Thursday, December 27, 2007

Traveling Posts at The Why Man

Over the next week I will be traveling from Salem, MA to Asheville, NC and back with my wife, my mom, and Crash (my son's funny little mutt) in my 1986 Volvo 740 Diesel wagon. I will be pulling a 12 foot cargo trailer over-stuffed with my son and daughter-in-law's belongings down to Asheville and the fixer upper house they purchased.

I hope I make it - pray for us.

I hope I make it back - I understand if that is not as important to pray for.

You can follow the adventure at The Why Man

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent Series Continues at Salem Gathering Blog

I have been doing a daily Advent series this last week of Advent at The Gathering Blog. Check it out if you haven't been following it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Last Week of Advent

During the last week of Advent I will be posting a devotional thought for each day connected to a work of art for meditative purposes. You will be able to follow this at the Blog for The Gathering. Of course some of you will receive this by e-mail already.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Children of Pentecostal Theology

I am Pentecostal by belief system - pretty much. This is not the case if the point of determination is tradition, and praxis. I don't look typically Pentecostal - perhasp I wold look Charismatic, but that's a distinction to be made by those who know the finer points and care.

I do believe in the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and am convinced that all the gifts of the Spirit are active today, and are necessary for ministry - especially evangelism. Yet I do not hold altar calls, nor do I feel that the gift of "Tongues" is necessarily initial physical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that Pentecostalism (and her sister, the Charismatic revival) has given more to the world of Christianity in the last hundred years than any other movement. This point would be difficult to disprove considering the phenomenal growth of the movement. What is has given unfortunately falls into the categories of both good and evil.

Enter stage right: The witch children of the Congo.

Pentecostal theology, and its step sisters have filled the cities, the villages, and the slums of Africa. Faith teaching, and deliverance ministries with their emphasis on spiritual warfare, and faith as thing of power are common theological traditions.

In Kinshasa's slums children as young as 4 or 5 are being accused of witchcraft and sorcery, and people claiming to have spiritual power to cast out demons charge money to deliver these children from the power of witchcraft. Often it does not work, and more money may be required to finish the task, or the parents may be encouraged to cast the child out of the home. These children are being blamed for the ills of the household or even of the neighborhood. Sick animals, sick people, the lack of food and water are all blamed upon them.

Are these children the children of our Pentecostal doctrines of spiritual warfare? Have the superstitions of American Pentecostals bred itself into 3 and 4 generations to bring us "God-fearing" parents who throw their own children out on the street because they believe that they are witches?

Some people are estimating there are 20,000 to 40,000 witch children in the slums of Kinshasa alone.

I think these are the children of American Pentecostal superstition. We are responsible, and we should clean up our mess.

That's what I think. What do you think?

Want to read their story?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Save the Earth?! Perhaps it will Save Us

As I continue to ponder the issue of geocentric Holydays, this thought comes to mind: Perhaps we need saving more than the earth does, and perhaps - just perhaps the earth is part of that salvific plan.

Christianity is growing greener each day. Christians are considering their part in the ever growing story of planetary struggle of pollution, famine, dwindling resources and all. In all this growing interest to save our planet from a demise, we are in some way seeking to save ourselves, and future generations from a self-induced second coming.

Yet in our sensitivity to the earth's groanings (see Romans 8 on this), I am not sure we are really sensitive to the planet and the heart of its groanings.

There is a holiness to the earth. Its created beauty is God infused, and it carries clues to God's greatness, and wondrous love. Should we become sensitive to this voice of glory crying out in creation, I am sure that our care for creation will increase simply by the ever growing sense of wonder, and the need to protect that wonder. At the same time our ability to discover the voice of God in creation will transform us as we read His story in His handiwork. Perhaps if we could really read the clues of creation it might save us from foolish ways.

This brings me back to considering the need to celebrate Geocentric Holydays. Times like the Solstice become Thin Places calling us into deeper places with God.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SynchroBlog - Geocentric Versus Anthropocentric Holydays: Solstice and Christmas

Here in America our Holidays tend to be based around the celebration of the activities of human beings. Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving , even Easter and Christmas celebrate the activities of human enterprise and often the celebration of overcoming impossible odds. Christmas which is nearly upon us is the celebration of the coming of Christ, and even so it is the celebration of a man - although God - still a man who did great things.

These celebrations are good - needed - appropriate, and especially in the case of Christmas and Easter needed for the health off Christianity, but as we enter in to the time of Christmas and its near neighbor the Winter Solstice I wonder if we have lost the mystery of the geocentric holydays. In agrarian cultures days were celebrated around harvest and planting and seasons. The feasts of Israel include both geocentric holidays based in the harvest, and the anthropocentric/theocentric holidays such as Passover with the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

In my culture only Halloween, and New Year's Eve are calendrically based in the changes of the seasons, and even then nothing is remembered about these days which ties us back to the earth and changing seasons.

I believe that God has given us the seasons with beautiful lessons mysteriously hidden in the dynamic changes. I do not believe that we should stop celebrating th achievements of man, and certainly not the achievements of God through men, but a return to geocentric holyday celebrations may well yield a return to the mysteries of God as they are hidden in the seasons He has given us.

Redeeming the Season is the Topic for this month's SynchroBlog. Now there are a variety of seasons being celebrated at the end of each year from Christmas to Hannukah to Eid al-Adha and Muharram, from the Winter Solstice to Kwanzaa and Yule. Some people celebrate none of these seasonal holydays, and do so for good reason. Below is a variety of responses to the subject of redeeming the season. From the discipline of simplicity, to uninhibited celebration, to refraining from celebrating, to celebrating another's holyday for the purpose of identification with their culture the subject is explored. Follow the links below to "Redeeming the Season." For more holidays to consider see here

Recapturing the Spirit of Christmas at Adam Gonnerman's Igneous Quill
Swords into Plowshares at Sonja Andrew's Calacirian
Fanning the Flickering Flame of Advent at Paul Walker's Out of the Cocoon
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Eager Longing at Elizaphanian
The Battle Rages at Bryan Riley's Charis Shalom
Secularizing Christmas at
There's Something About Mary at Hello Said Jenelle
Geocentric Versus Anthropocentric Holydays at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Celebrating Christmas in a Pluralistic Society at Matt Stone's Journeys in Between
The Ghost of Christmas Past at Erin Word's Decompressing Faith
Redeeming the season -- season of redemption by Steve Hayes
Remembering the Incarnation at Alan Knox' The Assembling of the Church
A Biblical Response to a Secular Christmas by Glenn Ansley's Bad Theology
Happy Life Day at The Agent B Files
What's So Bad About Christmas? at Julie Clawson's One Hand Clapping

MacArthur and Emergent Pagans!?

I have a lot of contact with the Emergent Conversation, and I have a lot of contact with Neo-Pagans. Now John MacArthur tells me that they are the same. I'm not sure he knows either group very well. They don't look the same to me. I wonder what he's thinking. So, here's the quote.

Persecution of "Child Witches" in Kinshasa

This blog post is over a year old now, but it is worth a look. A couple days ago Brian McLaren was in town, and suggested I read the book "Planet of Slums." In it, Mike Davis writes of the rising superstitious and dangerous fears in the Kinshasa slums against children who are presumed to be Witches. Charismatic Churches are theorized to be partially (maybe mostly) to blame. I would not be surprised to find this blame to hit the mark. Who will rise up to stop this insanity?!

Check out the blog post at No More Big Wheels.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

December 12th SynchroBlog

On Wednesday you will find a post on the subject of "Redeeming the Season" here at Square No More. My friends and fellow SynchroBloggers will also be posting on the same subject, but you can not be guaranteed to find a post on the subject of Christmas here.

Redeeming the Season is the Topic for this month's SynchroBlog. Now there are a variety of seasons being celebrated at the end of each year from Christmas to Hannukah to Eid al-Adha and Muharram, from the Winter Solstice to Kwanzaa and Yule. Some people celebrate none of these seasonal holydays, and do so for good reason. There will be a variety of responses to the subject of redeeming the season. From the discipline of simplicity, to uninhibited celebration, to refraining from celebrating, to celebrating another's holyday for the purpose of identifying with them the subject will be explored.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

To Celebrate or Not?

