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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Friend and fellow church-planter Doug Resler just tagged me in Bruce Reyes-Chow’s second round of the Presbymeme.  I answered the first set of questions back in April.  The same set of rules apply: In about 25 words each, answer the following five questions, tag five Presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged, and be sure to link or send a trackback to this post.  

1. What is your favorite faith-based hymn, song or chorus. If we’re talking about songs that could be sung in public worship services, I’m going to say Charlie Hall’s song Salvation.  It’s been a favorite of mine since high school and it reminds me every time I sing it that all of creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  When we sang it at PGF last week, my eyes teared up. 

2.What was the context, content and/or topic of the last sermon that truly touched, convicted, inspired, challenged, comforted and/or otherwise moved you?  Mark Labberton’s talk about peacemaking in exile at PGF last Friday challenged me to embrace identity as an exile in post-Christendom culture and at the same time “seek the peace of the city” (Jeremiah 29) where I’ve been sent – namely Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Presbytery.

3. If you could have all Presbyterians read just one of your previous posts, what would it be and why?  What if we actually believed G-3.0400? Read it to find out why.

4.What are three PC(USA) flavored blogs you read on a regular basis?  Presbymergent, PresbyGrow, A Church for Starving Artists.

5. If the PC(USA) were a movie, what would it be and why? I want to say Wall-E.  Sometimes I wonder just how much like the numbed and sluggish humans on board the spaceship we are: oblivious to the reality of a changing context on earth, content to amuse ourselves with an over-abundance of resources, and focused inward on whatever is going on inside our own spaceship.  We need Wall-E (representative of a new Adam? complete with his Eve?) to break into our insular world, shake things up a little, deliver us from our complacency, and remind us of our place on earth as stewards of the Kingdom. 

Tagged: Mike Gehrling, BJ Woodworth, Brian Wallace, Philip Lotspeich, John Creasy.

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Charlie Hall’s new cd The Bright Sadness was released today, and I’m impressed.  I’ve enjoyed Charlie Hall’s music for a long time because of his ability to blend theologically sound lyrics with creative music, and this new cd continues the same tradition.  The theological themes in The Bright Sadness are suffering, mortality, and the hope of new life and resurrection which carries us through darkness.  Christ’s victory over death is lifted up in songs like “Chainbreaker” and “Bloom Again”.  The sacraments also show up a lot: “Walk the World” has the following chorus: “Let my life shine, come let my heart shine / We’re going to walk the world and lift the bread and wine / Like the stars shine, come and let our hearts shine / In a dark world, we lift the bread and wine.” A little later, in the song “Hookers and Robbers” – in which Hall speaks the words so quickly he’s practically rapping – the pinnacle of the song comes with a reference to the Eucharist: “So wipe off your tears and laugh just a little / Come break the Bread, celebrate the Forgiver / Raise up a glass, a time to remember / Come break this Bread, celebrate the Forgiver”.

Not all the songs are not as user-friendly for corporate worship as others from earlier in Hall’s career, but that’s because the emphasis is on the art of the music.  Rather than sounding like baptized pop songs, The Bright Sadness is an artistic portrait of praise in the midst of struggle, one which points to the hope of new life to come after the cross.

Last Thursday I had lunch at East End Food Coop.  While munching on a tempeh-peanut wrap, I skimmed a copy of Taste for Life, a natural health (and co-op promotional) magazine.  On the last page, I read a story by Lynnette Wirth of Basics Cooperative in Janesville, Wisconsin.  Early on in the article, she lists the seven fundamental principles which co-ops around the world adhere to:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

What if the Church functioned by holding to these seven principles?  In fact, if you didn’t know they were intended to be the principles behind co-ops, you might read that list and think it was describing what a church should be.  Think of the parallels:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership – Membership in the Christian community is open to all who choose to follow Jesus.
  2. Democratic Member Control – Sounds a lot like Presbyterian Polity.
  3. Member Economic Participation – Tithing. Stewardship.
  4. Autonomy and Independence – Individuals make up communities; we don’t blend into one mass identity devoid of our distinctive personalities.
  5. Education -Discipleship, Biblical literacy, history, etc. 
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives – Churches can and should cooperate.
  7. Concern for Community – Mission

Unfortunately, the general culture of the church often ignores these principles.  Churches feud and refuse to cooperate (#6).  Biblical literacy is endemic in mainline churches (#5).  The average Presbyterian gives only 2% of their income (#3).  I wonder if part of the problem is that we operate out of a model of corporate consumerism rather than a co-op.  For instance, as new churches become independent of grants and the governing bodies which have supported them, they eventually “incorporate”.  Then, we subtly turn against each of the seven principles.  Outward focus turns inward to a neglect of the community.  The marketing of other products (books, cds, sermons) create a consumer mentality in the church in which church members buy and consume rather than contributing and sharing together.  Rather than tithes going to support the poor and needy within and around the community (as they did in the early church), our finances go toward building bigger buildings. 

On a day-to-day level, the East End Food Coop seems to be creating community in just as profound a way as most churches: it’s a multicultural/interracial group of people who share not just common concerns for the community, the environment, but resources with each other as well.  But how do we live this out in the church:  Do we teach and exemplify those seven principles?  What if instead of incorporating, new churches chartered as co-ops?  In what other ways can our ecclesiology be broadened by looking models of alternative communities?