Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent: A Time to Begin Again

"Joyful Mystery #1: Annuncation," oil/canvas, Jim Janknegt

Yet even as time begins in grace, so God in His covenant offers again to humanity the time of grace. In such a grace time does not flee but flows, it is not empty but fulfilled. 

-- Karl Barth

Today is the beginning of the year.

Today, not the Gregorian calendar or the academic calendar, or even the cupidity-marred NBA calendar, is when Christians around the world mark the beginning of annual time and therefore the beginning of a new round of becoming conformed to the life of Christ.

Today we begin again the work of deconstruction and reconstruction that comprise the pilgrimage of the liturgical calendar. And, yes, today, not the feverish, mercenary, mushy and godawfully noisy next few weeks, is the most wonderful time of the year.

For Christians, Thanksgiving/Football/pre-Black-Friday Thursday means little. January 1st, or the day we recover from festal hangovers, means nothing. December 25 means something but only in an alternate universe. Cyber Monday, as a "made up holiday," is just plain pernicious. But for Christians, the imitation of Christ means everything and therefore we begin where Christ begins: at the Annunciation. More properly we begin with the prophets from long ago, but they too enter into the cosmic time that characterizes the overshadowing work of the Holy Spirit in Mary and at the beginning of creation.

What is announced in Gabriel's speech is that all beginnings and all endings will be entirely reoriented around one person, not the Caesar or the American Consumer, but the God-Man Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we will begin again and again and again at Advent, but not in a vicious cycle of reincarnation. We'll begin again and again in a series of beginnings that entail a telos, or ultimate purpose. We'll begin again not so that we can end in the exhausted arms of TGIF. We'll begin again so that we can end in the final purposes of God for his people: a perfect sabbath rest and the thoroughgoing renewal of the heavens and the earth.

That's why I love Advent. That's why I sorely need Advent. I need it to reorient my sense of what is up and what is down. I need it to re-attune my notion of what it means to go "forwards" and what it means to go "backwards." I need it as a yoke of timely discipleship.

I've had no discernible rhythm the past 11 weeks. My days have begun at 4 AM, at 7 AM, at 11 AM and, yes, at 11 PM. I'm worried whether I'll end my program on time.  I'm behind on so many projects, both at home and at school. We're perpetually late to doctor's appointments and Lord knows when we'll get to church on time again. We feel like sad Texas tumbleweeds, tossed about by one urgent need after another, day after wearying day.

Advent reminds us what time it really is. Now is the time to wait. Now is the time to be simple and quiet. Now is the time to fast, perhaps to give an extra alms to a friend in need. Now is the time to repent and to relinquish.

Now is the time to begin again, not alone, but with others, and most importantly with the company of saints across space and throughout history and with Christ himself as our sweet, faithful Shepherd, who protects his sheep from harm and provides them everything they need.

Now is the time to entrust to God our feelings that we've been crushed under by time the past three months, lost time, unrecoverable time, miserable and painful time, even hopeless time, and join the goodly, perhaps also bedraggled, pilgrimage of saints who begin with Christ again.

And again, thank God.

The All Saints Church Advent Devotional

Unfortunately we encountered a number of glitches along the way and have had to settle for a two-part release of the Devotional. If you go here, you'll find the first week of the Devotional. We'll post the whole Devotional next week.

I'll include here one part of the Introduction. It's a new element to the ASC Devotional and a part I think I'm most excited about. But do see the rest (we're very pleased with the outcome) and consider printing it out and allowing it to become another aid to your devotional journey through Advent.

As editors, we have added a new element to this year’s Devotional. In the spirit of Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, we have written daily exercises to accompany each reflection, excluding those that come from non-All Saints members (St. Augustine, for example!). These “exercises” have a practical aim. They are intended to offer the reader an opportunity to respond in some active, relational or spiritual way to what they have read. 

In this way, the hope is that we’ll become not only hearers of the Word but also doers. Hopefully, too, it’ll be a fun way to engage the reflections throughout the course of our day. Principally, the desire is to see Christ’s life seep itself more deeply into the “changes and chances” of our life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Retreat for Ministers to Artists: March 1-4, 2012!

