Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Miss you

Wow, I really miss writing here, and I miss so much your wonderful comments. I get so excited when I have a bunch of [feminary] emails in my inbox. I love to hear from you. I especially love it when we get going on a good topic. I have to think of something good and controversial to write about, eh?

It is absolutely pouring rain here today. It's cold too - like lower 60's. Which is cold! (see, I am already being controversial) Needless to say I am not getting quality biking time, which is severely limiting both my endurance build up (so I can ride to school) and my loss of weight. Bummer. And some time later today I have to walk 1/2 mile to the train station in this. Joy.

So much is going on, it's really hard to know where to start. I want to recommend a book that I read about in the LAT Book Review: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly. I know, it sounds depressing - and it is. Easterly basically takes Bono and the other "big dreamers" to task for not actually getting anything done in the two thirds world. He goes to many statistics showing how despite our rising aid to poor countries, they just keep getting worse. And he says the answer lies in grassroots, long-term, non-glamorous helping by established organizations. Which I think is probably true. It's a good corrective to our idea that wearing a wristband actually does anybody any good.

With my saved grocery money from the Lent fast (which I did okay on) I'm going to see about some seeds or tools or animals from ER-D. I commend them to you. In fact, for my birthday (coming up one month from yesterday!), if you love me, you could get a family a pig or chicken. Hmmm....I shall have to see what touches me the most then I'll let you know. Anyway, check out the Gifts for Life Catalog and get something in honor of a friend or a special Easter gift in honor of your Lenten discipline (because come on, how many Cadbury Creme Eggs and Peeps do you really need? I can vouch for the pain in the tummy brought on by Easter indulgence).

Okay, what else? Oh, things are still moving along for Thad's. We've been working on a set of principles for the church (oops, we're not supposed to call it a church - but I'm lazy). J and I have actually been doing a ton of discussion about ministry and mission - it's exciting how this project has sparked in both of us a real desire to clarify our theology on these topics. And I'll let you in on something - I am so proud of him. Usually we cannot work together. But somehow we are seeing eye-to-eye on everything. And he's brilliant on this stuff. He really thinks through the ramifications. He needs to be in ministry, that's all there is to it. He's too good at it not to.

And I am happy because it seems like some kind of mission for the two of us is taking shape - some kind of direction to point ourselves in. We have similar goals - but they are complimentary. J wants to teach people how to transform themselves into "love-spreading difference-makers" (as our priest would say) by use of disciplines and education, and I want to teach them how to practice and internalize their discipleship in worship.

We've always dreamed of having a house on the outskirts of a college campus where students could live a monastic kind of life while attending school. J would talk philosophy and theology with them and I'd lead daily prayers and provide spiritual direction. We'd share meals and do service to the community. Lately it's grown into a more inter-faith/seeker project - not for Christians necessarily, but for anyone who wants to live in a philosophically questioning spiritually charged environment.

You think we can do this?

Well it's the dream, anyway. We pray it will happen.

Meanwhile, I work on my MDiv and J on his PhD. He teaches and he looks for something full-time. He's got it in his head that right now he wants to work at Christian colleges so he can subversively change people from cheesy into serious. And I do my interfaith work, which I love, and I learn as much as I can about worship. And we both do this Thad's project, by which we are making our personal beliefs razor-sharp as we compare and contrast them to the larger picture.

Actually, my classes this quarter (now that they've settled) are really quite perfect for this work. Homiletics is teaching me to think deeply about God's word to her people. Empowering the People of God is a no-brainer - it's all about how to create disciples out of ordinary Christians. And finally Ancient-Future Worship is teaching me so much - the point of the class is to explore what was going on in different periods of history, worship-and-culture-wise, and see which point(s), if any, best fit today, so that that period's worship can be brought into use again. I get to read cool books like Postman's Technopoly and one called Bowling Alone which is about our loss of community. Fun stuff.

Anyway, here is what I am figuring out. I care deeply about the community within the church. Yes, I care about people outside it too, of course. But I don't believe we can be effective missionaries until we are whole and supported from the inside. J always says you have to change yourself before you can change other people. And that we should be a community that loves one another so well that we look around and say Wow - everyone here is loved so well and we still have all this love to give - let's spill it out into the world!

See, I think that's really more like the early churches. They did good deeds, to be sure. But they also were devoted to one another. Whether or not they actually lived communally, they definitely shared resources. People believed what they said about Jesus not because they were great preachers or did miracles or even because of their charity work. People believed them because of their love for each other. To form a group that was so devoted to one another, outside of a family structure, was simply unheard of. And to have them all see themselves as siblings, with no Father figure (save God in heaven), was truly weird. But it worked. See, I think people knew they were Christians...well...by their love. And that made their testimony about Jesus effective.

It will make ours that way too. I just want to create beautiful communities that will be so full of love that people will be banging down the doors to get in and share it. I know that's against the emergent idea of "going out not bringing in", but I think it's where I stand.

Wow, this has gotten so rambly. I really need to get on with my day. Anyway, hope this gives some food for thought. I'd love to hear about your approaches to missions and ministry.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

We've always dreamed of having a house on the outskirts of a college campus where students could live a monastic kind of life while attending school. J would talk philosophy and theology with them and I'd lead daily prayers and provide spiritual direction. We'd share meals and do service to the community. Lately it's grown into a more inter-faith/seeker project - not for Christians necessarily, but for anyone who wants to live in a philosophically questioning spiritually charged environment.

Oh, wow -- this sounds so great!

I wonder whether some college students might misread "monastic" as "ascetic"? That could be problematic, I guess. But then again this is the kind of project that can't be summed up in just a word or two, so the students would presumably be learning about it in the kind of detail that would preclude that kind of misunderstanding...

Anyway, it sounds awesome to me.

Suzanne said...

Love your vision, not only for your ministry but for the church--gives me hope somehow...
Blessings to you!

Pisco Sours said...

rachel, sorry to ask a dumb question, but I always thought asceticism was implied in monastic life. I guess I must be way off?

Lauren said...

I have had your blog bookmarked for months, and now wish I had read it more. Thanks for the tip about Gifts for Life; I just ordered from it!

If "cheesy" was all that Christian colleges were, that wouldn't be so bad. I don't think it's possible for a Christian college to be anything other than hypocritical and cynically manipulative in order to keep enrollment up and to attract qualified faculty. I hope I've just had experience at the wrong places!

DVE said...

Two things--one, I've read parts of Bowling Alone and I think it's really fascinating. In fact, I've thought of teaching parts of it in my Composition courses. If you feel like writing more about it, I'd love to hear your response.

Second, responding to Lauren, I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate work and truly loved it. Yes, there were problems there, and many many times I wondered exactly what the priorities of the admin were, but the professors that I encountered were so intelligent and committed to teaching students to think critically. And now, doing graduate work at the most liberal university in the area, I see just as much cynicism and hypocrisy as I've ever seen in the Christian sphere--just about different issues. Christian ed has its own challenges, but for those who have a heart for kids raised in Christian homes--who, God knows, need someone to talk to about their secret doubts--it can be really wonderful too.