Most people in the world celebrate the holidays of their culture, some do not. For religious reasons Jehovah's Witnesses do not. For religious reasons most other churches do, and many religions have their own Hol[y]days. Still there are others who do not celebrate because of personal choice. Do you have theological or philosophical reasons for choosing to celebrate, or choosing to avoid celebration?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 8): Living in a Pagan World

(Beyond the Pall is a continuing series following missional engagement with the Neo-Pagan community in Salem, MA and beyond. The story began with the death of a friend who was a prominent Witch in Salem. I was a pall-bearer at his funeral, and so this series carries the title with its not un-purposeful similarity to the term “beyond the pale.”)

Photo by Christine Cleere found at The Druid NetworkWe were six in number. They were 250. I've been out numbered by far larger odds in ministry outreach settings before, but these numbers were more intimidating for the average Christian than when I was one of 12 Christians among 5,000 Mormons. We were six Christians among 250 Druids. Some pastors would have felt like Elijah among the prophets of Baal. I felt at home and among friends. The five others with me would feel that way at the end of three days.

We offered to hold a Dream Interpretation booth at the Lammas Games. They accepted, and we planned the first few days of our mission trip to join the Druids in South Oxfordshire. Daniel interpreted dreams in Pagan Babylon. Certainly we could try to do so in a Neo-Pagan gathering in Britain.

We arrived early, and found a campsite location in the afternoon shade. We helped haul the roughhewn wood, and put our hands to building the stage. We got to know the leaders of the event, and then we built our own booth from the same roughhewn lumber.

From our shady location we could watch all the happenings for the event. The food and ale were to the left of us, and ferret racing was near the stage directly across from us. The sound system was powered by two stationary bicycles, which volunteers took turns pedaling.

In the center of the event a circle was formed with eight tall flags. This would be the location of the ritual at the end of the day.

As people began to fill the site, we interpreted dreams for a few. Others simply wanted to know what we were doing there. They heard we were Christians, and asked us how it was that we could attend the event. Each time this question was asked, I asked in return, "do you think Jesus would avoid coming here?" Of course, no one thought that Jesus would have avoided the event, and we began to wonder how it was that Christianity and Jesus were not perceived in the same light.

As the day wore on, a small cadre of vendors and attendees began to gather around us. They sat and talked with us, and shared their life stories. With some regularity, people shared their interest in, and sometimes even their love for Jesus, but their dislike, and wholesale rejection of Church and Christianity was evident. Again we wondered how Jesus and Christianity became so detached from one another in the eyes of those outside the church.

Our little troupe was relatively comfortable in this strange setting of hippies, spear chucking, the mention of Pagan deities, and ale drinking. The booth next to us heard me play my guitar and sing. They asked if I was joining the competition for the "Spear of Lugh." The holder of the Spear of Lugh would stand as the Druidic Bard for the year. I put my five pound entry fee into the pot, assuming that a Christian Pastor would not be allowed to hold the Spear of Lugh, and become the Druidic Bard, but it would be fun to perform for a large gathering of Druids nonetheless.

In the late afternoon, a ritual was held. They formed a circle and gave thanks for the events of the year, for the giving of the harvest, for the gentle breezes, for the warmth of the sun, and for the rains. They laughed about the rains, because floods had happened all across the UK that year. They called to the East, South, West, and North, but nothing in their gathering required a person to declare allegiance to Pagan gods or goddesses. It was simply a remembrance, and celebration of life. A few of us from the missions trip joined the circle, and gave thanks with them.

In the early evening, while the sun was still fairly high in the sky the eisteddfod began. The eisteddfod was the competition of musicians and poets. The current holder of the Spear of Lugh, the first Bardic champion of the games, and a leader of the Druid Network sat as judges. The crowd gathered in the circle of flags, and faced the stage. Poets recited, and musicians sang - some quite professionally, and others joyously in need of a shepherd's crook, or a final buzzer. Much like a church talent contest it had a wide range of skills.

When my turn came, I sang a song about a Gargoyle. I wrote it in response to seeing the cathedrals in the UK some years before. Its theme was that of a mysterious message long forgotten by people, despite the fact that they walk under its shadow every day - a bit like the Gospel itself. Treeman, and Spacegirl thought that I most certainly would be the winner, even though we had been bantering in good jest about who was going outperform whom.

In the end Treeman won, and our little cadre of Pagan friends felt I got shafted. I smiled knowing that a Christian Pastor holding the Spear of Lugh for a year would be a weird experience.

Later that night we sat around the fire with our new Druid friends. People were drinking, and songs were sung, stories told, and poems recited. Everyone got involved, and we laughed, and sometimes we cried, and somehow our little Christian troupe felt strangely at home.

In the morning Paul was still sitting by the fire. He kept it burning all night as the tradition warranted. Paul had been the winner of the Spear of Lugh and the Bard for the previous year. I learned that Paul was a Druid, and a Mormon. He shared how he had been a Christian minister at one time, and that I had encouraged him to return to prayer, and to considering ministry once again. I smiled, and wondered how a person could be a Mormon, a Christian Minister and a Neo-Pagan Druid. He smiled, and I am sure he wondered how an Evangelical Christian Pastor could hang out at the Lammas Games.

As we left the Lammas Games to travel to our next location we considered how this event would change our reading of the New Testament. We were among the few people in America who would read the writings of St. Paul, and know exactly how he felt when he spoke of struggling over eating meat offered to idols, and dealing with the celebration of Pagan holydays. Paul the Apostle lived in a Pagan world, and if only for just a few days - so did we.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Greed and Bitterness: Why Nobody's Got it Right About Money and The Church

This month's SynchroBlog is a variety of thoughts on Money and The Church. These are two hot topics. They both engender feelings of love and hate in people. Money is both needed and detested - loved one moment, and despised the nexxt. Church is increasingly becoming a topic like money - both loved and despised. Put the two topics together and it goes nuclear.

So here are some thoughts about paid ministry:

For years, the churches I have pastored have been rubbing shoulders with the House Church Movement. Many poeple involved in the House Church Movement believe that one of the primary problems with the IC (Institutional Church) is paid ministry. Now the logic involved in their opinions is clear, concise, persuasive, and not wholly Biblical - but not wholly unbiblical either. Paul's work as a tentmaker is used as a model, and his observations on paid ministry are often ignored.

Yet, the abuse of paid ministry positions in large churches, and television ministries has been a scourge on Christianity, adn greedy ministers have abused scriptural passages such as 1 Timothy 5:17 ("Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.") to justify living ostentatiously.

Somewhere between the two extremes is the answer perhaps, or maybe the answers are independently determined by human hearts. A bitter heart holding unforgiveness towards greedy preachers, and demanding a new law of financial accountability may be no better off in the eyes of God than a greedy heart looking for riches from the free Gospel of the Kingdon of God.

That's what I think. What about you?

SynchroBlog Links: Money and The Church

What happens when you put two taboo subjects together and discuss their relationship with each other? Find out by following the links to this month's SynchroBlog. Money and Church is the topic. Do you think they belong together? or is it a problem when they meet? Follow the links, and watch the fur fly!

