Announcing Church As Art Consulting

Imagine Worship that Changes People Into People Who Change the World

For seven years Church as Art has worked with mainline and emergent congregations to get pastors, lay leaders, and artists onto the same page as they design worship and other church programming.  Designed at first by Rev. Troy Bronsink to bring the emergent-missional conversation to midsized Presbyterian congregations, Church as Art's collaborative process has grown to include small congregations, non-denominational groups, and middle-governing bodies. Now Joshua Case (of The Nick and Josh Podcast) joins Bronsink to bring depth of insight and experience in the fields of outreach project management, social media, non-violent communication, student ministries, and emergence from within the Episcopalian tradition.

Worship Design Webinar:  What is Emerging Worship?

July 27 @ 7PM (EST) hosted the by Center For Progressive Renewal.  Sign up here.

Emerging worship engages communities in the art of everyday life. Whether you are asked to start an alternative worship service, are exploring complimentary elements to deepen your existing worship offerings, or starting worship for a new church plant, you need to start with "How does worship connect to what we believe about church?" Of course, you also need on-ramp methods to get started right away: tips for how to find and train musicians, artists and poets; how to design the time and place; and maybe even some survival strategies for addressing the resistance you may encounter from within your congregation. We'll hit those, too. "Emerging Worship," led by Troy  and Joshua is about communities anticipating the dreams of God together by playfully sharing and trading narratives and rituals as prayer.

About Troy

Troy Bronsink is an artist and a pastor seeking the way of Jesus. He and his wife and daughter, live in the Capitol View area of inner-city Atlanta, he is the Abbot of Neighbor’s Abbey, an holistic monastic community. Their family has been passionate about community development, education, and creativity for years. In integrating these Troy has become a contributor in the emerging church conversation. He is a singer-songwriter with 15 years of experience ranging from youth ministery to worship director to senior pastor, and in both the mainline and para-church field. Troy has an MDiv from of Columbia Theological Seminary, is an ordained Presbyterian minister, serving on the Greater Atlanta Presbytery’s Emerging Church Committee, founder of the Atlanta Emergent Cohort,  and board member of Emergent Village. He is a contributing author to the 2007 Baker Emersion release, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, and author of the forthcoming 2011 Paraclete Press book, Getting Drawn In.

About Josh

Joshua Case is a blogger, podcaster, and activist. Josh and his wife live in Decatur, Georgia where he is in his final year of study at the Candler School of Theology. Josh is an Episcopalian, co-facilitator of the Atlanta Emergent cohort, and has blogged and podcasted on matters related to Christianity in the emerging culture for over 10 years. Before moving to Atlanta, Joshua worked for six years in Geneva Switzerland where he served as the executive director for an international, interfaith youth work and ministry organization.

Have a GOOD friday

My friend Josh Case asked me to post again. I just noticed that he was the reason for my last post (I need to post more often, huh).  I want you to reflect with me on how Good Friday typically functions to form our faith, and to try a short exercise that might re-form that function: Good Friday can start to feel like a civil war reenactment once death has lost its sting.  So what, then, do a resurrection people have left to discover on Good Friday?  How does the holy-day serve liturgically to “shape” us as followers in the Jesus Way?  To answer that I want to start by throwing out ways that Good Friday might misshape us, and some guesses as to why.

So, if you grew up in a popular American Christian experience like mine, Good Friday was a time to recall the miracle of the Romans Road, when the cross was laid over the pit of hell (complete with hazard cones warning drivers to beware of impending doom) delivering to safety those individuals who would accept the torture of Christ in a representative capacity for their own cosmic debt.

And if you’ve been on a similar journey as mine since, you’ve perhaps grown a bit cynical about that thoroughfare constructed 19 centuries after the fact out of 5 sentences of a 20 page letter to the Romans as well as its complimentary campaign reducing Jesus’ Good-Friday event to a rescue mission to hack into the Matrix and change God’s rules- a mission that God would have sent Jesus to do for me if, even if I were one and only human on the earth (and yes, I’m proud to say that the “I” here is me, the guy writing this post, and not necessarily you- at least that’s how I remember the shtick going).

And if you were living and breathing 7 years ago you had to have heard of or seen Gibson’s Passion of Christ.  If it did its job, you might have gotten even more eeby-geeby about the gore and agony that Holy Week culminating in Good Friday represents.   And perhaps you shake your head, like me, at those friends who watch it year after year hoping to shame the sin away by “identifying with the pain” of our savior, or hoping to leverage the cinematic shock-and-awe to drill a deeper well toward even deeper gratitude than the year before.  But death-movies like Gibson’s have lost their sting to me.

So instead of blogging through biblical, theological or historical evidence that could either make you feel more self-confident, or could lead you to throw up your hands dismissing my argument as unfounded, I want to ask you to do a little exercise.  It is a directed meditation that will require 10 minutes of your dedicated attention.  Whether you’re reading this on your Driod or iPhone or laptop, or even if your secretary prints out RSS feeds from Josh’s blog and lays it on your desk next to your morning coffee, I need you to stop for a sec and get a blank sheet of paper.

