I'm sure you've noticed that things have been pretty slow here on my blog of late. The reason is that I'm working on a new book: The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, to be published by Church Publishing, the publishing house of The Episcopal Church. (Yes, they let Lutherans write for them too.)
I'm really excited about this project. It builds on many of the ideas I've been writing, blogging, and speaking about—and experiencing in my ministry—over last few years. It builds on ideas Elizabeth Drescher and I introduced in Click2Save: The Digital Minsitry Bible, but goes beyond the basics of how to use social media, and explores the character of ministry leadership that is required today in our digitally-integrated world.
The Digital Cathedral is intended to evoke an expansive understanding of church in a digitally-integrated world, one that extends ministry into digital and local gathering spaces, recognizes the holy in our everyday lives, and embodies a networked, relational, and incarnational ministry leadership for a digital age.
We are learning about the Ten Commandments in our Confirmation class this fall, and most recently the Third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy" and Martin Luther's explanation of it in the Small Catechism, "We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God's Word, but instead keep the Word holy and gladly hear and learn it."
Inspired by the work we are doing in my class Catechism as Platform and conversations on experiential learning with Bethany Stolle, I decided to craft a Confirmation class that was an experience of Sabbath, rather than just a discussion about it. It turned out to be a great mashup of premodern and postmodern, ancient and digital.
Luther's explanation of the third commandment, as I understand it, is about taking time to encounter the Word of God, whether that's on the traditional Christian Sabbath of Sunday morning, where we gather for worship and engage with the Word in Scripture readings, sermons, and the liturgy, or simply time apart from our busy routines in order for rest and renewal so that we can encounter God in the Word—which, for me, can be Scripture, or another person, or nature, or any number of ways people encounter and experience God.
When I introduced the session and told the kids that I just wanted them to relax and there would be time for them just to chill, they were pretty shocked. They are so programmed, just like adults, they weren't expecting to get permission just to be kids—really, just to be.
So, here's what we did, including links and resources. The entire experience lasted 90 minutes.
How are you cultivating experiential learning in your ministry? Share your good ideas in the comments.
Nadia Bolz-Weber makes me want to be a better pastor. She also reminds me that I'm bound to fuck it up.
In her new book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, Nadia chronicles her upbringing in a fundamentalist church, her path to self-destruction as a young adult, her improbable call to ministry, and her journey with her people at House for All Sinners and Saints.
It is beautifully written, funny, and heartbreaking. It will make you laugh out loud and, if you're like me, choke up and wipe away the tears pooling up in the corner of your eyes. Often all on the same page.
Surely, Pastrix is one of the first great spiritual memoirs of post-American-Christendom.
Pastrix speaks profoundly to those who are alienated from the church. I want to buy a copy for all my friends, and I've got plenty, who have given up on church long ago.
For my part, I can't help but read Pastrix from my own perspective as a ministry practitioner and Lutheran pastor.
What I have learned from Nadia, in our conversations and again in Pastrix, is that being a better pastor is not about accumulating skill sets and eventually, finally, getting it right. Its about being open enough to God (who she refers to as "Jesus the Boyfriend," who gets all up in our shit) and God's people to have your heart broken.
When I was younger, I pilgrimaged to medieval cathedrals. Now I pilgrimage to new mission churches.
Last week, I made pilgrimage to Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, a mission start congregation of the ELCA.
Humble Walk is true inspiration to me. Their pastor Jodi Houge is just amazing and gave one of my favorite interviews in Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. As she told us there,
"We recognized that most people don't come looking for a church, in our demographic. And so, we through from the beginning, 'We know this. The church is sinking.' The facts are on the table for the mainline denominations. So, we're not going to these big glossy things that try to draw people to our cool, fancy, hip church. We're going to be where people already are and try to be the church where they are."
Last night I attended broken liturgy with Pete Rollins.
Wow. It was amazing.
broken liturgy is, as the creative team behind it (John Hardt, Christopher Cocca, and Lin Preiss) will tell you, hard to describe.
It deconstructs liturgy and church (the tag line is "church undone") and at the same time is incredibly generative. It is avantgard and ancient. The MacBook sits on the piano. Hand cut figures are hand-placed on the the digital projection screen. It does not promise answers. It offers an experience, which is open to whatever you bring to it. It doesn't explain. It doesn't tie things up neatly at the end. The lights just come on. The ending is liminal: no permisson, no instruction, no dismissal. (Unlike my Lutheran tribe, which can't leave a room unless someone says, "Go in peace. Serve the Lord.") It is music, poetry, art, and story, beautifully and carefully combined. And it is broken. Over pints afterward, the team and Pete recounted some of the hiccups in the program and also noted that that's kind of the point. We are broken people—and this is a liturgy by and for broken people.
The other night we had to explain to my 9 year-old daughter what the Holocaust was.
Not because she is learning about it in school, but because it is part of our family story. It is part of her story.
I’m a Lutheran pastor. My wife is Jewish. Her ancestors come from Poland. My wife’s grandmother, we call her Bubbie Helen, was just a teenager when World War II erupted. She lived with her mother, Ella, an accomplished portrait photographer, who owned her own studio in Warsaw, and cared for her sick mother. Her father Eser was a traveling encyclopedia salesman. When the war broke out he was in the United States and he sent them letters urging them to leave Poland before the Nazis invaded. Helen’s mother refused to leave her sick mother.
But Helen did leave. At 16 years old, she set out from Poland. Her father would send her letters leading her to the next safe house. They led her across Siberia, to China, to Japan, where she was on the last US refugee ship to California before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
She arrived in California speaking only Yiddish and with no money. She was taken in by two professors at Cal Berkeley who taught her English. She believed her father was in New York City. His last name was Goldberg. And they called every variation of that name in the New York City phone book until they found him. It took two years until they were reunited.
Later they learned that the rest of Helen’s family died at Auschwitz. My wife’s small family is all that remains.
Now my daughter knows the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust, but also that she comes from a line of strong women, like her great-grandmother Helen, her grandmother, her aunt, and her mom. She knows more now about the evil human beings can perpetrate against one another. She also knows more about strength and courage and living in hope. It is a lesson that our younger three children will also learn in time.