Monday, November 30, 2009

A Band To Watch (and listen to)!

I was introduced to these guys by long time friend Jeff Jackson of Covert Management two and a half years ago. He manages Seabird and has one terrific band! The first time I heard their first album I had the songs lodged in my soul for three months without hearing the songs again during that time. When I got their first album from Jeff after a long time waiting, it was like a reunion with someone who I had been longing to be with for ages - sweetness and light!! Their music really is exemplary. No joke. They recently had a song on Grey's Anatomy - Joy To The World (opens in iTunes) - and their new single from the upcoming (Dec. 15th) album 'Rocks Into Rivers' entitled 'Don't You Know That You're Beautiful' (opens in iTunes) is absolutely satisfying for the musical connoisseur. You'll be doing your soul a favour by buying the new album (or the single now) in a couple of weeks.

I'm glad they'll be coming to Ireland in December, with one gig in Ballymena, N. Ireland and possibly another somewhere in Dublin (TBA). Check out this brief 'behind the scenes . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Simple Joys!

Here are some pictures from our family day out today at Kildare Village just off the M7. I love both times we've been there- mostly because the kids always have a great time. The last time we were there the kids had their faces painted, enjoyed a clown and stilt-walker & got balloons. Today they met the one and only Santa with his elf helper. We then headed out to have dinner at Midway where Neve and Aidan had pizza & cookies. It's the simple things which can often bring the most joy in life. All-in-all it was a great day . . and Christy and I had Starbucks (not a regular occurance because we don't live near one)!

PS- There's an ancient quote from the Kildare Papers posted there which says, "Always remember three things, 'Whence you came, who you are and where you are going.' " Great quote!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whom Shall I Send? Who Will Go for Us?

Do Celebs Need Saving? from Risen Magazine on Vimeo.

Artistic Missional Practice and Theory

The above title of the post reminds me of a line of thinking that has been going around for some time. It's one of contrast.

It has been said that the Church in the past few centuries has been (over?)fixated on orthodoxy or 'right belief' - getting your theology or 'study/understanding of God' right (sometimes to the exclusion of doing right by people who are created in the image of God Himself). Then, and only then, can you be about orthopraxis or 'right doing/living'. As the book of James seems to stress, more attention in recent years has been shifting to orthopraxy with its specific application as we live in relationship with others. This re-calibrating focus then is moving toward orthodoxy VIA orthopraxy - or 'right belief through right action/living'. While I see the need for this shift in the Church in the West, it must only shift so far as to rebalance our faithful obedience to Christ's example and call.

In Scott McKnight's 'Missional Mondays' post this week he shares some insights that are particularly helpful from pastor and author Dr. Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. He shares Keller's "key characteristics of missional churches who've made the ecclesiological shift" from his article 'The Missional Church':

1. Discourse in the vernacular: Missional churches avoid tribal language, we-them language, talking as though non-believers weren't present in our churches. We must learn to discourse in the local vernacular's our churches are situated within

Enter and re-tell the culture's stories with the gospel: Missional churches enter into their culture by showing sympathy toward and deep acquaintance with the artifacts of the culture (music, art, literature, food, etc.) acknowledging the goodness of culture because of common grace and the image of God in all humanity; missional churches are able to re-tell their cultures stories in light of the biblical story which shows us how in Christ we can have freedom without slavery, embracing the 'other' without injustice.

Theologically train lay people for public life and vocation: Missional churches train everyone to 'think Christianly' about everything and work with distinctive's shaped by the biblical story; people are encouraged to renew and transform culture through a theology of work; and to become culture-makers; missional churches encourage people to demonstrate love and 'tolerance' in the public square, under cutting intolerance as a common defeater of the gospel in the Post-Christian West.

Create Christian community which is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive: Missional churches seek to empower and equip the body to show the surrounding culture how radically different a Christian society is with regard to sex, money, and power; and missional churches practice holistic mission because the world is a holistic mess because of sin and God has provided a holistic answer in Christ; they do this through word and deed, through the proclamation and presence of the Kingdom of God.

How does this all dovetail with the Arts? Well, as per Tim's first point, the Arts ARE the vernacular of any culture. It seems to me that it's a matter of art imitating life and life then, in turn, life imitating art. It's a strange cycle, but true for the masses. So, if we are to be masters of our craft - whatever the field or medium may be - we have an opportunity to become more conversant in the vernacular or the 'everyday language' of the places, spaces and networks in which we live, move and have our being by listening. No one who has yet to develop the art of listening will have anything really valuable to contribute to a conversation, much less someone's life. Learn to listen, then, by God's empowering Spirit, offer what He has already given you ("What is in your hand?" He said to Moses) in a 'language' that those around you speak.

The second point Dr. Tim Keller makes about entering and retelling the culture's stories is one that should come somewhat naturally to someone with a gifting and vocation in the Arts. It doesn't really matter what your discipline is, every area of specialty in the Arts is essentially about narrative. Through your medium you're telling a story. Even if you deny your work communicates a story, the work itself carries it's own story within it - how it came to be and what brought it 'to life'. If we are to really move people, learning and re-telling stories that they either face daily, or that are embedded deep within their psyche, is a core practice. We, as artists, can employ our general vocation as 'prophets' in society to share Truth - especially when we reinterpret and present anew stories that people thought they already knew and understood. We can enable someone to see life from a different perspective or angle. Speaking Christianly, this conversion to Truth, is akin to the role C.S. Lewis believed the Arts fulfilled . . being pre-evangelistic in nature.

What other thoughts do you have on Tim Keller's points three and four regarding the role of the Arts and the 'Creative' in culture?