"Circle Bluff," Erik Newby

Good people: year four of our retreat for those who feel called to minister to artists has been officially confirmed by the Laity Lodge. I am officially thrilled. Thrrrrriled. See details below. Here is a stunning photographic rendition of Laity Lodge by Erik Newby, just in case you'd forgotten what went down.

Laity Lodge Time lapse from Erik Newby on Vimeo.

For this retreat we have invited four speakers to address our group: Charlie Peacock (writer-musician-producer), Andi Ashworth (writer, cook, gardener, hospitality maven), Ginger Geyer (writer-visual artist) and Sandra Organ-Solis (contemporary ballerina, choreographer, director of SODC). Please see  bios below.

Each will share with the group "5 They Wish They Had Been Told When They First Started Off as Artists" and "3 Practices That Enable Them to Stay Healthy as Artists and as Persons." I'll be giving them more details about these tasks, but my hope is that this will generate a good deal of insight into the care of artists especially in light of the fact that all four of our speakers have established a long career as mature artists (though I imagine they might even share moments of immaturity along the way). Also, all four have spent a considerable number of years investing in younger artists.

We invite all folks who feel called to minister to artists and who seek to shepherd them well. If you sense a strong desire to promote the well-being of artists, to aid their integration, to encourage their flourishing, then this retreat is for you. Whether you serve artists in the church, or in a para-church organization, in an educational setting or as a volunteer, we welcome you. You may have years of experience, or you may be newly starting out. Either way, you will benefit from this time spent with kindred friends.

The Credo Trio. We are pleased to welcome two members of Credo Trio to lead us in worship. The Credo Trio was established as the ensemble-in-residence at the Credo Chamber Music Festival in 2008. The trio has performed extensively across the United States, holding performance and teaching residencies from Boston to Los Angeles. The Credo Trio has become known for their ability to form relationships through music and their passion to live this out in their personal lives as well as on the stage. See their site here.

To register, go here.

And please pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested. We'd love to meet as many of our kindred as possible.


Charlie Peacock:
Charlie is an singer-songwriter, pianist, record producer, session musician and author. While growing up in California, Peacock was inspired by John Coltrane and began playing the piano. After completing his education, Peacock formed a band and began a career as a professional musician. His albums include, Love Press Ex-Curio and Arc of the Circle (Runway). Peacock has been part of the creative team for several successful songs and albums including Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat" (1991), Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move" (2003) and the The Civil Wars' album Barton Hollow in 2011. [Yes, I  unashamedly pilfered this from Wiki.]

See this write-up of Charlie. I couldn't resist using this photograph. It's too good. But here's a cooler one.

Andi Ashworth:
A native Californian, Andi has lived in Nashville, Tennessee with her family since 1989. Andi is a writer (author of Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring), gardener, cook, a lover of good books. Andi partners with her musical husband, Charlie Peacock, in the non-profit work of Art House America. The Art House America mission is to contribute to the making of artists and artful people who become highly imaginative and creative culture makers, who continue to mature spiritually, love well, and make known the kingdom of God.

Andi and Charlie's home, the Art House, a one-hundred-year-old, renovated country church provides the setting for their work, which includes owning and operating a recording studio, and running award-winning music/film production and publishing companies. Andi is the key architect of the nurturing environment so characteristic of the Art House and its hospitality. The Ashworths have two grown children, and two grandchildren, who have named them Honey and Papa.

See this lovely interview with Andi.

Ginger Geyer:
Ginger grew up in Springdale, Arkansas, where her artistic talent was nurtured by her family, community and the Ozarks scenery. She studied art under Donald Roller Wilson at the University of Arkansas/Fayetteville, and then transferred to SMU in Dallas. There she earned her BFA in painting, studied sculpture under James Surls, printmaking with Larry Scholder, art history with Annemarie Carr, Mary Vernon, and Bill Jordan, and went on to complete a MFA in museum education with Nancy Berry. She met Rick Geyer while student teaching at St. Mark’s School and they married in 1977. Her thirteen year career in art museum work began in the conservation lab at the Kimbell, which led to the organization of a large exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art that introduced the public to the art, science, and ethics of art conservation.