SPOILER- don’t read ahead, trust your cells to the process and give yourself 10 minutes (9½  now) to go through this exercise.  This means you too, my old friend who is scanning this because you’ve just got a minute. Go ahead and get the paper… I’ll wait:

  1. Okay, now take your piece of paper and fold it in half twice to make four equal quadrants.  No need to draw any lines, the two creases should suffice.
  2. Turn it horizontally and write in the bottom right quadrant the names of people and organizations that fit the following categories:
    • People you are against
    • People who have hurt members of your family and those you love
    • People who hurt you when you were young
    • Groups that insult you or your friends or your religious practice
    • Countries that mean harm to yours
    • Political parties that sabotage what you see as right and just
    • Pundits and media moguls who profit from demonizing you and people you value
    • Companies, technologies, superstars, industries, ideologies, and leaders with power who misuse their power to devour others.
    • That neighbor that you just can’t stand
  3. Now on the bottom left write the names of people and groups that you self identify with:
    • Your family members
    • Those who enjoy living, shopping, eating, and working in the same places as you
    • Those who you help to get elected
    • Non profits and special interest groups you donate time or money to
    • Those who you’d take into your house when they need help.
    • Those who have given you favors, breaks, and gifted you with opportunities to progress in life.
    • Those who subscribe to and/or share your religious group’s gathering habits, styles, ideas, and language.
  4. Now draw a horizontal line along the horizontal crease above the two groups.

The gospels give us a window into three years spent by Jesus re-imagining a place over that horizon in which the divisions below the horizon no longer exist.  He saw a kingdom where those who were cursed would be blessed.  He saw a world where the oppressed would carry the oppressor’s pack an extra mile.  A future where it would be possible to love your enemies, or even that forgiving others' their trespasses would be a part of ushering in such a forgiving future. He saw a faith that would reunite the religious and irreligious.  Jesus’ mission to “proclaim freedom to the prisoner, and good news to the poor” would affect the prison guards and the wealthy as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Jesus did not say every behavior, group, or ethical decision was “relative” or that grace abounded such that injustice or self-sabotage would be free from consequences. Jesus said he’d bring a sword between parent and child.  He knew that his cruciform presence, his servant leadership would exacerbate divisions.  That either side would have to fall like a seed into the ground and die to be born anew with eyes for that other horizon.

He challenged those entrusted with power to measure out consequences for injustice and self-sabotage. And this challenge would wear out those authorities (imperial and religious, as well as the public power of social media who would cry “crucify him”) until they resorted to the last resort–violent death.

5. Now, draw a cross below the horizon, between the two sides somewhere along the vertical crease (of course I have ideas for what you could draw above the horizon, but this is a Good Friday blog not an Easter Sunday one).

Here's my beef with the Romans Road, it trains our imagination to think of ourselves first.  And when that is our primary metaphor it can pervert the power of Good Friday into a therapeutic form of asceticism. Instead of imaging this Good Friday, that it’s all about a back room deal to get you and those in your group on the bridge over troubled waters, image that the divisions of your everyday life are made physical, demonstrated in the crudest most humiliating of forms.  The cross and the torture devises of empire belong below the horizon line of the promised future. What changes the crucifixion’s cruel macabre character is Jesus’ vision for what lay beyond it’s horizon.  Empire and death are made a laughing stock on the resurrection side of that horizon. Join Christ on the road to Calvary by laying down your arms, your defenses, your revenge, your bounded sets, by daring what C.S. Lewis liked to call the “deeper magic” to happen.

No doubt, death is real.  We feel it to our bones and it is serious stuff.  But Good Friday’s glory does not come from death’s gravity. Good Friday is Good because it is the masterful cosmic foreshadowing of the prevailing community of forgiveness. The vision of the Crucified one, on Friday of Holy week, is good news to everything on this side of the horizon, it is proof that God would not want any single one to be left out of the story.  ‘Even if you or I would dream it otherwise.

Do you recall that curtain ripping in the Holy of Holies at the strike of 3pm?  Paul would later write that the dividing wall between people is also removed (Eph 2.13-16). So, what shall separate us from the fellowship forming love of God in Christ Jesus? Nothing!  There is no longer Covenanters or pagans, no longer male and female, no longer enslaved or free citizen… all things are made new.  Even that old foe, death, no longer has its stinging capacity to separate us.  The empty cross proves that corporeal threat is impotent in the face of God’s love, and the empty tomb proves that sacrificial death is empty too.  Jesus was betting on that! Good Friday is the inhaling of the deeper magic.  On Good Friday, we are invited to join Christ in letting-go of the demand we hold on others and in letting-come the power to forgive, heal, reconcile and belong within a New Creation.

Have a Good Friday!

Hermeneutics

My friend Josh Case asked me to write what I think about "Hermeneutics" for this age

My operating hermeneutic is to encounter texts through communal practices that break our guessing machines and place us in postures of listening.”- me

Here are the four cats who've blown up this idea for me:

  1. Daniel Pink suggests that we are in a conceptual age where pattern recognition, play, story, and empathy are the new sought after leadership skills.  He admonished us to cultivate "high touch" "high concept" aptitudes. I think that churches can be overflowing with these skills if they trade out old “stand and deliver” practices for real life rehearsals, practices, drills, postures, that ask us to interpret with these emerging skills.
  2. Walter Bruggemann writes in Text Under negotiation:

"Our task is not to construct a full alternative world, but rather to fund-to provide the pieces, materials, and resources out of which a new world (from origin to completion) can be imagined. The place of liturgy and proclamation is "a place where people come to receive new materials, or old materials freshly voiced, which will fund, feed, nurture, nourish, legitimate, and authorize a counter imagination of the world."

3. And Jonny Baker writes:

“The goal of ritualilization is the creation of a ritualized agent, an actor with a form of ritual mastery, who embodies flexible sets of cultural schemes and can deploy them effectively in multiple situations so as to restructure those situations in practical ways”

These three thoughts make me want, not to write better sermons, but rather, to create ritualizing situations that feed fund and nourish a person’s participation in the new creation…  Such a church places textual authority ahead of herself, in the “yet to be determined” space of a promised future. Churches that design themselves for something shorter-sited than that have become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy– clanging cymbals, lost symbols, siloed on hills or under bushels. Leslie Newbigin wrote,

“The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel.”

