Friday, March 27, 2009

3 Vids and the Retreat Content

I'm turning into the blogger-who-posts-videos guy. That's fine. It's cheap entertainment.

Phaedra and I are wearying down under our Lenten holy obligations. I think we bit off too much. You can tell me I told you so if you're so inclined. That's ok. Maybe we're weak. I mean, we are. And we know we're supposed to feel our weakness and helplessness. But next year, we're only doing two out of three: caffeine, sweets, alcohol. You can only toast with so much spirit using a glass of water.

Here is a summary of the content we'll cover at the retreat for pastors and ministers to artists. We have maybe 10 spots left. So if you know anyone who could or should be there, please pass this along. If you've read this already, you can skip to the videos below.


Leaders & Dates & Setting
Makoto Fujimura, Brian Moss, Steven Purcell and David Taylor. April 20-23. The Laity Lodge in Central Texas.

Content: Overview
The aim of the retreat is not to offer a how-to, i.e. how to run an effective arts ministry. Its aim is to explore what it means to pastor hale and whole artists who bear fruit “in due season” (as per Psalm 1). We’ll have all kinds of artists in all kinds of occupations and stations of life in mind—in the marketplace and in the church, professional and amateur.

TALK #1: Our preparation as pastors (David)
Our best pastoring takes place out of a sober appreciation of our own brokenness. So St. Paul believed in 2nd Corinthians 12. Once we understand our own need as “wounded healers,” in the language of Henri Nouwen, to daily abide in a Healer-Deliverer Jesus, we will understand better the importance of two pastoral virtues: compassion and courage.

Just as we need people to show us compassion, because we are weak and sinful, so we will need to show the artists under our care a patient, long-suffering, compassionate love. And just as we need the courage of God to overcome the frailties of the flesh and the temptations of a fallen world, so we will want to inspire artists to be courageous in the face of many obstacles (and we could spend all day long identifying that illustrious list).

TALK #2: Reflections of a pastor-artist (Makoto)
In this talk Makoto will reflect on his experience as a church planter in New York City, as a husband and father, as an artist, as a pastor and friend to artists, and as one who has been pastored himself. Makoto will use his recent book, Refractions: A Journey of Art, Faith and Culture, as a launching point for discussion.

TALK #3: Pastoring the artist as a person (David)
As artists we are not fundamentally what we accomplish, but who we are and in Whom we are found. We are broken but being made whole. We are dead in Christ but more alive than ever. Who we are before God, as beloved, becomes the ground for all our living no matter the circumstances of our life.

A true knowledge of yourself as an artist involves the knowledge of your nature, your calling, and your primary disciplines. Your nature is both delimiting and liberating. Your calling is one and many. Your primary disciplines are spiritual, relational and artistic. Your disciplines are the nourishing and reconstructive instruments of your true life. Your disciplines remind you that an “insight is not a muscle.”

TALK #4: Pastoring the artist in relation to their work (David)
Love God and do whatever you want, Saint Augustine allegedly declared. Or in Dallas Willard's terms, if we can help artists cultivate well-formed hearts, their work will become whatever it needs to become—extravagant, quiet, prophetic, wacky, soothing, dark, bright, winsome, terrible, lovely, strange, and so on.

There are three disciplines that help an artist be fruitful in his or her work. The first discipline is diligence and the key idea here is that “something begets something, while nothing most certainly begets nothing.” The second discipline is study. A key to our depth as artists is “to keep reading outside your tradition.” The third discipline is community. Within a life-giving community, all the vibrant particularity and diversity of artists can become a benefit for the common good.

A singular benefit of this retreat
The kind of people you will find collected in one room. You will be with your kindred, people upon whom God has placed a similar call to love and shepherd artists. Some of the most long-lasting effects of this retreat will be the relationships that you form that might not have been formed otherwise.

Makoto and I will give four talks total. These will take place in the morning times and will lead to small group discussion, much of it spilling over into our meal-times. Our meals will be one of the best parts of the retreat. Afternoons will be largely free. Folks will be free to make art down at the fully equipped studios, go for walks, paddle down the river, hike up the bluff, take naps, read, swing in the hammocks, play sports and so on. Evenings will consist of special performances, fun stuff, and leisurely conversation around a fireside pit. Our last morning, Thursday, we will worship together, celebrate communion together, pray for each other and send each other back into the world.

The Laity Lodge website has all the practical information. See here.

VIDEO 1: A woosy kid unknowingly asking metaphysical questions.

VIDEO 2: I confess with this video the sin of jealousy. I believe with all my heart that we could achieve world peace if only people broke out into song more often. The video clip is 8 minutes long, but worth watching to the end.

