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The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church

Participation__Prayer_and_Trials_of_Sleep-2

I love the word participation. It’s stem means “taking part” or to “partner.” The Quaker meeting of which I am the ‘released minister,’ Camas Friends, strives to be a participatory church. A partnering church. A church that welcomes the contributions, leadership, insights, resources, personalities and concerns of those who are in the meeting.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we live in a participatory culture. And the church would do well to learn from it. What was once reflective of the one-directional movement of consumer culture, there is much more interplay between producer and consumer today.

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Quotations

‘…That Passeth All Understanding’ by Denise Levertov

An awe so quiet
I don’t know when it began.

A gratitude
has begun
to sing in me.

Was there
some moment
dividing
song from no song?

When does dewfall begin?

When does night
fold its arms over our hearts
to cherish them?

When is daybreak?

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Featured Practices Sermons

Participatory Church and the Trials of Falling Asleep (Luke 22:39-46)

Flickr Image by Brandon King

“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Luke 22:39–46 NRSV)

Participation as Production

The word participation is an important word for our church. We talk about being a participatory church but what do we mean by that? I want to unpack that a little here.

Participation means to partake, to partner.

We live in a participatory culture. Back 50 or 60 years ago when you listened to a story around a radio, it was one way. TV in its earliest stages was one way. There was someone who wrote a story, produced a show that he or she thought consumers would like. But nowadays things are very different. Reality shows like Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance (my favorite), American Idol and many others build on the content that the audience gives. It could be through voting. It could be through suggestive story lines. Producers are constantly looking for interest of fans and which characters they like most, which ones they connect with, which story lines are most popular. There are shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars or Joss Wheadon’s Firefly where when they go off the air the Fans rally and actually get the producers to make more of their favorite show, even in helping raise money for the show to get it back on the air.

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Waking Up To The Gifts

There is another way to think about Zacchaeus’ story and that is it is a call to wake up to the gifts that are before us (see part one here).

Jesus helps to restore Zacchaeus to the community of the people of God, yes he humanizes him, and yes, he gives him back his dignity by showing that Zacchaeus is a far more complex and beautiful individual than any single-story can maintain.

But Jesus also accepts the gifts that Zacchaeus has been giving.

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Featured Sermons

Zacchaeus in the Present Tense

Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie

“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NRSV)

Zacchaeus Breaks The Mold

Zacchaeus is a pretty well-known story from the bible. There is a song written about him. He has some colorful traits that make him somewhat easy to identify, like being short and climbing a tree.

But the familiarity with his story in this instance might actually work against us.

The way that Luke tells the story we are supposed to pick up on certain characteristics that Zacchaeus represents.

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Featured Reviews

OMG! A film on GMOs: Review of “GMO OMG”

Monday evening, I had the opportunity to watch Jeremy Seifert’s new film GMO OMG. Jeremy and his family hold a special place in my heart because of our friendship that developed while he and I were in school together at Fuller Seminary. During the time that we were a part of a small group we called the “Hairy-Tics,” Jeremy got involved in documentary film-making and began working on his first film called Dive!. Dive! deals with the food waste in our country contrasting it with the hunger that so many people face. Dive! is a fun romp through dumpsters: it’s educational, challenging and entertaining. You can read my review of that film here.