I think he nailed it.  And since first reading that I’ve found this to be true in encouraging and discouraging ways:

  1. A congregation’s method (its polis) is the “news” it spreads: Have you ever tried to explain Google or Wordpress without referencing internet or open sourcing…  These companies organize differently because the world in which they live acts differently.  When we believe that gospel is physical and relational, in a “conceptual age,” in its affect and its MO, then we too start to organize differently.  Recently a good friend came to a worship gathering of Neighbors Abbey and she was not allowed to be a spectator, not allowed to “church shop.” She was placed in a position of reflecting through prayer and discussion.  This moved her in an incredible way.  Moved her past what she expected for a church visit.  This was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ penetrating her defenses for the first time in years.  A speech, no matter how well prepared, would have never made it past her guard.
  2. A congregation’s way of being with its neighbors determines the most about its being “good or bad news” to its neighboring host culture.  An innercity church in determined that building a large elder-care complex would be best for their ministry to the poor and best for their community.  They did not, however, listen for the community’s desires.  They came into community meetings demanding to be heard, and demanding quick action.  This posture hurt their ability to show/share/be gospel with their neighbors.  It’s unfortunate, but they were the hermeneutic of the gospel- few, if any, voiced arguments against “what” this church proclaimed, or how this community views scripture or revelation.  Their actions speak loudest at alienating themselves from the good news that is breaking into their neighborhood.
  3. A congregation that engages its local issues makes room, again, in people’s imaginations for the possibility of a God that has something good in store for the world. Recently at a party a person pointed to a local church leader and said, “he’ll makes you believe there is a God.”  Now this leader is not an apologist. As best we could tell, he’s never tried to convince her or others “about” anything.  Instead this Jesus follower lives real life with the others in the community.  This person is not a “seeker” for the church leader to attract. This person is already receptive and listening for the revelation of God, ears ready for goodnews.  It just takes people being that good news around her. The Post-Denominational Willow-Burberry hermeneutic is not a faith statement or a preaching style, it is the the courage to practice in real time, out there.

For a few centuries, at least, hermeneutics questions have allowed people to stand on their shoulders and argue “about” revelation.  I say, lets spend a few centuries joining creation as humble incarnation people, open and listening together for God’s revelation.

All y'all in the green, stand up stand up...

Recently several friends of Emergent Village released the decision to restructure our future around the metaphor of a "Village Green."  A week later Christianity Today announced that they have taken that same metaphor to organize some of its publishing into a more conversational format.  This, along with the mixed reviews about the ambiguity of EV 2.0 in this honeymoon phase, gives an opportunity to be clearer about what  "The Emergent Village Green" is and could be. Remember back in the 90s then the Real Slim Shady walked through the Grammys with hundreds of impostors?  I think this is not such a case. Instead, I think that CT and others are hitting the same generative pulse that EV has been discovering through ten years of  "conversation." Relational set environments of trust work! For 10 years emergent has been practicing four values: commitment to God in the way of Jesus, commitment to the church in all its forms, commitment to God's world, and commitment to each other.  This practice has created a "relational set" kind of communion.  People from cohorts in Atlanta to SanFransico to Chicago have met across diverse denominational affiliation and diverse worldviews to practice putting these ideas in a web of connection together.  If not every day, then emergents have at least been able to try these shared practices on at their cohort meetings or regional gatherings or conferences or over a web conversations. And Emergent's practioners are no longer just men, we're no longer just ex-evangelicals, and we're no longer just middle-class whites.  But we're not "perfect."  Some of us have broken these vows and picked on denominations or certain fundamentals.  Some of us have missed chances to include Native Americans or second generation immigrants or African Americans.  Some of us have not considered God's World when we bought cars or chose plastic bags.  Some of us have even given up on the ‘idea' of Jesus at one point or another...  But when we're together as the village we try to return to these four practices-we make space to do it again, to return to healthier integrative participation with the coming of God.

As most of you have heard, this spring some of us got together in DC to listen for what God has been up to with the village over its ten years.  We noticed that the deep integration of these four practices, as well as a few additional values, were our unique contribution to the emerging church phenomena; not any one spokesperson, not any one project, not any one innovative church or website or theology.  No, Emergent Village's contribution has been the intentional embodiment of our values in new ways with more and more people. And we realized that these values only matter in practice. In short, all we can do is make an environment where these can happen.  When our church or neighborhood, or denomination, or family are not yet safe for the risky experiment of valuing these four commitments at once, the village has made safe, generative space.  And that is why, for example, we say at the Atlanta cohort that each participant is an owner of the village, because a room is only as safe as the shared habits of the people within it.  We also know that being generative, or forwardly creative about the outcomes of being together cannot be guaranteed or herded from above by a coordinator or below by an uncoordinated open soured free-for-all.  A tree is known by its fruits, you can't will it to bear something different.

And so we decided to leave coordination of projects more open sourced, and to give all our energy to the "village greens" where such projects are born and given room to flourish.  We tasked ourselves with hosting cohort open source projects, event inventions, justice opportunities, alternative publishing channels, arts collaborations, web and communication resources, all with the compass of our values setting a "way" to play in the various "greens."

