Class Posts

Each week, one or two class members have been asked to reflect on the theme for the week and post it for the class to see.  This posting liekly comes from engagement with the resources for the week: readings, audio pods, video clips, etc.  Throughout the semester, each class member has also been asked to comment on at least two of the class posts – sharing additional insights, questions, concerns, and conundrums. 

Rather than create a personal reading journal, our insights, quesitons, concerns, and conundrums will be shared here — in a blog.  As a class space, the blog can provide more of a journal-like experience than threaded discussions while being public for others to engage.

The goal of this activity is for us to broaden our perspectives.  We don’t know what we don’t know until someone or something causes us to become aware of our assumptions and consider them in light of new information.  This is called variously a disorienting dilemna, cognative dissonance, and paradigm shift. The result, often, is transformation – of knowledge and of individual.

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23 Responses to Class Posts

  1. This week’s topic of Church Planting is one that gets my creative juices flowing. I love visioning and imagining what might be. In reading Tom Brackett’s essay “Midwifing the Movement of the Spirit”, in “Ancient Faith, Future Mission”, I got so excited that I used up all of the ink in my highlighter! Yes, that is what I am called to do! Yes, the Spirit is out there and is at work! And yes, I want to be part of the new life and new birth!

    But here’s the problem… I am a horrible gardener. Last winter I opened a gardening catalog and ordered a ton of seeds: flowers for the yard, carrots, green peppers, onions, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, raspberry bushes and squash. I couldn’t wait for spring to come! Luckily, my husband, Brandon, knew what he was doing. When the day finally came, he instructed me to start digging a hole. I lasted about 20 minutes before my hands were sore and my husband was telling me to move out of the way. I asked what I could do to help and was sent to the garden center to buy some fencing. Within a week I had given up on the garden.

    Brandon on the other hand was dedicated. He watered and weeded and cut back the branches of the surrounding trees to allow for more light. His tomatoes were so impressive that the neighbors stopped by throughout the summer to ask him his secrets. He has that gift. He understands the fine balance between just the right amount of nurturing, but also letting the plants just be and checking in regularly.

    So what does this have to do with planting a church? Maybe the most important thing I that I learned from the readings and from my own experience with gardening is that I am not in control. Not only am I not in control, the seed is not even mine. It is God’s, and the Spirit is already at work in our midst. It is our job as leaders of new ministry in the church to recognize that Spirit and to discern what is already happening in our communities.

    One size does not fit all in this church and in this culture. As Stephen Cottrell says in his essay, “Letting Your Actions Do the Talking,” expressions of church need to fit the local context. Sometimes that means a weekly service on a day other than a Sunday. This may worry some who feel like they are fighting to fill the pews at 10 am on Sunday. Why would they want a competing service in the same community and possibly even the same building? It’s important to realize that it’s not about competing with one another. If we are truly one holy catholic church, and if we are truly one body of Christ, we must be intentionally seeking and sensing the Spirit that calls us to be one in mission, one in faith, and uniquely authenitic, fresh, and renewed.

  2. Julie says:

    Comment from Sandy Carr for WEEK 3:
    Last Sunday the guest preacher was concluding his sermon as a woman walked into church and moved to sit on the front pew. Our congregation shifted uncomfortably with knowledge that the woman was a stranger, extremely late, and dressed in old, torn clothes. A few whispers were heard as church members struggled with the idea that a stranger would walk past several empty pews to sit on the front row. Concern that she would disrupt our service was what several of us thought.

    After the sermon hymn, I moved to the front so that I could consecrate the elements for Communion. I stood behind God’s Table and as is the tradition at most MCCs I welcomed all who came seeking God. After distributing the elements to the other servers, I took my place as a server. The woman sat on that front row looking at me with sad eyes and I beckoned to her. She whispered, “Are you sure? I can come? I didn’t know if it would be okay.” This woman, Glenda, was a stranger at God’s Table not because the church members didn’t know her and not because God had thrown her away, but because she believed that we, as a church, and God, as divine judge, viewed her as unworthy of receiving grace.

    As I began writing about the blessing I received from Glenda’s presence, I realized that God was using her to speak to me. Glenda has been a recurring indicator of where God is leading my ministry and today as I write, I finally am listening to what God has to say. Glenda doesn’t realized or remember that she and I have met on several previous occasions. Twice she has come to MCC Lubbock, once for a service and another time for our garage sale. Another time I ran into her at my local phone store when I was paying my bill. Each instance I clearly remember our interactions and her ever-present need for acceptance and understanding.

    This week as we read and study about ministering off the beaten paths I acknowledge that Glenda is a “big fish” for me. A close friend dubbed each incident of God trying to direct me as a “big fish” and often reminds me that ignoring God’s call might land me in the same predicament as Jonah faced. Over the past couple of years I have been trying my hardest to ignore that God is calling me to work outside of a mainstream church. Although I have acknowledged that I will probably be ministering to those who feel rejected by society, I have celebrated the idea that God wants me to serve those who are on the fringes of society and who may feel excluded from conventional churches.

    Last Sunday as I held Glenda while she sobbed, I recognized that I not only embraced a hurting woman, but also the idea that I was made to minister to others who feel removed from God. This one opportunity wasn’t terrifying or taxing. In fact I felt joy from comforting Glenda and showing her the love that God has put in each of our hearts. God has created me to welcome the stranger to the table and then sit with him or her while we eat.

    • Lydia Bucklin says:

      Wow Sandy, what a beautiful story. I love the analogy of the “big fish.” I’ve definitely had many of those in my life as well and most often it means going outside of my comfort zone. Isn’t it amazing/terribly sad that our body language – the way we shift uncomfortably, look away, raise our eyebrows, whisper to each other – all of those things add to someone’s feeling that they aren’t good enough, aren’t one of us, and aren’t worthy of God’s grace. To see the face of God in all of our brothers and sisters is truly a difficult task, and one that I struggle towards and embrace as part of my journey. Thanks for sharing this example and for reminding me of the importance of generously sharing God’s grace. – Lydia

      • Sandy says:

        I often feel like God has to put something so obvious in front of me that I can’t ignore it. A lot of the time I don’t ignore the signs of what God wants as much as I discount that God is speaking to me. It wasn’t until I made the connection of what I am being called to do and how I reacted to Glenda’s presence that I understood God’s point.

  3. Lauren Johnson says:

    Only One Question

    This week’s readings are giving me a bit of a headache to be frank. This is partially due to the nasty cold I have acquired, but also I think due to my attempts to reconcile all the different ideas raised by the many authors into one tidy topic. After much thought I have come to the realization that this will not be possible, and like what I am beginning to think of the struggles to reform the Church, emergent church is just as messy.