Here's who's in so far:

The Check That Controls at Igneous Quill
Pushing The Camel: Why there might be more rich people in Heaven than in your local Church at Fernando's desk
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz at Hello Said Jenelle
Zaque at Johnny Beloved
Walking with the Camels at Calacirian
Greed and Bitterness: Why Nobody's Got it Right About Money and The Church at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Wealth Amidst Powers at Theocity
Money and the Church: A Fulltime Story at The Pursuit
But I Gave at Church at The Assembling of the Church
Moving Out of Jesus Neighborhood at Be the Revolution
Money and the Church: why the big fuss? at Mike's Musings
Coffee Hour Morality at One Hand Clapping
Bling Bling in the Holy of Holies at In Reba's World
Magazinial Outreach at Decompressing Faith
Money's too tight to mention at Out of the Cocoon
Bullshit at The Agent B Files
The Bourgeois Elephant in the Missional/Emergent Living Room at Headspace
When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories
Who, or What, Do You Worship at at Charis Shalom
Greed at Hollow Again
Silver and Gold Have We - Oops! at Subversive Influence
The Church and Money at Khanya
Tithe Schmithe at Discombobula

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Next SynchroBlog - Thursday, November 15th

Want to join the growing list of people who post on the same subject on the same day in order to take over the world with their thoughts? Okay, this is your opportunity to join us. We are going to be posting on the subject of Money and the Church this Thursday, November 15th.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Defining Emergent Continues

Scott McKnight, Mark Driscoll's critiques, and now Darrin Patrick have tried to define this still new, always changing motley crew of edgy churchy people. I suppose I am one of the notley crew under some definitions. Anyway check it out at Emergent Village.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Northwest and Church Attendance - Urban Myth?

So, here I was driving around the thick suburban neighborhoods just north of Seattle with my friend Christian. Everything looks like Starbucks up there. I have been told for years that the Northwest is the most unchurched region of the U.S. Yet as we drove around large churches popped up out of the landscape like freckles on a redhead boy's face. There were storefront churches, and buildings which looked like real churches, and mega-churches meeting in warehouse type buildings, and signs pointing the way to newer churches meeting in schools. This looked like heaven for the church goer. We don't have nearly the number of churches in my city, or any of the cities surrounding Salem. So what's up? Is this an urban myth? A set of old statistics needing a recount, or just bad statistical techniques? Or was I in an anomalous region of the Northwest? Whatever the story - it was a surprise to me. Whadayathink?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Christian/Pagan Dialogue

I am just getting to some of Halloween Season updates - check out the info on the Christian and Pagan Dialogue with John Paul Jackson, Fiona Horne, Christian Day, and Myself.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

An Evening with Spencer and Tod, and PresbYmergent and Karen Sloan

So, last night I did a session with The Oozy guy Spencer Burke. We were at the Cascade People's Center in Seattle. Wow, it was fun! The water reclamation pump kept making noise behind me, and it reminded me of coolness of the place. They were recycling their water for use in the sinks, and toilet. Each time I heard the pump, I thought, "I like this place." Tod Hunter spoke about his view of what's happening in church - he runs Alpha for the US, and use to be the president of the Vineyard Churches in the US. Those are some deep credentials. He and Spencer did a question/answer interview thingy for about 45 minutes, then I did the same thing with Spencer. Spencer is Mr. SoCal Cool, so it easy to do these kind of things with him, but it took an interesting turn, because people automatically began to jump in with questions, and from that point it was a question and answer thing going on for the next 45 minutes. Talking about Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft to Christians can be a lively discussion, and this was one in which people were seriously interested in learning to understand Neo-Paganism without being judgmental. What a cool group of people. Fun time. Before the event I was hanging out with PresbYmergent girl Karen Sloan, and her PresbYmergent gang at an Indian Restaurant run by a Greek guy - great edgy Indian food - I had pomegranate chicken - yeah that rocks, simply by the name. After the evening event we went to a Belgian pub with some of the same gang. Broward's in the Fremont District is a Belgian pub with 150 beers on tap. I think it may be Karen Ward's favorite pub.

Catching up on Blogging the Conference

Yesterday afternoon John Smulo and I taught on "Loving Witches and other missional mythbusters."

It was a one hour and 10 minute workshop. John is so good, so smart, so gentle. It was fun teaching with him. Both John and I are finding people who know about us, and have been wanting to meet us. This world of blogging is a major reason for this.

The workshop went well. It was a very receptive group. Some of them had friends, and loved ones who were in Wiccans, or Pagans, and weren't sure how to deal with it, but for the most part understood that they needed to remain accepting, and loving. Others were simply wondering how to relate to the Pagan community, although they did not know any Witches. As is the always the case they will discover that they do know Neo-Pagans. Regularly, John and I discover that we train people about beliefs of Neo-Paganism, and then when the Christians walk away from the time, they discover in a short amount of time that Wiccans, Druids, or Pagans in their neighborhood, or workplace, and they had never realized it. They actually become excited, and honored to discover that their Pagan friends are willing to "come out of the broom closet" to them - this is the way it ought to be. Christians should be like Jesus, Who is someone we can all feel like we can come out to.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Richard Twiss Quote - He Cracks Me Up

"When I became a Christian I was told that 'old things are passed away and all things became white.'" Oh man, this guy rocks. I will say once again - I want these native Americans to come to Salem in October!

First Night and Morning at Off the Map

Wow, Jim Henderson runs a cool event! Good jazz, indie hard rock, and short interviews with Brian McLaren, Richard Twiss, Rose Swetman, Tod Hunter and others. I was interviewed last as "and now for something quite a bit different, this guy is from Salem - yeah that's right THE SALEM, Massachusetts, and he makes friends with Witches."

Today John Smulo and I will be teaching a workshop at 3:30 here at the conference, and then tonight I will be at another venue with Spencer Burke and Tod Hunter.

People I met so far:

Richard Twiss - wow, what an intelligent, funny character. I want the native Americans to come to Salem this next Halloween.

Sherman adn Sidell Bradley - This is an amazingly talented black couple from Cinicinnati. We had a wonderful discussion about their ministry, and the divide between black and white America. I have a lot to learn from them. He is one smart, and passionate fellow, as is Sidell also - and dang! she can really sing.

Spencer Burke - Met him for a few moments, and will do the Friday evening with him - cool beans.

Brian McLaren - I had breakfast on Friday morning with Brian, and got a ride to the conference with him. I was so pleasantly surprised at his interpersonal skills. he cares about people, and what they believe. He is a great listener, and wonderful in dialogue. Oh yes! that is what a minister of the Gospel should be like.

Hanging a little with Jim Henderson - rode with Jim to and from the conference on Thursday evening. I just love hanging with Jim. My favorite moment: Jim said, "Preachers with great oratory skills often are not good with personal relationships. I think this might be because they spend their time learning to speak to large groups, and don't learn to deal with individuals..." (pause followed by the next thought) "maybe I'm being too generous, and they are really just asses." I said, "Yeah that's what I was thinking."

Talking at the hotel bar with Christina from Pittsburgh - She was with her business friends who were at a meeting dealing with power company business. We talked about Salem, Halloween, Witches, and then the Kingdom of God. I would not be surprised to see her visit The Gathering next Halloween. She was really interested in what we were doing.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Celtic New Year! from Seattle Area

So here I am in Kirkland, WA getting ready to go to the Off the Map Conference. JJ the Smu made it, so we will be able to teach the workshop together. I bumped into Helen Mildenhall in the foyer of the hotel a few minutes ago, and JJ the Smu and I who are rooming together will head to the Conference location - a Foursquare Church, mind you, in about an hour to get orientated for the conference.

I will get interviewed for a few minutes tonight by Jim the Master Interviewer. Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 I will teach a workshop on "Making Friends with Witches and other Missional Mythbusters" (or some title like that) with JJ the Smu, and then Friday night I will be involved in some kind of interview event with Spencer Burke of The Ooze fame.

JJ the Smu will be live blogging - we're not sure if it will be on his website or the Off the Map site yet.

I will be adding stories from our October in Salem to this site, and to the church blog as well over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Samhain is Here!

It's the Celtic New Year - Samhain - Halloween! I will be busy, busy, busy in downtown Salem, MA today. If you want to find out more about what we are up to, I will keep periodic updates going at The Gathering Blog Site.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Get John Smulo to Off-the-Map

John and I are supposed to teach together at the Off-the-Map conference. Well word out is he needs help to get there. Wanna Help? Check out the help call, and see if you have a few bucks to help.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 7): A Day with Dennis

It was October in Salem. It was now eight months since my friend the Witch had died. It was also the season when the occult trade took on a decidedly more noticeable place in the marketing strategies of our fair city. Our small city of 40,000 people hosts twelve or thirteen withcraft shops, and the windows were brimming with occult wares like toy stores stocked for the Christmas rush.

