Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I got no complaints...for a week

So if you've been reading along for a while I might be getting a bit of a reputation as someone who never has a good word to say about anything. In some ways this is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays in principle. I don't do thankful well and so a day set apart to be thankful works as a nice kind of Interuption of the Real, a point at which the facades we make for ourselves are torn appart and we get a glimpse of the man behind the curtain, as it were and real transformation is possible.

So, I'm a grouch...sometimes. So I decided to try and go without complaining. That's my goal anyway.

Today seems like a rough way to start the week and yet a few things seem a little more clear because I'm avoiding an action that has, in many ways, become my default.

1) Instead of dealing with a lot of my emotions I think I just gripe.

2) It's harder (just a little) to be a jerk or remain angry if you aren't verbalizing it. I'm not saying anger doesn't have it's place but it feels easier to let my emotions run the show when I feed into them.

3) Complaining seems to make it easier to put up with things were working to get at the root of the problem would be far more effective.

As I was writing this I just realized that those 3 things are pretty similar to the things that my employers have been telling me, for the last two years, about helping clients work through their own frustrations. Go figure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Status Quo and the First Sunday of Advent

For better or worse Christmas shopping season is upon us. Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day/the single largest shopping day of the year was on Friday (ironically placed as it is after a day when we at least claim to be thankful for all we have and run out to get more and more than we need or even sometimes want) and today is the First Sunday of Advent. I hope to over the next four weeks to post some things about how the Christmas Story (when I make to pry it from the death-grip pop culture seems to have on it) speaks to and radically challanges me. I expect much of the reflections I share will be heavily influenced by the Advent book I'm planning on going though Follow the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

Today I read a piece by Henri Nouwen where he says:

waiting is active. Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands. The bus is late? You cannot do anything about it, you have to just sit there and wait. It is not difficult to understand the irritation people feel when someone says, "Just wait." Words like that seem to push us into passivity.
But there is none of this passivity in scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing.

That resonates with me because the world's messed up and I need to get my rear in gear to help fix it (I wrote a piece on work a few weeks back that seems particularly relivant at this second).

A Resurrected Christmas from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

The other side of waiting (and Nouwen does go into this) is hope.

I'm excited about some of the things that are happening in and around the #Occupy movement but part of that excitement for me is rooted in a hope the status quo is unsustainable and at some point must change but also that God's going to make things right. I've heard Stanley Hauerwas say that it's important for us to read the Bible in reverse and I think that's true in how we should read the Gospels (Good News) as well, with with Life beating the hell out of Death. And if we can't muster the strength to make that story one that is being lived out in our communities, it can feel like cheap lip-service to say we'll see it in the realm to come.

May we all learn to actively wait
To live out resurection in our own lives and community
And may we find our hope in things bigger than the stuff is (not) under our Christmas tree

A joyfull Advent to you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Love Washington VS I Love Being Car Free

I love where I live, it's one of the most beutiful places in the world. And I love managing life without having to worry about a car. There are days and those days turn into weeks (see picture) were my love is tested and I think one of these has got to go...maybe the Craigslist jobs listings in Yakima deserves a close inspection or maybe a car really is worth not having to change my soggey underwear when I get to work...just a thought

Monday, November 21, 2011

The three books you get in prison? [My Answer]

About a week ago I asked folks a question: Supposing you had six months in prison with no guarantee of interaction with others, what are the three books you would want in prison. I wanted to take a minute and talk about responses I got from the folks at the Books to Prisoners project I volunteer with said and some of the reason folks gave for why their particular choices as well as to give my own answer.

I've been working with Books to Prisoners for going on two years now and so I've had a while to think about this one.

Another of the volunteers there easily had one of the best answers:
"I'd like to learn a new language and with 6 months, I got nothing but time. I'd get the biggest of those all-in-one language learning books that I could find."
Good call. As I've mentioned in the past I'm in a Spanish class and have been doing badly at Spanish for about 6 months now. With nothing but time I'll go with something that looks like it would be a bit of a struggle (because it's got to last me 6 months). Hopefully include some workbook materials, vocab, etc. that's a lot for any one book, this was the best I could find but it isn't a dictionary and that's going to create a struggle.

