Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Top Ten Halloween Highlights

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm

for me at least, another halloween is in the books. since i don’t have the energy to write something substantive, i’ll give you a list. so, with no further adieu, my top ten highlights.

10. serving fair trade hot cocoa for a second year. thanks to equal exchange for their generosity and partnership.

9. running out of hot cocoa at 6:30 on saturday night and skipping out to see jackass 3d.

8. picking up a copy of well paid slave and crazy for God at cut-rate prices at the now closed <sniff> cornerstone    books. you were good cornerstone!

7. not cutting, damaging or wounding my feet in any way while monking up in salem.

6. being constantly blessed by rennie and joanne’s dinners at the vault. thanks to these amazing women and the many people at the church who donated food.

5. spending a saturday afternoon with twenty college students and leaders from sojourn collegiate ministry. this was their second year of service and they absolutely played a crucial role in the success of one of our busiest days. extra props to those i served directly beside like alicia (forgive me if i am misspelling or miscalling your name). that girl was fearless!

4. serving for another year with streams ministries and the bridge churches. the streams folks lay down their lives for at least three weeks a year to be a blessing to thousands of people in salem. we simply could not do it without them! extra thanks to lance, ali and brandon for their competent, positive leadership. i didn’t hear a single complaint from anyone on their team this year (wish the same could be said of me).

3. serving communion on rawfaith this morning. captain mckay’s commitment to his daughter elizabeth and his risky faith totally inspired me and infused my ministry with boldness over the last, occasionally grueling, week.

2a. the amazing gathering volunteers. there weren’t as many of us as in years past, but those who were there were dedicated, driven and amazing. special props to those i served beside constantly such as carrie, paul, elizabeth, will, joyce, sarah, christina, rachel, jonathan, jeff and pastor phil.

2b. april’s prayer for me this afternoon. she asked, well, i’ll leave that between us. but i was truly blessed by her prayer and i hope God answers expeditiously. april is such a blessing to our community. she came to faith after connecting with the gathering on halloween night ten years ago tonight.

2c. being able to monk up and offer blessings on the streets of salem. because, much like our father abraham, we have been blessed, it is such a joy to be a blessing.

2d. having four mostly productive conversations with the street preachers. one of the local guys who rolls out with repent america, offered me a tract, received my blessing and enveloped me in an embrace. that meant a lot to me. it was also great having preacher bob eat dinner with us and use the gathering space for rest and respite. our methodologies and eschatologies might differ, but he is a gentle soul whose fidelity to his calling inspires me.

1. the unflinchingly generous service and constant sacrifices made by my beloved wife. i could not serve the same hours or with the same passion without her. she’s truly amazing.


raw faith

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2010 at 12:46 am

“be good to me Lord. your ocean is so big, and my boat is so small.” -prayer of a breton fisherman

this is either my seventh or eighth year serving with The Gathering throughout the halloween season. with     a few notable exceptions – the WS in 2006 and a silent retreat at l’arche in 2009 – i have had the privilege of showing up to serve almost every day during the season.

although i am not by most counts an extrovert, the season has never left me burnt. each year i’ve been able to focus myself by saying, it’s just eight days, or it’s just six evenings, or think about how many resources we’ve all invested in this good work. hell, the day we killed the dog i still showed up to do my shift.

this monday, i felt burnt. remembering uncle henri’s dictum that ‘burnout is a euphemism for spiritual death,’ i took an extra hour to walk through salem, pray through the pain and try to find the strength for the next weekend. after i picked up a cup of cafe valverde coffee and walked the cobblestones a bit, i felt a little better. whatever you say about salem – and you can say many, many things – there is a distinct spiritual vitality to the place. you can feel it in the air during halloween and that walk was a small reminder of why salem will always have a hook in me.

as the caffeine cleared my head, i decided to take a walk down to the wharf. i never get down there during a normal halloween weekend, so it seemed right for a stroll. as i passed bunghole liquors i noticed that there was an unfamiliar triple mast docked opposite the friendship. i feared that it might be twelve tribes borg, but a small sign said “pirate ship: free tours,” so i decided to give it a whirl.

as i approached the ship i noticed how rough-hewn it was. unlike the uss constitution or the friendship, tar seeped around the planks and the whole boat seemed shopworn. a sign attached to the gangplank christened the ship “raw faith.” the sign mentioned that the captain built the ship in honor of his daughter who lives with a disability. the stated purpose of the ship was to provide fully accessible sailing and the building of the vessel was ascribed to the “will of God.” walk the wharf only to be confronted by disability and christianity. what are the odds, i thought.

