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.

love and silence

I've subscribed to Image journal for several years and don't always get to read the whole thing. But I love the work of Image's chief editor, Gregory Wolfe. So I recently picked up the book, Intruding Upon the Timeless, with selections of his contributions to the journal between its beginning in 89 until 2003. So I'll drop snippets of my readings as we go...

I'll be speaking in October at an Atlanta event organized by Progressive Christian Cooperative, called The Beloved Community: From Formation to Action. I met Kimberly, the inventor behind this, through the Emergent Cohort and have begun to learn from her passion to bring innovative practice of spiritual formation into the human right advocacy circles as well as advocacy into spiritual formation circles. So, though the event is in October our conversations this summer and my talk are simmering on one of my back burners along with what I've been reading by Wolfe.

In Wolfe's article "Silence Cunning and Exile" (quoting James Joyce) I was stuck by the fellowship between beauty and suffering. Almost in a vin diagram sense, these two vivid themes, beauty and suffering, overlap in the costs to access them and the effect the evoke. They have an admission and an affect. They both beg a question that is never answered until the spirit/body s t o p s and in silence hears/feels/knows LOVE. Eyes to see and ears to hear...

And so beauty and suffering, the teleological signpost of the artists and the prophet, are met in silence. These are not "the ends" they are the signs. But signs are how we see, they are the things that compel us when we see through glass dimly, when we only have a lamp for our feet and light on our path, while death valley's shadows remain. No activist can afford to stay plugged in at every movement to her iPhone, and the ticker at the bottom of CNN, and the moving messages of injustice and need outside the MARTA window. No artist can afford to stay transfixed as a doer, maker, striver. Artists and activists both require love. Their trades, sans love, will CLANG worse than a bad drum track. The access to an inner rhythm, to beauty that does not tare you away from humanity in endless pursuit of nirvana, to a righteousness that rolls down mountains in liquid inevitability–the access to this ineffability requires us to s t o p and listen to...

It is in silence that we hear our belovedness. And silence, like white space, is also a place, it is the spacial environment where our imaginations are taught/shapes/formed. Silence, though, is not a commodity to be traded. Like manna it will turn to worms should you return to it apart from an open receptive posture (maybe this is why acquisitiveness, self-aggrandizement, or scarcity rarely characterize true artists and activists). Artists and activists are shapers, whether pragmatic or romantic, we move real things into new places and lop off the corner of one thing fastening something to its other side until a new thing emerges. We are shapers, and it is in silence the we let go of our brother's heel, and unbuckle our holster, and lay down our birth-rite as shaper... and we climb up onto the easel, the wheel, into the kiln, and place our necks under the callused fingers to be shaped by...

Love.

Here are a few of Wolfe's lines and citations that have shaped me today...

There is nothing behind [silence] to which it can be related, except the Creator Himself (sic.) -Max Pickard, The World of Silence.

Out of silence emerges the creative act, both in the 'sub-creation' of the artist and in the creation of God. but there is also a sense in which the created artifact itself is something set into silence...

The space that Christ gives us to respond to him is similar to the space the the artist must give to us to respond to his or her work...

The art that emerges out of silence–the art the experiences human life and our fallen world as a place of exile–forces us to ask the question "why." -Gregory Wolfe

There can be no answer to the 'Why?' of the afflicted... The only things the compel us tot ask the question are affliction, and also beauty; for the beautiful gives us such a vivid sence of the presence of something good that we love for purpose there, without even finding one. Like affliction, beauty compels us to ask: Why? Why is this thing beautiful? But rare are those who are capable of asking this question for as long as a few hours at a time...

He who is capable not only of crying out but also of listening will hear the answer. Silence it the answer.

The speech of created beings is with sounds. The word of God is silence. God's secret word of love can be nothing else but silence. Christ is the silence of God." -Simone Weil

The Beloved Community is the nexus of action and formation. We are formed in the silent act love. And we act as ones (in)formed into lovers. This mutuality between God and creation begats mutuality between humanity in our creative ventures, in response to both beauty and suffering.