In the ninth October of ministry during Salem's month long Haunted Happenings events, we now had over a hundred volunteers. The members of our own small church, interns from a prophetic school of ministry, groups from other churches in the area, musicians, and people who travelled from as far away as California joined us to "do the stuff" in our wildly fun city during this season in which families visited to celebrate the costume season, and spiritual seekers came from distant lands to pursue an alternative spirituality.

I taught classes on understanding Neo-Paganism to people who visited to do evangelism in our unique gentle style. We held events specifically aimed at offering fun, yet significant experiences to visiting tourists. We served free hot cocoa on the streets, and provided seven days of live music on the city's largest outdoor stage which we paid for, and sponsored and ran.

During this unbelievably busy season Dennis joined us from rural mid-state New York, and stayed at our house for a week. We prayed together. We practiced the ancient art of scripture meditation called Lectio Divina. We wandered around town and visited some of the Witches I knew, and I taught Dennis what I had learned over the last 13 years of studying, and befriending Witches.

Dennis had come with expectations of discovering a new way to do evangelism after having felt ineffective over most of the course of his 23 years as a Christian. The year before he heard about our outreach in Salem, MA, and his heart had been stirred to visit us.

One afternoon Dennis and I were doing Dream Interpretation (pretending to be like Daniel of the Bible) at the church. As we were interpreting dreams, a man in a long black cape, and some convincing looking vampire fangs entered and patiently waited for us to conclude our session. Vlad was a gothic magician working in the city. He had visited our church once before, and he and I frequently spoke on the street. When we were done, Vlad asked if I could visit one of the local Witches, who had become quite frustrated, and was apparently in some state of frenzy that day.

"Pastor Phil, he respects you, and I am sure he will listen to you." Vlad said.

When we were free, Dennis and I made our way to try and help this professional Witch who was working his way toward burnout. I mentioned to Dennis that this had now become a fairly regular event, especially during the busy Halloween season. Dennis was processing this information, which even to myself was a bit bizarre, but to Dennis there was no mental file folder in which to place these strange facts.

Unfortunately, we could not reach this Witch in his shop on our little journey down the street. So we let it be known we were making a friendly call, and went on our way. As we left the store, we were met by another local Pagan shop owner who asked me if I would help bring some peace between some feuding business owners.

"Could you do a miracle?" He asked.

"Sure, what's going on?" I asked in return.

He told of the two business owners: one who ran a haunted house, and another who ran a Witch shop. They were at odds with one another over what he thought was fairly petty issues.

"It would be better for business for all of us if they could get along," he said.

I told him I would give it a try, and as we walked away Dennis laughed with wonder and said, "Two different Pagans have asked for your help and counsel for their friends in the last 20 minutes. This is incredible!"

Dennis spoke to our church on Sunday morning, and this event became one of the highwater marks of his week. The experience was weird and wonderful, and Dennis helped me remember once again for perhaps the thousandth time that my life has become weird and wonderful in the last few years.

Live Music, Free Hot Cocoa!

So, one more year we serve the streets of Salem during Haunted Happenings wth live music, and free hot cocoa. We are now doing seven days of both. The members of The Gathering are the most awesome servants of the Gracious Nazarene I know. Blessings on them all.

Why I Haven't Posted Much Lately...

If you check our church blog at The Gathering Blog you will find our recent events being updated with information on how ourr October outreach is going. That's where my attention has been this month.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Christians and the Pagans Meet for Samhain: October 24th SynchroBlog

Sacred spaces, and sacred times are not terribly important to me. One day is like any other, and one place like another. Some of you reading this will be appalled to hear that the Vatican is no more holy to me than a dumpster. Now this does not mean that I do not appreciate fine Cathedrals, or beautiful Abbeys and Chapels. Rather it means that I believe God can manifest His gracious presence anywhere He so chooses, and He is not impressed by places and times, but instead by humble human hearts.

Okay, so that's what I read in the Book of Isaiah, and I believe it to be so.

"Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,"
Says the Lord.
"But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word."

Yet, human hearts often attach greater importance to one place, or time over another, and I believe that there is a God in this universe Who loves people so desperately that the Divine presence of love, grace, and power will appear to those who yearn for it. Sometimes that search for God in sacred times and spaces yields results not because God honors the place, but the yearning hearts which go there.

So it is that the Spirit of Truth appears on Halloween. People come to the evening of Samhain (pronounced Sow (like cow)-en) believing that the veil between the worlds just might be thinner on this night. They seek like they have not sought before, and perhaps - just perhaps the God of the universe peeks through the veil, and says hi.

Of course, all across my country Christians will hold prayer meetings, and some will fearfully ward off the evil spirits, which they perceive are forming in more organized cohorts than any other day of the year. Their superstitions concerning holy, and unholy times cause them to anticipate demons forming pacts of allegiance against the churches on this one day in the season. Meanwhile, the Witches and Pagans I know celebrate in hopes of touching the other world - that place of gods, goddesses, and spirits of the departed. It is not a place I choose to seek, but I wonder how different it is than my own desire to reach the Unseen God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ - that is at least from a human level.

They want health. I want health. They want hope. I want hope. They want peace. I want peace. They want their needs fulfilled. So do I. From this simple human perspective we seek the same things. I seek them in Jesus, and I believe that He is the only way to the Father Who loves me. They seek these things through other names, and deities, and it may be that they experience divine goodness from Him they do not know, but Who loves them as much as He loves me.

I do not fear Halloween, but enjoy it. Before I was a Pastor it was simply another day. After I became a Pastor, Halloween became a day in which the veil between people became the thinnest. People were happy, and celebrated in costume. In costume they felt a little freer. They opened their doors to strangers and gave gifts, and knocked on my door and looked for gifts. They did things in family units, and they were open to things unseen. It became a day when the veil between us was thinner.

Now I live in a city where we have a whole month of Halloween. The veil between Christians and Pagans sometimes becomes thicker during this season, because Christians superstitiously fear this day, and the Pagans who celebrate it. I find that this month becomes thinner between myself and my Pagan friends. I am working to make this a time when the veil between the worlds becomes thinner, and they are working for the same thing. We may not agree on how it is done, or on Who we seek, but we do seek blessing together, and in this place we meet, and the veil between us gets thinner. Perhaps the veil to finding the Father will as well.

"Up rises awen from Samhain to Samhain. The spirit of deity rushes my soul like a storm.
-me ;-)

October 24th SynchroBlog

The October 24th SynchroBlog includes 26 people sharing their thoughts, their experiences, and their expertise on the subject of "A Christian Response to Halloween" (or at least something remotely connected to that idea.) Perhaps not all the writers are Christian, and that is actually even cooler. Please check out these offerings of love, and gore...uh, I mean lore.

The Christians and the Pagans Meet for Samhain at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Our Own Private Zombie: Death and the Spirit of Fear by Lainie Petersen
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
John Morehead at John Morehead's Musings
Vampire Protection by Sonja Andrews
What's So Bad About Halloween? at Igneous Quill
H-A-double-L-O-double-U-double-E-N Erin Word
Halloween....why all the madness? by Reba Baskett
Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent
Hallmark Halloween by John Smulo
Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
Removing Christendom from Halloween at On Earth as in Heaven
Vampires or Leeches: A conversation about making the Day of the Dead meaningful by David Fisher
Encountering hallow-tide creatively by Sally Coleman
Kay at Chaotic Spirit
Apples and Razorblades at Johnny Beloved
Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
Fall Festivals and Scary Masks at The Assembling of the Church
Why Christians don't like Zombies at Hollow Again
Peering through the negatives of mission Paul Walker
Sea Raven at Gaia Rising
Halloween: My experiences by Lew A
Timothy Victor at Tim Victor's Musings
Making Space for Halloween by Nic Paton

Friday, October 12, 2007

Belief and Being: The Scriptures as More Than Mere Fact

Seminaries and Bible Colleges have been teaching us pastors how to defend the historical view of scripture for quite some time. The need for this I am sure is great, especially in the face of the last century's liberal textual criticisms of scripture - particularly the Jesus Seminar.