    I’ll start with the Croft book, and while I would love to dissect every essay, I have a space limitation, and no desire for my classmates to wish to kill me if I make them do another really long reading. But, even before I jump into that, I have a confession to make. I mentioned I am Roman Catholic, and with that comes this confession: I am woefully uneducated in the ways of the Episcopal and Anglican Church. My parish did their best, one entire unit of CCD was based around visiting other religious denominations and their houses of worship, and I have explored other religions on my own, but man. This week, I utilized Google like never before, and I will say this. God bless those garage dwellers who invented Google, I never would have made it through the readings otherwise!

    Now, back to the readings. I was really struck right off the bat, from something written in chapter 6, “Church, of course, is not the same as the kingdom, but it is to point it, to embody it, to identify it, and to demonstrate it for anyone to see” (p 69). I could stop here and write an entire post alone about why that line resonates with me so much. Instead, I will say what I really find key to this entire discussion about church planting, emerging churches, and just plain ways of “doing church”. I think people often get bogged down in details, and lost among false paths when dealing with faith and other people. There is a reason religion is one of the three main topics we are told to steer clear of at dinner parties! I like to think, if people were just able to better internalize this idea, that church is NOT the kingdom, but a tool to help us, a lot of problems in churches today would be gone.

    Building on this idea, I would then utilize the point made at the conclusion of chapter 7, when Angela Tilby is listing offerings, “The second is safe space for experimenting with a Christian identity with in a particular familiar peer and interest group” (p 89). If we are going to concede that the church is a way to utilize the kingdom, then to further explore what the kingdom might mean and be for us, would be a place where we can do so. Many churches take the affront to anything which disagrees with their state of operating, which is in and of itself, another issue. But for us to build new ways to do church, we need safe spaces within the church to explore and find the best ways to approach it.

    I then would like to further add to this construction with the point from the article ” Is the Emerging Church for Whites Only?”: “The real emerging church is global and multi-ethnic – and a truly international, truly diverse emerging church has great potential to bring about authentic, deep revival to the world”(Soong-Chan Rah). Basically in order to create an amazing emergent church, I am saying we need to be able to create one with the ability to illuminate the kingdom and God, safe spaces for discussions, and be able to be a truly multi-culturally competent creation.

    So then in conclusion, here is my one question: how do we utilize all the talent and different approaches out there to do this?

    • Sandy says:

      When I consider the idea that the church is not the same as God’s kingdom, I am reminded of what Reg said in our class discussion. Our facination with the church building, organization, and/or the hymnals becomes idolatrous when these things are more important than God’s kingdom. So many times our belief that our (my) church is THE answer has pushed the unchurched and dechurched away from God. As we, clergy and student clergy, develop our skills, we have to ask ourselves are we encouraging others to experience God’s kingdom and when are we treating the “church” as this kingdom.

      • Rev.Reg C. Richburg,MSW,LSW says:

        Hi Everyone!
        Now that I am s l o w l y figuring out how to ‘be’ in the 21st century tecnologically … I’d like to add a bit to the ongoing discussions. For me, the heart of the matter and where I have the most resonace is – as Resurrection people who have been anointed by the Spirit- we already have all that we need… to ‘be’ worshipping communities of all sorts.
        The question I wrestle with- ought I learn to be comfortable being bivocational – so that once economics is not an ‘issue’ – what would really be the impediment to living into the fluidity and suppleness that Spirit is calling us to?? Is it a ‘clergy identity’ concern which is different from how folks who hunger perceive ‘chucrch’?
        Does that make sense?????

  4. Lydia, I too used up an entire high-lighter on the book Ancient Faith, Future Mission. I too found myself shouting out in agreement with many of the essayists. There is no doubt about it, the tide is turning and we (the Church) must be ready to embrace an abundance of “Big Fish.” Thanks for the great metaphor, Sandy! I don’t see the fish coming in to the churches. They are “out there.” They are not drawn to the pews. They want to swim! The Baptismal waters are flowing all around us. We need to dive in and swim with them.

    Why are church members worried about sharing time and space? Why are we “fighting to fill the pews?” If something is born of the Spirit, relating to the birthing metaphor in Thomas Brackett’s essay “Midwifing the Movement of the Spirit”, then it shouldn’t be a fight. I believe the Spirit’s work challenges, requiring attentiveness and flexibility, but not fighting against it.

    Going back to Lydia’s gardening theme, I am a passionate gardener. The problem I have, is that my small yard is surrounded by trees, hills, more trees, and more trees. Thus many of the plants I want to grow, won’t thrive because there is not enough sun, the soil is too acidic, and very moist. After being disappointed too many times by trying to force sun-loving, drought tolerant plants to conform to my wishes – I then “gave-in” to the plants that would actually be at home in their environment. Mostly, I now have a shade garden. I can’t force something to live in a place to which it’s not suited.

    This is true for how we relate our faith in context. Brackett writes about Reverend Petty and his wife Ann who “took their time to get to know the community they felt called to serve.” If I had been patient and not rushed to impose my garden in my plot of land, there wouldn’t have been the “fight.” My plants and I would have all been happier.

    The Spirit can be intimidating if we’re not open and willing. Some of my plants have a very long tap-root and do not respond well to change. I like to move my plants all around, always changing the garden. Many plants need division to remain healthy. Sometimes the plants make it and sometimes they don’t. Then there is always that surprise, one or two years later, when the plant I thought I had killed, comes back vibrantly and with an amazing burst of energy. It is like a miracle.

    Since reading this book, I realize that we are in the midst of birthing miracles within the Church. As there are diverse gifts among Christ’s members, there apparently are diverse ways of “Being Church” that I didn’t even know existed! How do I see myself fitting into that birthing process? I have been present to family members in hospice. I understand it and am grateful that it is an option for loved ones dying with dignity and grace. But as far as my choice to worship and live into my faith, I choose to be a midwife to birthing new life and vitality into the Church with the aid of the Spirit. I choose to heal Church into wholeness rather than watch it dry up and wither away. Something that won’t happen to the plants in my yard, anyway!

    • Sandy says:

      I love how you explained trying to force your will onto your garden and how it only began to thrive when you accepted that the garden was what it was rather than what you wanted it to be. So many times I want “church” to be what I think it ought to be and I forget that God has a plan that may be different from what I want.

  5. Julie says:

    JULIE IS RE-POSTING FOR DENISE – FOR MARCH 23 CLASS
    Mission-Shaped Living
    I’ve thought a lot about “Mission shaped church” (as opposed to church-shaped mission) since taking my first class with Christopher Duraisingh in January, 2010.

    Being Church in the 21st Century, particularly the readings in the past two weeks have helped me expand my vision of mission-shaped living.

    The way I live my life in every moment of every day is my answer to God’s call. I’m no slouch, but the people and groups I have encountered in this course make me realize that I could do so much more, here and now.