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.

GTD

Junk mail not included I get about 50 emails a day... I have about 10 phone calls that lead to an action on my part. I sure you have the same deal or more so. In addition, however, I also pray and play with my family and plant things (that get too little water in this drought) and write and consult... I do get upside down on my commitments from time to time (I just was reminded yesterday of a newsletter that i was supposed to publish months ago), but i get most of these things done because of a elegant and simple system presented by David Allen:

For over a year now I have been working through David Allen's "the Art of Getting things Done" and i am becoming more efficient with my time. Allen teaches that th old idea of "work" with clear boundaries job descriptions and expectations has changed to "knowledge work" (Peter Drucker's concept) requiring a new system to capture all commitments and to manage next actions. He writes:

"There has been a missing piece in our new culture of knowledge work: a system with a coherent set of behaviors and tools that functions effectively at the level at which work really happens. it must incorporate the results of big-picture thinking as well as the smallest of open details. It must manage multiple tiers of priorities. It must maintain control over hundreds of new inputs daily. It must save more time and effort than are needed to maintain it. It must make it easier to get things done" (page 9, GTD)

 

Getting things Done (GTD) is a system with a cult following. I even have a mac program that helps me with this, OmniFocus. Anyway, the GTD peeps, David Allen and company will be hosting a workshop in two weeks, June 10, in Atlanta and the non-profit rate is $387.

Here's his plug for the event.

I'll be there, If you wanna join me be in touch.

Congrats Eve!

Bronsink9 Eve won the award for "most imaginative" last week in her pre-k... congrats

"Trust your intuition It's just like going fishing You cast your line And hope you'll get a bite But you don't need to waste your time Worrying about the market place Try to help the human race Struggling to survive its harshest night

I'm gonna watch you shine Gonna watch you grow Gonna paint a sign So you'll always know As long as one and one is two There could never be a father Who loved his daughter more than I love you"- paul simon

I saw Paul Simon play this recently at the gershwin award for popular song at the library of congress. i saw it on PBS. amazing song!!!

Indie Craft Experience

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With glittery tinsel already up at the Kroger, I'm beginning to reimagine christmas gift giving and our participation in the creative work of God.  I realize that I have grown too comfortable buying something from IKEA that was made by a machine and shipped from BFE, or eating bananas grown by families more than 6K miles away.  And the scariest part is that this comfortable posture is sneaking into our views on the rest of life, we enjoy just consuming already made things or thinking about making, and we just get numbed out to the producing end of things.  I'll bet that our imagese of how "the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us"  is also domesticated by these views of consuming.  But we used to be more connected to producing, it was part of our family's everyday lives, and part of our gift giving rituals. I can remember my dad talking about my grandpa delivering milk from a farm located in their same little Michigan town, and I still have an afghan that my aunt made for us as a wedding present.  but this is not the real world... things move too fast to do that anymore... right?

I love the work of the Advent Conspiracy, "an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshiping Jesus through compassion, not consumption."  And Mike Morrell invited me through facebook to join the Make Something Day group, committing to spend the friday after thanksgiving making something in stead of buying things.


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I want to add to these two things a heads up for Atlanta people about the Indie Craft Experience, this Saturday, November 17 from 11am-6pm.

Kelley and I went last year and this summer. When she had a scrap booking store we participated. While this does include buying, shopping at the Indie Craft show is more of a cultural event, building friendships, leaning about making, and living off or at the edges of the grid. It is a beautiful menagerie of people and their hand-made wares.  Great Urban, Edgy, and folksy designed things for Christmas- and the chance to know the makers of these things.  This is sorta like growing and buying locally as well as gardening in your back yard- a good practice. If you're in Atlanta, and want to come to our neck of the woods, you should go see it!


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(kelley made these last year to hold mix-CDs and poems that we share with some friends at church)

For more on the DIY (do it yourself) revolution, you should check out Design Your Life, and the work of the Lupton twins!