Yet I can not help but wonder if we have often focused upon technical issues, and lost the heart of the matter at times. Stories of mythic proportions such as the parting of the Red Sea, floating axe heads, and prophets marrying prostitutes to model God's heart for his people carry far more power than being true events. They carry us to places in the spirit, which model life, and guide our intentions, and our dreams. They cause us to reach for the stars, and imagine things beyond our temporal existence with its urges for silly desires. Great stories help build dreams in great people.

My life is different, because I read about Paul's message on Mars Hill, and considered Jeremiah the weeping prophet holding out in Jerusalem until the end. Barnabas' faithfulness to keep training Mark after Paul refused to take him on a mission journey guides my soul, as does Jesus' defense of sinners in the face of legalistic religion.

These are more than true stories to me. They carry the power of myth. They call my soul to greater things. Could this be what people need more than they need a way to defend the faith against the rising tide of textual criticism, and excessively liberal theology. Could it be that people need the the scriptures to live, before those same words can live in them?

I am not suggesting we give up the fight for defending the veracity of the Bible, but I am suggesting we find ways to make the stories live in our hearts.

How Noble is the Nobel? Gore Scores Big.

As expected, Al Gore gets the nobel for his work on global warming education, and ... er, movies. Some people are not at all impressed. Others are totally excited and already casting their presidential votes before he makes a move to run.

So the right says the nobel committee is wrong, but what do you think? Is the nobel prize about more than accurate science, true peace, and honorable hard work to improve the world? or does it have a politcal agenda? Some think it does.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bush, the Dalai Lama, and the Congressional Medal of Honor

So, here is the President of the U.S. meeting with the Dalai Lama. He might get some heat over the meeting. China doesn't like it, because the Dalai Lama is the "leader of a separatist state" - Tibet. This will be the first public meeting with the Dalai Lama by any U.S. President. So, the Prez gets in trouble for meeting with leaders of other religions.

Do you think the congressional medal is deserved? Do you think the "Christian President" is doing the right thing, and sending the right message?

Personally. I like it. What about you?

Next Synchroblog - Wednesday, October 24th

The upcoming topic for the next SynchroBlog is "A Christian Response to Halloween." Want to join the conversation, and the pontification? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One of 100 - In John Crawford's Book

I received a book in the mail today. It came to me free because I wrote a few pages of the book.

John Crawford compiled a book of 100 Pastor's profiles from around the US, and including a few other countries. The Pastors were categorized by denomination, or in some cases non-denomination. Due to our unique relationship with that denominational issue, we were categorized toward the end of the book under "Special Interest Part 1." I suppose that's an accurate gauge of our situation.

The way the book worked was like this: He wrote and asked if Pastors would like to participate. Those in the book responded affirmatively. Then he sent some specific questions, and we replied. Our replies and his questions are in the book.

On Sunday evening the 21st, John Crawford will be at The Gathering to tell us more about the book, and the publishing industry, and of course to sell books.

Hey come on down - Sunday the 20th at 6pm at The Gathering.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Belief and Being: Myth Transforming Life

I was in Junior High, and I read Tolkien for the first time. First, I read the Hobbit - in one sitting, on a Saturday while camping at the beach in Carlsbad, CA. Then the Lord of the Rings quickly followed. One character who took up a mere single chapter of the trilogy expanded to mythic proportions for me. I identified with the colorfully dressed, singing, dancing, carefree character who seemed to be dropped parenthetically into the middle of the book. When the ring twirled around his finger, he did not disappear like others, but even more powerful to the story, he did not care for the ring, and did not want to keep it. In fact, he knew that he would care so little for it, that eventually he would lose it, and that would be bad for the rest of the world, which balanced on the precipice of power struggles circling around this ring of power.

I wanted to be like Tom Bombadil. I wanted to leap carefree through a world of struggle and war, and have no consideration for the petty battles of men and their enemies.

Within the next few years I read Evangeline Walton's Tetralogy of the Mabinogion, and found myself identifying with the faithful and courageous Pwyll, who although taking on the form of another King for a whole year, and being told that everything in the Kingdom was his for that time, refused to sleep with the King's beautiful wife. The steadfast integrity and faithfulness of Pwyll captured my heart, and became a part of my own heart's desires. I also read of the warrior who laughed in battle, and as a freshman in High School thought that this was an attribute I wanted to make my own - to laugh in the face of war.

To greater and lesser degrees these things were part of my own personality, which I chose to embrace early. They were engrained more deeply, or perhaps awakened by myth. Myths as these carry power to transform. Stories larger than life activate my heart to dream large, and romantically engage with the dragons and monsters which war against my soul.

I wonder how actively we find the stories, and the history of scripture capturing our hearts like these myths captured mine while I was young? I have found myself dreaming in Biblical proportions, even like I dreamt in mythic proportions as a youth. In doing so perhaps I have captured the sense of the magic of myth, and applied it to the scripture. There is a reason we use the term "Biblical Proportions." The Bible stories like myth are larger than life. Those larger than life stories call me to something greater, and somehow seem to carry me along with some magic power of life transformation.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Belief and Being: Myth Informing Life

Yep, yep here we go again. Part three to the topic of Belief and Being."

Postmodern spirituality, whatever that really is, must have a Joseph Campbell mythic touch. As Campbell might have told us myth is more important than truth. Personally I do not buy that line, but on the other hand I do not fully reject the importance of myth.

Tolkien has changed my life with myth for the better. To a lesser degree Lewis - strangely even Adams, and Herbert. Almost as powerfully as Tolkien, ancient tales whose original tellers have long been forgotten have moved me through the Mabinogion - myths on one hand thought to be Pagan, and on the other hand thought to be Christian in origin.

The power of these fables is not in true stories told, but in truths being delivered through tales of heros and villians, and of monsters and faeries. Something in the myth stirs the human heart to deeds beyond itself, and moves us to issues of greater value than the span of our life. Average people take on mythic heroism in the shadow of the stories which captivate their hearts.

Myth speaks to our existence, and calls us to be something greater. It awakens us into a fullness of life by causing us to believe that romance has not died.

This is the power of myth found in our childhood stories, and it is the power of myth in ancient Pagan spirituality. Gods and goddesses whose stories are now only partially remembered become hunters and huntresses, virgins and mothers, protectors and healers for the struggles experienced in everyday life. Their stories become a sourcebook of guidance for today's Neo-Pagan.

Comparatively, as Christians we read our Book as a book of true stories, and we often invest our energy in defending its historical veracity. I will never set aside this foundational element of my faith in God - I believe that he interacted with humanity in real events through human history, and many of those events are retold in the pages of my Bible. Yet I have to ask myself "who has the more living faith?": The person who allows a myth to direct their life as a child is enamored and captivated by the fables told at bedtime, and goes on to try and recreate them at playtime, or the intellectual historian who defends the stories of scripture like the accountant who keeps someone else's books?

Somewhere in between these things - or maybe better yet - somehow holding radically to both these positions, I can discover a Belief of Being. In defending my historic faith, and in discovering the power of its tales (like myth) to inform my daily life I find a present reality, and a living faith.

Is this where I discover the meeting place of belief and being?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Belief and Being: The Net Worth of Man, and Our Communication of the Gospel of Becoming

That's right. I am a serial blogger. I tend to get stuck on certain topics, and blog them to death. Other times I reiterate ideas periodically, and create less connected series. I've got my Christian Sexuality series, and my stories entitled "Beyond the Pall," now I am in a second part of what is minimally a trilogy about "Belief and Being." So, if you like being bored to tears by someone investigating all the wrinkles of some specific thought - read on! And thanks for hanging out with me.

In the previous post I wrote about the tendency of Evangelical Christianity to proclaim a "Gospel of Becoming" to those outside the boundaries of the Evangelical faith system. We speak of Hell and judgment, Heaven and happiness, sin and death, and forgiveness and eternal life. These eschatalogical elements of the Christian faith become our heraldic call to those who are not yet part of our tribe.

