Church

Lillith

The new episode of Hit Parade, one of my favorite podcasts, revives The Lillith Fair, the all-women concert tour from the late 90’s. I am geeking out.

I saw a Lillith Fair show in the summer of 1997 in Winter Park, Colorado. Sarah McLachlan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tracy Chapman, Jewell, Ani Difranco, Paula Cole, and a bunch more amazing artists played on a mountainside all day long, and it formed one of my most enduring memories of music and friends and nature and community.

Two takeaways then. 1) Hit Parade is amazing and well worth the subscription it now requires, and 2) the cancellation of live music through this summer is foreclosing lifetimes worth of joy and celebration. That’s a tangible loss.

1997 – Lilith Fair Tour | About Tracy Chapman
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Church

You’re Wrong

Your side is wrong. You’re not always the good guys, and sometimes you stand in the way of progress more than you aid it. The argument you think is so airtight is built on flawed assumptions. Your leader has a lot to learn.

Hard things to hear. But if we have a trusting relationship with someone who will say them to us, we are well situated. Of course we can hear the errors of our side enumerated by ideologues on the other side. We’ll brush those off as zealotry and ignorance. They don’t agree with us about anything. A friend, though, someone who knows us and cares about us and agrees with us most of the time? When she’s willing to say “You’re wrong,” we darn well better listen.

That’s a gift.

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Church

Two Spaces

I experienced the church as two different spaces on Sunday. The first was eerily empty and the second was bustling with life.

In the morning, the Fellowship Hall and the sanctuary I am accustomed to finding filled with well-dressed people happy to see one another and eager for worship, my footsteps echoed off the walls. I spoke softly into a microphone and looked into a camera to lead a prayer during worship, ignoring the sea of empty pews. It felt impossibly sad.

Then in the afternoon I returned for the weekly Sunday Night Supper, where over 100 people lined the walkway in the courtyard to get a hot meal or a bag lunch served by the same small crew that has been serving like this since March. People were happy to see one another. Their loud greetings and well-wishes filled the enclosed outdoor space.

Church right now is both of those spaces on the same day.

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Church

To Zoom Or No

As restrictions on in-person gatherings are eased, an important ministry question arises: if we can safely gather together by limiting the number of participants and ensuring they all wear masks and keep 6 feet apart, should we? Is a physically-distanced gathering better than an online one?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of interaction permitted through Zoom. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; lots of people have been using this technology for a long time. Coaching, for example, is a field that has thrived over the past decade by convening online cohorts, some of which never meet in person. Those cohorts do important work.

And yet . . . Zoom.

You know the depleted feeling by now, the one that settles on you after about an hour staring into your screen and trying to communicate without the nonverbal cues communication needs. Students are sick of it, so why should my ministry with them demand more of it, especially if an in-person option is available?

Zoom is a valuable tool, but it’s starting to feel more valuable when you don’t have to use it.

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Church

Proposals

Everybody has permission to raise issues. The font is too small. The language is too vague. The language is too restrictive. The decision doesn’t seem right.

Everybody also has permission to propose solutions, though. The proposed edit or addition adds value to the raised issue. More than, “This should be different,” it says, “This should be this.” It puts a specific choice on the table for people to discuss.

You have permission to propose solutions. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t even have to be right; a wrong proposal still moves us closer to a right one. Your proposal just needs to be specific, and it needs to be yours.

Share it. Own it.

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Church

Signs

Noah sent the dove out three times seeking for signs of life. The first time, nothing. The second, the hopeful olive leaf. The third time, the bird is gone: the surest sign.

Of course, it’s rarely sequential like this. The olive leaf is just as often followed by nothing as it is by the sure sign we want to see. It’s not really faith if it follows a set progression.

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Church

Strain

We moved over the weekend. Because there’s not enough disruption in the world, my family and I decided to spend weeks packing up all our belongings and trucking them about four miles down the road to a different domicile. Today is the first “real” day in the new place–first day back to work, first day to make coffee, first day for all the firsts, only done in a way that the reigning set of local and global circumstances is contorting. For example, when the day comes that I commute to work, that, too, will be new, from here.

The new keeps coming, and boy is it a strain. A hopeful orientation interprets the stain as labor pains and chooses to find new birth in all the disruption, but in order for that to be truly hopeful and not mere optimism or sentimentality, I think we have to reckon with the strain. Birth is overpowering strain, both for the birther and the birthed. There is joy in the strain, but also danger, and at the intersection of the two is the miracle of new life.

Now push.

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Church

It’s The Agitator Part That Bothers You, Not The Outside Part

This week Seth Godin shared an audio recording of “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.” A couple dozen voices contribute to a pretty arresting audio product, and I’ll post it below for you to listen.

One thing I noticed listening to it while driving around yesterday afternoon is this segment about “outside agitators” from very early in the letter. It contains perhaps the best known sentence of the entire text, but, given–as we have recently seen–the persistent impulse of those defending the status quo to vilify demonstrators as outsiders, the whole paragraph made me stop and take careful note:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Reporting showed that most of the people arrested during demonstrations in Minneapolis, for example, lived there. The Mayor and the President were wrong in saying that most of the protestors’ energy came from outside the community they were protesting. But even if they were, that, by itself, is not a disqualifier.

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Church

Check? Please.

“Check your privilege” is a stupid slogan, because “check” is a meaningless verb unless it is applied to a hockey player, a sound technician, or an anxious person worried they left the iron plugged in. Last weekend I saw a person, a white person, carrying a sign at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in our majority white Northside Chicago neighorhood, holding a sign that read: “White people, listen: check your privilege.” I recoiled. This person must have done a lot of personal privilege-checking to feel comfortable instructing thousands of strangers to do the same, strangers who mostly look like her and live in the neighborhood she lives in, which, due to redlining, has historically excluded black people from home ownership.

Privilege needs more than checked. It needs forfeited, and that won’t happen without a fight. That won’t fit on a sign.

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