Manifesto of Hope

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I haven't posted about this yet, but I am excited to have been included with 24 folks, all better at this than me, enlisted to describe the emergent conversation. The book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, was released April of this year, but I'm just now finding the time to blog about it.  My chapter, "The Art of Emergence: Being God's Handiwork" is a synthesis of the theories of missiology, creative systems, and anthropology.  I had a lot of fun with it.

I've you've had the chance to read it, I'd love to know what it did in you.  If you haven't you can click on the "Search inside" link on Amazon and search art, and start reading on Pg 60.  But You'll have to buy or barrow it to get the whole deal ;)

emergent cohort

Atlanta Friends

The Atlanta Emergent Cohort is meeting this Tuesday, October 30, 8-10pm at Carroll Street Cafe in Cabbage town. This month's conversation will be convened by your's truly and center around the metaphor of church as art. The following is an adapted article to prime the pump and to suggest some possible lines of discussion for the group. But as usual the discussion will be open and its outcome belongs to those who come for the fun...

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance to be our way of life.

                                                    from Paul’s correspondence with the Ephesians

God is a craftsman (excuse the gender). God makes. You and I are among the things that God fashions. Those recipients of the epistle to the church in Ephesus are told by Paul that we who have been made in Christ (you know, the new creation) are made for the purpose of making/working.  It is important to our maker how we make- good. Rule or principals that underline how artist make, are called aesthetics. And a cohesive narrative of such rules is called an aesthetic. At the core of aesthetics are reasons for making, and postures or ways of perceiving. Our posture of making is informed by God’s posture: mission. And this making is everything, it is our entire way of life, not just what the Ephesians were asked to do when they gathered or when they were ask to give a reason for their faith. The good work of being created in Jesus is our way of life, it is an art inspired by an aesthetic, God's mission. This month’s Emergent cohort discussion is about that art and that aesthetic, and the community of artists commissioned to good lives in the inspiration of the Spirit.

God has commissioned a work of art. This art-installation has been God’s dream from as early as the Trinity’s eternal dance. Long before the Spirit of God hovered like an artist in front of a canvas over the waters that would become our studio, the triune God wanted to make man in God’s (literally the creator in Genesis said “our” implying a conversation with the creator) image. This is our commission: to be God’s art exhibit, a trail of artifacts rendered by God’s people and made through God’s ongoing relationship with creation. This commission precedes Jesus, it is what Abram and Sari were called to do and what the prophets both did and called others back toward doing. And this is our aesthetic the stories of these communities found in scripture, tradition, and experience, that narrate our work. So we are commission to make and to be made, to act and invite God to act upon us.

The examples of God’s dreams reach to us from deepest in our history. One of God’s earliest masterpieces is ha adam, literally the dirt, into whom is breathed the Spirit of life. And in Adam’s first orientation to his surroundings, God commissions him to name creation’s creatures, to be the poet lariat of life’s beginnings. Shortly thereafter, Noah, too, was commissioned to build an artifact to save people. Ten generations after him, God calls Abraham and Sara to parent a nation of people who’s art-of-life was to be a reflection of God’s plans for all creation, to bless all nations. The prophets, like Jeremiah, and psalmists like David, both live out the realization of and lament the postponement of God’s dreams. And this drama continues with some artists demonstrating courage and faithfulness and others stuck in self-sabotaging habits of self-preservation that build hedges around their imagination.