We all decided we needed a novel of some kind. There was also some agreement that it needed to be something that was insanely large and re-readable. The big contenders seemed to be Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Someone pointed out in this scenario they wanted a book that was written not to compete with TV and film but one where the author never had to worry about competing with the plug-in-drug.

So for me I'm choosing to take Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I recently ran across a lecture series in iTunes entitled Democracy: A Users Manual which included the first two lectures on this novel. While the lectures made it pretty clear to me that Dostoevsky and I probably wouldn't see eye to eye on politics, but I find it really intriguing that he was Dorothy Day's favorite novelists and that Sigmund Freud apparently refused to read his stuff because it felt to much like working with his patients.

Lastly, and this one sounds like a bit of a cop-out but I want a really big Bible. Ideally I'd love one that includes 1st Enoch and Shepherd of Hermas (both early contenders for inclusion into the cannon) but since those don't usually make it all into one volume (or a Study Bible made by the folks at Orbis Books...Please Orbis, make a Study Bible), one in a decent translation is all I ask (because I can only read so much in the King James). The prospect of having 6 months to read my Bible cover to cover without much in the way of distractions is actually a really exciting prospect. The last time I read the whole thing was ten years ago and the ways that I've grown to understand the Bible differently and the world fairly differently and I think things like "Blessed are the merciful" (Matthew 5:7) and ideas like forgiving a person who has wronged you not seven times but "Seventy times seven" (Matthew 8:22) would take on a significantly different flavor inside of prison.

So thats my list:
Giant Spanish Workbook
The Brothers Karamazov

What do you think? Good picks? Is there something I should be re-shelving?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hitchcock & Thankfulness Rendered Meaningful Through Disappointment

Yesterday I put up a post on Thanksgiving, today I wanted to briefly talk about disappointment and the way that plays into learning to truly be thankful.

If you've spent much time with me you know that I love film. I have a few filmmakers that I'm particularly fond of: Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Marx brothers, George Romero. But perhaps more than any other, I love Alfred Hitchcock.

So that you might understand my excitement when I found out that our theater released the program for the 28th annual Olympia Film Festival and we were running not one, but two very special Hitchcock films: Dial M for Murder in 3D. Like most people I'd never seen Dial M in its original 3D and it was really good, the 3D wasn't over the top (in the infamous scene with the scissors they don't pop out off the screen and feel like they'll stab the audience in the face as I'd imagine they would in many 3D films today).

But the newly rediscovered first half of Hitchcock's first film The White Shadow was the thing I was really excited about this year. When I got home from work (I work the graveyard shift) Rachel was supposed to head off to the theater to work the morning shift at the Fest but was feeling awful. So I went in her place and as a result needed to sleep through The White Shadow.

Rachel felt really terrible about this. I just kept thinking about something I'd seen recently on with the caption "Ah, first world problems."

"Like who cares? There is an AIDS epidemic in Africa, Big Oil is raping Northern Alberta and screwing over the natives, some economists are estimating real unemployment is somewhere around 20% in the US...etc, etc, etc."

I don't have a nice wrap-up for this one, just that I think this dovetails nicely with what I said yesterday about consumerism. I am convinced that unlike the liturgy of advent, the liturgy of consumerism thrives off of the small disappointments and encourages us to turn them into crushing blows. The one thing consumerism cannot abide is the idea of "enough". I must always have more.

Indeed, I would argue our being thankful is rendered meaningless without disappointments and I think that is something those of us who have things so comfortable, forget all to often.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I saw this on the blog for American Public Media's wonderful show On Being (formerly called Speaking of Faith). It spoke to me and I wanted to share it with you. Though written long ago, to me this prayer seems all the more poiniant today. We live in a time were Christmas is a point of contact between two religions that I exist in the context of, each with their own ritual, orthodoxy and sacred stories.
One, perhaps the one we are most familiar with, says that I show love to the few people I really care about by buying them things that they don't need (and often times don't even want), I gorge myself with food and the drive for more. "It's a wonderful life...but I'm going to be paying off credit cards till Febrewary!". The other is a story of refugees from an occupied land, amidst dictators, infanticide and the creator of the Universe siding with the losers of history in some strange ways. So, in the approaching shadow of Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day (the single largest day of consumerism in the USA each year) and the approach of Advent, I offer you all this prayer and my hope we all might find what we are looking for under a glowing bush (instead of a artificial tree).

