idaeisenhower.pngThe late Dwight Eisenhower, a five-star general and the 34th president of the United States, was once asked who he believed to be the greatest man he'd ever met.

He replied in a snap: "It wasn't a man. It was a woman - my mother. She had little schooling, but her educated mind, her wisdom, came from a lifelong study of the Bible. One night we were playing a card game, mother, my brothers and I. It was Flinch. Hands were dealt and I drew a bad one. I began to complain."

He continued: " 'Put your cards down, boys,' Mother said. 'Dwight, this is just a friendly game in your home where you are loved. But out in the world where there isn't so much love, you will be dealt many a bad hand. So you've got to learn to take the hands life deals you without complaining. Just play them out.' "

via: Finding Home

Resentment

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From this morning's Emergent Village post:

Lingering resentment

Forgiving behavior is dealing with situations as they arise in an assertive manner and then letting go of any lingering resentment. As the leader, if you are not able to let go of the resentment, it will consume you and render you ineffective.

 

James C. Hunter

The Servant


This is a good word for me, today.

Religion vs. Faith

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I'm starting to make a distinction between the "Christian Faith" and the "Christian Religion."

The "Religion" deals more with cultic practices and asking what I must know about stuff. The "Faith" deals with being - who must I be & how must I be with God, with one another, and with myself.

Perhaps, too, this deals with a too intense focus on "revelation" in our understanding of God's dealing with humanity (or even if there is anything to such statements). Too much of a focus on revelation can too easily lead us to simply asking the question of what we must know in order to be right with God, rather than how we must be or what we must do to be right with God. I think the focus on being is much more in line with the great commands of Jesus - and even the Law.

"I am a practitioner of the Christian Faith," which in my mind places the emphasis on being and relationship. I don't think it is the same as saying, "I am a practitioner of the Christian Religion," with all is rituals, dogmas, etc.  (Believe me, this is not an attempt to downplay the importance of such things as ritual or doctrine, etc., in human life or in the practice of the Faith.)

This may touch on the divide between being "spiritual" vs. being "religious."

New Comments

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So, I installed a new commenting system, today. Hopefully this will work far better than the old HaloScan, JS-Kit/Echo (at least on my blog).

With the crash of the hosting companies servers a while ago, my lack of posting, and the problems with comments all added up to less hits and all that. Now, getting tons of hits isn't my goal - as I say in the Notice at the top of my sidebar - but I know at least a few people do read this from time-to-time and in the past have made comments.  So, the old comments are gone.

Transitions

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These past couple of months have been a bit traumatic.  Thankfully, no one has died or been harmed in any way. I was called upon in November of 2009 to lead an effort to study, understand, and establish new ministries that are present with emerging generations and within emerging culture. The initial focus of the effort was the neighborhoods of Red Hook and Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn (the 11231 zip-code). I began the world on January 8, 2010. The sponsorship of the Red Hook Project and Imago Dei was to be for three years, after which we would be on our own.

I've spend the last year doing the hard work necessary to get this sort of thing going - an entrepreneur, a project manager, a researcher, a community organizer, etc. I've meet  and talked with numerous community and religious leaders.  I've conducted focus groups of current residence of the neighborhoods, particularly in Red Hook, of artists, of young people of various ages. I've interviewed students, and the list goes on.

I studied, read, and researched adolescent development, traits of the emerging generations, and the particulars of emerging culture. My goal/intent has always been to understand the contexts in which we live not just right now, but to also understand as best we can were things will be in the 2020's. I'm doing the work for the Church to be able to meet the culture and young people head on - to be present with them where they are - rather than trying to play catch up and doing a terrible job at it.

The Church has a terrible time being "on-time." We tend to always be 15-20 years behind the curve, yet we think these "new" things we are suddenly enamored with are cutting-edge, when they simply aren't. The positive side of the slow crawl of the Church is that it should be able to ride through in a good way the crass trendiness that simply overtakes everything for the moment and then is nothing, again. The is a difference in trying to be trendy in order to attract people and understanding where people are in their understanding of themselves, their world, and their place in the world and trying to be present with them in the mix. When the Church decides to ride the trend waves, all is lost. We stop being authentic to who we are and what we are.

