Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Biblical Worldviews and More from Barna

Go to http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrowPreview&BarnaUpdateID=271 This is the latest George Barna study and seems apt as we approach Pentecost and consider the spirit of God and the church. George Barna's research is useful to all though we often interpret it differently. For example, I would agree with his basic premise that many who profess Christianity do not have a "biblical worldview" and that having such a view is important, perhaps crucial, yet I would disagree with him drastically in some ways about what that biblical worldview actually is: he uses the term and assumes all agree with him, or that if you don't then you aren't a traditional or orthodox Christian which means not being a Christian to him or many like him.

Also you might follow up on his site to another link where he plugs his new book and his ideas about "Thinking Like Jesus." His premise is that to act like Jesus one must first think like Jesus, which means coming to a set of mental conclusions and propositions of orthodox or dogmatic Christianity. Much of our liberal Christian heritage and tradition has been that one can "act your way into thinking" instead of trying to "think your way into actions" and that by putting action first (Christian character more than Christian creeds as the early Unitarians put it in the 1805-30 years) you might actually come out with a different understanding of Jesus and commitment to Jesus than the other way around. Another interesting observation or question is: can we, in the 21st century, "think like" Jesus who was rooted in a rural, oral-culture, ancient model where the sense of one's self is very different from what it commonly is today, especially in the northern hemisphere and in the U.S.? I would say a big step toward "thinking like Jesus" would be to become engaged in radically challenging our default modes of how we see and value the world and all in it, which is what Jesus did, challenging our orthodoxies.

Barna, like many evangelicals, now asks the questions and does the research we need to be paying attention to, even if we come out of it in different places, which is one of the reasons why hanging out with such evangelicals of his more fundamentalist stripe (as opposed to the emerging stripe) is helpful in us seeing our own tradition better.

There is much again in this annual survey of his that is discussable. Where he sees crisis I see opportunity.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When We Worship

In another post below I quote missional church leaders who say that when you start with worship and hope to move a community then to mission, it is much more difficult if not impossible, than if you start with a missional service based approach to church and then worship to support that; there is more than one way to praise God; one way often leads to it being the only way, whereas growing a group through mission can make it more whole in its "glorifying God." This was one of my biggest learning curves and most often, still repeated, mistake in planting. But transformation is possible, even of the two steps forward and one step backwards dance. Here is one side (ala Paul) of a letter I sent a colleague wondering about worship in our small "house church" style, remembering that we don't meet in a house but very much publicly in a community space we have created. It is all a work in progress. This is a glimpse and just the start of a conversation.

a worship preview: at The Living Room we moved from more formal to more informal though we have some rituals. They hate to end without singing together, acapella of course like we do all our singing, Shalom Havyreem, just as opening song traditions of Come Come Whoever You Are and Dona Nobis Pacem are becoming ones they dont feel right if we dont sing. Usually we have a common invocation and chalice lighting and affirmation but there have been times we didn't do it.

One of the most effective a few weeks ago was a time when we simply lit candles and each person had the chance to say two things--a concern on their mind and heart, and something they hoped for in the coming week, and then after we went around the circle we went around again and the person on their right gave them a special blessing or prayer based on what they'd said. That was worship for that time, followed by shalom havyreem (we stand in circle and sing it, leaving a space for those not present and those to come, reminding us that our circle isn't complete without the world beyond us). sometimes we may just have a hymn sing acapella from our favorite 25 or so songs and chants; this helps those new to us learn them.I also have a fairly short simple straightforward and printed liturgy that can be used when I am not here. Our worship time is basically 30 minutes, often including communion but not always, sometimes communion liturgy is printed out and includes song and responsive reading but also sometimes it is just me giving words about the meaning of communion and then passing the bread and juice. All of our worship for these 30 minutes is now intergenerational. i always tinker some with something. now i am thinking of having an intentional centering prayer time after our common meal and before we start our conversation which is all adult and/or youth, because that is hard to do when the little ones are present at the end.

We meet in our new community center space, around a coffee table with candles on it and the plate and cup and a small statue of the world and margaret mead's words on it about small groups changing the world. we still have a large standing cross near us during it with my stole draped on it (needless to say I dress down on Sundays now, and dress up during the week in the community here). I might begin in the fall moving the cross out of the community space during the week though still considering that; we have such a Christian saturated local community here in some ways, more de-churched than unchurched; and then having it brought forward by the children at the end of our common meal or at the beginning of the worship to signal our time together. architecturally that's about it; we have easy chairs of various sorts in the living room portion of our community center space.

the children have their hour lesson time during the adult conversation lesson time and they meet in a room of our space (not as separate and sound-friendly as at our former smaller space, though, and that poses problems if we are watching a video but we are working on embracing it and working on it; I might move the adults out of the space for their hour and meet at my house or one of the other nearby homes if the number of our children grow, and let the children have the place mostly to themselves, another way to try to invert from the "standard operating procedure of church."

Speaking of having it to ourselves, we don't. Since we meet in the community center space we have created, people will come in to use the facility while we are having our meal, our lesson, our worship. We are still working on all this but have just been interrupting whatever we are doing or designating a greeter to say, come on in, tell them our church is having one of our gatherings now and they are invited to go ahead and use the center around us or join us whichever they would like. Trying to figure out what a "bug" is to be worked out in new missional church and what seems like a "bug" but shoudnt be worked out is real discernment and trial and error.

Here is one of our more liturgical worships for a special occasion--Mother's Day when we also do an annual Flower Communion service

The Living Room Church

Songs of Welcome and Centering
Come, Come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leavingOurs is no caravan of despair, come, yet again, come.