Thanksgiving Day Prayer
by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)

For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

The prayer was origionally posted here

Follow-up piece here

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love as skill development

So there is a person I'm not a huge fan of. This person just has a way of getting under my skin. In fact they have gotten there so many times I'm not sure if they had one of those life transforming moments, I'm not sure I would, if I'm honest, that I'd really give them a second chance. I'm not going to say much more than that but in the time that I've known and interacted with this person I've thought a lot about love (a Biblical imperitive) as opposed to liking. I know I'm broken. Jesus calls us to forgive 70x7 times and John says that God is love - I'm a work in progress and this is just where I live right now.

I recently listened to the Iconocast interview with Robert Ellsberg where he talked about one of Dorothy Day's favorite passages from the Brothers Karamatzov. A woman comes to an old monk, Father Zossima and tells him how she'd like to become a nurse but is kept from doing so by the thought of people being ungrateful. He answers "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams." Zing! Zossima, 1. My utopian/"grass is greener" delusions, 0.

This dovetails nicely with the ideas of another of Day's favorite authors, Erich Fromm, who rejected the idea of "falling in love" to instead speak of love as a skill. This makes 1 Cor 13 (a passage we've neutered by restricting to weddings) perhaps a skill to be perfected; when I'm more patient, more, kind, when I keep a smaller record of wrongs...I'm growing and it feels awful because hanging out with this person is still about as much fun as cuddling with a cheese grater. "Patient, kind, no records of wrongs...harsh and dreadful...all right"

Perhaps the problem for me is that I still imagine much of Jesus' shinanagins as happening in kids books where he wears a bathrobe.

To really follow Jesus means to "overcome evil [and the things we encounter that are a little more benign] with good" (Rom 12:21)

Crossing Over To Love from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bloggy Cronyism

By now it probably shouldn't come as too much of a suprise to most of my readers that there are few things I deplore more than nepotism and cronyism. That said I'd like to point out some amazing work being done by friends of mine (some longtime, others might be more accurately described as really wonderful aquaintances):

Longtime buddy of mine Chris, who lives in Portland, writes a great blog that focuses on short form music reviews of some wonderful new music. If someone gives me a iTunes card for Christmas this year his blog will figure prominantly in where it gets spent. Show him some love here

A more recent friend (and another residant of The People's Republic of Portland) Brandon has a number of irons in the fire that I wanted to plug:
Along with his buddy Brock, he puts out the amazing Sprocket Podcast on living more simply and showcasing folks who make the most of their bikes, public transit, brewing their own beer, living cell phone free, etc.

He also writes a blog where he talks about some of the doctoral work he's been doing on how the church has been affected by a car-culture and paints a picture of what church might look like as we move out of that culture.
You can find that (including a recent Christianity Today article) here

Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship is a new book by another couple of more recent friends: Joanna Shenk (Author) and Mark Van Steenwyk (Contributor).
It's a collection of pieces on radical discipleship in Christian communities that have drawn from the anabaptist tradition (I've placed my order already at my local independant bookstore)

They are co-hosts of another of my favorite podcasts The Iconocast (One of my personal favorite episodes can be found here)

Lastly, from (where else) Portland, a couple of guys I've known forever (one was even in my wedding) are putting out some wonderful music as part of 4-piece called Priory. You can and should check them out here

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I'm feeling pretty slammed at the moment. The Olympia Film Festival is this week and I'm just one of the hundreds of people who've put in some literal blood sweat and tears into making it happen (I'd love to see a few of the films), Books to Prisoners takes up my Mon's, and there is Spanish class on Wed's, I work 40 hrs a week, try not to fall asleep in church, I'm working on putting out a slightly timely book review for here on my blog on one of the densest books I've read since college, I have to go to a CPR training to renew my certification on Fri, still trying to cobble together some of the intrest in my failed "Faith @ Occupy Olympia" into...something. There is so much crap that I need to get done. Oh yeah, and I'm sick at the moment.

