Let's Start A Fire!

Mike Angell told me that he was going forward with a national conference for young adult and campus ministry leaders from across the Episcopal Church right after he was hired to his current position. With only 6 months to design and promote before the conference would actually happen, I had my reservations. But those reservations were proven unnecessary.

I’ve just left Minneapolis where around 100 leaders from around the country came together over 4 days for a gathering called, Kindling. Over the years, I’ve been to lots of Christian conferences and I’ve long held the opinion that the hallway conversations, the small, spontaneous groups gathered around drinks were the best aspects of those events. My confidence in the programming is typically low. This isn't to say that some conferences do not at times deliver excellent music, speakers, venues, formats, etc. It's just that it typically doesn't seem to quite scratch the itch I sense in myself and others I connect with in attendance.

Kindling was different.

In full disclosure, I was invited to be a part of the design team. Yet, I still stand by this claim: Kindling pulled off what others have only tried.

Here's why:

Keep calm and carry on.
As I admitted, I was able to help with this event therefore getting a "behind the scenes" look at this event. Often, those that orchestrate such events are riddled with anxiety and worry over any variety of aspects. Those that lead this event exuded a calm and entered into the event as much as those that came simply as attendees. This effects so much for everyone at an event. And we had fun! I've grown tired of Christian conference that take themselves too seriously. I didn't know Episcopalians could have so much fun. But, holy cow we had fun!

The floor is yours!
We used "open space technology" for running our break-out sessions between plenaries. This meant that the conference was able to be responsive to the needs of those gathered. All were invited to have a voice. If you heard a plenary session and needed to talk about something in particular in response, you simply offered a subject, a location and attendees "voted with their feet." I confess that I was a bit anxious about this aspect going in. But with only a few hiccups, this worked out really well for a majority of folks. Better than other attempts I've seen, this brought the "hallway conversations" into a main aspect of the conference programming.

Informal yet sacramental.
It's impossible to please everyone at events like this. We all have our preferences regarding music and worship. But Fran McKendree did a fine job of holding the casual nature of the gathering in balance with the respect and reverence found in this tradition. There was creativity while still embracing the "flow" of Episcopal worship.

And it can't go without adding that Kristen Kane-Osorto, Bianca Vasquez, Tom BrackettRyan Marsh and Anthony Guillen were fantastic speakers.

I want more.
Here's my only regret: I wish more young leaders were there. In my limited experience of two years with this event it has been billed as an event for young adult leaders at a diocesan level and campus ministers. But there's room for lots more leaders! More young leaders still in school and helping lead campus ministries. More young leaders starting new expressions of this tradition. More young leaders in parishes of all kinds.

It was a treat getting to meet so many young leaders doing fantastic work across the country. We all made new friends. And, as Mike put it, it's time to dowse this fire, head back to our own tribes and start new fires.

Amen!



Are We Deaf to Iraqi Christians?

Source: The Dish
While there's been lots of attention given to ISIS in the news, I've heard very little reaction regarding the Christian expulsion and threat of genocide in Iraq. Genocide may seem like a strong term, but that's effectively what the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq has said when interviewed.

Why is that?

Of course, the persecution of any people group is deplorable and unacceptable. But is it not a bit alarming that there is not greater outrage among more Christians concerning what is happening in Iraq? After all, these are people whom we weekly pray and read Scripture alongside across the globe. Especially for those who follow more "liturgical" traditions, patterns. What does it say when we are more apt to feel camaraderie across cultures with those whom we share political views or consumer habits rather than spiritual practice?

This post on The Dish shares a few voices talking about this. I appreciated the questions Timothy Stanley posed. In particular, I appreciated this:

"The reporter John Allen argues that Westerners have been trained to think of Christians as 'an agent of aggression, not its victim' - so we’re deaf to pleas for help." (emphasis mine)

Ouch!

There are conservative Christian groups in the west that talk about the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world quite a bit–like Voice of the Martyrs, for example. But I have to admit, I don't hear progressive Christians in the west talk about this.

Why is that?

Is it politically incorrect for progressive Christians of the west to stand up for Christians in other parts of the world? Is this related to our collective embarrassment over the colonialist practices of previous generations of western Christians? Is it because Christians in other parts of the world don't have the same social agenda as progressive western Christians?

What do you think?

Mead's Evangelism Quadrilateral

Third Space's guest speaker last week shared this diagram from Loren Mead, "Quadrilateral of Evangelism–How do we choose to live our faith?":
Source: Loren B. Mead, 1994, Alban Institute

Along with the "quadrilateral" were these questions:
  • (Rel./Sec.) Do we prefer to seek God in heaven of by bringing God's kingdom to earth?
  • (Ind./Soc.) Do we prefer to seek out God through a personal relationship or our community?
  • How do we choose to live today? How do we think we should?
  • What can we learn from each other?
Too often evangelism is thought to be for extroverts or a particular brand of Christianity. While imperfect, I found this helpful in considering how each of us engage God and the world. I imagine that simply articulating for yourself how you engage makes the conversation about how you approach evangelism easier. The last thing I'll add is that I like that Mead connects "evangelism" with "live our faith." Evangelism is not simply a practice, it's a way of living as Bryan Stone did such a great job of unpacking in Evangelism After Christendom.

