Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Making Gargoyles - Making Disciples

I'm not sure how the following advert from Exeter Cathedral ended up in my inbox but I'm glad it did. Here's a screenshot:

Clay Gargoyles? How cool is that? The very idea reminds me of my childhood. No, not my childhood in the shadow of Exeter Cathedral but my childhood as a weird American teen in the early 2000's who thoroughly enjoyed the TV Show "Gargoyles." Check it out: 

Weird cartoons aside, I loved the idea of making clay gargoyles in Exeter, England because it helps young people and adults to contextualize their faith through fun and fellowship. It helps people to notice things that they take for granted and spend time considering how they might be made. 

It strikes me that - even as youth ministry has been blamed of late for the juvenilization of American Christianity - youth ministry may be uniquely positioned to help people of all ages attend to the unique context(s) in they live out their faith - to notice the cultural artifacts of their towns, families, and churches that often go unnoticed and to consider the significance of these things, people, and relationships for their faith. Making clay gargoyles in the small town of in Eastern NC where I serve as a youth minister wouldn't make much sense but there are many things that might. 

I guess what I mean to say is that youth ministry - and church ministry in general - is at its best when it pays close attention (and helps others to pay attention) to the locale in which ministry and discipleship takes place. 

So I'd love to hear from you: what does your church do to help youth and adults attend to the context in which ministry and discipleship takes place?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Newbigin on the subversive church

"Even if it is a very small congregation, and perhaps even especially when it is a small congregation, it can thus become the growing point from which the subversion of the principalities and powers and the first shoots of a new creation can develop." Lesslie

Lesslie Newbigin, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth p87 (via newbigin)

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn: "If only it were all so simple!"

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"  
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Thomas Long: "sermons are never actually finished"

In the past four years in my work as a youth minister in a small town United Methodist congregation, I have been invited to preach roughly twenty times. Each time, I find that my sermons never quite feel complete. I thoroughly enjoy preaching and the process of preparing sermons and liturgy so I've come to enjoy reading what great preachers and theologians have to say on the topic. Thomas Long was one of the favorites in divinity school and I'm looking forward to reading his book, What Shall We Say: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith.

This (at least based on the description) is not a book about preaching, per se, but about what some have called "the problem of evil." Questions of why tragedies befall us and why evil persists in the world come up often in my work with young people and this question has often featured in my own preaching. More recently, I have had many occasions to wrestle with such questions in my work as a chaplain intern at a hospital in Raleigh where I live. Suffice it to say, I am eager to read and wrestle with what Long has to say.

 Here's an excerpt (stolen from Jason Goroncy):
‘Sometimes people assume that preaching works this way: a preacher prepares a sermon during the week, finishes it at some point – maybe Friday afternoon or Saturday night – and then gets up and preaches the finished product in worship on Sunday. This may be the way it appears on the surface, but experienced preachers know better: sermons are never actually finished. There are always loose ends, questions that could have been pursued in more depth, stones left unturned, intriguing aspects of the biblical text unexamined, thoughts not quite fully baked, an untidiness at the heart of things. At some point, though, preachers have to take what they have, stand up, and speak. Preachers do not preach because the sermon is finished; they preach because it is Sunday. The time has come.  
That sermons are never finished is actually a good thing. Sermons get presented in incomplete form not because of procrastination or negligence – not most of the time, anyway – but because preaching mirrors the character of faithful theology and of the Christian life itself.
The young people with whom I serve and those whom I've encountered in homes and hospital rooms often ask questions like, "If God is good then why are people so bad" or "If God loves me then why doesn't he answer me when I pray." Often compassionate listening is all I can muster because I have no answers. The same is true of preaching. We cannot possible answer - once and for all - the most pressing questions of our time but we can search the Scriptures, pray humbly for guidance, and then speak with the fervent hope that God's voice will be heard through or, rather, in spite of our own voice. Our theology is always "on the way" and our answers are always incomplete. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, one day completeness will come. For now, however, Sunday is coming and we must listen, reflect, and then speak.

I encourage you to purchase a copy of What Shall We Say at your local bookshop. But if you must buy it online, try purchasing it from Powells or Better World Books.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

William Stringfellow on The Body of Christ

“…The Biblical description of the Church as the Body of Christ living in the midst of the traffic and turmoil and conflict of the world on behalf of the world. The Biblical image of the Church is, to be sure, that of a stranger and alien in the world, despised by the nation, but the Biblical image of the Church is never one of an innocuous, isolationist religious society cut off from the actual affairs of [people] and nations in the World…”

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