    I used to think that mission was a both/and: what I am doing now AND what I hope to do in the future as a pastor. What if what I plan to do in the future doesn’t enter into it? What if it’s entirely about how I live in each successive moment, living as if this moment is all the ministry I will ever have? It isn’t about “doing” in the future, it’s about what I do and encounter every day, and, for me at least, letting go of anxieties and fears large and small. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, “[T]he lives God is calling us to are the ones that we are living right now.” Or, as Nelvin Vos writes, “Ministry isn’t always what we go and do. It’s about what we do as we go.” (Both these quotes are found on the “Quotable Quotes” page of the “Ministry in Daily Life” website:

    http://www.episcopalchurch.org/mdl_3149_ENG_HTM.htm?menupage=30681

    This makes me feel better about spending so much time listening to Japan’s 24 hour News Channel on my iPad. As the Jewish proverb states, “Joy shared is doubled. Sorrow shared is halved.” Being “present” and praying is the best I can do for now, sending messages of support, along with providing financial support the people of Japan through my local church, and supporting them in other ways.

    I joined SecondLife and made a avatar, but I get stuck when I try to go to worship. I left my avatar in the SecondLife Sancturay, but I can’t remember how to reconnect with her there. I walk haltingly in SecondLife. It’s kind of a kick to be walking. I don’t think I can buy myself a wheelchair there and I wouldn’t want to spend the money on it if I could. I’ll try to attend worship at SecondLife on Saturday. If I can’t figure out how to sit down or talk, I hope my presence won’t be a distraction.

    I had much better luck going to Cathedral in the Night, a new ecumenical ministry to street people in my community of Northampton, Massachusetts. The group began meeting in March in the welcoming front yard of my church. I was so glad I was there. Perhaps I’ll become a “regular.” I led the group in singing “Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?” after a woman started it who couldn’t remember anything past the second line of the first verse. Being able to jump in and help them finish the song felt like mission to me.

    Studying and writing this post are mission. Is letting myself go to sleep so I can study, write, and be strong for God’s future also mission? Maybe I should not conceive of my objective as ordained ministry. Maybe it’s ministering into God’s unfolding future, which may include ordained ministry. Maybe if I simply do my part in this moment, the rest will fall into place. It’s like the old saying. “Be careful over pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

    In case you haven’t seen it, Wayne Schwab and Elizabeth Hall’s Book, “When the Members are the Missionaries will be helpful in working with churches, as the second part is about becoming a mission-shaped church.You can get a free copy at:
    http://www.membermissionpress.org

    In closing, here’s one of my favorite hymns about “moment by moment mission:

    Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
    Fill every part with praise,
    That my whole being may proclaim
    Thy being and Thy ways.

    Praise in the common things of life,
    Its going out and in;
    Praise in each duty and each deed,
    However small and mean.

    Fill every part of me with praise;
    Let all my being speak
    Of Thee and of Thy love, O Lord,
    Poor though I be, and weak.

    So shall each fear, each fret, each care
    Be turned into a song,
    And every winding of the way
    The echo shall prolong;

    So shall no part of day or night
    From sacredness be free;
    But all my life, in every step
    Be fellowship with Thee.

    – Horatius Bonnar, 1886, from Hymns of Faith and Hope

    Grace and peace to you, dear friends, and much love. I look forward to seeing you in class.

    Blessings! Denise

    • hike2hope says:

      Mission shaped living is living shaped by prayer. I appreciate Denise’s reflection on how this course has expanded her vision of mission-shaped living and that through encounters here, she sees how much more that she can do in the here and now. I interpret this as mission being more like fusion, of living into the future, rather than as a split between present and future. For me, prayer transcends all limitation of time.

      One phrase Denise said, “praying is the best I can do for now” in regard to supporting those suffering from the disaster in Japan, made me think of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” in 1st Thess. 5:17. I think the practice of prayer is underrated and under-utilized. It should not be simply regarded as a stepping stone towards mission, as a means to an end, but a goal in and of itself. Prayer as Paul implies, is a full time job, or mission. But those three words are just part of a sentence which begins, 16″Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And the concluding note ends, 19″Do not quench the Spirit.”

      Paul’s words in chapter 5 encourage the faith community to live in the present tense, the here and now, and refers to those 12″who labor among you.” Part of a Christian’s mission is supporting and encouraging one another in mission, and prayer is ongoing in all that we do. Living life as prayer is living life as mission. Jesus came to earth in God’s mission and he taught us to pray that God’s will be done. Prayer is an essential aspect of God’s mission. Praying aligns us with God’s will, and gives us strength and divine energy to persist as co-missioners under God’s direction.

      Conversely, I think that not engaging in prayer as mission, quenches the Spirit. It puts out the fire of the Spirit. Praying is a way to keep the Spirit kindled. And Spirit empowers mission. It doesn’t matter so much how prayer is expressed, or the form it takes, but that it is ongoing, ceaselessly. Karl Rahner said, “Everyday life must become itself our prayer.”

      Putting prayer at the top of mission will inspire mission-shaped living.

  6. hike2hope says:

    What’s in a name? Mutual Ministry, Shared Ministry, Total Ministry, Baptismal Ministry….. It is a priesthood of all believers, not a parish with “just” a priest and not necessarily “without” a priest. It’s a reconfiguration – in essence a “re-membering” of our Christian roots.

    For the Episcopal Church, the impetus for this “re-viewing” of the structure of Christian community and how it functions began in the 1960s and has been gaining momentum since that time. Bishop Ely of the Diocese of Vermont noted that we are encouraged to look at different models when we’re facing challenges caused by either financial, human resources, building issues, etc. In other words, money problems tend to be the instigator, a sentiment similarly expressed by Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell of the Diocese of Wyoming. He points out that, “at the beginning it almost always starts out of financial need, but one quickly discovers that it really isn’t about the money.” When that happens, the question isn’t how to survive as a parish or find stability. The real question is how to be a vital force living the Gospel out in the world.

    Mutual Ministry takes the hierarchal structure apart and rearranges it so that it reflects shared leadership. The priest is no longer at the hub of the wheel and all of the congregation’s members are spokes that support the mission of the church. On a personal note, my spouse is an obsessed bike rider and he pays close attention to ensuring that all of the spokes are connected and working in unison – when they aren’t – it damages the rim. The Holy Spirit is at the center of the wheel. Extending the metaphor further, might the rim be the threshold between church and world? How can we use our ministry gifts as we ride out into the world, if the wheel is in malfunctioning?

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian community in response to their divisions, “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose” (1st Cor. 3:7) He also adds, “For we are God’s servants, working together.” (v.8a) Working together as the body of Christ is the goal as far as Paul was concerned. He continued in 1st Corinthians speaking of spiritual gifts, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (12:12).

