Hey friends! Yesterday, we posted this video (below). Links spontaneously came out of our mouths, and we wanted to share them in an accessible way here. So, without further ado…Here is Debra Dean Murphy’s amazing and challenging article about hu…
A great first opportunity to connect is tomorrow (Wed) night, at 7pm at the St. Francis House Student Center (1011 University Ave). We’ll have snacks, teas, and coffee, and a chance to meet other folks. A little after 8, we’ll pray Compline together to end the evening and begin the new year. Everyone is welcome.
This Sunday at 5pm, I hope you’ll join us for our annual House Blessing Eucharist.We’ll pray for the different spaces in the Episcopal Center and have house blessing care packages for you and any friends you’d like to share them with. Christians usually bless homes as a way to ask God’s help to make good new beginnings and as a way to name our intention to live our ordinary lives - in our homes, classrooms, and workplaces – in ways that are shaped by God’s love and call.
- Help us put together care packages this Wed at 7pm!
- Come early on Sunday, at 4:15pm, to play an instrument or lend your voice at worship. Email Mckenzie for details/questions/to let her know you are interested.
- Read a Scripture on Sunday (come 5-10 min before 5pm). Email Jonathan.
- We’re looking this week for help next week, at the RSO fair (Sept 13-14, 5-8pm). Can you help cover a shift? Let Kate know!
The St. Francis House student org leaders gathered for the first meeting of the new year year yesterday. Our first-ever program intern made the us dinner and shared a new way to connect over food. It was really beautiful.At the outset, we connected ove…
Sermon preached at St. Luke’s and St. Francis House, for the 12th Sunday of Pentecost, Proper 16, Year A. Here are the readings.
|Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.|
Sermon preached at St. Dunstan’s, Madison, on these readings for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15 in Year A.
It feels like this morning’s psalm is haunting us today, and I don’t like the feeling of that. “How good and pleasant it is when brethren or kindred live together in unity.” I used to love that psalm. Who knows, maybe I will come to love it again. While I appreciate the comparison that follows that celebration of unity, what with its shoutout to fine beards and beard oils dripping down off of them (sounds kinda awesome), the celebration of unity named by the psalmist feels hollow this week. It may be good and pleasant when we do live in unity, but it doesn’t feel like we do very much of that right now. Not that Charlottesville represented a new thing, but Charlottesville is yet another in an exhaustingly long line – and now not even the latest – but belonging to a long line of honest and painful things that name the violence we do to the unity that God would give us. And the “we” who do violence refers to humanity, but “we” also refers to white people in America. For those of us miles from Charlottesville and the South, here in Dane County, it may be helpful to remember that you don’t need guns to do violence. I don’t say that as a way of shaming folks for things over which we may feel little control, but to begin to make our repentance specific. I take it as foundational to the Christian faith and counter-cultural to the world that there is life and hope in our repentance. And we need life and hope because unity worth oiling beards for feels a very long way away.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, I confess to you, my neglected blog that I have gotten into more internet fights than is usual for me. I don’t know that this is intentional; at least on my part, I find that I have markedly less tolerance for people continuing to excuse actions I find inexcusable. […]
As one intrepid parishioner reminded me, I have been remiss in updating the blog this summer. The summer has been busy, with camp, a pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine, and Missionpalooza, on top of the usual round of work things. I will, at some point, go back and do a #sermondump and maybe even write something about […]
The whole “things they didn’t teach in seminary” trope often comes up when clergy lament the difficulty of fixing a particularly cranky toilet or navigating a certain aspect of church finances. (I don’t think it’s bad for clergy to know these things, but there are probably cheaper places to learn them.) Of course, the comment is commonly tongue-in-cheek and can refer to particulars of a local context that either could not have predicted or, even if they had been predicted, would have only been relevant to one or two in the class. Even so, I think the question has lasting merit and is worth engaging from time to time: “What would have constituted adequate preparation for this?”