Into this drama the Author became Actor.  First, second, and third person were interwoven without being confused.  The Word was made into flesh, completely creat-ed (material) and completely creat-or (divine). God was subjective (seeing equality with God not as something to grasp but being made into the form of a servant) and objective (All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go…). It was Jesus, the one-of-a-kind perfecter of the art of living in God’s creation, who insisted that God’s art installation was open, in session, “at hand.” He fashioned withered hands into whole ones, he made party wine out of holy water, and he re-animated lifeless cadavers into dinner guests. It was Jesus who called a community of disciples to tell this story and to do even greater works of this art than he. And these disciples, in receiving the breath of the Holy Spirit, had the courage to witness to God’s plans for creation. By initiating a new art-of-life they began sharing meals, reflecting on precedents set by apostolic letters and sacred Hebrew texts, and setting new precedents making all sorts of music, adopting the exposed, and befriending the poor and widows. This is the narrative that we are a part of. This is the art we have been commissioned to make. We are apprentices who study these rhythms of life and practice them as lives of worship preparing creation for future generations. We are, like John the Baptist, and in the words of the poet Isaiah, preparing the way of the Lord.  And our practices tell an ancient story that is yet to be complete, “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.”

…..

But here’s the fix we’re in today: in late modernity most churches in the Western world are stuck in creative block. These commitments betray the converting spirit of the gospel by placing equal signs between God’s work and our certitude regarding liberalism verses conservatism, contemporary verses traditional, or theology verses aesthetics. This keeps us from rendering authentic artwork and performances that witness to the kingdom of God. What if the church recovered disciplines of creativity, imagination, and ingenuity as practices unto faith? What if we stepped out of our cultural captivity to “either-or” thinking into organic habits of embodying biblical texts and reforming the tradition we have been handed? What if the church saw herself as both God’s artwork and God’s commissioned artists?

Not only that, what if the work of God of bringing righteousness like an ever flowing stream, and bringing the lion to lay with the lamb were acts that included the art of other people, other tribes, other cultures; be they socio-economically, politically, nationally, or religiously different from ours? Are these “others,” then, partners in the kingdom of God, other artists participating in God’s beautiful unfolding creation?

At the core, I believe the church does matter–but for entirely different reasons than most are fighting to keep the church safe or to make it grow. What if the church mattered as a community committed to this art: to joining God’s dreams, making God’s dreams, becoming patron’s of those making God’s dreams, and learning from others making these dreams? What would we do differently if the mission of God were our aesthetic, as people commissioned to make God’s beauty in the world?

Now here is what I’m hoping the cohort can help flesh out. 

1.    Push back at any and all of this! Let’s have some fun fleshing this out.
2.    What are the reasons we are not creating more new possibilities to participate in God’s dreams?  Or to put it another way, How does writer’s block manifest itself in the church and how have you seen it addressed?
3.    What are some entry-points to this idea of church as art?  Where does it break down for you or folks you serve with?
4.    What art are you making and seeing made around you and how do you see it participating in God’s dreams?

Ordaining Mary

I saw this entry today from a journal of mine, dated July 24, a day after my ordination.  Now, that word "ordination" brings a great deal of baggage with it, I know.  So, let me drop this quote for you first:

Nothing ontological changed.  I still perspire and regret and fear and hate to shave.  I’ve been reverend according to the traditional language of the church reforming for almost 20 hours now and I think the same thoughts and like the same things.  But yesterday during my ordination service some things new were planted and some old soil was given rest.

I’m sitting in a warehouse loft with large pieces of fine art and pop found art on the walls.  My friend Fred has spent several years on a painting he entitles the Call of St. Mathew,  it sits on the floor here in the lofts where I've managed a coffee shop.  Soon it will be brought back to him, I'm still not buying art like I hope to be one day.  Soon, the other art work will be picked up my the friends who donated it for the extended Eucharist that we celebrated here, turn tables, wine, cigars, bread left over from the worship gathering... all picked up, nothing really changed about this warehouse or the building we met in for prayer and charges.

I'm sitting here reflecting on the fact that we never really transform either. We keep being us.  After marriage.  After childbirth.  After divorse. After baptism.  After ordination.  But the names, and definitions and the dictionary change as we go.  New creation doesn't leave behind only an ex-creation.  What is born again does die like a seed, but it is not oblitherated like an atom split leaving only afterlife.... 

