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.