The Church is always "other," with respect to the prevailing culture. Why are we afraid of that, unless we have lost confidence that we have anything worthwhile to say or contribute... let alone the whole stuff about the Cure of Souls and salvific relationships with God.

Anyway, starting in January 2011, this past January, we began in earnest the doing of ministry. Because the genesis of the Red Hook Project came out of St. Paul's Church in Carroll Gardens, and because of the formation I received within this parish, and since St. Paul's has carried on ministry in Red Hook for over the last 18+ years since the diocese closed the parish in Red Hook (foolishly), the beginning efforts for new ministry starting out of St. Paul's.  In addition, since we are unable to afford a space in Red Hook (the foolish part mentioned above - selling property in New York City), St. Paul's provides the space we need to begin ministry and to experiment with what has been learned over the past year.

Currently, we have the "Imago Dei Sunday Evening Service" that is currently meeting at St. Paul's (which at times has a larger attendance than some of the established parishes in the area).  We have the "2nd Saturdays for Good Works" that began last August (our first ministry effort).  There is the monthly Imago Dei "Red Hook Gathering" at a local Red Hook eatery and pub (Rocky Sullivan's) where we have a bit of food, a little drink, and talk about life, faith, and how it all fits together. We have a "Home Group" meeting in Carroll Gardens with nine members.  By February, we had a very good start resulting from all the work beforehand that set the foundation upon which the new efforts rest. In addition, last month we started the "Faith meets Art meets Space" project for artists (another target group for the Red Hook Space) to intentionally investigate how their faith influences their art with the rich space of St. Paul's nave as their backdrop.  We intend on having the exhibition and performances the first of June.

Then, in February, I was told it was all ending.  Ending because of money issues, ending because of opposition to the effort others in the diocese, ending because the will to do something new outside the convention boxes was not there.

This is a very big blow.  There have been mixed signals since February about what exactly will be stopped and what might go forward. I've continued working as if the project would continue beyond the June 1st cut off date, hoping that they would find the money and have the will to continue. It hasn't happened. I was told that as of June 1st, it all ends.

What in the world do I do, now? I am fighting a real melancholy - a mix of disappointment, anxiousness about attempting to find a new place of ministry, real concern about the people who have a stake in this effort and now will be left high and dry, a profound sadness about suddenly leaving the people of St. Paul's and the lone priest for a growing congregation in a lurch (I've been ministering in this parish for 7 years). In a month and a half, I'm gone.

Ideally, I would love to continue working at St. Paul's to continuing implementing all that I've learned this past year, all the ideas and plans that have been developed and are ready for implementation, to continue ministry development in Red Hook, etc. But, the parish doesn't have the money for a second priest and the diocese will not "pay me to be at St. Paul's."

There are several of priests I am in conversation with who know that pouring new wine into old wine skins just doesn't work. I had great hope that this project might be an exception, but it is not. The Imago Dei Initiative and the Red Hook Project are new wine efforts, and the wine skins of the present institution will not make space for them at this time.  What then do we do?  Do I try to find a secular job to support myself and continue doing the work, anyway? I did that sort of thing for four years, and it is very unhealthy, but that may be the sacrifice. These priests (and lay people, too) know that we are going to have to do something on our own.  This is just the way the Church is and the lessons of history bear this out.  What am I willing to do?  Right now, I'm depressed and anxious. Do I just take anything that may come along, even if I sense that it wouldn't be right?

Another consideration is that I've made a life here in NYC.  It has only been the last several months that I've felt that I have friends with whom I have enough history and comfortableness to not feel terribly lonely. It has taken me six years to get to this point.  The prospects of moving to another city, another place where I will have to start all over again at this point in my life just is not something I want to do.

Yet, there may be a very good and real opportunity to put into place what I have been dreaming of and planning for over the last couple of years in another diocese, city, and state.  Is this of God?  Is this the next step? Do I simply forget about the relationship issue and go? I don't know.  Right now, I'm not emotionally in a particularly good place to be making these kinds of decisions.  I'm very thankful for the support of friends and family.  We shall see what happens over the next month and a half.