Its flattering that Christianity Today sees a value of shared conversation in a "Village Green". And it has been encouraging that Emergent Village has birthed similar friendships like the various denominational hyphenated groups, and the affinity groups around the missional church movement. And who knows,  more and more of what emergent has demonstrated might fit various future media streams, denominations, churches, and co-ops?  And, no doubt many groups will discover independently what we have been discovering as they enter similar journeys.  But for the forseable future Emergent Village wants to continue to make space for an unfinished kind of conversation that we set out on ten years ago: one that integrates the four values of following God in the way of Jesus, loving the church in all its forms, loving this world where God is active, and committing to our relationship together.  This is not a line in the sand but a huge "congratulations" to the many who have taken the Village Green into their own context, and an invitation to continue contributing to the unique green that holds these four values in creative tension.  Emergent needs you, because, we are you...

EV knows that folks are setting up greens all over out there without requiring some blessing or oversight from the wider conversation.  But if you want to coordinate your efforts in any of these areas, here are the teams and their contact people (link to the details and their emails here).

Arts: Makeesha Fisher or yours truly

Cohorts: Sarah Notton or Mike Clawson

Communications: Tim Snyder

Events: Randy Buist or Anthony Smith

Justice: Kelly Bean or Wendy Johnson

Resources: Mike Stavlund or Brittian Bullock

Will the real village greenies stand up, stand up... we'll have to wait and see.

Church Target Practice

Neighbors aren't targets, or are they? Many churches have "started" or "grown" in the past 30 years by carefully studying marketers and doing demographic research determining their "target." And yet targeting is a pretty scary notion in our neck of the 'hood.

In Georgia, it is estimated that 200-300 children are targeted for sexual exploitation a month, and our neighborhood includes two of the city's primary hot-spots. 66% of the houses in our zip code were in foreclosure before the crash because elderly homeowners were targeted by mortgage fraud schemes. Some wayward kids in our area who have learned how to hotwire GM cars are targeting GM and Chryslers to break into. And then one of our neighbors, a friend of our family and our lawn-guy, was entrapped in a GBI drug sting, because of he was "such an easy target."

Last week members of the Georgia House of Representatives heard a bill (HB 582) that would amend the current law to exempt minors paid for sex from being targeted by prosecutors as adults. As Georgia law currently stands, a girl or boy who is pimped out to a "customer" (aka a "John") by their drug dealer is the easiest target for law enforcement. They are afraid, they will not seek legal counsel, and they are cheap to prosecute. The customers, men driving past our house to pick up girls in cars with plates from places miles away like Cobb or Gwinnett county, are difficult to prosecute. Its easiest to "target supply", even while demand increases. Pimps are deft at hiding behind legal loop holes. The typical pimp befriends a runaway and builds a romance that introduces hard drugs to the child. Within a few months that kid is "owned" by their addiction, and the dealer can then bring her or him to a brothel or street where they can earn money for drugs.

One of the participants in Neighbors Abbey, Anne Chance, has taken leadership in a citywide coalition called StreetGRACE built to organize churches to combat this cycle of enslavement. She has invented a prayer practice called "C U @ 2" (look it up on facebook) where members around the world stop, wherever they are, at 2pm to pray about this issue. Last Tuesday, when the Georgia House of Reps was hosting a hearing on HB 582, she organized a prayer vigil in our neighborhood. Now a notion of "Prayer Vigil" is not the best "marketing" for those of us hoping to "attract" people to Neighbors Abbey. But this was not your everyday vigil. This was a chance for folks to bring the tension of our everyday urban activist experience into a quiet, reflective place of transformation.

There was ambient music. Stations were set up to guide prayer. There was a projector in one corner juxtaposing images of the city with the beatitudes. There were candles and bibles and prayer books. There was a station for body prayer, where attendees were guided through a series of postures that would "embody" our hope for courage for the victims, advocates and law enforcement. There was a map where pray-ers would place a sticker indicating where they lived and note "who is my neighbor" by reflecting on the story of the Good Samaritan and their proximity to the struggle of these children and advocates addressing this struggle. And there was a station for the contemplative person to choose five beads representing five distinct groups to remember in prayer (this is the CU@2 prayer): the victims, the coalition of advocates, the perpetrators, law enforcement, and our immediate neighborhood. Stringing these five beads next to each other to make a bracelet I've taken that prayer with me, and I am struck that God is targeting all of these groups- seeking all of us, weaving us together, and sending healing, hope and renewal for any and all.

So I guess Neighbors Abbey does have a target. We want to join God's dreams of healing and restoration for all; and week-to-week we are targeted again by God's love, and our own dreams are re-formed toward God's larger purpose in Jesus Christ.

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'Thank you to the churches, individuals, and foundatoins who are helping get this off the ground by joining us in this effort to join God's mission in the city!

We are at $47,125 in gifts, grants and pledges for our annual budget of $55,500. That only leaves $8,375 for the remainder of our fiscal year ending in October.

Click here to make a tax deductable donation via Pay Pal to the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, note "Neighbors Abbey." Or email troy@neighborsabbey.org for more details.

Or mail a check to

Neighbors Abbey c/o Presbytery of Greater Atlanta 1024 Ponce de Leon Ave Atlanta, GA 30306-4216

Thankyou!

GENERATE magazine

I'm excited to be collaborating with Paul Soupiset, Tim Snyder, and Makeesha Fisher, among others, on this long awaited project. I will be editor of visual and performing arts.

HERE'S THE SCOOP...

GENERATE Magazine has been an open, collaborative project in the works for more than six years now. And after many casual conversations — and the 2009 convening of an editorial team — we are ready and eager to involve you, the larger community, in helping realize this dream with us.

The seeds for GENERATE Magazine were sown sitting around a fountain in San Diego in 2004 — a few writers, poets, artists and designers explored and dreamed about launching a print publication that would embody the ethos and tell the stories of the growing, generative conversation that some have called the emerging church conversation.