In the midst of all this I have two things kinda floating through my head about the Sabath, the Biblically mandated time of rest: 1) As I decry the ways that the powers that be exploit and take advantage of me, as is the nature of the state and the capitalist system (and for that matter is a story as old as empire) I'm quick to ignore the ways I do it to myself. I'll take the overtime when it's offered, I'll overcommit myself but somehow it's not a problem when I do it to myself... I don't remember who first pointed out this tendancy but it rang very true and is particularly ringing true at the moment.
2) Ched Myers and Walter Brueggemann, two of my favorite theologians, have argued that the purpose (or at least one of the many purposes) of the Sabath is to remind us that we are not in control and the world doesn't need us as much as we'd like to pretend. My world/The World won't fall apart if I allow it to go on by itself, if I sit back for a day. I'm not even talking about my "job" per se, but all the wonderful stuff that I cram into my week. Even when it's "the Lord's work". We resist this but in a society of workaholics (like me) I think this is a very timely, even prophetic message.
3) We need to rediscover resting outside of the dominant naratives of our society; we need to discover how to rest in community appart from our (usually) unspoken civic (read: the religion of USAmerica) duty to buy stuff and consume.

What about you guys? Do you Sabbath well? Do you find it easy to relax? Really relax? To trust that the world won't fall apart without your medelling?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The three books you get in prison?

As some of you know, I have for the past 2 years been involved in the local chapter of Books To Prisoners. We get letters from just a few of the ungodly (and yes, I mean this. It's an absolute abomination) number of people that are stuffed into America's prison industrial complex. But this post isn't about them it's about you; let me explain. Many states and some particular prisons restrict the number of books a person can recieve to 3. To help keep our requests to a minimum we ask that prisoners wait 9 months between letters and then it takes another 3-6 months for us to process letters (on average). My question, one that I posed to my comrades at Books to Prisoners was this: If you had 6 months and could have only 3 books (remember, things like dictionaries count as 1) what would you pick and why?
Let's assume further that you are in solitary confinement. I'm sure you are a nice person and you weren't causing trouble but your prison wanted to cut cost/maximize profits and that means every cell is filled. So besides your one hour a day ouside of your cell you have 3 books...

I'll post some of the one's we came up with in a week or two.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Movie: A Better Life