Spirit of Life, come unto me, sing in my heart, all the stirrings of compassion.Blow in the wind, rise in the sea, move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice. Roots hold me close, wings set me free. Spirit of Life come to me, come to me.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Invocation Response and Chalice Lighting

Today is a day which God has made. Let us rejoice and be glad therein.Let us treat it as the gift it is---with delight, care, and attention.And may we find ways to share Life’s gifts with others.What does the Eternal ask from us?To live justly, to practice mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.We light this flame for the warmth of community, the spark of conscience and compassion, and the energy of commitment.In the light of truth, and in the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God and to serve all.We are a church of the open mind, the loving heart, the helping hand

Candles for Sharing Blessings and Sorrows in Gratitude and Community

Prayer and Meditation:

Eternal Spirit of Life and Love and Liberation, may we be open to your presence in our lives, in all our joys and sorrows, fears and faith, dreams and disappointments, hurts and hopes, those shared openly with others, and those shared only with You.
Everlasting Hope that holds us up, so that we may go hold others, we give thanks for all that has blessed us, and all that has brought us to this day of Life’s Celebration.Universal Love, continue to show us the way home to our own true hearts, our duties, and to the service of creating a better world for all. Help us to see anew the sacredness placed right before us, right beside us, right within us.Deepest Source of All, may our prayers be times of listening as well as speaking. May we be open to what Life yet speaks to us of truth, joy, and goodness.God beyond all human naming, yet as close as our breath and beating hearts, we bring today these reflections of our minds, these meditations of our hearts, these prayers of our souls. And as Jesus taught to those who would follow in the healing, transforming spirit of his life and ministry, we now join in saying: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Mother’s Day Flower CommunionIntroduction……The Flower Communion service which we are about to celebrate was originated in 1923 by Dr. Norbert Capek [pronounced Chah-Peck], founder of the modern Unitarian movement in Czechoslovakia. On the last Sunday before the summer recess of the Unitarian church in Prague, all the children and adults participated in this colorful ritual, which gives expression to the life-affirming principles of our faith in the flowering of freedom and respect for people and the earth and the diversity of God‘s creation, which combine for growth of our souls and the soul of our communities. When the Nazis took control of Prague in 1940, they found Dr. Capek's free faith gospel to be-as Nazi court records show-- "...too dangerous to the Reich [for him] to be allowed to live." Dr. Capek was sent to Dachau, where he was killed the next year during a Nazi "medical experiment." This gentle man suffered a cruel death, but his message of human hope and decency lives on through his Flower Communion, which his wife was able to smuggle out when she was rescued and brought to the United States, and which is widely celebrated today. It is a noble and meaning-filled ritual we are about to recreate. This service includes the original prayers of Dr. Capek to help us remember the principles and dreams for which he died. (Bring The Flowers Forward)

The Consecration Prayer….Infinite Spirit of Life, we ask thy blessing on these, thy messengers of fellowship and love. May they remind us. amid diversities of knowledge and of gifts, to be one in desire and affection, and devotion to thy holy will. May they also remind us of the value of comradeship, of doing and sharing alike. May we cherish friendship as one of thy most precious gifts. May we not let awareness of another's talents discourage us, or sully our relationship, but may we realize that, whatever we can do, great or small, the efforts of all of us are needed to do thy work in this world. Amen

Distributing The Flowers and Prayer….In the name of Providence, which implants in the seed the future of the tree and in the hearts of men [and women] the longing for people living in [human] love; in the name of the highest. in whom we move and who makes the mother [and father], the brother and sister what they are; in the name of sages and great religious leaders, who sacrificed their lives to hasten the coming of [peace and justice]--let us renew our resolution--sincerely to be real brothers and sisters regardless of any kind of bar which estranges [one from another]. In this holy resolution may we be strengthened, knowing that we are God's family, that one spirit, the spirit of love, unites us, and [may we] endeavor for a more perfect and more joyful life. Amen.

Closing Words – (written in the concentration camp shortly before his death)It is worthwhile to live and fight courageously for sacred ideals. Oh blow ye evil winds into my body's fire; my soul you'll never unravel. Even though disappointed a thousand times or fallen in the fight and everything would worthless seem, I have lived amidst eternity. Be grateful, my soul, My life was worth living. He who was pressed from all sides but remained victorious in spirit is welcomed into the choir of heroes.He who overcame the fetters giving wing to the mind is entering into the golden age of the victorious. Amen.

The Table of Radical Hospitality: Open Communion For All
Jesus said: I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And his disciples asked him, when did we do this? And he said, you did this for me when you did it to the least of these. Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat. Here is the fruit of the vine, pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink.We come to break bread. We come to drink of the fruit of the vine. We come to make peace. May we never praise God with our mouths while denying in our hearts or by our acts the love that is our common speech. We come to be restored in the love of God.---Robert Eller-Isaacs, based on Matthew 25, alt. Singing the Living Tradition hymnal.

Bread of Life/Cup of Hope

Let us break bread together on our knees Let us break bread together on our knees.When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord have mercy on me.Let us drink wine together on our knees. Let us drink wine together on our knees.When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord have mercy on me.Let us praise God together on our knees. Let us praise God together on our knees.When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord have mercy on me.


Let us go out into the highways and byways
Let us give the people something of our new vision.We may possess a small light, but may we uncover it, and let it shine.May we use it to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women.May we give them not hell, but hope and courage.May we preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.---John Murray, 18th cent. American Universalist minister

Closing Song: Shalom Havyreem (Peace, Friends)Shalom havyreem, shalom havyreem, shalom, shalomShalom havyreem, shalom havyreem, shalom, shalom