VIDEO 3: Mothlight Creative. Go watch their work. Go see what a couple of humble hearted, uncommonly talented filmmakers are able to pull off with not that many resources. I met Samm and Kathryn in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. I like them. And I really like their work. Here's a sample.

Psalm 106 from samm hodges on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Video: My Vision for the Artistic Renewal of the City

The video interview below, conducted this past fall, captures best my vision for the artistic renewal of Austin. It represents the combination of ideas and practices that I believe are necessary for the Kingdom of God to become manifest through the art culture of the city over the next 40 to 100 years.

I'm grateful to Jeremy Rogers for doings such a great job in the editing room. He turned what could have ended up boring-ish into something possibly entertaining. He certainly captured my verbal tics ("fifth? fifth? fifth, fifth--fifth?"). Jeremy works as Austin Stone Community Church's video chief. We met a number of years ago when he was an RTF graduate student at UT. He'd visited Hope Chapel a few times. And with the community of Christians in the film industry of Austin so small, it was inevitable that we would bumped into each other here and there. I sincerely appreciate the man.

(One more connection to Austin Stone. This morning a few of us from Christ Church joined Mission Possible for Church Under the Bridge, a worship service offerd to the homeless community of Austin. Cliff is asking all of us at CC to spend a Sunday serving CUB. But the folks setting up all the food and drink were a contingent from Austin Stone. It was a great blessing to serve with them.)

Let me mention two things about the video. One, I quote Andy Crouch twice. The problem is, the part where I say "Andy Crouch just published a great book called Culture Making" got left on the cutting room. But credit goes to whom credit is deserved--in particular the "we can simply go about criticizing, analyzing, consuming...culture" part. If you haven't bought his book, buy it.

Two, if you were wondering the name of the person who engaged me in lively conversation during this interview . . . well, there was none. I stared at a concrete wall the whole time.

Jeremy had his hands full running the camera. A second person would usually ask the questions and give me verbal and non-verbal feedback. But this time it was just me and a smooth, grey wall with a blobby brown spot that I looked at intently for over an hour. I tell you what: it's hard to make a joke and have the concrete wall not laugh back at you. So I laughed at my own jokes. A few I groaned at.

Anyhoo, here it is. It's a 13-minute sermonette. It's a rationale for the arts center that Phaedra and I hope some day to establish in Austin. I'm not sure how I feel about the lamb chops, though.

David Taylor-In His Own Words from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

(PHOTO: Maya Lin's "Wave Field" qua Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink, a landscape architectural project that not only renovated a "broken down" space in the middle of Grand Rapids, it also created a beautiful reproduction of a planetarium's starlight in the surface of the skating rink. See here for her conceptual process.)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ancient Wisdom, Anglican Futures + a mild rant

Tomorrow I hop on a plane for Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Trinity School for Ministry, a seminary in the Anglican tradition (read: theologically orthodox), has hired me to consult for their conference in June: "Ancient Wisdom, Anglican Futures". They asked if I would help organize the artistic part of the conference. I said sure, I'd love to. I'm Anglican, I dig ancient wisdom and, God-willing, I'll be around for the future.

They're posing the following questions:

"How do Anglican "insiders" welcome young evangelicals, post-evangelicals, and emergents who are attracted to the "Great Tradition"? How do inquiring "outsiders" perceive or participate in the distinctive anamnesia (memory) of Anglican worship and mission? How can the exchange between insiders and outsiders bear fruit in Anglicanism today? How will this emerging conversation stir the mind and heart of an Anglicanism in renewal?"

These are good questions. But by no means are they easy ones (particularly in light of this apocalyptic screed about the impending demise of evangelicalism in North America, to which I will say only one thing: Nothing, and I mean nothing, is simple about the demise or advancement of any major religion.

These kinds of sensational pronouncements get the attention of the media, as per The Christian Science Monitor who published the piece. But they fail fundamentally to describe accurately the behavior of religious societies.

Parts of what Michael Spencer says may come true. But there is no way that Michael can scrutinize all the forces that work together--churches, schools, global communities, parachurch organizations, lay-led movements, artists, publishing outfits, et al, of all different kinds of evangelical expression, plus all the random and unforseen happenings that shape history--to produce a certain outcome for a largescale religious movement. I'll be surprised if he doesn't get pounded by people like Mark Noll who has a much more disciplined grasp of evangelical history. I say kudos to Michael for the cohones to make such a bold statement. He'll get plenty of shout-outs--from both sides of the theological aisle. The NYT may pick it up.

