"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I am registering for NEXT church in Durham...


sparking imaginations, connecting congregations, and offering a distinctively Presbyterian witness to Jesus Christ

Today, I want to invite anyone who follows my posts or blogs to consider joining the regional NEXT event in Durham next month.  August 18, to be precise.  To learn more or to register go to the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Durham website:  Register for Next Church Durham

I am going because I want to be part of interesting, missional, and vital conversations with colleagues in this region who have compelling ideas, expertise to share, and a witness which inspires.

I am going to hear Franklin and Amanda tell the story of Durham Presbyterian Church.
I am going to listen to Howard Dudley share his love of music.

I am going to hear Erin Mills talk about Youth Ministry.

I am going to hear Mary Katherine Robinson and Katherine Cooke Kerr speak about pastoral care across the generations in our churches.
I am going to hear John Cleghorn tell the story of Caldwell Presbyterian in Charlotte.
I am going to learn about centering prayer from Katie Crowe.

I am going to listen, pray, and seek God's will for my church and our church.

I am going and I hope you will join me.

Some of you may not be sure if you will be welcome there; at least not yet.  Let me tell you that I belong to no affinity group.  I belong to no special interests groups in our church.  I have been to both national Next events and have yet to hear one stump speech supporting any special interest group or any one party at the expense of another in our church.  I don't subscribe to binary conversations about good Christians and bad Christians, liberal Presbyterians and conservative Presbyterians, or us Presbyterians and them Presbyterians.

The deep truth is there is no us and them.  There is really only us.  Disciples of one Lord.  Stewards of one church.  Proclaimers of God's infinite grace.  I truly think that the Spirit of unity, God's Holy Spirit, is calling us in the mid-Atlantic to draw close in prayer and really listen to discern God's future.

My best guess is that we have a better chance of hearing the still small voice, catching a glimpse of whatever new things God might reveal, if there are lots of ears in the room and lots of eyes joined in looking.  Another guess I have is that our ears are tuned for different melodies:  some of us long to hear orthodoxy, some long for service, some for evangelism, some for altruism, some for unity, and some for church growth.  If all those ears with their specific and relative tunings will all join in worship and learning together, well then I suspect we just might hear or see what it is that God is likely to do.

Will it be a perfect conference?  Nope (at least I don't think so - I have directed too many conferences to think it will be seamless).

Will there be moments of uncertainty?  Probably (at least I think so - I have directed too many conferences to think it will be seamless).

Will there be a faithful call longing for a faithful response?  Surely (because that is the promise of Jesus -- 'wherever you go, I go.'  And wherever Jesus might go, we are called to follow.).

I do hope you will join me.  There are no votes taken.  There are no debates held.  You will not hear once more about what makes us different.  But instead, we will learn once more about how we can, through our practices and shared knowledge, be a more inspiring church together.

Fruitful practice: Passionate Worship

Passion is a word that gets a lot of use.

It can, for Christians, allude to the crucifixion:  as in “passion play.”

It can have romantic overtones and under notes:  as in “passionate love story.”

Passion can refer to purpose, vocation, or deep meaning:  as in telling a group of people that the purpose of life is to “find your passion.”

Or, it can refer to commitment, deep commitment:  as in passionately investing and participating in an activity or an event.

When we talk about passionate worship, we are referring to this final usage.  Being invested in worship of God.  Not focused on what is happening around us, but focused upon our activity of devotion.  The words we say.  The prayers we pray.  The songs we sing.  The sacraments we share.  Are we waking up, getting dressed, and thinking -- “Another Sunday, I guess I have to go to church today?”  Or, are we thinking, “I cannot believe I have been given the gift of the opportunity to worship the God who made me, preserves my life, and offers me the means of grace.”  Not simply motioning our way through the experience, but fully, passionately participating in the liturgy and activity of worship as if it were the most important thing in the world to us, right then, right there?  Why do I ask this question?

Well, because worship really is the most important thing we do in any given week.  It is time devoted and dedicated to God for saying “thank you,” “we love you,” and “we honor you.”   And shouldn’t our worship to God be invested, passionate worship?  Robert Schnase writes, “Without passion, worship becomes dry, routine, boring, and predictable, keeping form while lacking the spirit.  Passionate describes an intense desire, an ardent spirit, strong feelings, and the sense of heightened importance.  Passionate speaks of an emotional connection that goes beyond intellectual consent.  It connotes eagerness, anticipation, expectancy, deep commitment and belief.  What each person brings to worship shapes the experience for everyone as much as what he or she finds there.  Passionate worship begins with each worshipping individual.

Worship is something that we all do.  Each of us prays the prayers of worship.  Each of us sings the hymns.  Each of us hears the words of faith and the music of the choir.  And, we hear it as individuals who participate as one body.  Which is a way of reminding us that when we each invest ourselves in worship, our entire church benefits.