It would seem that under the assumption that "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God," we only communicate those things which have to do with a person's eternal destiny. (Perhaps not realizing that the topic of Heaven may be one of those subjects which are the "things of Spirit of God," which even a perusal of 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 would suggest.) This potentially exaggerated assumption leaves us with nothing to discuss with those who do not carry our theological positions, except to warn them of impending doom, or offer them a hope of eternal life - and this we call the Gospel.

Heaven is indeed a topic of Good News, but it relates to our future only. Heaven and Hell speak to us of a need for becoming something other than what we are now, and of turning toward a future of promise instead of one of certain doom. This has no reference to the present reality of daily of living, or to the hopes and dreams which reside in the human heart now. It does not speak to my need for significance, or even of realized love in this life. The messages of Heaven and Hell tend to reverberate with subtle hints of intrinsic worthlessness. The message tells some people that without acceptance to Heaven they are merely refuse for the dung heap of eternity.

This at least is how a Gospel of Becoming is received by many people who have heard it. Is it any wonder that the message has been rejected? The idea that humanity is intrinsically worthless is counterintuitive to life itself, and certainly not found in scripture.

Check out just a few passages which say otherwise:

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour."

"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

This passage from Matthew 7:26-27 speaks of a man's life as a house built on a poor foundation, which falls. The fall is "great." This simple reference identifies the intrinisic greatness of humanity.

"But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God."

Here in James 3 we are reminded of the imago dei (the image of God), which every person is created in. Our treatment of one another should be dictated by an understanding of this point.

If the people we communicate Gospel truths to walk away with a sense of worthlessness, could it be that we have communicated a Gospel of 'becoming something other,' and have fallen short of communicating a Gospel of Being?

I am certain that we are working hard to live our faith, and therefore merge our belief with our being, but I am not certain we have learned well to communicate a Gospel of Being. The Gospel of Becoming is a critical message, and one not to be forgotten, but in order to identify with those living with Postmodern, and/or Neo-Pagan reference points, we must communicate a Gospel of present reality, and of being, in order to identify ourselves as part of a caring community working at merging belief and being.

Now what that Gospel of Being looks like is something for other posts. Do you have any thoughts on what a Gospel of Being might look like?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Belief and Being: The problem of communicating our faith

This is the SynchroBlog post for Tuesday, September 25th. The subject is Paganism and Christianity

These are some preliminary thoughts on a subject which I want to study further. I theorize that it may have ramifications for our society at large, whether as a response to postmodern thought, or perhaps even as a response to more general humanistic, or materialistic trends in popular culture. Yet, my consideration of this topic relates directly to the difficulties of cross culture communication between Evangelical Christianity, and Neo-Paganism. At this point I am merely theorizing, and do not have either trend studies and statistics to document, or scholarship resources to act as a guide.

Belief and Being: The problem of communicating our faith

Belief as defined by evangelical Christianity is based primarily in a combination of confidence in an unseen Other, and an eschatalogical hope. This source of faith (faith and belief being used interchangeably here) is otherly, as is the object, and the goal.

"He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

The dual parts of this definition for faith define it as: 1) confidence in the Unseen Other, and 2) a future eschatalogical hope. This model of defining faith is a repetition from the first verse of Hebrews 11.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

The writer of Hebrews, who gives us the clearest definition of faith clearly outlines the dual nature of this critical trait of the Christian character. Faith looks ahead to the future, and faith looks behind the curtain of human experience into the realm of the unseen. Even the most modern definitions of faith (such as those described by Francis Schaeffer or Josh McDowell), which rely upon perceivable facts to determine unseen realities are left with the difficult balance that faith which can be perfectly proven is not faith at all, but simply intellectual deduction.

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"

"For we walk by faith, not by sight"

The fact that Evangelical Christian belief is rooted in a description of an Unseen Other (God), and in a future hope helps to disconnect human emotion from discussions about belief. Evangelical belief is not aimed at self, but at Another. It is not hinged upon a current condition, but is looking forward to a distant and glorious hope. Evangelical belief systems do not define the Christian, but the God in Whom the Christian believes. It does not define the current condition of Christian character, but the eschatalogical hope. Even when the Evangelical speaks of understanding themselves, it may be described as understanding how God (the Unseen Other) sees us in a future perfected state. In this operation of Evangelical faith, belief is potentially disconnected from the present reality of one's character, condition, and sensibility. Even at best Evangelical belief defines who a person will be, and less who they currently are. It is personally descriptive of becoming, more than of being.

Furthermore belief is attached to an immediately accessible, but continuously ongoing process of change.

"Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Evangelical belief is connected to the triad of spiritual tranformations: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Belief accompanies change, and is expected to travel together to the end with personal transformation as its companion.

These characteristics of evangelical belief are a cause for celebration by its adherants, and are discussed with ease. Past failures are overlooked, current desperate conditions are seen as temporary and even hold seeds of beneficial transformation. Pain is eased by hope, and the only solid enemy of faith becomes personal doubt.

Yet for those whose belief is not based in the unseen, and the eschatalogical model of Evangelical Christianity, belief may take on a far more personally invested role.

Within popular culture we are commonly told that we must believe in ourselves. Eschatalogical hope is useless in the world of acheivement. The Unseen Other potentially offers us a source of help, but even that help is defined as serving to bring fulfillment to a more immediate present. Belief is sourced in self, and working to fulfill the moment. Even unseen and futuristic beliefs are discovered by a Kierkegaardian "leap of faith." Personal investment into one's belief is all that exists for some people. Even faith in God is come to by the activity of stepping out beyond oneself.

This self based belief is personal and naturally - self defined. It comes by means of that which is seen, or has been experientially defined. It is an existential reality, and therefore gives definition to one's being. As a culmination of life experiences it defines a person. It is who they are. This belief is less about becoming, and is almost completely about being.

Within the Neo-Pagan movement there are people whose belief systems are accessed by ethnic origin - most popularly, Celtic, Native American and Nordic mythologies in the U.S. Belief systems are defined by ethnicity, and are therefore clearly associated to being. Other Neo-Pagans attach themselves to myths or totemic guides which relate to character traits they find in themselves, and further define their beliefs by their sense of being. Though traces of the evangelical definition of belief in the unseen, or in a future hope may be found in Pagan belief systems, it does not hold the same power to disconnect one's beliefs from one's current condition. A challenge to beliefs is the same as a challenge to self, and an attack on one's legitimacy of being.

As Evangelical Christians, we will regularly be faced with communicating our faith, and consequently challenging the faith of others whose faith defines who they are. Their beliefs are personal, because they are the culmination of life experiences. These differences in the source, and direction of faith create tension in communication of belief systems between the Evangelical Christian and the Neo-Pagan. Evangelical Christianity has the call to proclaim its faith. It is therefore necessary for the Christian to understand that others may receive challenges to their beliefs as attacks against their being. We may well find ourselves in debate contests between those whose faith defines their being, when we think that beliefs are less personal and rooted in a hopeful becoming. For another faith is a personal journey defined by who they have become, and now are. My Evangelical definition of faith tells me it is less personal.

For the Calvinist or Reformed Christian even their faith may not be their own. We did not come to it ourselves, but its source is Him Who gave it. Does this depersonalize belief even further? Personally, I am not a Calvinist, but then perhaps my sense of missiology is partly to blame.

I do wonder if perhaps I have something to learn from the person whose beliefs radically and personally define their being. Could it be that I need to find a balance between a faith describing my becoming, and a faith describing my sense of being? Perhaps, but the practical question is, "How does this inform the discussion of my beliefs with others?"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Synchroblog Links: Paganism and Christianity

Tomorrow: Tuesday, September 25th there is a group of us doing a Synchroblog on the topic of Paganism and Christianity. My post will be coming up next. Follow the links below read what others have to say on the subject.

