Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New This's and That's: Stringfellow, Volf, new programs; All Saints; progressive Christian DVD

Just got back from a few days retreat in Cleveland OH with the UU Christian Fellowship Board. We stayed in the wonderful RiversEdge Center, hospitality by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. If you need a place with a variety of good programs and resources, up to date, and yet with the touchstones of worship in the ancient styles, check it out. I include it now along with some of my favorite places for retreat: Sisters of Saint Margaret in Boston area, Walker Center in Boston area, Glastonbury Abby in Hingham Mass, Camp Allen near Houston.

Looking forward to a Christmastide to Epiphany vacation to Edinburgh, London, and Paris.

I loved being introduced to the writings of William Stringfellow, Episcopalian, lawyer for the oppressed, back when I was in seminary (thanks Gary Blaine), and on my recent trip I discovered a treasure trove of his writings in the bookstore at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. www.trinitycleveland.org. They have created a good missional sense of place along with, of course, a beautiful worshipping space. The cathedral is open to walk-ins off the street, locals hang out on the steps, there is a common area that looked like it had wifi free and a place to sit and eat, there is a coffeeshop, and the bookstore, and probably much more than we had time to explore. But a good place with friendly people embodying the gospel.

Our church at a third place revolves around those three Rs; relocation, redistribution, reconciliation, and Stringfellow's work reflects those three Rs too; I am enjoying his final book The Politics of Spirituality, good forceful biblical spirituality that grounds the spiritual in the common life of us all, i.e. politics. I wish Stringfellow had lived long enough, as a gay Episcopalian, to have enjoyed the movement of his particular church toward the justice and radical hospitality he lived and wrote about. In this All Saints season he is one of my saints. His version of spirituality is not about individualism and feel goodism, but is one and the same with engaged action. If by chance you haven't experienced Stringfellow it can change your understanding of church, religion, and biblical imperatives.

I also recently attended a seminar at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa where Miroslav Volf lectured all day on Forgiveness in a culture stripped of grace. Wonderful. I rushed out and bought his book from which the lectures in general came: It is called Free of Charge: giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace. Volf is with the Yale Divinity School and a lot of his work and good resources can be found at www.yale.edu/faith. Sign up for their email newsletter.

Volf's lectures reminded me of the spirit of radical grace and hospitality that has guided our transformation with The LivingRoom Church into a missional faith community and the opening and operation of our A Third Place Center. He talks about the three modes of human relationships as taking, trading, and giving. So much of our culture is based on taking and trading; it is the dominant mode of living. And yet the gospel call is for life given to others because we have received life abundance, because God is a giving God in great creation and diversity of spirit. How much of our church values though are based on either a model of taking and building up of one's self and one's own community, or especially more and more on the model of trading, where there is a fee and cost for everything, all in the guise of reality. Against all that Jesus says to create relationships and communities of radical giving and forgiving, that it is the surest way toward love and real accountability and justice. Using those principles, in A Third Place we have a place where people receive health care free of charge, computer access free of charge, food and meals free of charge, a library free of charge, can serve others free of charge, create gardens, help school children, find and spread community spirit in a place of neglect and abandonment and where the culture is skewed toward taking and trading.

Finally, in light of the above, a report that this past Saturday night our group of a few "mediocre followers of a first century carpenter" organized a splendid festival party happening on Halloween night for our whole community, with close to 200 people participating. People from all parts of life, races, ages, people just getting out of jail, people struggling in many ways, but for one night pausing to come and be with others, to bring others to the party, free of charge. I know some Christians have this negative thing about Halloween, but if they would allow themselves to experience and to see beneath the surfaces of an event like our Halloween event, they would experience it as a Jesus kind of thing.

Stay tuned for much more about how we are getting involved in new ventures growing our food pantry and food and health programs, partnering with more and more schools (we hosted a great brainstorming and grant planning session a week or so ago; we are hosting a free program for info on weatherization projects for low income housing tomorrow Nov. 4 at 7 pm; we hosted a gathering on the census; we will be showing the documentary "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" Tuesday Nov. 10 at 7 pm with a meal and community gardening planning; and more to come.); partnering more with the park programs; we hosted a great OU social work class looking at how to resource some of our vision plans for our local area. We are truly a church turned inside out and upside down in the spirit of Jesus.

And our worship on Sundays has been spirited. More singing from a variety of traditions; we celebrated and lit candles for All Saints Day on Sunday to remember those famous or known only to us who have meant so much to us; we have had great conversation growing out of watching the brand new DVD on progressive Christianity, geared for young adults especially, Dream by the www.livingthequestions.com group. As we head toward the holidays the life of our small band of freely following Jesus folks is strong as we strive to make Jesus visible in the world; much more to come so thanks for walking with us even through cyberspace, or come visit and spend time with us if you are in the area.

Type rest of the post here


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Edward Frost said...

I was interested to see your reference to Bill Sringfellow. He was a "hero" of mine (and an inspiration) many years ago when I was working on a Masters at Boston University School of theology and taking an inter-seminary course. This was in the late sixties.
Rev. Dr. Edward Frost
Sr. Minister Emeritus
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.

Ron said...

Thanks Edward. I counted it a blessing I got to be introduced to him in seminary in a small ecumenical internship class taught by our colleague Gary Blaine; not many of my Christian colleagues at the seminary unfortunately had heard of him, and seems few contemporary UUs have. But when you come across a fellow Stringfellonian, it is a delight. If there isn't a documentary on him seems like the time is right for it.