Again at the 2007 Emergent Gathering, another planning group was convened to discuss logistics, bring some leadership to the dream, and get things rolling. GENERATE Magazine is the fruit of many months of their planning.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS?

Art provides resistance and lift to what the Spirit of New Creation is generating. The beauty that artisans fashion, sing, and perform can testify to what is possible and evoke imagination for what is yet to come. We are drawn to paintings and songs that put us "in play." GENERATE aims to fashion a synthesis of such works of art, and to celebrate the lives of their creators, in order to put our readers in play as well.

WHY GENERATE?

GENERATE exists as a forum to retell the stories of the grassroots communities and individuals who are finding emergent and alternative means to follow God in the Way of Jesus. We hope to create an artifact of this historical conversation. These stories will be transmitted through narrative, works of visual art, documented performances, verse, fiction, non-fiction, essays, and interviews.

We/you are the conversation; our art, our lives, our hopes and failures all meet up with God’s approaching dreams for creation. We converse and in doing so spread the news that we are not alone — that joy is found in our generative friendship.

GENERATE Magazine is a grassroots-organized, independent publication affiliated as a friend of Emergent Village, but not affiliated with any publishing house. We are currently exploring ways to distribute GENERATE Magazine via the Emergent Village Cohorts and wider friendships. More on that in the days to come.

You can't stay inside our church...

The Abbey has been reading from Luke as a group for several months now. We have just now gotten to chapter 6, the readers-digest version of the Sermon on the Mount. And we were challenged by the vision of a community in our neighborhood who might forgive every enemy, not charge interest on loans, and when someone steels from us- we would give them more in return. It shaped us. We want to be those people and yet we're scared of trusting the "other" that much. We know we can't afford to be that open, that under-secured, that loose handed about our safety and possessions. When we faced that fear we also realized that, somehow (and I know this feels far fetched) being known and beloved by Jesus has shaped some yoda-like people of faith to live in such a way: open, under-secured, and loose handed. We risked wondering if personal transformation might bring this kind of living (I know, but I told you it seemed far fetched). Anyway, when I mentioned this to my friend David, last night, he said I should read the intro to Eugen Peterson's translation of Luke. It made me laugh at the coincidence of choosing this gospel book to read first as a group. We at the Abbey have been outsiders to church and religion so long that we are very reluctant to start any kind of church that would put others on the outside.  We resist talking about personal transformation (knee-jerk-ed-ly so, perhaps) because we want transformation to be not about us, but for the good of everyone around us.  Peterson's intro hits this spot on...

Most of us, most of the ttime, feel left out––misfits.  We don't belong.  Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, "insiders" who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded.

One of the ways we have of responding to this is to form our own club, or join one that will have us.  Here is as least one place where er are "in" and the others "out."  The clubs range from inflormal to formal in gatherigs that are variously political, social, cultural, and economic.  But the one thins they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savor the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.

Nowhere is this price more terrible thn when it is paid in the cause of religion.  But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human communty to a "membership."  But with God there are no outsiders.

Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider.  An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish case of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by he religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheep herders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor.  He will not countenance religion as a club.  As Luke tells the story, all of use who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn't felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found in the and welcomed by God in Jesus.

I hope that Neighbors Abbey keeps its doors so open that no one can stay "inside" while others are "outside."  And while I do hope that we transform as group (me being the first in need of transformation- fo sho) I pray that we never become more a part of our group than a part of the neighborhood we hope to see transformed!

Neighbors Abbey

In August 2008 a group of us met on the back porch and decided to create a church that would serve the good of our neighborhoods of Southwest Atlanta. Now we meet for meals, to help our neighbors, to pray, to discuss scripture, to design public performance art projects, and many other things. Should you join us in any of these capacities you will affect how we us step with courage into God's dreams in Jesus for enlivening our city.

You can click on the following links to learn more about our beginning, our name, or our funding needs.

Our budget for 2009 is $52,000. We have been given a $25,000 matching fund challenge grant. Every dollar you give will be doubled by this matching grant. We already have $14,000 in outside pledges, other gifts, and offerings from Abbey participants. We still need $13,000. If you feel connected to this dream and want to entrust us with some of your money to invest in this entrepreneurial act of faith click here for details on how to give secure donations. All funds are tax deductible with accounting oversight by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.

Our official website is in process. This temporary page was set up to provide more information about the Abbey's vision and fiscal responsibly.

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the emotional point of signs

So my professor, Darrell Guder, would talk about the church as a community like John the Baptist (the guy in red with the old text, who appears posthumously in this painting), pointing to Jesus.

My new friend, Pete Rollins talks about “communities as Ikons,” living acting dramatizations of the story of God.

So when I saw this post by Daniel Pink about Emotionally intellegent signs I thought, hmm,

“The idea,” says The Globe, “is that seeing a child’s handwriting and drawing will make parents relate to the sign in a way they never would have with an impersonal version.

I wonder what our other pre-fabed IKONS (churches with stated orders of worship, prefabbed worship songs, sterile modern corridors, franchises, or inanimate sanctuaries and buildings) communicate emotionally?  What might it look like if our “pointing” were appealed to emotional intelligence…

presbymergence?

