Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wikiklesia Project

Anyone else heard of the Wikiklesia Project?

The Wikiklesia Project is an experiment in on-line collaborative publishing. The format is virtual, self-organizing, participatory - from purpose to publication in just a few weeks.

Anyone* can write a chapter for the Wikiklesia. The first volume, Voices of the Virtual World, is a "collective, chaordic conversation on how emerging technologies are impacting the church." All proceeds from Volume One will be contributed to the Not For Sale campaign.

One goal of the Wikiklesia Project is sustainability with minimal structure. We long to see a church saturated with decentralized cooperation. The improbable notion of books that effectively publish themselves is one of many ways that can help move us closer to this global-ecclesial connectedness.

Wikiklesia may be the world’s first self-perpetuating nomadic business model: raising money for charities - giving voice to emerging writers and artists - generating a continuous stream of new anthologies covering all manner of relevant topics. Nobody remains in control. There is no board of directors. The franchise changes hands as quickly as new projects are created.

Can a publishing organization thrive without centralized leadership? Is perpetual, self-organizing book publishing possible? Can literary quality be maintained in a distributed publishing paradigm? We’ve created Wikiklesia to answer these kinds of questions.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pray for the People of Myanmar

The New York Times has a good article on the current situation- it is sad, though. Worth keeping in prayer. Our congregation in the past has sponsored refugees from this country.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quintessential Wisconsin


About two weeks ago I created a facebook account. Kind of an experiment to see how it works and what all the fuss is about (I'd read articles about it in Group Magazine, the New York Times, and I can't remember where else). I think right now I'm slightly addicted. Facebook has created an incredible tool for social networking, much more crisp in presentation than Myspace, and more focused on simply keeping touch with friends, family members, congregation members, etc.

And a lot of the tools are cool, if you nerd out on such things. You can create a virtual bookshelf of what you are reading right now, a magazine rack of the magazines you subscribe to, etc.

Anyone else as addicted as I am?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tribal Churches

This is a fascinating article.


Ministering to the Missing Generation

by Carol Howard Merritt

In my bedroom, I have a Gabbeh rug, woven in deep browns and greens. Not the typical elegant Persian rug, this one has thick choppy wool, rough edges, and crooked lines. Made with vegetable dyes, each row changes colors, leaving a wonderful earthy richness. In a region known for its fine and intricate carpets, these rugs are bottom of the line because they are constructed and carried by nomadic tribes who pack them on animals until they set down a temporary home, then unfold them onto the ground, where their family can gather on that four by six-foot area.

While preparing to put our house on the market before our move from Rhode Island to Washington, D.C., I realized I needed a carpet to cover the shiny wood flooring my husband and I had recently installed. I also imagined it would be comforting to have a bit of familiar space to unpack upon reaching a strange land. So as I got ready to move for the seventh time in sixteen years, I bought the carpet and packed it into the trunk of my car. I needed a familiar space that I could take with me, something that was sturdy, warm, and not likely to wear out anytime soon.

I don’t travel with a caravan of extended family and friends, but like many in my generation of thirty-somethings, I move often with my spouse and daughter, increasingly away from my family of origin. When I unpacked my boxes in Arlington, Virginia, I rolled out the rug in my bedroom. My daughter and I sat down on the thick pile as we listened to books on tape and admired the brown and green diamond shapes. The soft itchiness tickled my hands, connecting me to my history in Rhode Island, as well as its own years of tradition tightly wound up into its threads.

Urban Tribes

The carpet reminds me that each place I find myself, I try to quickly set up a little area where I can meet friends and gather a makeshift family. Evidently, even though I feel dreadfully alone sometimes, I’m not alone. Ethan Watters wrote an article about meeting his young unmarried friends every Tuesday night at a particular restaurant and labeled them an “urban tribe.” From the outpouring of mail the little piece received, he realized that the sociological trend was widespread, so he wrote a book on this development.

The term “urban tribe” strikes a chord with me too, although I’m married and have a child. Away from my family of origin, I long for community. As a pastor, I see that the best work of our church springs up when these groups begin to form: small, cohesive parties who can depend on each other for interesting friendships, pet sitting, and meaningful holidays.

Forming Tribal Churches

When I began as a twenty-seven-year-old pastor of a small rural church, ministering to young adults seemed like an impossible task, especially when I looked at newspapers, philosophy, and church growth trends. Newspapers and magazines often dressed young adults up as greedy slackers, ever-sponging off our parents and never assuming responsible roles in society.