See her website here.

Sandra Organ-Solis:
Sandra was a soloist with Houston Ballet and its first African-American female ballerina, leaving the company after fifteen seasons to work as a guest artist, independent choreographer, and become Artistic Director of Sandra Organ Dance Company (SODC), a contemporary ballet ensemble in Houston, Texas, founded in 1997. She was taught by Valerie Roche in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, in the Royal Academy of Dancing syllabus, and graduated valedictorian from Duchesne Academy before entering Houston Ballet Academy as a scholarship student.

Her international career with the Houston Ballet encompassed a diverse range of roles in the classical and contemporary realm, from choreographers Ben Stevenson, Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, and Sir Kenneth MacMillian to Christopher Bruce, James Kudelka and Paul Taylor. She is on the faculty of Houston Ballet Academy, and the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. For her choreography, she has been awarded an Individual Artist’s Grant from the Cultural Arts Council Houston/Harris County as well as the Monticello scholarship and National Choreography award in the Southwest by Regional Dance America, having choreographed nearly 80 ballets in the last 10 years.

For the rest of her bio, go here.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Summary & Video of Tyndale Talks

Stanley Spencer, "The Last Supper"

If you go here, you'll find a video summary of my participation in Tyndale's "Faith Talk lectures in Christian Spirituality." You'll also find podcasts for each talk. For what it's worth, it was fun to be back in Canada.

In a series of entries, I'll post summaries of each talk. In this entry I've included a prĂ©cis of my first talk: "The Spirit of the Matter: The Holy Spirit and the Making and Remaking of our Bodies."

Tomorrow our conference begins in earnest and I'm excited to see what God will bring about in his kindness to us.

Oh, and today is my dad's birthday. Happy 71st, dad! You don't look a day over 48. I hope Germany is treating you well right now. A shout-out from the fourth floor of the Perkins Library.


… Good friends, I tell you nothing new when I say that we live in a world of imperfect and broken bodies. You know this. I know this. And we each make the best of it, though we often perhaps find ourselves making the worst of it.

Like John Candy, the painful feeling that we might not be loved because of our body leads us to playfully pretend it does not matter. It leads us, that is, to minimize our broken bodies. In other cases, like my friend Mark, the knowledge that no remedy exists for our physical suffering often leads to a secret wish to die. It leads us, that is, to reject our bodies.

Minimizing and rejecting: this is what humans have been doing with bodies since the fall.

Christians, it must be said, haven’t fared much better in their responses to the physical body. At the extreme we have devolved to heretical views: Marcionite and gnostic, for starters.

At a less extreme level, we have enlisted the services of the Holy Spirit to argue for the superiority of the immaterial realm over the material one. We have believed that the Spirit is responsible for “spirit” work but not exactly for “material” work, and we have fretted about our too too sullied fleshy bodies and perhaps wished we could be disembodied spirits instead; or at least Brangelina.

So the focused question I wish to pose in this talk is the following: Have we in fact read the Holy Spirit rightly here? Is “spiritual” work necessarily opposed to “material” work? Might there be a better way to perceive the Spirit’s relation to our physical bodies than perhaps is often done? And what might the arts offer to this question?

My answer: The Holy Spirit has everything to do with our bodies. When you think Holy Spirit, think physicality, think corporeality, and you’ll be thinking biblically. If we’re going to view the Spirit in the light of Christ (which I believe we should), then we’re not looking at an escape from materiality, we’re looking at the preservation, healing and liberation of the material creation so that it can be what the Triune God has eternally purposed for it.

And what do the arts do? Among other things, they come along and deepen our embodied experience of life.