Double Binds of the
So in the last year or two it's come to my attention that many of the spaces I wanted to spend my time volunteering (or for that matter, places I was hoping might be willing to pay me enough money so I could afford rent) all seem to want one thing: people who habla espaƱol. So this summer my wife Rachel and I recently enrolled ourselves in a Spanish class. Being a wonderful student I've spent much of my time watching Spanish language film and TV shows (read: I like well made film and TV shows and I like self-deluding myself into believing that I'm learning).
Now just out on video, A Better Life (What does it say about our society that a bilingual film has an English only trailer?), is a troubling film that is perhaps even more troubling when we watch it through the question of what it means to love their neighbor. Our film is about Carlos, an undocumented single parent living in LA. This story feels much like a modern adaptation of an Euripidian tragedy; our protagonist isn't a bad guy, but right from the outset you know, he's screwed.
Carlos wants to keep his head down and his nose out of trouble. He works long and hard days as a day laborer doing yard work and landscaping. He has scored a regular everyday gig but now his boss has given him a kind of ultimatum: buy my truck (not just a vehicle but a whole business complete with customers) or if you don't when I sell it to someone else you'll be back on the corner fighting for one of the spots on someone else's truck. Carlos bets the farm, calls in a family favor and loses it all to an act of betrayal and then spends the rest of the film working to recover what he's lost.
This film covers a couple of themes really well that I think deserve more attention than our culture is willing to offer:
1. Victimizers are often, if not almost always, victims themselves. Elaine Enns in the 2010 Augsburger lecture series she co-delivered with her husband Ched Myers, told the story of her family in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1919 (starts specifically around 17:45 though I recommend listening to the whole of the lecture). Enns comes from a family of Ukrainian Mennonites and she describes her family history through the Bolshevik revolution. The Mennonites and the greater Anabaptist tradition has called its practitioners to see themselves as being distinct from the world around them, in the words of 1 Peter 2:9 often identifying as “a peculiar people”. As a result, when the anarchist general Nestor Makhno's and his Black Army rolled through their community they found a group of people who had cloistered themselves off from the community around them and taken care of themselves to the neglect of the greater society. What the Anarchists, mostly peasants, saw was groups of people who had accumulated more than their share of the wealth and justifiably were angry at the ways that the Mennonites had contributed to the exploitation of the working class. These Mennonites were in this way the symbol at hand of all that the Makhnovians were fighting against. The anarchists resentment of wealth inequality as represented by the Mennonites is understandable but their brutal treatment of the Enns' family transformed into bitterness and a justifiable anger that has been passed down the generations leading us to ask who here is a victim and who is the victimizer. The answers is of course “both/and”. Enns' point, that we are perhaps most likely to abuse and exploit others when we ourselves are being taken advantage of, is a reoccurring theme in this film as we see interactions between boss and employee, parent and child, those who are stealing and those who have been stolen from.
2. The other big theme that jumps out at me from this film is the nature of lives for the “undocumentable”. I'm stealing this phrase from the Iconocast interview with Anton Flores, an organizer and member of an intentional Christian community in Georgia that focuses their work with immigrants and their families. Flores talks about the systemic ways that our society has made it impossible to become an immigrant for many families. The final word in that last sentence is an important one, because this film is not so much about one man making decisions for himself, instead it focuses on a single parent who is desperately attempting to keep their head and their child's above water. Carlos recognizes that any risks he takes, even ones for the betterment of his family in the end puts them all at risk.
3. If you can't be a family the gangs can, and will, do it for you. This is a theme that I think this film dabbles in but just isn't ready to take all the way; if you are in the mood for a film that is willing to take this gritty and brutal reality to it's logical conclusion the 2009 film Sin Nombre which follows a group of Honduran immigrants and gang members is worth the watch (as a warning though, this is one of the darkest and most depressing films I have ever seen and manages to suck the last, lingering little bits of hope from the room). For many people who find family is either unwilling or unavailable to provide for very real material or emotional needs, the gang often times the only ones ready and willing to step into this void. Novelist, poet and former LA gang member, Luis J. Rodriguez fleshes out some of these ideas out in his memoir Always Running and, I think, even more powerfully in a kind of autobiographical, historical/political-economic study of gangs called Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times. Rodriguez's is not a full-scale indictment of these gangs, but an understanding of when we fail to meet the needs of who Jesus called “the least of these” some of them will meet their own needs in ways that turn to coercion and violence (Nichola Torbett recently posted a piece here on Jesus Radicals that I think nuances this further for those of us who are trying to follow Jesus in a way of non-violence and take a realistic account of our own privilege that allows us to reap the benefits of state-based violence). Why should we expect something different from those who receive the business end of systematic oppressions when we live in world that teaches this in a million different object lessons everyday and by and large the church stands aside and offers precious little in the way of alternatives?
This film does a great job of welcoming it's audience into the situations the characters are caught up in. The pace of the film is slow enough that the audience has a chance to ask what a better choice might have been at nearly every turn and in the end we get the feeling that Carlos is maybe back where he started off, maybe a little worse off.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Does it make sense to go into Seminary?