    The common denominator in mutual ministry is “ONE” – all of the members working in unity for the common purpose of engaging as partners in God’s mission in the world. The Spirit has given all baptized persons, gifts unique to each individual, so that the sum total can be a transforming, healing presence – witnessing to God’s grace.
    That all sounds fine and good but there has to be a starting point, yes?!! That would be where ministry development comes in. Gifts need to be identified, training must be available for skills development, and ongoing support must be in place. There is an array of models to choose from, which is awesome if you’re like me, embracing the adage, “variety is the spice of life!” It can also be somewhat overwhelming. Fortunately, there are “roadmaps” and guidelines to help parishes find their way through the maze. There are companions who can help get those bike wheels tuned up for the trek.

    In my home parish, our former rector used to hold up the model, “team plus one” from the Toyota corporation. It worked for us. St. Mary’s in the Mountains in Wilmington, VT is still on the path of discovery as a parish in transition. There have been conversations of Baptismal ministry, Covenant Group explorations, discernment of gifts, commissioning of various ministries; and it will be just fine wherever our journey leads us. I can also state confidently, that it has tasted the joys of shared leadership and empowering the members sufficiently that returning to an old hierarchal priest centric model won’t be an option. Ride on!

  7. IMMERSION – RAFTING DOWN THE RIVER OF GOD

    I think Church is like water. It seeks to be level no matter into which vessel it is poured or conversely buoys and holds up. I have recently experienced three fresh expressions of Church and discovered similar currents running through all, yet within each, distinct “eddies” swirled around. It felt as if I were rafting down the river of God. The first raft I boarded was The Crossing, the second raft I traveled in was with the Moot team, and lastly I boarded the virtual raft of the Sunshine Cathedral at Second Life.

    Each raft had a unique design and focus (the eddy), yet they all stressed connection rooted in community moving outwardly toward the river’s edge, in a mission of being engaged in local life. I see congruence in the desire to effect life-giving transformation and integrating all aspects of life. How that connection is described and carried out is developed in response to who they expect will come onboard. The journey is always approaching the love of God.

    The Crossing states, “We’re a Christian community rooted at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, seeking to walk in the life-changing, world-changing Way of Jesus, sharing the love, hope, beauty and justice of God in the city of Boston.” Moot’s rhythm of life seeks balance in that, “We aspire to live with integrity in the city, striving as a community for balance between work, rest and play. We wish to develop healthy spiritual disciplines such as daily prayer, meditation and contemplation, drawing on the ancient Christian paths. We desire to not be simply consumers, but people committed to giving and receiving in all of life.” Sunshine Cathedral begins the virtual service with, “Here at S.C. we are seekers and students of Truth, empowered by Spirit, sharing the Light with the world. May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations, and [be] inspired to bring our gifts of love and service to the altar of humanity. May we know once again that we are not isolated beings but connected, in mystery and miracle, to the universe, to this community and to one another.”

    It appears that connection and service are what keep the rafts afloat. Scripture, based on the Revised Common Lectionary was used to chart the course for all three rafts. The rafts themselves were traditional church buildings (even in the virtual world of S.C.), but unlike most traditional church experiences, the building isn’t church, church is the ride. It is while playing in the eddies that one discerns the uniqueness of each raft beyond the physical appearance of structure. The diversity is found in the questions: Who acts as helmsman (guide)? Does the guide also interpret the Word? Who is doing the paddling? Do some just ride? Who is climbing into the rafts? Is there some knowledge, preparation, or experience needed in order to board the raft? Is it safe? If I step into the raft, am I going to find myself immersed in the water or even thrown into it? Here are my immersion experiences.

    The Crossing raft is an expansive ride. Many hands work to paddle and steer. The helmsman is not solely the priest. The position is a Trinitarian formula of sorts, where three paid guides paired up with volunteer staff, anchor points of worship, community, and action. These points are set within circles of skilled paddlers (members). These three circles overlap each other like a Celtic design. This is a very stable raft design.

    This raft appeals to all ages, body types, gender and orientation, and experience levels. It is a wonderful cross-representation of society. Taking that into consideration, the ride ranges from safe to challenging – definitely not strapping the riders in with a one-size-fits-all harness. Take a place on the floor cushion, find a seat, stand – there is no need to fear falling overboard – many caring hands are at the ready.

    The ride begins in dusky light with candle and chant, opening the soul’s interior space. This adventure felt fluid, where time seemed to stretch, especially during “open space” before the meal where riders are invited to play in the eddies of dialogue, prayer, art, quiet reflection, and giving. When the food is served at the center of the raft, all hands reach out in blessing. That is one powerful loaf of bread and cup of love!
    For those concerned about tradition, it is not a case of the baby being thrown out with the “raft” water! Rather, it is tuned, literally and metaphorically to harmonize with the rhythms of the community. For example, I found sustenance in a treasured hymn sung with artistry and innovation. The Sacramental feast is offered every trip. The ancient meal is served up, but with spice and flavor!

    No prior experience is required and many opportunities exist to develop paddling skills (formation). Learn to chant. What are the psalms? How do I practice self-examination? How do I understand the Bible? A different paddler each week serves as interpretive guide, exploring the scriptural eddy. Come aboard for a “moving” ride and feast!

    When I traveled in the Moot raft, we climbed into the raft together, opening the worship experience as one body. The ordained priest manned the helm throughout the ride. There was a sense that this very strong and capable river guide could move the vessel forward and into deeper waters. Yet there was little opportunity for other hands to paddle. Part of this may be that the raft actually resides not just down the river but across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom, carried in currents of “New Monasticism.” This ride was just a taste of the Moot community worship life presented at St. John’s chapel on the campus of Episcopal Divinity School. I think that it may be like the bulk of an iceberg below the surface, the depth of the experience is in the communal living and social interaction, of which we only saw a glimpse.

    I leaned over the edge and felt the water flowing past my hand. The most invigorating aspect I found was how our voices joined together in chant with the pulse of drumbeats to create a river of tone, especially during the Sacred Meal. Less satisfying for me, was the use of technology during presentation of scripture, while some who are “hyper-connected” in social media found it more meaningful. I would have preferred to omit it allowing more time for the guide to slow the trip down during the navigating of the Word, remaining in the ritual. I experienced it as trying to pack too much into a trip. I wanted more time to explore the eddies and digest the food. The mystical aspect of the journey was emphasized well but I wonder how the “enabling [of] people to shift from being spiritual tourists to co-travelling Christian pilgrims” could be facilitated aboard this raft?

    My time in the virtual church of the Sunshine Cathedral raft, home-ported in Second Life was paradoxically challenging and not. After climbing aboard for the ride, all I did was sit, which was what everyone else did too, and that was a problem for me. Here too was one helmsperson. I felt off-balance as if stepping backwards towards a priest centric community which seemed in conflict with the inviting opening of being “empowered seekers and students.” I got pretty antsy because frankly, I’m used to doing a lot of the paddling, coming from a very active laity driven parish.