The list that follows is my realtime answer today. Probably different from my answer tomorrow, definitely different from yesterday’s. The list doesn’t replace or take for granted the things I did learn – Scripture, theology, CPE – and I should add that just because I didn’t learn it at div school doesn’t mean someone wasn’t teaching it (or that that someone wasn’t one of my professors, which is just to say I’m sure I missed significant pieces of the knowledge dropped on me along the way). In any case, this is my list and, if nothing else, you’ll find links to six interesting books! Without further ado…
Community Organizing around the Presence of God
To be fair, I probably did learn a fair bit about this. But it was good friends made after seminary, with backgrounds in community organizing, who showed me that whatever I had learned was only a start. Community organizers showed me that the church’s default question, “How many people showed up to X, Y, or Z?” didn’t have to be a measure, and implicit endorsement, of the attractional model of being church (“If you build it, they will come”). For years, such a model led well-meaning Christians to take turn-outs as a kind of referendum of a gathering’s resonance, relevance, and/or content. So a poorly organized Bible study effort leaves church members bemoaning the “fact” that people in a given community “just don’t take Scripture seriously.” At the same time, Willow Creek famously acknowledges (a while back) that large numbers have, for years, obscured the reality that the church isn’t realizing its goal of transformational discipleship.
Instead of taking turnout as a referendum on relevance, effectiveness, or something else, community organizers have taught me how to build toward a gathering from the baseline of relationships, and in ways that allow us to shape the thing we’re building toward together. And that you can do this in measurable ways. Turn out is still important, and it’s actually relatively predictable when you are organizing communities, because you’re talking with, learning from, and listening to the people with whom you’ll gather.
Additionally, it was in reading David Fitch’s Faithful Presence that I discovered a marriage of sacramental practice and (the best of) evangelical sensibilities that grew my imagination for Christian community organizing that is intelligible to itself beyond a vague sense of being usefully disposed toward others. Fitch writes
This is the challenge of being a Christian today. We have forgotten how to live together in Christ’s kingdom and invite the world along. Our collective imagination has lost the new possibilities for the world in the life, death, resurrection, and reign of Jesus Christ. Instead, with the comforts of Christendom, we set up churches as organizations for maintaining Christians. When people…think of church, they think of large buildings where people gather to hear well-dressed men (mostly men) talk for an hour, usually from behind a pulpit. As a result, many of our sons and daughters cannot stomach the thought of becoming a pastor in these churches.
Nonetheless, this is the task the church faces: political organizing for the kingdom. To be clear, this has nothing to do with national politics. It is the work of gathering people into God’s presence, living together under the one reign of God in Christ. This way of life doesn’t stay within the walls of a church building but bursts out into the world through all the circles of our lives. The task of church leadership today is to gather people into Christ’s presence in all the circles of our lives. This is what faithful presence looks like. This is church. (emphasis mine)
As a seminary class, I imagine a blend of community organizing principles, sacramental theology, and Fitch, a CMA evangelical who goes around quoting cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Žižek and Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann in equal measure. 2017 is an amazing time to be alive.
Call this the Matthew 18 class. Or don’t and just skip to reading this book: Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. I’m not wild about the sub-title, but it works so long as “resolving” doesn’t get read as “fixing the bad behavior of others.” The book is not about that. The book is about conversing “about violated expectations in a way that eventually solves the problem and improves on the relationship.” It sounds simple, but the authors observe that many times “we don’t say a word because we don’t know how to handle the conversation, or we fear that we don’t know how. We’re not bad people. We’re just frightened.” I won’t rehash the whole book here, but I will say it’s not about picking our battles and winning them. It’s about meeting one another in the space of shared values, clarifying intentions in ways that allow the other to feel safe, and standing up for what one believes is important while being open to learning something new and being open to change. It’s about being focused and flexible. In the words of the author, “How about you? Are you ready not to rumble?”
Leading through Questions
Jesus did a lot of it. I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. It’s definitely harder than having all the answers. And it’s not the same as only saying, “How do you feel about it?” or “I’ve got nothing to add for you.” Good questions are rare and incredibly substantial gifts for formation, discernment, and both personal and corporate development. Further, where answers tend to fill space, good questions open space, which is a special priority for me in light of Fitch’s book (above).
Full disclosure: I haven’t read (yet) any of the books that follow, but I asked a good friend what he’d recommend as resources for developing the ability to ask worthy questions, and this is the list he came up with.
- That’s the Question! How Managers and Facilitators Ask the Best Question at the Best Time
- What’s Your Question? Inspiring Possibilities through the Power of Questions
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
- Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change
That’s my list. What’s yours? What would you add?
Last week, I walked into my local Verizon store and said I’d like to upgrade my phone. “Sure,” he said. “What do you have?” An iPhone 5s. “Great. And what do you want?” A basic phone, I explained. The cheapest you have. The sales guy gladly steered me …
Five years ago, right before St. Francis House sent a few of game people to our very first student organization fair, a long-time campus missioner friend gave me a call. I asked him if he had any advice for engaging the event. “Yes,” he said. “Be sure …