Happy Birthday, dad!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Workshops for the Anglican Worship conference

“Duties of religion performed by whole societies of men, ought to have in them accordinge to our power a sensible excellencie, correspondent to the majestie of him whome we worship.”Richard Hooker in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1597)

We're one week away from our conference, "Anglican Worship: A Conversation on Liturgy, Formation, Mission and Art." I'm excited to meet everyone who is coming. I've talked with our speakers and I think some very important work will be done at this event.

This will be the next-to-last entry I post on the conference. I'll write one more after the conference. In the meantime I've listed the workshops that we'll be offering and I'm only sorry that I can't be at them all.

Here are the key questions that will drive the discussion.

Here are commending words from pastors and theologians. Here are commending words from artists and worship leaders. What occasions this conference is here.

To register, go here. $99 for regular registration. $49 for artists, worship leaders, church planters and students. There is still time to register, so sign yourself up and come hang out with a sharp group of folks in an autumnal setting in North Carolina.

Here is biographical information on the workshop leaders.

Ars est celare artem – “To conceal the art is the art.” | Martha Giltinan - Liturgical leadership is rarely thought of as a performance art, but there is an art and craft to both leading liturgy and preparing for this task. This workshop will explore liturgical leadership and the craft of serious preparation from Augustine to Arcade Fire.

Context, the Calendar and Creative Collaboration: the “How” of Incorporating the Visual Arts into Congregational Worship Life | Shannon Sigler - This workshop will look at the practical side of engaging the visual arts in your worship setting. We will discuss the importance of knowing your local congregational context, entering the Story of God through the Church Calendar; and finally, we will explore options, images and resources for incorporating the visual arts into different aspects of your congregation’s worship life.

Co-creative Community | Thomas McKenzie - Imagine a community formed around Christ in which creative people find their voice, exercise their gifts, and love the world through the talents God has given them. Imagine accountants, mechanics, and home-schoolers responding to the co-creative Spirit within. Imagine a church that values artists as people and art as something other than propaganda. This workshop offers practical suggestions based on real-life experience for making these imaginations a reality.

Culture, Vocation, and Mission | Chris Cairns - What does it mean for Christians to be “salt” and “light?” How can we cast a vision for vocation as mission? This workshop will explore ways that a local congregation can help parishioners undergo vocational assessment for mission while casting a parish-wide vision for engagement in culture-making.

How Liturgy Forms Disciples in the Local Church | Steve Breedlove - Is liturgical more than simply our style of worship? This workshop will explore how liturgical worship is at the heart of an Anglican church – particularly how it serves as the core of catechesis and the forming of disciples. We’ll look at how a congregation is anchored and oriented around liturgy.

Making Any Space Sacred | Jed Roseberry and Amy Waggoner - It’s not often that the space available to your church plant feels like sacred space. There are practical ways to make any room a welcoming environment that allows your congregation to engage in worship and to adapt your worship in liturgically faithful ways that can simplify Sunday mornings for any church plant. Some topics we will discuss are room layout, crowd flow, lighting, projection, sound, focal points, the use of color and space, and the challenges of using unconventional worship spaces.

The Spirit of God in the Creative Arts | David Clifton - A vision for Christian artists to once again return to the centre of cultural influence in society. “Art is not limited if we allow the Holy Spirit to enter.” John Tavener “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” Pablo Picasso This workshop will explore the calling of Christian Artists and look at how God is at work in the creative arts.

The Scourge of Screens: Technology and Anglican Worship | David Roseberry and Daniel Adkinson - For many Christians in North America, screens – flickering pixels – have become the focal point of the worship service. Whether it is depicting liturgical elements, song lyrics, video, or even a distant preacher, screens have become a way of life for many Christians. This workshop will look at the role technology should (or should not) play in an Anglican Worship service.

Seeing God and Singing the Sanctus with Isaiah | Jo Bailey Wells - Isaiah 6:1-7 contains a stunning vision of the Holy Lord upon his throne. The Prophet sees the Lord and hears the mighty cry: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! This workshop will explore the implications of this key passage for our liturgical imagination and understanding of Anglican Worship.