So Adam Walker Cleaveland and Karen Sloan and I met at the Mainline Emergent/s event at Columbia Theological Seminary two winters ago and the two of them had a great idea to build an environment for emergent conversation within the PC(USA). At first I was a distant skeptic, then a related skeptic, and now a skeptical contributor to this growing discussion. I won't look to define Presbymergent here, but to note the synchronicity that as Presbymergent is looking to define herself Phyllis Tickle, in her book, The Great Emergence is providing some overarching theories for how such hyphen-mergents and Emergent Village are relitivised within a larger phenomena. Along the way I have even met Emergent Jewish Rabis, so who knows where all this will lead. Well, Ryan Bolger, co-author of Emerging Churches:Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures was asked by his seminary to devote an issue of their quarterly journal to Mainline Emergents, and I agreed to write a piece that needed to be longer than their publishing space. So it is split into two places:

The first installment can be found in Fuller Seminary's Theology, News and Note, Fall 2008 Issue.

The second is forthcoming on the Presbymergent blog. I will post more on this later and sometime in the next month will have a blog conversation with Ryan about the whole journal issue including the following other articles:

Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger wrote The Morphing of the Church; Walt Kallestad, Lutheran pastor, Community Church of Joy, wrote Redefining Success, Moving from Entertainment to Worship; Ryan Bell, pastor, Hollywood Seventh Day Adventist, wrote From the Margins: Engaging Missional LIfe in the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church; Nadia Bolz-Weber, mission developer of a Lutheran church plant in Denver, “House for all Sinners and Saints”, wrote Confessions of a Sarcastic Lutheran; Troy Bronsink, PCUSA pastor and community organizer in inner-city Atlanta, wrote Of Dying Breeds and Swelling Hopes: A Mainline Emergent in the Reformed Tradition; Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest, Seattle, wrote Quest and Its Relationship with the Evangelical Covenant Church; Phil Jackson, pastor of The House in Chicago, wrote A Reciprocal Connection: The Surprising Convergence of Hip-Hop and the ECC; David Fitch, pastor of “Life on the Vine”, in outlying Chicago, wrote On Being an Emerging Christian in the Christian and Missionary Alliance; Liz Rios, founder for Center for Emerging Female Leaership, and Luis Alvarez, pastor in the AG, wrote Will a New Church Emerge? Las Raices in the Assemblies of God.

Gen x, Culture wars and the hyphenated movements

I read an incredible article today on the culture wars between "knowledge management" (km) and "social media" (sm) and I'm seeing signs of it everywhere. Venkatesh G. Rao writes a killer article, , Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War

arguing that gen-xers (those born between 68 and 79) are choosing between ideological promotion (Boomers who invented km) and creative exploration (mellinials inventing sm).

This weekend in Atlanta will be the catalyst conference, run by Gen-Xers who are looking to get the baby boomer principles of the seeker church into the hands of open source, new media Millennials. There will also be a smaller conference of Progressive Christian Cooperative, geared, in part, at getting the wisdom and momentum of the Baby Boomer liberals to cooperate socially while maintaining their ideological distinctives. I'm going to be at both conferences for a bit because, as a good Xer, I like to synthesize these complex differences. But I'm struck that neither of these are yet led by Mellinnials and that they may not need to exist for Mellinnials... unless the church convences them of their need for it, and then they quit being Mellinialls. Let me say this a different way: Gen-x driven faith groups who are partnering with Boomer Knowledge Management underwriters face a challenge in that they will work to un-Melliniallize the Mellinials. Both Catalyst and PCC face the hard challenge of building a future market share by pulling folks out of incarnational living.

Let me add to that my own gen-x home in "the hyphens" that is the presby-mergent affiliation I have within Emergent Village. It seems that with the help of Phyllis Tickel's Great Emergence, that groups like sub-mergent, presby-mergent, and anglo-mergent will meet up to discuss our similarities. It could be that we discover that we are trying to please Knowledge Management Religious Culture while exploring the benefits of social media. Hm.

To explore my point I'll lift two quotes from Rao's article:

"The Boomers liked the idea of world views, and tried to frame both what they were for, as well as what they were against (think Star Wars) in monolithic ways. Mental models of the world that a single person could get. James Michener’s The Drifters represents one articulation of such a world view. Here’s the thing: Millenials fundamentally cannot think this way because of the deeply collaborative nature of their cultural DNA. They seem happy understanding and working with their piece of the puzzle, trusting that the larger body politic will be manifesting and working according to a reasonable understanding of the world. Gen X, in this sense, manages a curious compromise. We like world-views, but as anti-visionaries, we don’t like to just make them up arbitrarily (and definitely not in the form of a novel or the lyrics to a song). Our world view is a pragmatic one that accommodates complexity by trying to make it a very rich, data-driven one. Wikipedia (founded by Gen X’ers, Jimmy Wales, b. 1966, and Larry Sanger, b. 1968) is a classic Gen X-led attempt to understand the world. It has none of the incomprehensible complexity of Facebook-as-implicit-model-of-the-world, but neither does it have the doctrinaire vacuity of typical Boomer manifestos that try to dictate how the world should be, with no real attempt to figure out how it is."

"The tragedy of Gen X is that we will not be remembered as a big-idea generation. We will likely be remembered, via a footnote (much like the Silents), as the generation which made the fateful decision to trust the creativity of the generation following it over the values of the generation that came before."

In the recent epic contemplating the death of emergent, I am struck by the need to ask if it follows the values of x,y,or z. I have a hunch, thought, that the future of emergent is not in selecting who's values it carries forward but that future of emergent and so many church experiments is the creative way of learning and discovering meaning in what lies ahead.

Presence 1:Of Parts and Wholes

I am reading a book that Doug Pagitt lent me, Presence:Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (2004 Society for Organizational Leranign Inc. : Peter Senge, C.Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Flowers).

It ties together quantum theory, emerging creative systems, and education... so far.

I will make periodic posts as I go on this read.