    Literally too, it was challenging to for me to sit as my virtual world knowledge is virtually non-existent. I had to ask someone to show me how to sit! It was difficult to be physically inactive during the ride. I wondered why the vessel (building) was so traditional as the navigation charts (the service) seemed more exploratory. The music was powerful and moving but I was uncomfortable not joining in with my voice. Perhaps there could be a karaoke approach to make music more active and participatory.

    I was eager to meet others in this new world and expected the raft to be filled to overflowing, given the lack of geographical boundaries and wide-open invitation to all people (as I wrote about for The Crossing). But I saw that there were plenty of open seats in the raft – just like most traditional rafts. Being a welcoming church, not just inclusive, is a challenge in any world it seems. ChristopherAslan Muircastle was open and hospitable and the message offered by ChristopherAslan was empowering, affirming, and expansive. My experience was that of a physician applying salve and healing by word. I believe this raft can be a very real journey for those seeking a new way of being church, but I hope that the meal will be served too or it will only partially feed some, like myself, who desire the Word and the Meal. And I hope that others can commit to paddling the raft too.

    The variety of rafts is encouraging and the approaches to inviting people onboard to experience the journey is exciting, but I think we still need more hands to paddle the boat and steer it. I believe we need to name the rivers upon which we journey, slow down to spend time in the eddies, and return to shore frequently to allow more riders to climb in. Finally, how many more rafts do we need to launch?

    • Sandy says:

      From your descriptions of the three experiences, you appear to have had an interesting mix of services. You saw some good examples of how an ordained priest may be able to step back to allow others to act as leaders as well as how the priest may continue to fill the leadership role.

    • Lauren Johnson says:

      Susan,

      I loved the rafting metaphor, and also how you wove the three experiences together. I agree with your last sentence, “how many more rafts do we need to launch?” espeically in the Roman Catholic Church. Would you like to send a fleet my way??

      I also appreciated your point of view on Second Life, it is the one I was most hesitant to try, probably will now, but also the one I find the most confusing. Your take on it was very helpful.

  8. Lauren Johnson says:

    Immersion Experience (re-posted from my blog)

    I only made it to one different form of church, although I am also going to comment more in depth on the Rhythms of Grace training and mass I attended as well.

    The first part of this post will be about my experience with The Crossing, which Susan also captured very well. I approach things a little differently sometimes I think, I tend to let my feelings lead me in religious experiences that are not academic in nature. So to go to a church as an assignment confused my inner self a bit, I but I think I made it work.

    To start with, I am used to a certain kind of service. I am Roman Catholic, and still very active in my home parish. That being said, I also still feel uncomfortable attending a mass by myself in my church, and it is mainly due to the feelings I have associated with my home parish. My home church has been around since sometime in the early 1900’s, to say it is full of old school Yankees is underplaying the situation a bit. The feeling you get unfortunately, when you come in, is not a welcoming one. They are not a friendly group, aside from the greeters, and therefore make it difficult for outsiders to feel welcome. Father Jim will always seek out a newcomer after mass and welcome them, but for the most part, people believe saying the words and not using actions is best. And honestly, if they can avoid the unknown altogether, that would be best.

    Compare this experience with The Crossing, where walking in feels like a warm hug. People are friendly without being overbearing, and there is just such a strong undercurrent of joy running through the group, it is contagious. It is an Episcopalian service, so there are a few things done differently than what I am used to, but before the service even begins, you know, God is present here.

    One of the most powerful forces in the service is Rev. Steph, even though as Susan mentioned, it is very much a community based church. I attended one service where Rev. Steph was absent, and there was a slight difference, which worried me a bit. The main group associated with The Crossing were just as exuberant and happy to be there as always.

    The crucial thing to me about The Crossing, was really the welcome sense you get from everyone. Saying that, I also feel as though this is a church designed for those who are in a transient stage in their life. I don’t necessarily feel as though this a church where people will be dedicated for years and years. It seems as though it is a safe place for those who might have none in their lives, and a place where it is clear God loves you, no matter who are. The people are so diverse and are so passionate about The Crossing, but I don’t know, I just didn’t feel a strong sense of permanence. I have been wrestling that since I started tuning into this feeling, but I do not have a clearer way of articulating it yet.

    Now, the Rhythms of Grace training and mass I attended did have that permanent sense, as the way the service is developed, people of all ages in the autism spectrum can belong. Backing up real quick, Rhythms of Grace is a movement to “do church” for those who may have become unchurched simply because their child falls in the autism spectrum and traditional ways of church have ceased being a joy, and instead become a majorly stressful occasion. Their website is: http://www.aspecialgrace.com, and gives a pretty concise overview of what they do, I strongly recomend visiting the site.

    One of the strengths of their service, is while it is developed around the needs of the children with Autism, it also meets the needs of their parents, providing a space for them to relax for an hour, and attend a service. Some parents have been unable to attend church in years, since a child with autism can be unpredictable and you may never know how one will react during the course of a mass. The instructor at our training, who is also one the developers had a very interesting story to share with us. You need to remember, some children with Autism take things very literally, so the eucharist can be a major issue. Telling them they are about to eat someone’s body and blood, and swallow it, can be incredibly revolting to them. Our instructor shared the story of one little girl solving the problem for her autistic brother by telling him, “you are about to eat love, so it is okay, and not yucky at all”. From then on, when our instructor leads these services, that is the language she uses before eucharist.

    For me (and this is the last paragraph I swear) the most powerful theme in both the Rhythms of Grace and The Crossing services is how they reach people who before then, may have seemed unreachable in the traditional church’s sense. The Crossing unites all types of people, and Rhythms of Grace manages to bring back into the fold a population that is not only quite large in the disabled community, but growing rapidly. To me, these two examples are some of the most powerful of what the Church is capable of doing, and how well they could possibly succeed in doing it.

    • Sandy says:

      One of the things that may help those who are unchurched or dechurched to attempt attending a service is what you described about the Crossing: “People are friendly without being overbearing, and there is just such a strong undercurrent of joy running through the group, it is contagious.”

  9. Sandy says:

    Virtual Church (re-posted from my blog)

    Walking around Sunshine Cathedral Second Life, I felt as though I was touring a physical world church. I like the idea that I can click on a study guide and get information about a book or Bible study that will be held there. I also like that I can click on a large video screen and watch a pastor’s sermon from a physical church.

    The question that springs to mind is: how is this virtual church different from a church’s web page? The answer comes when the church service begins. Unlike on a web page, I actually heard the short sermon presented as it was going out to the rest of the attending avatars.

    As I participated in the service, I was aware that others shared this encounter with me. The service was a different experience from when I toured the church on my own. I could follow the examples of the more experienced avatars and could add amen or other responses when I desired to do so. I could have also sat and never typed/uttered a word. After the service, some of the more regular attendees spoke to me. Again I was aware that I was not alone during this time.

