29 November 2006


Hey folks, remember that series I was doing, where I attempted to summarize the book The Continuing Conversion of the Church? No? I suspected as much. I don't think I'm going to bother finishing that series, because I'm not convinced that I'm rendering anyone a service that outweighs the work involved. I suspect one or two of you were interested in that series, but I think I was managing to do a poor enough job of making those summaries readable that it wasn't really of benefit. However, if even one person comments on this post that they'd like me to finish that series, I'll happily do so. (Really! I remain a big fan of the book.) I'm just not of a mood to spend time on anything that doesn't serve someone, that's all.


26 November 2006

Wisdom from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man

I guess if there's anything I could say...anything that would mean anything...it would be...
Use sunscreen. Don't smoke. Eat your vegetables. Protect your friends.
And savor it. Savor it all. The good times and the bad. Because even with the bad times, people love you, and you're alive.

And being alive...is amazing.

- Peter Parker (actually former Jesus People leader and current sci-fi/comics writer J. Michael Straczynski), giving advice to his 16-year-old former self, in The Amazing Spider-Man #536
I kind of liked that. My friend John Bozeman and I have discussed JMS's former faith and how his journey has affected his fiction. As a big fan of his work (Babylon 5 is his most well-known TV project), I find those topics fascinating. There's definitely a wise and true and spiritual message in much of his fiction, but is it missing something? Who am I to judge? Interesting to ponder, though.

24 November 2006

Next DC Cohort meeting: 11 December

I've been a little distracted of late (see below), so I failed to advertise the November meeting of the DC Emergent Cohort (which was a big event with big names and a whole lot of people - and an opportunity for some great conversations). Anyway, this is from Sara on the official DC Cohort blog:

Hi all! Our next gathering will be at the Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda on December 11 at 7 pm. They have a sweet little back room that has served us well and may become our regular space. Come on out for a little Advent cheer and conversation. I am working on a speaker, but if anyone has a burning topic they would like to discuss drop me an e-mail.

Other tentative dates to put on your calenders are January 15, February 12 and March 12. We will meet from 7 pm - 9 pm each time.



22 November 2006

Let me tell you about my fall...

That's a slightly ambiguous blog post title. Fall from grace? Well...maybe there was an aspect of that. Fall from innocence? Yeah, definitely some of that too. But mostly I felt like maybe it was time to fill you in - if you are one of the handful of readers of my blog who don't know me personally - about what's been going on with me this autumn. You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging much. You might have wondered why. Here's where I try to tell a really abbreviated version of that story, for those who might be interested. If you want more detail, you can e-mail me to ask for it, but there's some sensitive stuff involved, so I make no promises. But here are the facts of the story.

In mid-September, my dear friends lost their son.

Some events surrounding little Will's funeral crystallized for me a realization that I had been coming to for a while: there seem to be some deep-level conflicts between the reality of ministry in an Episcopal Church setting on the one hand, and my heart-deep understanding of the gospel and Christian discipleship - as I seem to be called to live these things - on the other.

As a result of this realization, I went from being a very active member of the Episcopal Church (and a specific Episcopal church, whose people I continue to love dearly) to being "agnostic" about whether or not I'm an Episcopalian. My good friend Fr. Rick helped me see that I don't have to come down hard on "membership" or lack thereof. So I don't. But practically speaking, I went from being very active and busy in that setting to having relatively few connections with the life of my Episcopal church. Thank God, and thank my wonderful friends: my relationships with my dear friends at that church remain loving, without exception.

This whole series of events was pretty traumatic for me, to be honest. Among other things, I lost twelve pounds in two weeks due to stress and non-intentional fasting.

So, I found myself going from being an active member of two churches to just one, more or less.

Just a few days after Will's funeral, one of the social workers at FACETS (where Tina used to work) e-mailed Deanna, one of the leaders of my little church, with an urgent need: a mom with two daughters, age 8 and 13, were facing homelessness that very day if they couldn't find a place to stay for about a month, until they got their Section 8 housing.

Some of the issues that led to my parting of ways with the Episcopal Church had to do with the radical hospitality that I believe is near the heart of the gospel. And my wife, whose heart is much closer to God's than mine is, just naturally opens herself and gives, without needing any trumped-up theological justification. And, though our house is quite small, we had a spare room. So we said yes.

To make a very long story short, this family got the key to their new place a few days ago - into the ninth week of their stay with us. For a variety of reasons, the stress level associated with this living arrangement built steadily, and was nearly unbearable by the end. We had actually decided, for the good of all involved, to stop sleeping in our own house, and had been house-sitting for some friends who were out of town (and to whom we are deeply grateful). The last night before they got their key, nobody slept in our house except our pets, so concerned were we all to avoid an emotionally unhealthy encounter.

So, in the end, our fumbling attempt at hospitality was a success in that we bridged this family from their previous (precipitously ended) living arrangement to their Section 8 housing. And we definitely learned a lot that will make us much smarter the next time we do something like this - and about our own naivete and inexperience, and the limits of our strength and tolerance and emotional endurance. My own emotional state is still healing. I'm praying to wake up tomorrow with a little less irrational anxiety clutching my chest - especially since the situation that had been prompting that anxiety is now in the past.