I was blessed yesterday, by old and new friends, playful mentors, and deep galvanic tradition. But that blessing is all around us.   In the beauty of the party, in the green of the summer fescue, in the pavers of the sidewalk and the lead paint of the old warehouse.  Blessing is waiting, everything is being anointed.  What is changed in the ordaining is our eyes, our ears, our imagination.

It's Advent and my imagination wanders to Mary.  And then to all the crazy theological gymnastics (artfully, no less) that were created to insure that what is pure is pure.  to insure that what is holy is holy... But whether the Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant theologians have this right or not it can't have unfolded that way to her.  To Mary blessing must have been an interruption of the mundane, a new set of eyes concerning her "state."  Advent, waiting for hope to be born, must have something to do with these new pair of eyes.  Yesterday,I read It Gives Me Hope, a poem by Cheryl linked from Johnny Baker:

it gives me hope

It gives me hope to believe that Mary did not always want to be pregnant.
Not at first. Not really.

It gives me hope to believe that Mary’s ‘yes’
was not always wholehearted.
That even though her body embraced this promise -
every cell of it -
her mind simply couldn’t.

It gives me hope to believe that maybe those first days or weeks
were coloured with despair and confusion
hopelessness and fear
too sharp and raw and private to ever be told.

It gives me hope to believe that one day
Mary woke
disconcerted
not quite knowing herself without the familiar feeling of dread

and found herself
instead
inexplicably bathed
in irrational
incomprehensible
delight.

And so, the mundane life, all that is disconcerting, the terror and regret, every cell in me is ordained, like it was in Mary.  A life spoken into and an utterance received.  Mary's apophatic practice of having ears to hear...

Hear the blessing
when its time, respect the yes in you (wholehearted and otherwise),
and consider what is ordained

The title of my journal was crops rotating, and i never finished it. 

But, I think this is the waiting.  As i think about it, now, six months later, I realize that our crops are being rotated as we name, as the dictionary changes, as we are "inexplicably bathed in irrational incomprehensable delight." 

 

 

The ART of Waiting

Words take from creativity

In the beginning we must quietly hover over and protect the nascent or germinating thought until it has toughness and durability.  New and emerging ideas that have not been nurtures in their own seedbed should not be spoken of at great length, if at all.  They will not survive if they are exposed too early, partly because they are too vulnerable to resist attack or even questioning, and partly because words give them a form and launch them prematurely, taking from the creator the inner necessity to work with them and give them the shape in stone or wood or deliberate words.  If the creator does make the effort to write the story he has disclosed to another or paint the picture he has described, he has the feeling of repeating himself. 
                -Elizabeth O'Connor, The Eighth day of Creation, p 50.

               

Art as a way of life before words

Each of us becomes the artist as well allow ourselves to be open to the reality of the Other and give expression to that encounter either in words of paint or stone or in the fabric of our lives.  Each of us who has come to know and relate to the Other and express this in any way is an artist in spite of himself/herself... In the final analysis meditation is the art of living life in its fullest and deepest.  Genuine religion and art are two names for the same incredible meeting with reality and give expression to that experience in some manner."  -Vincent Van Gogh

The church and creative process

Words Do Not Make Worlds

Okay, one of my biggest mentors is Walter Brueggemann, who in step with the Yale school of post liberalism, has argued that "Words make worlds."  This is an hermeneutic argument that what we say, speak into being, changes how we behave.  Citing Freud, Bruggemann writes that speech about our memory and hope open in us new possibilities.  He also then connects this to Biblical Theology as it pertains to God.  The God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, speaks the world into being, communicates as a voice, and instructs through prophets who say "the Word of the Lord."  It follows, then, that the New Testament's extrapolation in the incarnation of Jesus as the Word made flesh, is the embodiment of God's utterance.