    As Douglas Estes said in SimChurch, some people who have social anxieties find a virtual church to be a safer place to socialize and develop relationships. I can certainly see the advantage when “virtual-world interactions can be far more authentic and far less awkward than real-world relationships….” (27) In addition to those with social anxieties, those people, who are not familiar with mainstream churches, “will prefer to worship in the virtual world because of the flexibility, transparency, diversity, and other innate strengths found in most virtual churches.” (28)

    The experience of virtual church felt like more than if I’d been on a web page. I felt like I had been somewhere. As someone who doesn’t routinely function in the virtual world, I have to say I’m not sure where I’ve been. If someone who is comfortable moving about Second Life, I can certainly see the appeal of attending church with others who have similar interests.

    • Lauren Johnson says:

      Sandy thanks for your indepth response on the Second Life experience. As you mentioned about the social anxiety, I think Second Life can be a great tool for someone like that. One of my younger brothers has Aspergers and with that for him, some crippling social anxiety. Yet he sits at his computer and competes in computer games with people around the world, where he speaks totally with confidence, and often takes the lead in different scenarios.

      I think to shut me up he has agreed to try the church in Second Life with me this weekend, I will have to let you know how it goes, since he is VERY comfortable with the virtual world!

  10. Denise Karuth says:

    Cathedral in the Night
    I have had the pleasure of participating in worship at an outdoor church called Cathedral in the Night in Northampton, Massachusetts for three of the last four Sundays evenings.
    Funded, in part, by the Episcopal Church, Cathedral in the Night was launched in January 2010. It has three components: a 5:00 p.m. Eucharist service which is followed by a meal; a Thursday evening discussion group called “Common Ground Fellowship”, which is held at a local coffee house and is geared towards students at area colleges and other young adults; and an advocacy component which works to end homelessness. I have only participated in the Sunday services as I have class on Thursday nights. I have not seen or heard anything about the advocacy component of this ministry, other than reading on their website that it exists:
    http://www.cathedralinthenight.org/Home.php
    The three pastors–Rev. Chris Carlisle, the Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Massachusetts; Rev.  Eric Fistler of the UCC; Rev. Stephanie Spellers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and others organizers have worked hard to make worship as attractive and welcoming as possible. The church meets in the inviting space on the edge of the street in front of my Main Street UCC/ABC congregation, The First Churches of Northampton. It’s a space where street people, students, and others frequently gather to watch the world go by. Art students designed four lanterns to mark the corners of the space. The lanterns are white five-gallon buckets with fluorescent bulbs at the top and bottom and origami peace doves strung in between. The Communion table is covered with a beautifully embroidered orange cloth from Jerusalem which includes several small mirrors. Two tables set perpendicularly in front of the altar holds a long wooden cross-shaped box which is partly filled with sand and is used to hold votive candles and people’s offerings. (I’ll describe these later.) There was also a cloud, which was only used once. It was a broad, internally lit cloud-shaped “balloon” made from a patchwork of recycled shopping bags from local stores. It was suspended from poles in buckets and was designed to create the suggestion of a tabernacle. Let’s just say that the concept was better than its execution.  There are also four kerosene heat lamps to provide warmth on cold days.
    The half-hour worship service opens with songs that are either taught or handed out. A time for bidding prayers is followed by a scripture reading. There is a five-minute meditation on the scripture text, which is usually geared towards persons who have struggled with addictions, homelessness, and other difficulties. This is followed by a Eucharist which includes singing and an opportunity for people to pick up wooden star or heart from a basket. Each shape has a word such as “listening”, “love, and “compassion” written on it. Everyone is encouraged to pick up an object from the basket and place it in the sand-filled cross to symbolize a gift they can share with others during the week. The service concludes with a song and a prayer inviting everyone to a meal of soup, bologna and cheese sandwiches, cake, cookies, and coffee. One night there was also cold popcorn shrimp.
    Each week there have been about twenty people at the service. Most are linked to the service’s sponsoring Episcopalian, Lutheran, and UCC/ABC congregations or the local soup kitchen that provides the meals, rather than the homeless people and students the services are designed to reach. Most homeless people come after the service starts and gather around the periphery waiting for supper. Folks leading worship try to invite them to participate, with varied success. At one service a woman started singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” but only knew the first two lines. I sang with her and the rest of the group to keep the song going. On Sunday my friend John and I struck up a twenty-minute conversation with a newly-homeless Vietnam vet who broke down and wept when he described his situation. John and I walked him to the local shelter where he was planning on staying at the time he was expected to enter so he wouldn’t have to go alone. Providing a hot meal and a setting for this type of interaction seems to be where “church” happens the most at Cathedral in the Night. In Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, Neil Cole writes,

             “It dawned on me one day tht the Bible never
              commanded us to plant a church. When the
              disciples were sent out, they were to bring the
              kingdom (or reign) of God to place where people
              lived life” (Kindle location 1125-1127) 
    Cathedral in the Night works hard to bring the reign of God to the street where people live. I cannot help but wonder how much street people were involved in the Cathedral’s formation. Did the founders spend as much time working with them as they did working with student artists on the church’s lights and “cloud?” Is this expression of church something that is done for street people rather than with them?

    I hope the passage of time will make street people feel more at home participating in this service. In the meantime, they are getting a decent meal, being welcomed, cared for and listened to. They, along with the rest of us, are hearing the Word preached in a way that relates to their experience and we all have an opportunity to lift up our prayers, offer our gifts (and be reminded that we have gifts to offer). We are also offered the Eucharist before being fed supper. Oftentimes, people need time to feel “safe” in a new setting. Since the church is scheduled to shut down in May, at least for the summer, I fear that trust built up over the past few months will have to be rebuilt after the hiatus. Even so, I hope that, over time, Cathedral in the Night will be more successful in making homeless and other street people feel safe and included, so that it will be of even greater benefit to those it hopes to serve.

  11. Lucretia Mann says:

    Reg, I have you beat regarding slow learning curve for blogging. Here is my reflection on readings for today that I had cleverly posted on my own blog, Sacramental Living. I couldn’t figure out how to load the photos from my blog so they are referenced but not included here. Go to Sacramental Living if you would like to see pictures of the emergent models cited in our readings.

    Last night I participated in the 7 PM Gathering at Vintage Faith Church, Santa Cruz, CA (http://www.vintagechurch.org/). I pulled into the expansive parking lot at 6:45 and immediately noticed that the lot was practically full. That got my attention. I then wandered toward what appeared the sanctuary and was distracted by a sign that said “Abbey.”

    The Abbey is a Coffee, Art and Music Lounge that is open all day and evening (see picture below) and serves a variety of fair trade coffee, teas, tisanes, and pastries. Most importantly, it offers comfortable seating, tables and free internet connections. There is also a small stage where live music occurs on a regular basis. (Santa Cruz is a hotbed for good local music groups!) At 6:45 last night, The Abbey was filled with college kids sipping coffee and doing their school work.

