Against the Powers

October 31, 2013

A long-overdue return to the topic of this particular conference I attended in 2009. Previous entry here. The plenary sessions left me with a lot to chew on, and I may as well acknowledge that I’m still trying to take it all in. There were three speakers: Walter Wink, Stanley Hauerwas, and Marva Dawn. Read the rest of this entry »


William Stringfellow

July 16, 2010

To retrace my path to Stringfellow is to try to follow a rather tangled thread (or string).

Alas, I have completely forgotten how I came to take an interest in Stanley Hauerwas, who really helped me out when he wrote, “I am still mad as hell at Christians, which certainly includes myself, for making the practice of the Christian faith so uninteresting.” Read the rest of this entry »

a story about a story

April 23, 2009

I went to a conference being held at a church called the Meeting House thirty minutes from Toronto. The conference was called “The Evolving Church Amidst the Powers.” It attempted to address the fact that we are all caught up in an ongoing struggle between God’s growing Kingdom and the defeated (but still dangerous) powers of darkness. Read the rest of this entry »

here if you need me

January 12, 2009

This is a memoir by Kate Braestrup, currently chaplain to game wardens working for the state of Maine.  It’s a rare book that pursues eloquence without once relinquishing clarity.  It made me imagine rather wistfully an alternate life as a Unitarian Universalist, which is something utterly unprecedented, and far more radical than my other daydream of being an atheist.

After two hundred pages, in which you get a vivid sense of Braestrup’s distinctive personality and an equally strong experience of sharing with her a common life, she gives an anecdote and a brief, devastating and utterly necessary comment:

Once, in conversation with a very nice Baptist classmate at the seminary, I admitted that if Drew hadn’t died I probably would never have become a minister.

“You see!” she responded brightly.  “God knew what he was doing!”

This is the sort of remark that, however common, makes me despair of Christianity’s ability to respond in any helpful or sensible way to the reality of death.

It’s not so much that anyone would be convicted by this excerpt alone, but that the entire memoir provides a context such that even the most serene true believer would feel the force of Braestrup’s objection.  At the same time, Braestrup’s account would support that same believer in the conviction that God is at work in human beings, irrespective of their personal creeds, caring for creation and creatures (human or inhuman) with a grace that is indeed supernatural.

I should also mention that it’s very funny.  A great book all around.

PSPC Fall Retreat 2005

February 6, 2006

The Way of Our Flesh

The Gospel is addressed not only to individuals, but also to the communities to which these individuals belong, because these individuals are what they are largely because of their life in their communities. Communities have a corporate identity. They can think and act together. If you take an individual right out of his community he becomes a different person.

Lesslie Newbigin, British missionary to India

In 1970 or thereabouts, Newbigin was invited to join a group of clergy in the Church of South India, and teach them from the Scriptures before the serving of Communion at their monthly worship services.  These talks were collected into a book, The Good Shepherd (Oxford: Mowbray, 1977), where I read the comment quoted above.  As it happens, Newbigin was talking about the Christian mission to industry in the city of Madras, but his words would have been equally at home in the middle of Park Slope Presbyterian’s first retreat.  This past fall, a few dozen of us gathered to sing songs, eat and drink, taste wines and pick apples, in the hope that God would be molding PSPC’s corporate identity as we thought and acted together. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fourth Vow

January 9, 2005

Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability? Read the rest of this entry »

This started with a posting in the “Christian Citizen” forum at my church’s old website, in the midst of a discussion on same-sex unions. The writer, whose tag was Isaiah56, was criticizing those of us who had been discussing the issue for revealing an ignorance about (amounting to hostility towards) queerness:

….there are people steeped in conservative Christian culture who are willing to acquaint themselves with both these Biblical issues and “gay/lesbian issues,” and your church should do the same. (Until you do, you should clearly state every week in your church bulletin that you do not accept gays and lesbians as members, so that gay Christians and those who respect and support them can be warned to go elsewhere.) [Isaiah56]

Of course, I had to noodle on that one for a while. Read the rest of this entry »