The Church After Words
I have been drawn to this argument for quite some time but often get stuck on one thing, "words are not the only way, the primal way of knowing and communicating."  I spent a semester in seminary trying to make sense of this and created 90+ pages of words to prove my point (get it here:  Download arts_as_witness_02_revision

).  Missiologist Leslie Newbigin proposes a complimentary idea that the congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel.  Different than the Franciscan-Young Life motto- "preach the gospel at all times, only use words when necessary," Newbigin's argues that the congregation is a meaning making group who bear witness to the gospel of Jesus and the reign of God in their host culture.  In this way the words are only part of the witnessing component, and the gospel is not simply preached but performed.  Moving beyond Newbigin, I have seen this argument fitting well with the post-structuralists who suggest that disembodied words are actually tools of power- to manipulate others or evade responsibility.

Until today I have been stuck on how to connect the trajectories of these two formative scholars in my own approach to life in the way of Jesus.  I agree that words, utterance, change our reality starting with our own vantage point and hope.  I also agree that the church is the community witnessing to the story of this hope in word and deed, in the beauty of making a life together for the sake of its neighbors.  But Brueggemann would seem to protest that words are a prerequisite, absolutely necessary for the formation of this community and the Newbigin trajectory (now I'm projecting certain postmodern suspicions to his work, I know) would seem to argue that words are an insufficient. 

Words as elaboration
Today, listening to a pod-cast on hermeneutics and eschatology by John Green, I recognized that imagination is often pre-verbal.  That the church's failure of imagination is tied to our preoccupation with words, to well elaborated systems.  And I connected these two theologians to the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "CHICK-sent-me-high-ee).

He describes the work of creativity as more recursive than linear, but proceeding in the following progression:

  1. Preparation (immersion in a problem that speaks to one's curiosity),
  2. Incubation (ideas call to each other without the pressure of linear logic),
  3. Insight (the aha when pieces of the puzzle fall together),
  4. Evaluation (utilizing former knowledge of the domain and opinion of the field determining if the idea is novel),
  5. Elaboration (paying attention to outside developing work, open mindedness, refining for elegance and simplicity, listening to colleges, and finally articulating the complete innovation). 

Here is the connection to the church as hermeneutic and the speech act. The church requires the disciplines of contemplation on Christ to shape our imaginations.  The church (to give props to my reformed fore parents) is shaped in the the proclamation of the Word.  The narrative of scripture re-scripts our imagination so that new problems emerge, new incongruence's between our selves, our church, or our world as they relate to the gospel-shaped world of God's dreams known through the gift of the Holy Spirit, scriptures, and tradition.  The speech act is "elaboration."  But this elaboration is, as Csikszentmihalyi shows points out, is not linear but recursive and continual.  And this elaboration is the fruit of an internal creative process, one the church exists to nurture.

Words as fruit and not product

I think this gets to the bottom of my beef with "words make worlds."  In a consumer centered late-capitalist world, we rush past practices as means to a desired end.  For preachers we need the next "word" and so cheap, flaccid, or self serving words are conjured up to meet 7-day cycle of market demand.  Consequently the church has shaped a generation of eager "utterers" looking to say more than they believe and content to believe or wrestle with far less than they like to say.  Churches and pulpits become the natural habitat in modernity for "vibrato" big sexy ideals.  CCM and "praise music" is just amplifies the point.  And yet pastors who preach every week play into this by demanding nothing, by saying words that therapize, validate (from a position of pulpit authority), or demean the other side (feminazis, homophobes, or culture-haters... you pick your idealogical enemy).

But utterance is not a consumable to be outsourced to experts or reduced into microwavable single portions.  Utterance is the fruit of disciplines of readiness.  Imagination is the gift of God from the future for the community to bear witness anew.  And the congregation can bear witness anew only after it has internalized the creative process, facing emerging problems between the "kingdom come on earth" and the inspired imagination of "as it is in heaven."  The church is not just a place for preparation (singing "Lord Prepare Me to be a Sanctuary" or "Wait for the Lord") and elaboration (singing "Shout to the Lord" or "God Bless America" or "We Shall Overcome") but also for incubation (silence, and contemplation), insight (freedom to play and speak provisionally-divergently), and evaluation (lamentation, confession,reconciliation, and protest) as well.