    I wound my way through the Abbey, into the sanctuary. It used to be the worship space for the previous First Presbyterian Church until 2004 when Vintage Faith Church began as the first formal church plant of Santa Cruz Bible Church, a large nondenominational church. By 2006, VFC had outgrown its space at Santa Cruz Bible and started to use space at the Presbyterian Church. In 2008, the VFC merged with the Presbyterian Church.

    “We chose the name “Vintage Faith Church” as we wanted to reflect the
    “vintage” values of the early church and teachings of Jesus. We know that our
    culture today is far different from the culture of the New Testament, but
    instead of being shaped by contemporary organized religion, we desired to
    focus on the original understanding of what the “vintage” early church was
    about.”

    While the original pews are long gone, the sanctuary seating consists of individual molded plastic chairs arranged in rows with center and side aisles. That was surprising to me and created an expectation of performance-based worship, an expectation that proved to be rather true. Musicians gathered on the elevated stage, musicians consisting of two accoustic guitars, miked violin, bongo drums, drum set, keyboard, and two electric guitars. I noticed a rocking chair, table and pole lamp on the left side of the stage. I later learned that was the Reading Corner from which scripture is normally read during the Gathering.

    Kids were piling into the sanctuary in pairs and groups, some carrying their cups of latte from the Abbey while others brought in pastries and other drinks. What was striking was the way these kids seemed entirely comfortable and warmly greeted each other with embraces. Two large screens flanked the stage and rotated various public service announcements for the community as well as informational spots for future events like the community’s Child Dedication, open air Stations of the Cross in downtown Santa Cruz, and Headstart Book Fair. Over the stage was a mobile that depicted a youth connected by streamers to pages of the Bible. The theme for that night and the past several Sundays, “Once Upon a Time: Finding Yourself in God’s Redemptive Story,” was spelled out above the figure and the Bible pages.

    The lead guitarist began the worship with an extemporaneous prayer and two songs with the band. The leader asked everyone present to introduce themselves to someone they did not know and describe how their day had gone. The boy next to me had no difficulty introducing himself to me with a warm smile. She then called on various leaders of the community to make announcements about coming events. She then reminded all of the Ten Minutes of Information after the Gathering. This was a time for newcomers to get connected with the community. There was then a period of “worshipful giving” when collection bags were passed around.

    The leader then introduced a middle aged man who was clearly well-known and appreciated by the kids who gave him a very warm welcome. This man, a former Baptist minister, preached a 45-minute sermon, shocking, about how each of our stories is important but especially as it is a part of God’s greater stor, and that the deepest connection of our hearts is depicted in God’s story. And the kids paid very close attention, even more shocking. The preacher interspersed his words with slides on the two screens and recitation of cogent Bible verses (Act 1:6-8, John 13: 34-35, John 17: 20-23). After the sermon, the worship leader pointed to four stations, and invited those who felt so called to come forward and write their own names in books entitled “Follow Me.” She described how those books would be incorporated in the display of the outdoor Stations of the Cross.

    Probably half the kids present went forward, pen in hand, to write their names in the books during the band’s next set. We then stood for a closing prayer, and the worship was over. People milled around in the sanctuary while others left as the band continued playing. Some headed off to the Ten Minutes while most headed back to the Abbey where there was going to be a concert.

    As I drove home, I turned over the parts of my experience, appreciating that VFC had created a vibrant community that provided a place for college kids to live their lives and move effortlessly back and for between living and worshipping God. While the seating did not bespeak community to me and worship was not sacramental, clearly this Gathering had been meaningful to all of us in attendance.

  12. Lucretia Mann says:

    This is my post for today’s readings. Silly me. That’s what I said in the above post but that post above is for Vintage Faith Church, my immersion experience, from 4/10/2011. This post is about our readings for 4/13/2011. Yes, I’m even more challenged blogging than I thought! Again the pictures may be found on my own blog, Sacramental Living.

    What an interesting development – push back from an outreach event featuring Billy Graham gives rise to alternative worship in York, England, that eventually settles into the same worship site used by Billy Graham! Such are the origins of Visions in York.

    I particularly resonate with Wallace’s description of taking “inspiration from the the way the Celtic saints built community by reaching out to their culture and mixing with the people. I love the notion of meeting the culture and its people exactly where they are, and presenting oneself authentically as Christians. Just as there were contextual challenges for the founders of Vision (a recent abusive situation in a local parish only referenced broadly in this reading), all of us face contextual challenges in our daily life, our work, our ministry, our daily ministry field as some have described.

    The descriptions of the worship and space are vivid and inviting – beanbags, “hymn-sandwich” style worship consisting of a selection of readings, music, liturgies, meditations and prayers from a variety of traditions – and crafted as “mixed together over a seamlessly woven musical background provided b the church DJ” (p.112). I was initially surprised and later intrigued that this contemporary faith community decided to begin following the lectionary. However, the rationale made perfect sense: creating “a sense of continuity and connection with the wider Church whilst challenging us to confront difficult subjects that we might otherwise have avoided” (p. 112). More values to weave into my current thinking and future dreaming of ministry – missional reaching out to the culture, weaving together of sources from a variety of traditions and contemporary contexts, and intentionally staying grounded in the tradition. The biggest surprise for me was reading that “some spiritual seekers are put off when everything is very new – when it isn’t how they imagine church to be” (p. 114). I had previously believed that all spiritual seekers reject the tradition and look for expressions congruent with their own context. Silly me. But more importantly, how widely held is my assumption? To what extent do worship planners assume that, because young people are not interest in tradition, they need to borrow exclusively from the youth culture? How many of us assume that we know what the marginalize need and want?

    Several years ago, I attended a U2charist celebrated in an Episcopal church in Santa Cruz, CA. While it was offered on quite the magnificent scale featured in the video to the right at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Huron, it was noteworthy and consisted of some of the elements and principles that Blair describes in her chapter in Ancient Faith, Future Mission, edited by Steven Croft, Ian Mobsby and Stephanie Spellers. Through blending liturgy and music by U2 and Bono, liturgies have been created and celebrated worldwide to engage churches in unity, and especially young people, in setting up mission to address the needs of the “the most vulnerable and needy.” (p. 116). The Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) identified by the Episcopal Church’s 76th General Convention are the missional focus for the hundreds of U2charists celebrated since Blair’s first liturgy in York, ME.

    I embrace the missional focus and engagement of youth in liturgy through contemporary music and Gospel values. These are values that are becoming more and more a part of my being, and values I would pray to incorporate in my future ministry. However, Blair’s use of “emergence” would seem to vary from usage we have read about this semester in Being Church in the 21st Century. What I hear her describing is a contemporary liturgical expression that originated in her church and that has been replicated in other congregations. At least from her chapter, I do not see evidence of faith communities springing up that embody these principles and liturgical structure.

