It occurred to me recently how hard it is for people to lose, to give up, let go, or just admit that maybe they had it wrong. Why do we fight tooth and nail to get our own way? While this may not seem all that new, the part of this that really had an edge for me was when I realized that the people who seem to have the hardest time with losing are those who identify as Christians!
But surely this is all wrong!
People of faith, certainly within the Christian tradition, should be great examples of how to lose well. Shouldn’t we be known for people who don’t throw tantrums when we don’t get our own way, rather than being willing to – in some cases quite literally – go to all-out war over something? In Christian theology there is a larger perspective than one’s own – so if I consider myself a Christian I become a part of something much bigger. I learn that I can let go because I trust that there are greater forces at work in the world. Everything really is not all up to me. There may be other needs, perspectives, or desires at work.
But beyond this, losing is built into the Christian narrative.
I was re-watching The Last Jedi with the family yesterday and the scene with Yoda and Luke at the Sacred Tree with all the old texts hit me like a ton of bricks. Yoda is totally convergent, wanting to see the tradition renewed and remixed, while Luke is seen here clinging to “traditionalism.” This reveals an interesting twist, that often it is the one student who believes they are the ones with the responsibility of protecting tradition who turn out to be guilty of leading it towards a slow death. Luke is rebuked here by Yoda as essentially policing/protecting the tradition in a way that will kill it off. Yoda points out that the tradition can actually live without any of the “trimmings and trappings” that Luke has associated with it. I think this scene sums up the key ideas of a convergent model of renewal beautifully.
This past summer I decided to create a little side-project, roasting coffee and selling it at our weekly farmer’s market and online. Some of you are aware of this, but I have never announced “Fireweed Coffee” on Gathering in Light.
The purpose was to really make a creative outlet for myself, give me an opportunity to build community with folks in Greensboro, and improve my roasting skills. 5 Months later we’re going strong, selling about 13-15 pounds of coffee a week to friends, colleagues, and folks in the neighborhood. I love selling my coffee at the farmer’s market each Saturday. It gives me an opportunity to connect with folks and have fun “wearing a different hat.” One of the things I really love about this side project is that it remains creative rather than stressful, and it is a very basic, concrete thing to give someone a cup of hot coffee, see them taste it, and then have them smile because they really like it.
If you want to read more about the story behind all of this there are two places online:
W hen we think about renewal and “rebuilding” our faith communities, practices, and programs we are a part of, it is important that we focus on the strengths and places of life so that we are building on that which is most alive, rather than spending so much time or focus on the pathologies and weaknesses of the places we find ourselves. I have found that these weaknesses and pathologies persist whether you give them energy or not, but containing them within a framework of strengths helps the community not become overwhelmed by the issues.
One of the tools I have found extremely valuable for doing this is the social model of Appreciative Inquiry, a model of renewal that I have had the privilege of walking a number of communities through. Appreciative inquiry is a participatory change process that helps a community focus on the life that is already within the community. While there is a whole process to Appreciative Inquiry, it all starts with the kinds of questions you ask. A.I. puts a lot of care into the designing of questions that are meant to stimulate passion and gratefulness for the community, in order to draw out the kinds of insights that might help us to build upon the strengths.
For instance, A.I. asks questions such as:
What brought you to this community and what keeps you here?
What are three dreams you have for this community?
In your opinion, what is the best part of this community? What is the core?
What do you bring to the community – this could be something that is common knowledge or things that people may not know about?
Recently, I had the opportunity to ask these questions as a part of a series of Sunday morning sessions I led on the topic of renewing faith traditions at a Quaker meeting. The class was a combination of some of my work and Brent Bill’s great pamphlet: A Modest Proposal for The Revitalization of the Quaker Message. There were about 20-25 of us who worked through this reading and topic over the course of about 5 weeks.
I think the conversation was worthwhile and would highly recommend Friends wanting to have a discussion around renewal of their meetings to reading through Bill’s pamphlet. As a part of the discussion series, I also put together an eBook with some of my thinking on the subject that can be found here. I think both resources work well together.
Learning How to Travel in the Ministry: The Past Bears Weight on the Present
This is a post I’ve been wanting to write about my traveling in the ministry with Lloyd Lee Wilson, a member of Friendship Friends Meeting and North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) this past June. It is about my first experience of traveling in ministry and what I learned in the process.
Lloyd Lee and I have gotten to know each other since we moved to Greensboro in 2015. With monthly lunches at a favorite local spot, he and I “talk shop,” swap ideas, and enjoy challenging ideas and imagining new ways to help revitalize Quaker community. One of the things I know about Lloyd Lee is he does a lot of what Quakers call, “Traveling in the Ministry,” and to be more specific to Lloyd Lee’s approach, “traveling in the ministry in the old style.”
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to refine and summarize some of my thinking as it pertains to the concept of convergent Friends, remix, and renewing faith traditions and share it with Friends in a public talk. In that talk, I worked to distill down some of the ideas I think are most important.
I have put this talk together in ebook form complete with lots of pictures and illustrations and formatting that adds to the reading experience. I wanted to share this with all of you and make it as accessible as possible, so it is free to download. It should work with most modern-day eBook readers and apps. If that doesn’t work for you, I have also turned the talk into a downloadable .PDF.
Dear Friends on the West Coast,Recorded Minister, Lloyd Lee Wilson and I will be traveling to the Pacific Northwest in June. Our goal is to travel in the ministry “in the old style,” no program, no agenda, just show up, share in worship together, and see what God might do among us. I wanted to share the itinerary with you in case you are interested in connecting while we are there. I look forward to reconnecting with folks, sharing in the ministry that the Spirit is doing among you there, uplifting and encouraging that work, and sharing about the work we are doing here in Greensboro and Guilford College.Tuesday June 5, 2018 – 7 PM – North Seattle Friends Church (Seattle, WA)
Wednesday June 6, 2018 – 7 PM – Camas Friends Church (Camas, WA)
Friday June 8th, 2018 – 7 PM – Freedom Friends Church (Salem, OR)
Saturday June 9, 2018 – 7 PM – Newberg Area Churches (Newberg, OR)