Parts and Wholes:

everything is related. Since the industrial revolution most of society has thought in terms of machines. We assume a whole is made up of many parts, and wholeness depends on each part working effectively. Living systems do not work the same way. "Unlike machines, living systems, such as your body or a tree, create themselves. They are not a mere assemblage of thier parts but are continually growing and changing along with their elements." (3). The authors site Buckminster Fuller for holding up his hand and asking, what is this?" To which he would respond, a hand is not a static thing, "what you see it not a hand... Its a 'patterned integrity,' the universe's capacity to create hands" (4).

The hand is a concrete demonstration of the possibility of hand-ness. In fact, the cells in your hand replace themselves in less than a year and a half. Meaning: the matter crammed and ordered together that you are your using to scroll up or down your browser did not belong to your body 18 months ago--- ashes to ashes and dust to dust, huh? Dieing and rising is not a one time thing, we are continually being converted as participants in the Way of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is continually sending new information, new circumstances, new relationships, new possibilities for us to step into. And this in not only true about individuals, but also about systems, families, organizations, and... churches.

However, A living system's ability to re-create itself, "depends on our level of awareness, both individually and collectively." The authors of presence suggest that "The basic problem with new species of global institutions is that they have not yet become aware of themselves as living" (7).

This makes me wonder the same thing about the church. Do Presbyterians or non-denominational CCM churches recognize that they are a whole made up of parts that are continually growing. Are we able to suspend our current self understandings long enough to imagine new ways of participating in God's future revealed as the kingdom of God? And so the question of learning becomes significant. How do we change our thoughts and actions to include this kind of awareness? That will be the next post.

presbymeme II

So my new friend Bruce, who moderates an assemblage of 'self-identified Jesus followers who trace their ideological origins back to the reformation and utilize the language and infrastructures of political representative polity to make their decisions' used his power to requisition a meme from those of us in the blogosphere....

The Rules // Presbymeme II

  • in about 25 words each, answer the following five questions;
  • tag five presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged;
  • be sure to link to this original post, leave a comment or send a trackback to this post so others can find you;

The Questions // Presbymeme II /

1. What is your favorite faith-based hymn, song or chorus.

Currently tied between Lori Chaffer's "Please Don't Make me Sing this Song" and "Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain" (hymn 14 blue hymnal- though I mess with 1870s melody) by John of Damascus (c. 675-749).

2. What was the context, content and/or topic of the last sermon that truly touched, convicted, inspired, challenged, comforted and/or otherwise moved you?Mark Lomax at Church Unbound as he spoke about the reign-dom of God.3. If you could have all Presbyterians read just one of your previous posts, what would it be and why?

I think the discussion around the future of presbymergent several months back was a good one to have my presbyterian colleagues weigh in on.

4. What are three PC(USA) flavored blogs you read on a regular basis?

5. If the PC(USA) were a movie, what would it be and why?

"Stranger Than Fiction" the pop-pomo film where Will Farrell meets the voice of his narrator and strives to control his poetic destiny. Why?: Because we continue to hear the voice of our Narrator, but in our fear of our imminent death we run the other way or try to form committees of experts to avoid our very vocation. And because I'm pleasantly surprised at the courage of folks I meet who do take the risk of stepping into the script, and laying down our tribe's future for something larger than our own story, only to find that this is the very act that makes our story and tribe what it is.

Everyday Liturgy interview about city, emergence, and Wendel Berry

I was interviewed by Thomas Turner of Everyday Liturgy, an quarterly journal, about the impact of Wendell Berry on my work as a pastor, community organizer, and artist. I can't believe he used as much of the interview as he did. I'm by no means a literurature critic or expert on Berry. Thanks Thomas for the chance to share my story!

The interview is entitled: The Art of Being in Atlanta

This issue includes other book reviews, several more articles about Berry and great reflection for folks looking to see the beautiful and divine in the everyday. And the previous isue includes interviews with Brian McLaren and a beautiful artful piece by Paul Soupiset.

Aperture and Wendell Berry's "Sonata at Payne Hollow"

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/99/286251424_f86a9a3a36.jpg?v=0 In Wendell Berry’s "Sonata at Payne Hollow," Harlan and Anna are deceased lovers speaking to eachother in the present as ghosts. Anna comments to Harlan about the river that he’s “never seen enough of,” he keeps gazing upon it even after generations have come and gone. Harlan replies:

It never does anything twice. It needs forever to be in all its times and aspects and acts. To know it in time is only to begin to know it. To paint it, you must show it as less than it is. That is why

as a painter I never was at rest. Now I look and do not paint. This is the heaven of a painter––only to look, to see

without limit. It’s as if a poet finally were free to say only the simplest things.

Wendell Berry: from Given Poems, "Sonata at Payne Hollow" (pg 43)

http://johnwmacdonald.com/8005l_night_lights.jpg

Writing “perfectly clear” theology, as with all other arts, is like stopping the river of God’s work. Comprehensiveness and clarity are always in tension. Theology likes to be comprehensive. otherwise theology requires a slow shutter speed letting in light from all sort of angles. Theologians must choose between the benefits of darker swirling light “night shots,”like the one above ove the Ottowa River Parkway by John C. McDonald or the benefits of those surreal smoky looking shots of rivers in motion like the shot above of the Rupert River By Ian Diamond. Theology is to be done along the way, utilizing the material on the ground, fraught with its own weakness, leaving the imperfections that make each experience unique, it is to be a transitory prayer- a song of assent. Consider the evangelist John’s long, loose, time-lapsed takes:

What has come into being in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

To choose a pretend “captured” portrayal of God, as a snap shot, with 400 speed film and quick shutter speed, and small aperture is to avoid the exposure to the scorching-brilliant glory of God. ‘To be like the children of Israel sending someone else up to Sinai. To cover our eyes, to resist light is to attempt mastery of it, to contain it, to domesticate it. To choose a pretend “still life” portrayal of God’s creativity is to make life what it is not. Such a choice explains away life’s rhythm: death and resurrection caught up in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, awaiting the revelation of the Children of God. To theologize is, as Wendell Berry describes painting, to “show it as less than it is.” In this case we can learn that both the personal nature of God and the created nature of God’s work is like the Word of God, it is dynamic or “living and active,” as the writer of Hebrews has sketched.