But the rest of us need to go about our business of humble self-examination, quietly working with our hands, loving our neighbors, reading great books, feeding the poor, making new artistic culture, preaching the gospel, washing dishes, exposing ourselves to the ways in which Christians in other parts of the earth live out their faith, playing sports, saying our prayers, eating healthy food, merrymaking, worshiping the Triune God, and encouraging our children to aspire, in addition to all the familiar ones, to the occupations of lawyers, university professors, media executives, artists, politicians, business entrepreneurs, journalists and other like occupations that evangelicals tend to avoid but that make a substantial difference in the outworking of the Kingdom of God in our society.

And here ends my digressive paragraph.)

Anyhoo, the good folks up at TSM have a great line-up of speakers: Edith Humphrey, D.H. Williams (who wrote a great book on evangelicals and tradition), Simon Chan, Samuel Wells (he of Duke Chapel), Andrew Walker out of King's College (London), Tony Clark who teaches at the Quaker school, Friends University, and other fine folk speaking and facilitating discussion.

The organizers told me that Tyrus Clutter's art would be displayed during the event. I find that quite wonderful. Tyrus is a worthy man.

For 36 hours I'll wander around the campus speaking with the organizers, faculty, and artists as we seek together to envision the space, appraise our resources, draft a schedule, and make the most of the next three months of work. I proposed to them as a conceptual framework the Book of Common Prayer. They liked it, so that's what we'll be using to give form and freedom to the artistic activities of the conference.

I'm excited to have the opportunity to serve them. I'm only sorry that I won't be able to attend. That same week I'll be down at Duke Divinity School giving two seminars on the arts (along with Jeremy Begbie and Malcolm Guite) for their summer institute. This commitment is separate from whether I'll go to school there in the fall. All the same, it'll be great fun.

I just looked at and they say it's going to be 24 degrees farenheit in Ambridge, PA, on Wednesday morning. It's bloomin' spring down here in Austin, with flowers tearing out of their (not so) long winter bondage.

(Cover art: Once again the LOLSaints people got me laughing pretty hard with their latest ancient-future art renderings.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

2 Videos and a Lenten Prayer

"The thing he's repeated is that I've just got to do it, and just keep doing it. Just get up there and start swinging and then I'll figure it out," said Fallon. "And after the first two test shows, I can tell you that he's right." -- Conan O'Brien's advice to Jimmy Fallon as he prepared to begin his new life as host of NBC's Late Night show

Yesterday around 3 in the afternoon I had hankering for a cup of black tea like nobody's business. Aichihuahua I wanted black tea in my blood. I wanted it bad. I sat at my desk, my head melting into my hands, and thought: "Lent. Deprivation. Mortification of the flesh. Poo."

Phaedra and I are puny, stimulant-less people these days.

Here are two videos I enjoyed watching recently. You may have seen them already. If not, I offer them for your midweek entertainment.

1. Her Morning Elegance. This is the kind of art you watch and you think, dadgummit. Dadgummit, why didn't I think of it first? It's so ridiculously clever. It's also beautiful in a "ah, music makes the world such a lovely place" way. Ahhh.

2. Where the hell is Matt? Remember Matt the dancing the guy, the guy that dances for no reason in every city and remote location of the planet with his arms churning like cylinders? Here's a very funny story he told recently about a hoax that went horribly wrong.

And finally, this link here will take you to the Lenten devotional guide that Phaedra and I prepared for our church, Christ Church Anglican. The material is largely taken from David Adam's Celtic Daily Prayer. The guide is neither for sale nor copyrighted. I wrote the introduction and the devotional for Friday. Phaedra created the art. David Adams did the rest. Otherwise it's a gift to our community to help us pray together.

Father Cliff had desired something that would unite us as individual members scattered across the city. This guide would help us pray the same prayers every day, prayers to remind us that we are not alone, prayers to reinforce our togetherness, prayers to rehabituate our hearts to a Lenten way of life and so help rescue us, even if meagerly, from a self-preoccupied way of life. We were grateful for this chance to serve, especially since we won't be here in Austin much longer. Sigh.

I close here with the text of the phos hilarion which Conspirare sung as part of the Rachmaninov's Vespers concert that we witnessed this past Friday.

Gladsome light of the holy glory of the Immortal One,
The Heavenly Father, holy and blessed, O Jesus Christ.
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun
And behold the light of evening,

We praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God.
Thou art worthy at every moment to be praised
In hymns by reverent voices.
O Son of God, thou art the giver of life,
Therefore all the world glorifies thee.