Belief and Being at Square No More
Matthew Stone at Journeys in Between
Christianity, Paganism, and Literature at Notes from the Underground
John Smulo at
Heathens and Pagans and Witches ... oh my! at Calacirian
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith
Chasing the Wild Goose at Eternal Echoes
Visigoths Ahoy! at Mike's Musings
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
Undefined Desire at Igneous Quill
A Walk on the Wild Side at Out of the Cocoon
Observations on Magic in Western Religion at My Contemplations
Tim Abbott at Tim Abbott
Spirituality and the Zodiac: Stories in the Cosmos at Be the Revolution
Rejection, Redemption, and Roots at One Hand Clapping

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Join Me at Off the Map Live

Where will I be November 1-3
Speaking at Off The Map Live

John Smulo and I will teaching a workshop called "Making Friends with Witches and other mythbusters."

If you can make it please come and join me.

Karen Ward told me she owes me a good beer, and that there's a nice Belgian styled pub nearby her place in Seattle - cool. (She joined us at Salem Beer Works during our "God for People Who Hate Church Conference.")

Check out the website

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interpreting By Day What God Speaks By Night

My friend Steve Maddox told me he was setting up outreach events at Borders Books. He arranged to offer free dream interpretation, and would spend the afternoon at Borders talking to people about their dreams.

I thought to myself, "I can do that."

Over the years people would share their dreams with me, and then ask what I thought they might mean. Often I would be rather dumbfounded that they asked, because any dream which had some sense of divine meaning (which certinaly is not all of them!) seemed so obvious to me. If dream interpretation was something which came natural to me, perhaps it was a gift - like Daniel who was able to interpret dreams better than all the kings magicians and astrologers.

Five years earlier I had been at a pastor's conference. Ed Silvoso was the main speaker, and I happened to sit with him at breakfast one morning of the conference. Ed and I talked. I told him my story: how I moved to Salem, Massachusetts from California to plant a church, how I had studied about Neo-Paganism, and how I had come to know some of the Witches in our city as friends. Ed remarked that Daniel was assigned the position as the chief of the occultists in Babylon by the king, because he did "the stuff" better than they did. Daniel was the head pastor of the Witches, he said.

After breakfast Ed spoke at the morning session. He retold my story to the conferencees, and told a room full of over 500 of my peers that I was a pastor to the Witches in Salem, like Daniel was a pastor to the Witches in Babylon. He spoke in a prophetic tone, the kind which only comes from Pentecostals.

Until recently I did not realize how much these two stories have merged into one long, wild tale.

I am convinced that my friends who are involved in the occult yearn as deeply for the graceful power which comes from God's good hand as I do. Healing, miracles, and prophetic utterances of promise and grace are things they want for their own lives just as much as I do. Of course, their pursuit of these things has taken a different path than my own, but perhaps like Daniel, there is power in my journey with Jesus, which can speak gracefully into their lives.

I thought about interpreting dreams like my friend Steve was doing at Borders Books as I was preparing for the month long Halloween season in Salem, and I decided it was time to give this a try.

We made up our signs. We put out our tents. People began to stand in line, just like they do every year we set out our ministry tents.

One evening close to Halloween itself, a young man in an elegant, long black ceremonial cape stood in line with his friends. I had trained a few people to interpret dreams that year, and was taking a break from the tent, and keeping the line outside the tent door happy. The caped man and I began to talk. He discovered I was a pastor, and we discussed the differences between his Pagan path, and my Christian worldview in friendly terms. For the most part I asked questions, and he answered them. He believed the spiritual realm was a helpful, friendly place. If he asked for guidance and help it would not lead him astray.

After talking for some time, he asked about the dream interpretation, and wondered if I interpreted dreams. I told him I did. He told me his dream.

He and his friends were in Red Rock, Colorado. It is a New Age "hot spot," a natural amphitheater, and beautiful concert venue. After some time of being there, black helicopters came racing over the hills, and began to shoot at he and his friends. Some of them died. Others were severly wounded. He and one other friend were able to escape into nearby caves, and hide from the helicopters. Then the dream ended.

"What do you think this means?" he asked.

I looked at him, and paused simply because my response was one of importance. Then I said, "The spiritual realm is not always benign, sometimes it is malignant and harmful."

The young man gasped out loud. His eyes opened wide, and he said, "You are so right!"

I had not thrown Bible verses at him to prove from a scriptural standpoint that demons existed, and spiritual deception was real. This was a young man who had studied religions, and understood many of the basics of Christianity. He had rejected the Christianity he was familiar with, and adopted another religious view, but his rejection of the Bible did not mean that he rejected all spiritual voices. He took stock in his own dreams, and that evening his dreams and my Christian worldview met.

Where he would not listen to the Bible, he would listen to his dreams, and the God Whom I believe wrote the words of scripture had visited his head by night.

Since that evening I have wondered how many non-Christians are visited by God in the night. After four seasons of interpreting dreams I have discovered that there are more people visited by God than I can possibly know. Perhaps He comes in dreams, perhaps in life experiences, or perhaps in words of power and grace. He visits them by night, and I believe that He waits for us to help interpret the wild variety of those visitations by day. I also believe that He is giving us the charisma to do so, and to speak prophetically into their lives.

I have had Witches call me late at night to ask my advice, and guidance in times of trouble, but I do not think that I am anything special. I believe that there are more Daniels out there. There are more pastors to the people who are not found in our churches, but are still looking for God's guiding voice to speak into their lives.

What We'll be Up to Next Month

Small Emergent Churches? Is this the future for what we call Emergent?

I am a proponent of intimate church settings. Often that translates as small, but certainly not always. Bill Easum who travels as a church consultant and sees a lot of churches says that he sees small experimental Emergent churches in the future of the church, but also a need for "giga-churches."

Here is Bill leaving a comment on a blog. This was noted by Steve Knight over at Emergent Village who was asking the question "What are Emergent Churches doing to reproduce themselves?"

I wonder that too, and of course I wonder about myself in that respect.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Binge Drinking in the UK

Now Prof Carlos Z. and I got a good picture of binge drinking since we were hired for an evening to do security at Maes B (the Youth Field) Concert while we were at the Eisteddfod in North Wales. This article about binge drinking in the UK seems a bit off target to me. If the professor in Aberystwyth really thinks that the problem is in the media hype.

Now perhaps there has been a bit of an over concern by teetoddlers in evangelical circles in Wales from time to time, but the Prof Carlos Z. and I saw a large number of underage binge drinkers, and nobody doing anything about it. In fact parents appeared to chalk it up to some kind of rite of passage. Great rite of passage for an underage teenage girl at an event with older binge drinking guys! Maybe the professor should visit a few binging events and rethink his thesis.

Beyond the Pall (Part 6): Pagans in the Pews, and 1692

(Beyond the Pall is a continuing series following missional engagement with the Neo-Pagan community in Salem, MA and beyond. The story began with the death of a friend who was a prominent Witch in Salem. I was a pall-bearer at his funeral, and so this series carries the title with its not un-purposeful similarity to the term “beyond the pale.” This story comes from our "God for People Who Hate Church Conference back in May. Some of you may have been there for this event.)

Three women sat nervously in the back of our little church in Salem, Massachusetts. Church was not a place they frequented, and a Christian conference was not something they would have ever considered attending, but I had personally invited them, and they agreed to give the event a try.

Could it be that the memory of the Witch trials of 1692 still lingered, and left the smell of death over our city? Or were there more recent memories, which haunted these women's minds, and made church a scary place to these three Witches sitting in the back row.

In the break between the sessions, we discussed issues close to their hearts. John Smulo and I talked, asked questions, and tried to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

The first woman was a Witch in her mid-fifties, and she had been one for over twenty years. She owned a Witchcraft shop, and trained people in the craft, but she had not been raised as a Witch. She was raised in an Irish Catholic home. She remembered threats of Hell, and never quite identified with what seemed to be the cruel God of Catholicism. She knew that some Christians believed she was a baby sacrificing, Satan worshiper, but she assured me that she did not even believe in the existence of Satan, and had raised her own children. She told stories of people asking her what babies tasted like, and how many cats she had sacrificed.

The second woman was in her early thirties, and identified herself as a solitary Witch. This meant that she did not have a coven, and did not gather on any regular basis with other Witches. She did not care to practice spells, and simply performed a daily ritual which sounded like a session of silent prayer. She did not grow up in a Christian home, but she did work for a large Christian Book Company. She was appalled by the hypocrisy, judgmentalism and gossiping of her Christian co-workers, and had wondered for quite some time if this was the typical state of the Evangelical Christian faith.