Connecting...

So, Tom Livengood and folks at The Living Room took the initiative to help people connect to their neighbor in Atlanta. They started by listing agencies they knew of in the atlanta area on a google map. Trey Tucker with Roov.com designed artwork for a re:connect page. And then one of the TLR peeps, Amy Anderson, built this site to facilitate the google map and to introduce folks to Roov.com. "Thank you, Tom, Trey, Amy and others."

www.re-connect.us

The Re:CONNECT weekend was an invention of Nate Ledbetter, Melvine Bray, and Leroy Barber and myself. We wanted folks in Atlanta to meet other people doing justice and to learn about justice/social community work. The weekend rocked! We had a panel discussion on Friday night and the panelists included (I'll add more as I have their blogs):

Rusty Prichard : Evangelical Environmental Network

Mark Anthony: Pastor, Jesus for Justice

Carlos: Mentoring and Public Speaking

Daniel Hombrich: INnocence Atlanta

Nate Ledbetter: Charis Housing

Deborah: Mothers and children

Chris Capehard: ROOV.com

They described their work and they answered questions including:

  1. How do others’ passions contribute to the reach and focus of your ministry?
  2. How do you meet Jesus in doing your work?
  3. What has your work taught you about engaging civil government?
  4. How do local neighbors and the contexts of individual neighborhoods play a roll in the kind of ministry you do?
  5. How do church congregations help or hinder the work you feel called to?

J4P crowds

jay and scott

shane’s stump speach, complete with the revolutionary’s bullhorn

The next night we had Shane Claiborn, Chris Haw, and Scott and Jay from The Psalters come and perform "Jesus for President." It was an unbelievable synthesis of narative theology, liberation theology, political imagination, and John Howard Yoder with some deep country Tennessee thrown in. I felt like I was simultaniously at a Tom Wait's show, a Toni Morrison poetry reading, Walter Bruggemann seminary class, and post modern theatre. My friends Ryan and Holly Sharp also known as the Cobalt Season, were the artists behind the book design and the multimedia support- they nailed it!

The whole weekend was a huge success. The AJC wrote about it, we had folks from Auburn and Columbia, SC. And we had a huge crew of volunteers from the Atlanta Emergent Cohort, Marietta Presbyterian Church, and Mission Year.

If you're from the ATL go to Re-CONNECT.us and keep the movement going!

alas Pilgrimage to Santa Fe

205768275_eg34.jpg The closest to attending an Emergent thing before the Gathering was a songwriter's conf at Solomon's Porch. So in 20012 when Kelley and I bought plane tickets for Albuquerque it felt like a big leap. I guess that's part of the magic, pilgrimage means going somewhere you haven't before, and it usually takes some extra effort to go on a pilgrimage, and there's that whole mystery thing working for it too.

dscf0007.JPG

We had Eve with us and we crammed into a cabin with some great folks who would turn out to be lifetime friends (cue the Toad the Wet Sprockets tune). It took a few years of that before we felt like we needed a trip like this to keep our blood pumping, to have courage, to risk. it was nothing like those camps that we had all run as college kids and youth pastors. It was lo-fi, it was a place to rest. Around pubs in town and around the lake or the gi-mung-us Bible we learned from each other. We invented book ideas, church ideas, community development ideas, monastic habit ideas... We prayed, and sang, and shared Christ's blood and body, and did yoga, and went to spas, and laughed and drank. It was generative, "producing new possibilities."

About three months post-gathering I had started a cohort at the prompting of Tim Conder. It looked a lot like a gathering, good food and drink, and the kind of environment where the first timer could feel as much a part of things as the guy that called the first meeting. And not long after that we tried to get one of my professors, Walter Brueggemann, to speak at the theological conversation.

And not long after that I was out of Seminary and Kelley and I had no idea what we were going to do: I facilitated a house church that disbanded after 2 years, we lived in a shared community house until they disbanded after 3 years, I managed a small local coffee shop and then it was closed, we bought and home hired contractors and fired them, I became a Sr. Pastor of a Presbyterian church- and was resigned (not de-frocked, just resigned), Kelley started her first business and left it...

So a couple ups and downs!

At each point along the way, pilgrimage to the Gathering held us up. By the end we and the folks in that first cabin we shared were running the gathering like the old camps that we all done in earlier days. And folks were attending looking for that same kind of infrastructure, and we were charging registration in return for that same infrastructure. The whole "producing new possibilities" had fallen off the goals of the event replaced by "producing a program".

We decided that since anyone can build this kind of thing, it ought ot go back to the compost pile for a year to actualy see what others will produce. In fact we decided we would do it this year in our own homes and regions, and take a year off for the big project to settle down. And we might do it again next year. and others are already doing it in their regions. So Gathering is still happening.

To cook up your own gathering just mix up:

1 part safe cheap open place

1 part initiative takers

1 part open posture

1 part generative posture

your own seasoning!

Here's a great slideshow of pics by Paul Soupiset from the last Gathering.

Click here to read my post about the Gathering and the discussion to follow on Emergent Village.