I often did not recognize the people our popular culture described. No matter what cause united moms, how much volunteering dads engaged in, or what trends twenty-year-olds began, they were inevitably compared disparagingly to Baby Boomers, the civil rights movements of the sixties, and were eternally dwarfed in that Boomer-looming shadow. How could the church understand young adults if it continually looked at them through the tinted spectacles of older adults?

Then I read church growth material, which thoughtfully categorized younger generations. I loved studying books like Soul Tsunami, but when I tried to put some ideas into practice in my elderly congregation (like the instructions to “get glocal”), I realized the great gulf between where we were as a church and where we needed to be to implement the suggested ideas. I began swimming and swirling, feeling hopeless, like I had to reinvent two thousand years of solid traditions and practice to reach out to my generation.

Visiting contemporary worship services particularly designed for young adults made me feel irritated and empty. I was a part of a large, growing segment of spiritual young adults who wanted nothing to do with contemporary worship. As soon as I saw that white screen slither down from the ceiling, I knew that I was going to have a difficult time stomaching the next twenty-five minutes. Someone was trying too hard to be hip. Like my high school English teacher’s attempts to be fashionable and cool, it just seemed wrong.

I was being unfair. Actually I think that I was just jealous. Obviously, there was a place in our society for slick worship, but I was like most pastors. I could never be hip, even when I tried really, really hard. I could buy a pair of designer jeans to wear on a Sunday morning and use the word “awesome” a lot, but I was still perfectly square.

My rural church was far from cool too. It was small, ancient, and full of people over sixty—and the perfect place to effectively care for young adults. Like those nomadic tribes, our church needed a rug—a comforting space for young adults, a place where years of tradition formed something beautiful. And they came, and they began to join. Over time, we began to weave a rich tapestry of diverse, intergenerational people. We did not discover the formula for a booming Gen X megachurch in just three years; instead, we reversed the trend of lost membership, kept the original members, and had a consistent ten percent growth made up of individuals of various ages. Our congregation became an intergenerational meeting ground, a place for supportive tribes to form, and I began to realize that our mainline denominational church has great assets for reaching out to young adults. When I moved to Rhode Island, I noticed the same thing happened in that bayside New England town of Barrington. Then I joined the staff of Western Presbyterian Church, an urban church in Washington, D.C., where the flow of young members seemed to rise every week.

Weaving Connections

Though young adults came, we realized how easy it was for them not to. It’s no longer important for someone in their twenties or thirties to go to church. Denominational affiliation has very little power in our politics or workplaces. The societal expectation to attend worship is gone, the blue laws faded a long time ago, and now children have plenty of sporting and scouting opportunities during those once-sacred hours.

When a young person walks into a church, it’s a significant moment, because no one expects her to go and nothing pressures her to attend; instead, she enters the church looking for something. She searches for connection in her displacement: connection with God through spiritual practices, connection with her neighbors through an intergenerational community, and connection with the world through social justice outreach.

The church has been making these vital connections for thousands of years, and we can easily respond to the young, weary travelers in our midst, letting them know that they can find a spiritual home within our worshiping communities and that we will provide a supportive space for them so that they can form their tribe.

Our churches can weave a source of connection. I have seen tribes gather in a variety of settings: in a college town, the rural countryside, a New England community, and an urban setting. Watching relations and groups develop in a church, creating and maintaining space for them, is a vital part of what I do as a pastor.

Envisioning what the church will look like in the next twenty years, I imagine a body that gathers together to worship God, strives for social justice, and cultivates tribes. Even the smallest churches—especially the smallest churches—have the resources to respond to young adults in meaningful ways when they understand their contexts and make a place for them. These relationships take shape when our intergenerational groups of displaced families and single people begin to weave a rich tapestry of familiar space.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Stillborn God

The Stillborn God by Mark Lilla was just reviewed in this week's New York Times Book Review. It's the 2nd piece I've read this week questioning whether the Enlightenment actually sent us on the right track, but from completely different perspectives.

The first was an essay in Pro Ecclesia by John Betz, Hamann before Kierkegaard: A Systematic Theological Oversight . It's really an amazing essay, very convincing. Basically, the argument runs that Hamann is a better road to take than Hegel, but Hamann has largely been the road not taken. Kierkegaard systematized and popularized the direction Hamann wanted to take us, but with too existential and docetic emphasis.

Lilla's book, on the other hand, argues that the Enlightenment dividing of church and state is not like the copernican revolution. It need not have happened, because the political universe isn't necessarily as clearly non-religious as some would like to make it.

I commend both articles for their clarity, and I'm going to try and read Lilla's book.