The third woman was Jewish, and in her mid-thirties. She was not actually a Witch, she was a Druid. She was raised as an Orthodox Jew, and went to Hebrew school when she was young. After a series of spiritual searches beginning in her late teens which included Christianity, and Buddhism, she found herself drawn to Druidism, and now owned a small Celtica store in town. She was strongly polytheistic, and thought that Monism (the belief that everything is one), and its counterparts, which for her includes Monotheism were part of the problem of violence and struggle in our world.

All three women thought that it was preposterous that Christians believed that Witches and other occult practitioners made a regular practice of cursing churches, or Christians. "I don't even have time for that kind of nonsense," the first woman remarked.

The end of the break came, and it was time for the next conference session to begin. John and I were leading the discussion panel, and so I began with a short introduction, "This is what a Witch looks like. Is it what you expected?" The attenders at our Christian conference laughed.

Now it was their turn to tell their stories, and relate their struggles of living as Neo-Pagans in a predominantly Christian world.

Many Christian churches would be afraid to allow a discussion panel with people from other religious beliefs, but we weren't one of those churches. We believe listening and learning are as critical to the Gospel as preaching, and this was our opportunity to show our beliefs in a practical way to our Neo-Pagan friends.

After an hour and a quarter, we were done with the session. The three Pagan ladies thanked us for allowing them to share their lives, and the first woman who had been practicing the craft as a professional in Salem for almost twenty years said this event was the first of its kind she knew of in the city.

The church applauded. The applause rang with appreciation for their courage to sit before us, and tell their stories. I wondered if this had happened in any other evangelical Christian Church anywhere.

Could it be that Christians in Salem had lived side by side with Pagans since the inception of the Neo-Pagan revival (which began in the late 1960's), and never really knew what they believed, and what they were like as people? Apparently, it is possible, and we were wondering how effective it has been in reaching people with the message of God's love.

Does the smell of death from 1692 still linger over our city, and is this what makes dialogue so difficult? I think not, but perhaps the false reports of baby eating, Satan worshiping Pagans does infect the minds of some church goers, and that stench of death just might be enough to keep Pagans from the pews.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ken Silva Responds Without Really Saying Anything ;-)

Ken Silva has responded to my previous post on his blog sites. I guess they are not really dialogue blogs, because he leaves comments for people to read, but I can't find a place to respond. He simply says that I have responded in an "emergent kind-of-way." I am supposing he means that I am anticipating dialogue, and asking for more of a response, but he does not accurately, or accurately respond to my comments.

Here's your chance Ken. Defend your attacks on the Emergent Church, and show how I fit into those same heresies you identify.

I thought this may be a fun exercise. I will be leaving for home from London tomorrow, so this will give you a few days to respond sufficiently, and with more than one of those "if you don't know what [that] is in the first place, then how could you be sure you're not moving toward it?" remarks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ken Silva Calls Me Out - The Gathering as Clueless, Blind Guides

Thank You to our buddy Zaque for calling our attention to this post by anti-emergent church fellow Ken Silva. Ken is living in New Hampshire, so I will need to visit him someday soon - well, after returning from France, and the UK.

He noticed that we held our "God: For People Who Hate Church Conference" back in May and decided to respond to it, and even to link to one of the dialogues.

Now he responded to the dialogue, which can be downloaded here, with these words:

"Although these people are currently spiritually clueless they do know the repainted social gospel and theology, such as it is, of the emerging church quite well. But the tragic truth is we are not dealing with the orthodox Christian faith here. No; rather this is a mish-mash of things roughly related to Christianity which they simply pick and choose by their own existential and highly subjective feelings about what they think God might be doing.

After listening to this the discerning Christian will hear the Voice of the Great Shepherd say – “Leave them; they are blind guides.”"

You can find Ken Sliva's daitribes against anything even remotely Emergent (which tag I am not sure I fully fit) at this website. He is sure that I am part of a neo-liberal cult, and with my friends moving toward the "religious bondage of Roman Catholicism."

What do you think?

I tend to think that he has replaced Roman Catholic Bondage (whatever that is) with his own brand of theological, and practical do and don'ts which look even more like the bondage of the law than anything he berates.

I guess this post came out a couple days ago, while our missions team was returning from London, and I was bunking up at Mike and Jules' place.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Greetings from the Fringe

Here we are in Edinburgh Today. I'm sitting in a pub with wireless access near High Street where the action is centered in this combination of over half a diozen festivals which occur in August. My city of Salem could learn a lot from this larger city of Edinburgh, Scotland on how to create a festival - or a series of them over month.

We are on a recon mission to see who we might crash The Fringe in the future. This is one of those locations from which someone could reach the world. Great city - great festival - tons of opportunity to present the Gospel in unique ways.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

O'r Eisteddfod yn Gogledd Cymru - From the Eisteddfod in North Wales

Shwmae Frinddiau,

I am able to access my Blogger account for the first time since being here at the fiirst time since being here in thee UK. The WiFi internet access is desperately slow here on Maes B at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, but perhaps I can get a few words out before I disappear into a kinder, gentler medeival existence once again.

Here's what we have done since being in the UK as of August 3rd:

First we traveled from Gatwick Airport in south London to South Oxfordshire, an area recently in the news for being among the flooding which has occurred in the UK. The Lammas Games were being set up. The Games is a gathering of Druids organized by the Druid Network. We offered to interpret dreams for people for free, and we arrived with no resources to host our space on the event. But help arrived. Our dear friend Stephen Nicholson brought tents to sleep in, chairs, and a table for our set up. We then built our own table from rough hewn logs on the property of Brazier's Park. We then helped set up the stage for the event. The stage was to host a competition for the Spear of Lugh. This would be held for the year by the Druidic Bard.

We did not have many takers for Dream Interpretation during the Saturday of the event, but the few we had were profitable and helpful to people. We did however hold many discussions, and were asked many questions about our faith. People who were raised Christian, but have since embraced alternative spiritualities such as Druidism, and Witchcraft came to ask us questions. They wondered why we were there, sometimes even wondering how we could be there, but after some time we thankful for our presence, and admitted to still admiring (even loving Jesus) although rejecting the Church. We will be continuining to keep in contact with these people in the future. Later that day I competed in the bardic competition. I did not expect to even be considered among the possible winners, because I am not a Druid, but some of the people considered me a crowd favoriet with my song Cum Tacent Clamant, and its Latin chant whicch I taught the crowd.

Later that night we sat raound the fire and swapped tales, and songs, and poetry which Pagans are often known to do, and once again discussions of our faith, and stories of our life in Jesus became the order of the evening. I am so thankful for a team of people who are able mix with a Pagan crowd and feel confortable being themselves, and sharing their life in a manner which is simple, gentle, more like Jesus, and less like the expectations of typical evangelistic campaigning. Kudos to Carlos, Josh, Mizumi, Elizabeth, and Kevin. Each person has their own tales to tell about this event.

On the third day we arrived at Y Gorlan at the Welsh National Eisteddfod late at night. Since then we have been supporting the team of evangelical Christians who run the food service tent on the Youth Field (Maes B), which is an all Welsh Speaking week long concert series. We have been preparing, and serving food at a drunken youth event for the week now. The food tent (Y Gorlan - meaning The sheepfold) is a 24 hour service, and so we are keeping strange hours to help out. I have been working from midnight to 4am, which is the rush hour strangely. No one on this trip has ever seen such drunkenness with so many people all at once, and most of them under age. I warned them that this would be what the Maes B was like, but they were still surprised. It is surrealistic to find this in the middle of an otherwise squeaky clean event which the Welsh National Eisteddfod is, but relationships are developing, and we are able to help those who speak Welsh to do more serve food, but to share their faith with others. The opportunity to reach people here is great, and as of yet relatively untapped, and I hope for great thigns in coming years. I would like to return for next year's event which will be in Caerdydd (Cardiff, South Wales).