Most of that sounds really heavy - and to be frank, much if it was. These last couple of months have been one of the heaviest periods of my life. But please understand: none of this has really dented my faith. In fact, my faith - along with my family, and my incredible, caring, supportive friends in two church communities - have helped me to get through this time much more "whole" than was the case in previous, similarly heavy periods of my life. And even now, when my heart is still healing, I'm really not having trouble seeing the hand of God in all of this. All of it. Even though many of the workings of that hand remain a mystery to me. And (regarding that mystery), I wouldn't want it any other way. Which is not to say it isn't hard sometimes.

So here's the bright core of a heavy story. At the same time all of this has been going on, a realization has been slowly dawning on me. This is it: my wildest dreams, and my fondest dreams, seem to have an amazing amount in common with the dreams and the life of my little church, the Common Table. And as the people of this church, my dear friends, have supported and cared for Tina and me through this fall (and, to a much smaller degree, we've been able to support and care for them) - and as I've seen my church-phobic wife become an integral part of this church community - I've realized that my love for these people is stronger than anything else in my life, except my love for Tina.

I've realized that, in being a part of this community of disciples of Jesus, I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, being what I've always wanted to be, and doing it alongside my wife, which is something I'd sort of stopped dreaming of. This sense of call I've been trying to discern for nearly the past four years - I can't conceive of a better place to live it out than here, among these people. So, on this Thanksgiving day (OK, it ended about an hour ago) following this extremely challenging autumn, I am more deeply and thoroughly thankful to our loving God than I have ever been in my life. (And if I'm not, then I bloody well should be.)

Thank you, God, and please help me to become a better servant. And thank you - so much - for surrounding me with such an incredible community of people to grow, learn, and serve together with. Amen.

UPDATE: I made one tiny edit above. If you're clever enough to spot it (which seems unlikely), please note that it was late when I wrote this, and I really, truly meant to phrase that sentence differently in the first place - I was surprised to go back and read it and see that I really had written it that way. No, I'm not going to tell you, but suffice it to say that, in math, some operators are definitely not commutative, so it behooves one to point them in the right direction. :-)

09 November 2006

The tragedy of divorce and the protection of marriage

Just a quick note regarding the sad passing of the anti-marriage amendment to the VA constitution this week.

"Marriage," in my opinion, has become an unfortunate casualty of our society's state of denial regarding the death of Christendom in North America. Church and state (or church and civil society) have gone through a divorce. There were irreconcilable differences. Like any divorce, it's had tragic consequences, but it's probably for the best. But we don't want to admit it.

We need to decide who gets custody of the term "marriage" - religion, or secular government - and stop pretending that the faith community's blessing of a union and the government's legal recognition of a union have anything to do with each other any more. In my opinion, faith communities should be able to bless any union they choose (and refrain from blessing any union they choose), and we should call that "marriage" (because in truth, God had the concept first). Government should cease and desist having anything to do with anything called "marriage", and should sanction civil unions, with the full benefits currently conveyed by the legal concept of "marriage", between any two consenting adults. Continuing to conflate the two concepts, which were only really related before the death of Christendom, just confuses these issues and leads to tragedies like the anti-marriage amendment we just passed in the Old Dominion.

Except that many of us *want* to confuse the issues. Because we're in denial. We hope and pray that Mom and Dad - church and civil society - will get back together - that it's really only a trial seperation.

Sorry, but I don't think so. Some relationships don't last forever. And we can't "protect marriage" by pretending that the Christendom divorce didn't happen - or by amending our constitutions to try to *prevent* loving, committed unions, instead of working on ways to encourage, strengthen, and preserve them.

05 November 2006

Community (Part 1?)

OK, I'm going to try to ease back into this "regular blogging" thing. I think a key to doing it successfully right now might be for me to attempt something of which I'm seldom capable: brevity. :-)

So, this may or may not be the first of a series of brief - yet original - posts on something on which I've been reflecting a great deal: community. Specifically, Christian community - like "early chapters of Acts"-style Christian community. Note: one aspect of "brevity" is that although I've been reading some great blogs and books (especially the Good Book) on this subject, I'm probably not going to take the time to reference them. Sorry. Busy. Maybe later.

So here's my first brief thought: I think for that kind of community to form, you've got to spend some significant amount of time with the fellow disciples in your community. An hour or two on Sunday mornings doesn't cut it. That plus a committee meeting - to conduct business alone - once every several weeks doesn't cut it. How are we going to get to know our brothers and sisters well enough to form an Acts-like community on that kind of basis? How are we going to form that kind of trust, or open ourselves to that kind of vulnerability? How are we going to have the kinds of conversations that allow us to figure out not just how much we're getting done, but if we're even doing the things God is calling us to do?

I think my next brief thought will be a sort of antidote to this one: is it an Acts-like Christian community if you just spend all your time with your fellow disciples? What about inviting, welcoming, and making room for the stranger, the unknown neighbor, the person in need? Is that important too? Hmm....