Easter People #18: Summer gatherings and pastimes

"Thanks, everyone, for your enthusiasm about the live episode and for your patience with the short hiatus thereafter. The Easter People are back in the saddle and pumped to bring you up to speed on where they’ve been and where they’re going this summer. Hear about the gang’s travel to ... "

Listen here

We Need More Than Selfies!

A couple weeks ago, I posted a "selfie"in support of the "Share the Journey" campaign created by Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Why did I do this?

Because I like to make silly faces in photos.

At least, that's what my daughter has decided.

But, seriously, I did this because as Rev. Gay Clark Jennings recently wrote, "Christians worship a child who fled violence in his home country." I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I believe that the Bible contains timeless and eternal truths. One of which is that my Savior Jesus Christ was an immigrant.

But we need more than selfies!

What's going on along the southern border of the U.S. deeply concerns me. Having lived the majority of my life along this border I fully appreciate the complexity of the issues. Yet, as a father of three children I am crushed by the fact that minors are alone, fleeing violence and poverty only to met by such scorn.

I wrote a piece for our Diocesan website about this issue and did my best to offer ways in which you can respond to this crisis. I hope you'll take the time to read it and engage however you can. In particular, I mention that there is opportunity to volunteer, assisting this refugees. I feel fortunate to be hearing from a number of college students and young adults who are increasingly concerned about this issue and ready to act. So, I am planning to go down to Texas within the next few weeks to explore how and where we can bring young people down to the border to show Christ's love for these kids. If you are interested in joining me get in touch.

Here's a bit of what I wrote this week:
"Over the last few weeks, the news cycle has honed in on the influx of children crossing the U.S./Mexico border. The numbers have been striking! What at first seemed like a 'problem' has grown to a 'crisis.' As our Bishop pointed out, '... when 52,000 child refugees cross the border, compassion wanes and the very real burdens of caring for our neighbor prompt a harsher response.' Predictably, Americans are polarized over this issue, but not necessarily along predictable lines.

As politicians and pundits offer their opinions on what the U.S. government ought to do with the growing number of minors crossing the border, what are Christians to do?

As we consider the question of how our faith informs our response, it can’t be ignored that throughout Scripture there is provision for the pilgrim, the refugee, the immigrant. The Bible consistently points towards identifying with and offering hospitality to the alien and stranger. ..."
Read the rest...

As my boss wrote: pray, give and raise your voice!

NOTE: This video well summarizes the issue:

BCP as Evangelistic Tool

This last year, I devoted a lot of time and emotional energy to our campus ministries. This long standing mission of the diocese is certainly in a liminal space at the moment. I recently wrote an article reflecting on some of things I've taken away from what I've observed since arriving here:
"Last spring, the students at American University couldn’t bear staying inside for their weekly compline service on campus. It was just too nice outside! With BCP’s in tow, they marched out of the chapel and sat down on the steps to pray together. A friend of one of our students walked by at this moment. “Oh, hi!” she said to her friend. “Hi … What are you doing?” was her friend’s reply. “We’re about to pray ... Would you like to join us?” she said with just a tinge of awkwardness. There was a pregnant pause as we all sat waiting to hear her friend’s response. “Um, well, I’ve never prayed before,” the friend answered. Holding out a red book, this young woman responded, “That’s okay. This is like a guide to prayer. All you have to do is follow along. We’ll start here.”"
Read the rest...

Timing Isn't Everything

Image Credit
Timing isn't everything ... and yet it is. We fret over when to start, when to launch that new thing, try out out a new idea, ask that person to partner with you ... we wait for the perfect moment. But here's the truth: there is no such thing as a perfect moment. The best time to start is now. While the idea is fresh, while the energy is high–do it!

Why do we wait? Because we want it to be full proof, we want it to last. But nothing lasts forever and nothing is full proof. Over the last few years of working within larger Christian institutions, I've learned that in such a context the greatest enemy to good ministry ideas are often systems that plan for system safety and system sustainability (the irony being that too often this is exactly what they deter). In response, I've come to a few conclusions for the big question of when to start new ministry endeavors:

Experiment, experiment, experiment! We live in an era in which we need rapid prototyping rather that drawn out planning processes for something "perfect." You don't have all the answers. You'll only find the answers in making attempts at actually doing the thing–whatever that is. The benefit of calling it an "experiment" is that it allows you to fail, abandon what doesn't work and try again without losing all credibility. I like to say, failure isn't an option... it's mandatory. So, start experimenting.

I'm getting into the idea of 90-day experiments. Ninety days gives you enough time to set a goal, a deadline and either reach that goal ... or not! And it's okay if you don't, it was an experiment! Even if you've got just the smallest notion of a brilliant idea, ninety days is enough time to tinker with that initial notion in practice. After ninety days, you debrief, take what you've learned and try again. Overtime, you'll find what sticks–what works for you, your context. But fair warning: I can't over-emphasize the importance of debriefing. Make space to learn from what you've done. How do you know it failed? How do you know it succeeded? Document it. Discuss it. And then get to work trying again.

Here's another thing I've learned–and certainly the hard way: don't go at this alone. Find a partner, a collaborator, a helper. It's hard to reflect, debrief on whether or not something is a success on your own. Involving others at least ensures you have greater perspective. And you need others to help keep the energy up when yours is low.

So, when is the best time for starting something? Now!