after walking the ship a bit and reading the touching stories of the captain’s dedication to his “darling” daughter and the multiple photographic and narrative descriptions of everything from the ships stove, navigation equipment and homemade wind turbine, i introduced myself to the captain. i told him i worked with people with disabilities and i’m also a pastor at a church in salem. for these reasons, i found his story inspiring and wished i had the resources to make a donation or perhaps purchase a much-needed hydraulic lift. since i noticed that the work was ascribed to the “will of God,” i also invited him to the gathering on sunday, since he seemed like the kind of guy who would be at home there.

when the captain seemed uncomfortable with the conversation and seemed to evade a question about his christian motivation, i shook his hand, took note of a few more displays and left. as i walked of the ship i was intrigued by the captain’s commitment to accessibility and was eager to tell my coworkers and the school-to-career kids about the ship’s mission.

as i made my way down the gravel wharf the captain started waving at me. no words, just waving. i returned to the ship and the captain said, “i want you to read the story of my daughter’s miraculous healing. she was brought back from the death.” after i read the story and commented favorably the captain took me to another story and said, since you are involved with disabilities, i’d like you to read this story and that one. i then read about how his daughter, who utilizes a wheelchair, went to a completely inaccessible school which required her biology class being held in a history classroom downstairs and the teacher publically calling her to account for the inconvenience. i read another story about how his daughter elizabeth was asked to appear at a conference that discussed marfan syndrome, the challenge she lives with every day. after hearing the medical researcher who spoke before her note confidently that science would soon solve the genetic conundrum that produced marfan’s and ensure that nobody would ever have to live like elizabeth again, he immediately left the room, exited the building and did not return.

after reading the stories i was inspired by this man’s love for his daughter, his triple masted symbolic act in honor of her and the simple, risky, raw faith that inspired him. by his own account, the captain is not a shipwright of any sort. but, noting that the “titanic was built by professionals and the arc was built by amateurs,” the captain has not let that, his tenuous finances or nay saying acquaintances to stand in his way.

after getting the captain to agree to letting me bring him communion on board the ship this sunday morning, i shook his hand and made my way off the ship. around the same time, i noticed that fog had started to blanket the harbor.

raw faith. risky faith. a small boat on so big an ocean.

i want faith like the captain’s. in the midst of the fog of exhaustion, the fear of my inadequacies and my frustration with my fragmented vocation, i was so startled, so inspired that i wept.

God continue to fill me with the risky, raw faith that i need to continue upon your mission. in the midst of my exhaustion, thank you for introducing me to a clear-eyed captain who helped remind me of the way.

leadboston illumination

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

for the past couple of months i have been participating in leadboston, a leadership collaborative that connects emerging nonprofit, private sector and government leaders who are committed to substantial social change. last weekend at our fall retreat we spent an evening discussing how our spirituality effects our understanding and pursuit of social change.

since the room was filled with 35 diverse individuals, i figured that a number of us would discuss how our faith traditions and communities infuse and inform our pursuit of social change. so you can imagine my surprise when only 3 of the 35 people in the room – myself, a reformed Jew and a radical Anglican – indicated that they regularly participate and are a part of a local faith community.

at the end of the discussion the group facilitator – who grew up as a handbell playing Presbyterian in ohio but is now more focused on personal spiritual practice than participation in an identified faith community – surprised me by noting that while personal spiritual practice and devotion to one’s family is nice, he was not convinced that personal practice empowered people to “move mountains.” citing sources as diverse as martin luther king jr. and w.h. auden, the facilitator sent us into small group discussion with the charge to discuss at greater length the connection between our spirituality and collective longing for social change.

by the end of the large and small group discussions i was struck by how different my justice orientation is from my valued colleagues. i live and work beside people – many of whom i adore – who often fail to see or make any connection between the important, often life-giving work they do on a daily basis and a teleological or eschatological vision such as the beloved community described by dr. king or the Kingdom of God announced and initiated by Jesus. the little work that i do is so dependent upon my belief that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, the humble shall be exalted and the reconciliation we effect is possible only on account of the reconciliation that has affected us, that i find it challenging to understand how my friends who do not share similar visions cast by Christianity or other traditions continue to persevere and proceed with hope in their good work.

so, there’s that.

i was also struck by how different the context of my life and ministry is from the context created by most evangelical theological discussion. as i partner with people of many diverse faith or non-faith traditions to pursue justice on a daily basis i fail to see how debates over women in ministry or the ontological operation of God’s providence provide any guidance or resources for the collaborative work that i am currently doing. since these intramural discussions are so disconnected from the work that i do on a daily basis, i don’t see much, if any, value in continuing to suit up and play. that is not to say that these discussions have no value or that i am in any way superior to those who are continuing these conversations. i’m just moving towards discussions that seem more relevant to my life and mission. 

right now, i’m plumbing the theological resources provided by the Hebrew prophets and Christians like cornel west, dr. king and taylor branch in order to find guidance and inspiration for my mission. feel free to either suggest other conversation partners that would be helpful. of course, you can also critique my current approach to life and ministry if you feel so led.

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