"Blab-casting"

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I recently read an essay by Elizabeth Drescher on the "rd Magazine" website entitled "Turn Off, Slow Down, Drop In: The Digital Generation Reinvents the Sabbath"

I love this paragraph:

At the other end of the spectrum, fantasies that the application of new technologies to traditional practices will, in themselves, enrich life in general and spirituality in particular are no less misguided. Take a recent blog post on the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which shared with italicized surprise the utterly unremarkable finding that "use of visual projection equipment in worship is not related to church growth." No kidding? Survey says: a dull video or lame music is just dull as a preacher blah-blah-blah-ing on in person with no relational interest in or connection to the people to whom they are blab-casting. So, too, an engaging, interactive minister who genuinely connects to people and encourages their connection to one another is going to be compelling face-to-face and in technologically-enabled engagements (see, for example, @texasbishop, @MeredithGould, @jaweedkaleem).  [emphasis mine]

For some reason, and this gets to some of the other stuff in the article and in the life of the Church in general (particularly the Mainline denominations and more particularly the Episcopal Church, of which I am a priest), we think we must manage God.  After all, if we don't manage God everything will just fall apart and we will devolve into nothingness. (Yeah, and how is that going for us?)

The Episcopal Church is in crisis because we are a dying institution (has little to do with the gay-issue or the conservatives leaving the Church - although it has a whole lot to do with it... irony).  So many people are rushing to do triage and to save this venerable national treasure, but the ways and means they are trying to save it are little more than the same old things that have been going on for the last 40 years that have gotten us into the mess to begin with.  They dress up these tired old ways and means in hipster clothing or Emergent garb thinking that things like PowerPoint presentations, bad rock-ish music, hip-cool candles and flashy lights, casting off vestments, or better yet taking out pews, sidelining the Prayer Book, explaining away Scripture, or outlawing Rite I language will magically make the Church all rad (yes, I know) so that streams of young people will suddenly fill the empty spaces. What they end up doing is just another form of blab-casting. 

What we so often forget is that Jesus is the one that builds the Church, and if we so manage affairs of the Church according to trendy culture dictates that Jesus is nicely tucked away out of site, well, we have already failed.

There are streams of young people filling churches. Just not our churches.  Around where I live (Brooklyn, NY), within an 1/2-hour walk I can take you to at least 5 churches that are in the hundreds of members each and are made up almost exclusively with those under, say, 32 years of age.  They beg for people over 40 to come to their churches.  St. Paul's, where I serve, has a very close relationship with a few of these churches.  You know what they are doing in their services?  Old Hymns song out of hymnals. Traditional liturgies (they are rediscovering the significance of liturgy).  We use Rite I at St. Paul's for our principle liturgy (Rite II other times - we aren't protesting anything), but when we talk about changing to Rite II, it is the 20-somethings  who have been coming in greater numbers over the last 5 years who protest the loudest.

This is why my work in the Imago Dei Society/Initiative isn't focused on being trendy, but on understanding emerging generations and emerging culture to find out not how to become like them, but to discover how to translate the Faith to them in ways they can understand, form them into consequential Christians, and learn how to receive, living into and pass on the enduring Tradition in its Anglican form. This doesn't play too well when those attempting triage are bent on re-hashing the latest hip-cool thing the culture throws at us (even when all the evidence shows that what younger people are looking for is something substantially different from all that hype and manipulation). 

Lenten Discipline

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Blackfriars.jpgLent officially began last week, but today, Monday, March 14th, I embark on a personal (I don't know what word to use) Lenten discipline to find out what it is like to be focused on an identity as a "sacramental priest." 

I've been talking to my spiritual director about what it means to be priest.  When I finished seminary, I spent the next four years being a data analyst for a research project at the Church Pension Fund. It was a good job at a great place to work, but at the beginning of my priesthood my identity continued not as a sacramental presence within a community of people, but as a "company" man, a techno-geek, a secular person in the work-a-day world rather than the "God person" among people. My most productive time was spent playing with numbers in a cubical rather dealing with the cure and care of souls. Then, this past year I did work in ministry full-time, yet most of my time was taken up in the development of a new ministry - more organizational, more research oriented, and more financial than sacramental.