    I appreciate the emphasis on discipleship in the chapter on feig I was struck by the choice not to be limited by building a gathered congregation and to develop according to “a variety of fluid networks” (p. 126). This was reminiscent for me of the theological and cultural rationale Estes provided in Simchurch. I can appreciate how such thinking would lend itself to a missional focus of forming and sending forth disciples.I

    I also appreciate Volland’s evocative descriptions of feig’s engagement with the cathedral from out of which.

    The engagement with the cathedral, both as a building and living community,
    has enabled members of feig to discover the richness of rhythms of prayer, of
    liturgy, ritual, silence, and engagement with environmental and social justice
    issues that have typically been associated with the catholic and contemplative
    traditions. p. 129

    I would hope to incorporate the diversity and richness of liturgical expression with missional focus and attention to environment and social justice issues and contemplative traditions in my future ministry.

    I LOVE the name Contemplative Fire and its moniker in the subtitle of the chapter describing this faith community, Creating a Community of Christ at the Edge. The vision of being “a dispersed and eucharistic community of Christ, [that] seeks to hold in creative tension these and other apparent polarities” (p.130) is beautifully crafted and emotionally evocative. In fact, I found this entire chapter to be beautifully crafted and emotionally evocative.

    Roderick and Holland write that just as the body of Christ is “transparent to the grace and illumination of the Holy Spirit” (p. 132) so can “the body of earth, the human body and a body of people gathered in celebration of the presence of God” (p. 132). I resonate with the authors’ incarnational theology and acknowledgement of the transformative powers of the Holy Spirit and God’s presence.

    Contemplative Fire’s theology is both incarnational and intentionally trinitarian as captured by their symbol of the trefoil. This symbol, grounded in ancient Celtic spirituality, also embraces their values of “dynamic of prayer, study and action; of being, knowing and doing” (p. 132). As intentional as Contemplative Fire is in articulating their theology, they are just as intentional about holding the “tension between orthodoxy and exploration, between given kerygma and its integral dynamic of emergence” (p. 137). It is just this tension I would hope to more intentionally acknowledge and hold in my current life and future ministry. This tension is poignantly captured in the story of the drawing power of a “sweet-water well” (p. 137) that provides a compelling alternative to “pervasive absolutism and lack of spaciousness that characterize much religions, political and cultural expression” (p. 137). Of all the readings, this chapter strikes me as the clearest theological expression of an alternative service/fresh expression.

    I greatly appreciate Spellers definition of a church “worth the trouble…one that compels us to follow Jesus with all that we are: body, mind, heart and soul. One that draws on the beauty, weight and wisdom of tradition, and sets those traditions in a mutually transformative relationship with the life and culture in which we are embedded” (p. 145). Like feig, The Crossing began with months and months of deep listening, of one-to-one meetings with potential constituents, listening to what they yearned for and needed in a community. I would hope to incorporate Spellers self-described collaborative leadership role in my present life and future ministry. I would hope, like Spellers, “to take all the resources at her disposal – education, formation, experience, sacramental function, authority as one set apart for ordination- and use them to activate people’s recognition of their own authority as leaders doing God’s work in the church and the world” (p. 147) in sacramental worship.

  13. James Darby says:

    Truth and Destiny Ministries
    Rev. Lesley Jones Senior Pastor

    On Sunday March 27, 2011 I had the great pleasure of visiting Truth and Destiny Ministries in Cincinnati, OH. Truth and Destiny Ministries is a seven year old ministry with an outreach program to the marginalized. The congregation has around 75 members who are active in the life of the congregation and an additional 50 to 75 “friends” of the congregation. To some degree this church is much like any other protestant church. When we (my family and a member of our congregation) arrived we noticed a small white wooden church with a steeple. There were a few young teen-aged African-American men outside talking and laughing. As we walked into the church we were greeted by three teen-aged young ladies also of African descent who were talking with an older African- American woman and a younger Caucasian man. What we all took note of was how warm and friendly everyone was. We also noticed how this church had a disproportionately large amount of youth and that there was a disproportionate amount of people with the title of “minister”.

    Service began much like many African-American protestant churches with praise and worship complete with tambourines, drums, hand clapping and foot tapping. Again what was clear was the amount of youth who actively participated in the worship experience. Young people read scriptures, prayed and gave testimonies. An amazing youth sermon that spoke to everyone in the congregation was offered by a young woman. The most amazing moment for me (and probably the entire congregation) was when a 15 year old young man by the name of A.J. sang a song accompanied by some other young men. By the time the song was over A.J., most of those who were singing with him and most of the congregation including myself was crying. After church without even so much as an instruction the congregation began moving the pews to the sides of the sanctuary, a side door was opened and everyone began bringing in tables and chairs and setting up for a wonderful fellowship dinner and potluck.

    When talking with Pastor Lesley she explained, “this is the way we do it, we didn’t do anything special because you were here, this is how we do church.” So how is it that Truth and Destiny does church? First I noted that the young people are a part of this community in real and tangible ways. The youth hold leadership positions, assist in decision making and are part of the life of this ministry. I could see how the service was relevant to them. One of the challenges of the emergent church is to remain relevant in our post-modern society. Not all of the music or every aspect of the service catered to my sensibilities but at the end of the service I could see that there was something for everyone. For example, the song that A.J. sang was not a song that I would ever request or think to sing , but after seeing how the song touched the young men who were singing it, I was blessed!

    The church is a real community, these people talk and interact with one another outside of Sunday morning. While we were having dinner, I heard parents swapping schedules for childcare, people congratulating children for good grades, asking one another about doctor’s appointments, scheduling assistance with moving, and even talking about a surprise birthday party that was held the night before. This is a far cry from a monastic community, but it was clear that this church is striving to have “all things in common”.

    This church believes in baptismal ministry and these ministries align with the mission of the church. As I mentioned earlier there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of “ministers”. When it was time for the clergy to take the rostrum there were only 4 of us, including myself. The “ministers” are the people of God living out their ministries not in church, but in the world. This church actually believes and lives out the priesthood of all believers. This church has outreach programs to jails, homeless shelters and social service agencies. The youth and young adults do outreach through dance, step shows, miming and simply inviting friends and classmates to church. This form of evangelism has clearly made an impact given the number of youth in this church.

    Finally this church is diverse; the church is racially diverse amongst its leaders and throughout the congregation. This church is radically inclusive in regards to sexual orientation, identity and expression. After talking with Pastor Lesley I discovered that the membership also has diverse religious views and that not all of the attendees of the church are Christian.

    This experience was a powerful one, and has given me a great example of one of the many fresh expressions of the church. In addition this experience has assisted me in practical ways to minister to the people of my congregation.

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