Now, if somebody would just publish a good book on Hamann (or translate more of him into English...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Chess Machine by Lohr

Great combination of loves coming together in this novel. The Chess Machine. Much of it takes place in Pressburg (now Bratislava). Historical novel about a fake automaton that supposedly knew how to play chess, but was really operated from the inside by a dwarf who excels at chess. Set in the Habsburg Empire, it's a genuinely amazing novel. Translated from the German. Great fall read.

Lutheran Forum On-Line

Lutheran Forum is now going on-line as of this fall. I'll be a periodic columnist there. See the format here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Continuing the Conversation on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

From the LIRS Advocacy Update Page:

Comprehensive Reform: Building a More Humane Enforcement System
By Matt Wilch, LIRS Senior Counsel for Policy and Advocacy

Without passage of comprehensive immigration reform, our immigration system—including the immigration detention system—is still broken. In the last year the detention system has grown by 32 percent to now confine over 27,500 people at a time, with an annual capacity to detain over 283,000. Most U.S. citizens do not know that this ever-expanding detention system is broken. Most do not even know that it exists.

In an ongoing effort to shed light on this invisible world, we wrote in a recent column about three reports that shed light on the hardships and injustice of detention and the system’s lack of oversight. A July report from the Government Accountability Office recounts pervasive problems with telephone access in detention centers. Most detainees are held in remote locations where the phone is their lifeline to attorneys and family. Each of the reports offered constructive recommendations to transform the system, including expanded use of alternatives to detention, increased access to legal counsel and improved oversight of conditions.

Further recent evidence of the system’s brokenness includes the following:

First, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) barred a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights from two of the three U.S. detention facilities he was scheduled to visit, including the Hutto Detention Center [note]. The rapporteur’s job is to advise U.N. member states, including the United States, how to comply with their human rights obligations. Just as other countries invite anger and mistrust when they bar legitimate international inspections, DHS invites suspicion that they have something to hide or that they do not consider themselves accountable to international norms. Worst of all, DHS missed the opportunity to have an independent evaluation that could help to build a more humane system.

Second, a June 26 New York Times article reported 62 deaths in immigration detention since 2004. This was 42 more than were known by advocates before DHS released the figures to the media. Advocates have requested detailed information on the deaths. We hope DHS will be open about the deaths and learn valuable lessons from them. For example, if those who are particularly vulnerable—such as elderly, sick or traumatized people—suffer declining health and higher mortality rates when detained, they should be released to family or friends or to safer alternative settings.

During the Senate action on comprehensive immigration reform, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced an amendment to begin fixing our broken detention system. The amendment received unanimous support, but did not become law since Congress did not pass the bill it amended. The Lieberman amendment echoed the three recommendations of the recent reports on detention: expand alternatives, access to legal counsel and oversight on conditions. We call on both Congress and DHS to act on these recommendations, They should take steps toward comprehensive reform, starting with a major overhaul of the U.S. detention system.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Youthworker magazine is a great publication, and the most recent editorial at the front of the magazine (by Chap Clark) was worth the price of the subscription this month. He writes,

Most seasoned youth workers recognize that our luxurious days of social, developmental and psychological naiveté are long gone. At camp, we want to encourage obedience and passion; kids want to talk about their dads. In small groups, we want to teach the Bible; kids want authentic friendships that are safe. At church, we want kids to show up; in life, kids are simply looking to survive.

Somehow this describes a reality that will be central to my doctor of ministry long-term project. How can we be church together in a way that doesn't reinforce this dichotomy, but rather sets free the freeing voice of the gospel in places people already are?


Love the way that on Slacker you can design your own radio station based on favorite bands.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Great Music Resources

Recently have come across some great music resources to share. The first is an easily customizable radio broadcast,

The second is MOG, where I've referenced a favorite recent band, Spoon.

Blog Schedule

I've been spending time thinking about blogging and the practice of writing. Blog posts here tend to be related only to the blog itself, not to a larger vision of the writing life. So I'm going to try and follow a pattern for blogging that enhances what I'm also trying to do for writing and publications in other areas.

For one example of something recent I've written, check out the summer issue of The Lutheran Forum.

So here is the schedule:

Sunday- book comments/reviews
Monday- teasers for a future book
Tuesday- music, movie, recreational comments
Wednesday- reflections on doctor of ministry studies
Thursday- Advocacy, social justice reflections
Friday- day off, no posts
Saturday- Bible study and/or Lutheran Confessions commentary

Feel free to comment if, as a reader, you're hoping for other content on the blog.