Psalm 119 Meditation

Here is a brilliant meditation on Psalm 119 - lectio divina style - that was used at Youthwork the Conference last weekend in Eastbourne, England. I think I may snag it for some school retreats I'll be doing in the New Year. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Might You Have Done Differently?

I recently connected with Rev. Thomas Brackett who is the Programme Officer for Church Planting and Redevelopment with the Episcopal Church in the USA. His role is a relatively new one which he is helping to create as he goes along. I had the privilege of speaking with him about three weeks ago and I was very interested to hear what his experience has been like in his position. He keeps a blog called 'Church Planting Central' which is very informative and inspiring. If you're at all interested in the interface of the Church and culture and have a missional heart, or especially if you're a part of the Anglican Communion, check out his blog and even get in touch with him.

What follows is a segment of a recent post on his blog entitled 'What Might You Have Done Differently?' which explores some of the current difficulties the Church in the West is experiencing in regards to the hemorrhaging of people - and especially those between 15-35 - and the chasm in understanding and connection with those outside its family. It touches on areas that I have been investing significant time, thought and prayer the past five+ years in regards to Fresh Expressions (UK) and 'Pioneer Ministry' (new and as-of-yet unknown expressions of what it means to be the Church in society) Read and heed friends . . .

"Some of you know that, a few months ago, I spent three weeks in the UK, exploring the Church of England’s “Fresh Expressions” movement. It felt like I barely scratched the surface in my explorations! I met so many wonderful people – sat in on challenging and inspiring conversations – I mean, overall it was more than I ever expected from this visit. I was welcomed by gracious hosts in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, London,Devon and various stops along the way. I went there with one question on the tip of my tongue – everywhere I went. I asked that same question in pretty much the same way, each time. It went something like this . . .

“If you knew twenty years ago what you know today about the impact of secularization on the relationship of Culture to Church and vice versa, what might you have done differently to prepare the institution for those emerging realities, back then?” I asked this seemingly rhetorical question of nearly seventy people there in the Church of England. Some lay folks, a scattering of bishops and a whole lot of active clergy agreed to talk “for the record.” I filled a notebook with their responses – it was marvelous! There were a few who objected to the question and a few more who cautioned me against asking such a question from Church leaders engaged with a very different culture.

Nonetheless, I’ve been carrying that notebook around with me for the last three months, reading and rereading the responses. A few weeks ago, I began sorting what I’d written into major themes – sort of categories of answers. It was no surprise that the most powerful answers I encountered centered around the following paraphrased response:

'Twenty years ago, we were actively pushing our young people out the doors of our churches and Dioceses. We didn’t mean to – it’s just that we wouldn’t make room for them in our activities; we didn’t include their voices in our public conversations; we didn’t ask them for stories of their encounters with the good news of God as known in Jesus Christ. As a result, we lost them. They went elsewhere to find expression for their gifts. Today, there is little likelihood of attracting them back into our Church. In their absence, we lost sight of the huge gap growing between the insider language of the Church and the realities of the Culture we are called to serve. Now that’s a huge loss, but it’s not the biggest loss we’ve experienced, subsequently.

The greater loss is that we forgot how to nurture the prophetic voice in our midst. We’ve forgotten how to foster new young leaders in nurturing and mutually-shaping communities. Today, we are working on bringing new young leaders into our churches but that’s not the same as nurturing the prophetic voice in community – training new leaders to cultivate community with a hoe instead of directing with the Verger’s mace. That takes time to develop! It’s an art of “being in community” that very few have ever experienced, nonetheless mastered.

So, (several of them concurred) if we could go back – if you could learn from us – we would encourage you to take action now; do not wait until you have it figured out. Invite faith-filled young leaders into your communities. Listen. Try on new ideas. Experiment. Be willing to fail – often and early. “Fail away” until patterns of meaning start to emerge from your communities in discernment. Listen for the Fresh Expressions of the Spirit in their sometimes awkward and clumsy offerings. Especially listen and observe the way they use ritual and music to make sense of the insanity of our lives.'

(I’ll stop there – I think the point is clear!)"

Read the introduction and conclusion of this post . . .

Friday, November 06, 2009

ANOIS 2009 Review

Well, all said, this year - the sixth - at Anois was the best yet.

We had many new experiences this year- a new venue, new location, some new young people and new leaders! It was hosted at Kilkenny College in, uh, Kilkenny City. I think both the location AND the venue were very good for the event as a whole. Kilkenny offered a wide range of activities available for the young people to be a part of and the school campus was sufficient for the weekend festival.

The theme this year was CANNONBALL - being the 'freak' that God made you to uniquely be and leaving your mark on the world in relationship & partnership with Him. Scott Evans our messenger (and Diocesan Youth Officer for the SouthEast region with the Church of Ireland) did a superb job communicating honestly, authentically and sensitively to the young people. Well done friend! Jeremy Casella (long time friend from Nashville, TN) was, as per usual, very gifted and genuine in his leading of the worship segments. Thanks brother!

I get such a buzz out of seeing the young people being exposed to God in what is often a new light for them and how they respond to the Spirit's work in their lives. May God continue it long after Anois! I also get very excited about working with the fantastic leadership team we have EVERY year. This year was no exception. In fact, we had a huge number of dedicated, passionate volunteer leaders - 55 in all!

So, thanks to each and every one of you . . to the young people of Ireland for making Anois possible and to the leaders for birthing vision into reality . . where we ALL had the opportunity to experience something of God's love and goodness over that weekend. Thank you God for showing up!