In the last month or so there has been a question floating around some of the blogs I read: How do seminaries need to change in the coming years to meet the needs of the future church? Given the current state of the church in North America a prospective seminarian is faced with on the one side racking up thousands of dollars in debt to pay for an M Div and on the other side knowing full well that there are more folks coming out of seminaries than there are churches that are able to support a full-time pastor and his thousands of dollars of debt. How about if I, or other prospective clergy, want to work in smaller churches that are more rooted in their communities? That debt may prevent me from doing so in the same way the bill from law school may force new lawyers away from things like civil rights work or labor law and into a firm that pays six figure salaries. David Fitch and Tony Jones (among others) are calling for the transformation of these institutions from their end.
They have each pointed out that these institutions are, as they saddle folks like me with insurmountable financial responsibilities, largely failing to teach their students how to lead a church in a post-Christendom world. In a recent blog post Fitch argued that seminaries have failed us by:
teaching one person to do everything in the church as a professionalized clergy person. It is heavily cognitive. It trains people to be experts. It takes leaders out of their context to learn information. None of this works when the church is largely disestablished...
he continues by arguing that seminaries must break with the model of grad schools that are training folks for high paying jobs and start training folks in a way that looks more like the National Guard “one night a week/ plus a weekend a month (to name one option).”
Both of these fine gentlemen are professors at seminaries (Fitch at Northern Seminary in the greater Chicago area and Jones as an adjunct faculty here there and everywhere) and are making these sorts of calls from their end but I wonder what it might look like to make a similar sort of demand from mine. Or are there ways to preemptively avoid the debt altogether?
Before I get in too deep I want to acknowledge that I am currently not in any sort of staffing or leadership position in a church. I've given a few sermons from the pulpit over the last ten years as an intern and as Joe Congregation stepping in as the pastor was out of town. I don't handle the money and to be quite honest I think I'd have a panic attack if someone asked me to. That said...
Apprenticeship positions: the apprenticeship as a model has fallen out of favor in just about every line of work in this country. As of the 2007 National Census 40% of farmers were 55+ and on the rise, and though a quick glance through the want ads just about anywhere is likely to find you a opening or two for a journeymen carpenter or plumber every employer wants someone with experience and how you go about getting that experience with out already having it seems to be anyone's guess. The American church seems to me to be in a similar bind, with a aging congregation and an inability to support a freshly seminaried young pastor, their debt and their family. What would it look like if instead of hiring one full-time pastor more churches instead brought on, let's say two seminary students and agreed to share the financial burden of their schooling? What if we didn't ask them to go to a traditional accredited seminary at all but instead encouraged them to audit a class here or there and learn on the job? But I can hear some of your reservations already around a kind of pastor quality-control and to be perfectly honest, you may be on to something there. But at the same time I think this kind of a model has the potential to do exactly what both Fitch and Jones are arguing for, creating “tent makers” not superstar celebrities who wow the congregation from the front. We cannot compete with the entertainment industry and when we try and beat them at their own game we will loose. The only people that we tend to attract is the people who go to the church that's a little less flashy than our own. If I wanted to be entertained basic cable is cheap and HBO puts on a better show than you any day of the week (besides I don't have to interrupt my sleep schedule to catch up on Six Feet Under or The Sopranos)
What I'm proposing has a few things going for it:
1. Many hands make light work. Instead of asking one pastor to meet all of the needs of that local body we are spreading the work between more two or three (or more) people. Not only would this reduce burnout among staff but it would require staff to get jobs outside of the four walls of the church, get pastors interacting with people they currently don't and at least for my money that is a positive in and of itself. I'd like to think that my pastor understands the stresses of having a job, that he, just like me has a boss that can be a real pain in the alter, if you get my drift.
2. This kind of a model could encourage a rooted theology and praxis. Let's use an already established church as means of example (church plants will clearly be different): the pastor and the congregation who is already there is going to get to participate in the teaching of the new pastors. Obviously this already happens, this is the function that internships serve and any new pastor should be getting to know the folks in the church. It is, I think, a little different to imagine pastors in training as being actively taught by community elders and to say that this isn't an annoying part of seminary but this could be some of the real meat and potatoes. Also studies on eco-theology or social justice for instance, are no longer necessarily abstract but can be rooted in a concrete place with all of the knitty-gritty particularities that come with it. The church my wife and I attend has in the last few years, among other things, worked extensively in combating human trafficking as it exists particularly in the I-5 corridor. What I'm proposing would, to use my own church as an example, would have pastors-in-traing looking at social justice as a whole through the lens of human trafficking particularly here in Olympia.
3. This model can keep the church's money local and can avoid debts that hurt the community as a whole. By moving to an on the job training model the church keeps seminarians in the context they will be working in and in turn keeps their dollars working there too. Many of my friends from college have thousands of dollars in debt that they pay each month to folks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo. I know no one talks like this but I don't think it should be too crazy for us to say that the church is about the Reign of God. That's our business. Furthermore, like many of the people who are involved in the #OccupyWallStreet, I think the big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo have been lousy for America. From there I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that the banks purpose is not the Reign of God. Why should the church encourage their up and coming leadership to take out loans from them? Furthermore freedom from these kinds of debts allows people to be more daring and, God forbid, listen to the Spirit when She calls us to say things that will be wildly unpopular and maybe even cause them to lose their job (be they clergy, teachers, or activists of any stripe).
4. Opening up the pulpit a little allows for some new voices and fresh readings of texts that have become stale. Once we have widened the circle of who teaches this could create the potential to allow us to encourage parishioners to become active participants not just passive consumers always waiting for cues from up front. In a two part interview (part 1 here) Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes talked about how their church in Durham, NC does a group discussion between some of the leadership about the next Sunday's topic and then “Pub Night” once a week where they see lots of people who would never darken the door of a church come to discuss the Bible and sometimes bringing readings to the texts that enliven words we've come to take for granted.