In addition, many of the models for "priest" lifted up in the Church have developed over the years to be more like a therapist-priest, or social-worker-priest, or political- or social-activist-priest, or corporate-manager-priest, but not a priest that is devoted to sacramental ministry - the Cure of Souls.  What does it mean to be a priest that is more sacramental and focused on "God-work" than a corporate executive, a social activist, a therapist, or a social worker?  I know that a priest in full-time ministry wears many hats, and I like that.  Yet, too often it seems that the sacramental presence is overwhelmed.

My spiritual director talks about the priest as the "God-person" in a community, a neighborhood, within a society. People need to know that there is someone present who is connected with God and is dedicated to be a helpful presence, an encouragement, an identifiable representative of God available to people, so my spiritual director says.  This really cuts at my Type-A, achievement compulsion. I don't know if I know how to be this kind of person.  I realize that my identity as a priest is not "what I do" or "how much I do" or "how well I do," even though those things are important considerations, but to be the God-person being about what God-people do - pray, worship, study Scripture, dispense the sacraments, and be about the Christian formation of God's people.

To that end, beginning today I am dedicating myself to a process that will lead to a deeper understanding of what it means to be the God-person, a sacramental priest, within a parish community and in my neighborhood community.  At St. Paul's Church (199 Carroll St., Brooklyn, NY) in the Red Hook and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I will be a sacramental priest in the Anglo-Catholic tradition by engaging in:

+ Morning Prayer at 7:30 AM - Monday through Thursday (this is already an Office done at St. Paul's)
+ Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM - Monday through Thursday
+ Low Mass - 6:30 PM - Monday through Thursday
+ Meeting with one person each day
+ Guiding/coaching the people involved in Imago Dei Initiative's "Faith meets Art meets Space" project for artists

On Fridays, it is the custom at St. Paul's to have morning Mass at 9:00 AM and during Lent Sheila Reed conducts Stations of the Cross at 6:00 PM.  So, Fridays are already taken care of (this is also my weekly day off).  Saturdays will be "management" stuff and for the doing of Good Works.  Sundays, High Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM and the Imago Dei Evening Service at 5:00 PM.

I'm striving to live more fully into the Imago Dei Society's Rule-of-Life: http://imagodeiinitiative.org/life/rule-of-life/

This is my Lenten Discipline.  I'm not sure what will come of it, but I'm sure I will be changed. God always works in ways I just don't understand and can rarely anticipate.  I plan to blog the experience.  We shall see, by the mercy of our Lord.

Crash

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I returned home from the Israel/Jordan trip to discover that my Website/blog host had a catastrophic crash of the server from which my blog and website is delivered.  I've been without e-mail, web-service, and this blog for six days - a very long time.

But, it is all back and my nearly eleven years of blog posts made it through!

More later...

Pilgrimage

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This coming Monday, February 14, a bunch of folks from the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, a couple guys from New York City, and one nephew from Ohio will be heading to Israel and Jordan for a 10 day pilgrimage.

We are excited!

One aspect of this particular pilgrimage will be an experiment to use Journeys Unlimited's social media websites to chronicle the experiences of the members of the pilgrimage as real-time as possible.  We will use Twitter, a Tumblr travel blog, YouTube, and Flickr to post impressions, experiences, videos, and photographs of the trip. Journeys Unlimited's Facebook page will be a central place where new posts and uploads will be announced.

If anyone wants to follow this pilgrimage group along the way, stay tuned.

Journey Unlimited's social media sites are as follows:

Facebook

Twitter

Tumbr travel blog

Flickr for photos

YouTube for videos

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/


The Elephant

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There is always an elephant in the room.  Sometimes we are better at admitting it than not. Its seems only common sense that to solve a problem it is best to recognize the elephant and deal with it.  Common sense. Common. Sense.

Sometimes I think I am too intent on identifying the problems that have caused and still cause so many of our problems, whether individual, within the Church common, or within our national psyche.  Sometimes, I think that identifying those big old elephants even when others would rather focus on the positive stuff that skirts the invisible thing in the room just may not make me all that popular, but I just can't seem to let it go.

I don't know... I do think that if we want to solve our problems and resolve our issues we must have everything out in the open and public and recognized and admitted.  If we don't, I just don't know how we will really solve anything.  Reading through some of my previous posts - so negative as I attempt to discover and identify the elephants.  Will this get me to where I want to go?  Perhaps not, but I'm simply processing out loud.  I suppose.

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