Monday, March 27, 2006

Listened to a great book on tape while we drove to the Grand Canyon -- the unabridged "Robinson Caruso" by Daniel Dafoe. I had no idea how good this was -- it was written in the late 1600s, but has a great story and incredibly redemptive themes. Caruso undergoes a spiritual renewal/conversion on the island that is one of the most moving descriptions of the power of God's grace that I have encountered in English liturature. Next time you're driving cross-country check this out at the library before your trip.

Reread "Foolishness to the Greeks" by Leslie Newbigin. Too many wonderful, profound insights to list, but if you have not read this book what are you waiting for? It is the best intro into how the church must (without leaving an orthodox Christianity) adapt and re-imagine our role in a pluralist culture.

Been burned out on contemporary fiction lately, but picked up Sharyn McCrumb's book "Songcatcher" and am enjoying it a great deal. McCrumb sets her books in NC/Tenn. Appalachia -- each book follows parallel stories from the celtic/scotts-irish (i.e. white trash) settlers and a modern tale. I guess I love these stories because 1) they are well-told and 2) it's evocative of my growing up. My mom's family is from north Georgia Appalacia -- my great grandfather was a Scott who married a Cherokee. The Hammondtrees are responsible for my best, odd phrases like "rat ran over my grave" (used for those unexplained shivers you feel periodically) "who left the gate open" (for those moments when it seems that out of nowhere a line of cars has appeared to block you from getting on the road; "the devil's beating his wife" (for when it is sunny and raining at the same time)... I could go on, but you'll begin to see that behind the mild exterior of a modern man lies the soul of a celtic pagan :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Parochial Vision

Book: "Parochial Vision"
Author: Nick Spencer

Revolution doesn't always come in a flashy dustjacket. Parochial Vision is a ground-breaking book with far-reaching implications to the church living in a post-Christendom world.

Spencer's focus is the Church of England (COE) and it's 1,000 year long commitment to the parish system of one church with one priest for one district. This land-based concept of pastoral care lead to the COE falling further and further behind as England rapidly urbanized over the past century. It also created an enormous drain on the church's treasury to maintain the roughly 12,000 parish buildings. Spencer jokes that the COE used to be called the Tory party at prayer, but now should be called the National Trust at prayer.

The solution, according to Spencer, is a return to the pre-Norman Conquest church model of the Minster church. A Minster church was designed for missional times. It evolved during the period of Roman collapse to respond to the need to transform the Anglo-Saxon culture.

What are the marks of a Minster congregation:
1. A regional identity. The Minster congregation has a vision and plan for ministering to a region that is a self-identified unit (e.g. downtown Salt Lake City as opposed to the entire Salt Lake valley). This region interestingly enough seems always to be roughly encompasssed by a six mile radius from the Minster Church.

2. A collegial Staff. The Minster church is staffed by clergy who have primary pastoral care for distinct congregations/parishes within the overall Minster structure. These congregations are resourcced by the clergy but have an local leadership in place. This provides a balance for clergy between direct pastoral care and the development of specialty ministry areas based upon giftedness that minster to the entire Minster community (e.g. teaching, counseling, etc.).

3. A Training Center. The Minster's missional focus and larger span of care raises up people who are called to ministry who can receive very hands on practice tied to theological reflection. The Minster church's mission keeps in check the tendency for pastoral interns to become overly focused on intellectual pursuits to the detriment of actual ministry to people.

4. Flexible Facilities: Central offices of the Minster church could provide meeting space, specialized equipment (i.e. recording studio, video production, etc.), bookstore, library, health center, mentoring programs, classroom space or even room for commercial or non-profit development.

5. Missional Stance: The Minster church's driving purpose is innovative ministry to a non-Christian culture. It provides a way to share integrated word and deed ministry to a specific region by distinct (yet connected) local congregaions/parishes.

Why is this revolutionary?

A. The Minster model is economically practical:
Instead of resources going to maintain buildings that are rarely used, this model treats facilities as a 24/7/365 asset to be utilized for a wide variety of uses (education, worship, commerce, community events/celebrations). It also allows for connected congregations to share resources (human, informational and economic) for ministry excellence.

B. The Minster model is ecclesiastically flexible:
Pastoral staff are able to develop specialty gifts (encouraging excellence and job satifaction) without loosing connection to the realities of ongoing ministry to people within a specific context/culture. This is not an "ivory tower" but a model that deals with real-life pastoral/missional challenges with greater skill than possible with typical "parish-driven" models.
This model also opens up a variety of ways of serving the local church for more than those called to "pastoral" office.

C. The Minster model is missionally nimble:
Because the mister church is able to service specific communities/groups without having to "plant an individual church" it means groups that would not be targeted for parish churches because they are not economically viable, can be developed. Also, new opportunities for outreach are not shelved because of lack of staffing -- because of a collegial staff, people are available for quick response to opportunity.

D. The Minster model is culturally relevant:
The Minster model has a wholistic view of ministry to it's community, thus it is percieved as a vital part of the fabric of the region.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Girl Meets God

I've just finished reading Lauren Winner's book "Girl Meets God." I enjoyed it; but not as much as her "Mudhouse Sabbath." In the book she wrestles with a lot of the issues I've faced over the past 15 years with faith, worship, biblical interpretation and community. Reading someone else going through the same issues, but with their own perspective is helpful... for one it affirms what are the core issues we all encouter and what are merely the personal preference issues. It also helps see pitfalls that we ourselves haven't personally encountered, but probably shoud be aware of.

The key shared issues I saw in GMG:
1) worship that is rooted in the biblical (meaning the whole bible Genesis - Revelation) story. This means a healthy appreciation of our Jewish roots as Christians. Toward the end of the book someone asks Lauren if she is about to convert to another religion (after being raised Jewish she converts to Orthodox Judaism and then to Christianity) anytime soon. She answers the effect that Judaism and Christianity are related/intertwined in a fundamental way that cannot be said of any other faith.
2) Honesty. Life is hard and we need help to get through. Prayer and the religious life are often not what we expect them to be -- the way in is through these thoughts and experiences, not by denying them or pretending that they don't exist.
3) Grace is way bigger than our feeble minds can grasp -- and far more satisfying than even my emotions can feel.
4) History matters -- we are only cutting our own noses off to spite our own faces if we refuse to listen to the past.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What's so great about New Song?

In the Priest Idol post the question that struck me was "How are you are you going sell this place, if you can't tell people what's great about it?" How would you answer that question for New Song?