Ok, so that's a lot and I suppose there are some who would argue that I'm being naive and that this can't work for any one of number of reasons. That said, it seems clear to at least a few of us that these antiquated models are running out of gas and if we don't find a new and more sustainable way of teaching the next generation of leaders, then the Church is in trouble.

You can find the complete series Jones has been doing on the future of seminaries here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pre-packaged vs. Pretty good

So my wife Rachel and I just got done doing Unprocessed October and I mean this in fairly...uh...flexable terms. Church potlucks don't count (going out to eat only counted a little). So it ended up being perhaps not Unprocessed October, but probably the healthiest I've ever eaten in my life. This was made easier by the fact that we'd gotten our first ever CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year and we have more fresh veggies in our house then maybe I've ever seen on a consistant basis. The sad part of this is what to pack for lunch. November has arived and I can pack whatever I want and it is certainly easier to pack whatever can be found in the house of a prepackaged variety. I settle for a lunch that has some diversity in it Salt Water Taffy nails down the junk-food end and to Rachel's supprise and my own I toss in all the ingredients to make some vegie-stir fry. I'm sure in a month or two I'll have slipped back into my familiar rut but for now it feels good to resist to Siren's call of the pre-packaged.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Becoming Weaker: Jean Vanier helps me remember why I started this jobin the first place...

So I can't talk to much about what I do for a job because of confidentiality laws/agreements/etc. I can speak about what this job has meant to me and has shown me about myself:
I am a privileged and downright selfish person.
I work with adult with developmental disabilities in a capacity that has an extrodinary turn over rate. The stress is at times near maddening. Jean Vanier, a Catholic priest has been one of the voices that has been in the background, so to speak, for the last 2 years as I've been doing this work. I work in a company that reflects what I would describe as the better end of status-quo social servies for the disabled. I help clients with things they aren't able to do for themselves. That's not a bad thing, but as I regularly feel burnt out I try and think of the standard that the L'Arche communities (and others like them) have strived for: a blurring of the line that separates those doing the caring and those being "cared for". I don't live with my clients and there are fairly clear power relations layed out here...and yet... Vanier (and more recently Richard Beck) has been one of the people who has reminded me of all this job has to teach me, having a college degree does not elevate me above whiping bums or giving supositories or being asked to assist with helping someone rearange their CD collection for the 4th time today (all just hypothetical examples and aren't meant to describe any particular person I do, or have worked with in the past) and I'm meeting Jesus in "the least of these"

Become Weaker from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.