The Holy Spirit in the Spotlight: Sweeney and Tickle’s “The Age of the Spirit”

Subtitled “How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church”, Phyllis Tickle’s latest book in her “Great Emergence” series presents an engaging historical and cultural look at the theologies of God The Holy Spirit that have emerged over the centuries. That The Age of the Spirit, co-authored with scholar Jon M Sweeney, is a must-read, is reflected in its encouragingly fresh historical perspectives and the hope it generates for emerging 21st century Christianity.

Tickle and Sweeney open the book with a useful summary of a now familiar analysis of the great upheavals that take place in the Christian world about every 500 years: The Great Transformation (the beginning of the Christian Era), The Great Decline and Fall around 500 AD, the Great Schism (1000 AD), the Great Reformation (1500 AD) and  The Great Emergence which we are now witnessing as we debate questions surrounding “authority” in the midst of cultural upheaval. “Welcome to our tumultuous times” (p. 14).

Sweeney and Ticke clearly lay out the ingredients of ‘our tumultuous times’ and go on to explore them specifically throughout the book:

1. We live in an era when people in vast numbers are “more spiritual than religious” and the Church generally has not learned how to deal with that;

2. What role does the mystery of the Trinity play, and how can we make that mystery relevant to our emerging cultural milieu?

3. What is the significance of Pentecostalism being the fastest growing expression of Christianity?

4. How do we determine the role of the Holy Spirit in determining Christian authority and authenticity?

5. Why is the Holy Spirit as an integral manifestation of the Trinitarian revelation of God so significant in our current period of upheaval?

In this context, Sweeney and Tickle remind us that “what matters is not whether, as individual believers, we are Emergence Christians or traditional Christians. What matters is that we have arrived at the point in our conversation where we are to begin tracing the strange story of how, as a people of faith, we Christians have envisioned, engaged, and all too often even tried to engineer the Holy Spirit over the millennia.” And that’s what they set out to do with much success.

Challenging us to re-think such diverse Christian phenomena and personalities as the rise of Islam, Joachim of Fiore (12th century CE), Methodism and the Holiness Movement, Charles Parnham, William Seymour and the Azuza Street Revival (1906) down to Brian McLaren and Harvey Cox, The Age of the Spirit challenges us to think in new ways about what’s going on around us as Christian faith heads into a new era of realignment and diverse expression that can stand as a Gospel challenge and witness to our “spiritual, but not religious” societal reality.

At 80 years of Age, Phyllis Tickle stated at the Christianity 21 Conference in Denver in January that she still has at least a couple of books in her. God grant that it be so. As an Anglican Christian and lay theologian, she is, thankfully, not afraid of offending our inherited theology. As she stated in her Denver talk, which can only be described as spell-binding, God’s presentation of God’s self to us can only match our developed ability to receive it. We’re ready for the next iteration, she states. God the Spirit is coming in power to fulfil our knowledge of the Father and the Son. Needless to say, she received a prolonged standing ovation. It was one of those great moments that gives us hope as Christians, that God is yet moving among us to do new things.

Phyllis Tickle with Jon M Sweeney, The Age of the Spirit” How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8010-1480-2

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. He is currently writing a series reporting on the Christianity 21 gathering held in Denver in January.

 

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Diocesan Winter Youth Retreat – Hope for Today’s Church

There’s nothing like a group of dedicated, enthusiastic Christian teens to bathe the heart with hope for today’s multi-variant expressions of Christian faith. Such was our diocesan youth retreat at Sorrento – a mid-winter snowy adventure full of holy fire.

A community came together from around the province  and a few from beyond (forty on a bus from Vancouver) – to embrace the reality of being loved by God and to accept the challenge to serve Jesus in the world.

Worship was contemporary in flavour – meaningful and engaging. Workshops and activities covered a wide range of interests from expressing faith through art, to some interesting kinds of spiritual practices to learning how to deal with bullying in Biblical and restorative ways following the example of Jesus. As Trivia Night quizmasters, Phil Colvin, Cameron Gutjahr and Alex Starr were at their usual best. I still don’t know if there really is a movie called “Sharktopus”, but the video question itself was engaging, to say the least!

Archbishop John Privett spent some time in a “Dish with the Bish” session and had a significant and productive meeting with the executive of the BCYAYM (The British Columbia and Yukon Anglican Youth Movement). BCYAYM is a group on the move and its capable youth leadership structure is very serious about its mission.

Sorrento is a wonderful place – even in snowy -17c conditions.  The facilities are first rate and the food and staff are wonderful.  I hope every Anglican teen has an opportunity to attend and maybe even be part of the “crew” at Sorrento at some point.  What impressed me again is the importance of camping and retreat ministry for our young Anglicans. I discovered once again that a significant number don’t attend Sunday church regularly, but have built meaningful spiritual life and community around their summer and retreat experiences at places like Artaban and Sorrento. Enough said.

For Phil Colvin, this retreat formally ended his time as our diocesan youth coordinator as he moves into another position at the Synod Office. Phil was duly thanked for his excellent work during his time as youth coordinator and was presented with a beautiful tie to suit his more “formal” work atmosphere.

Many thanks to the dedicated youth leaders, speakers, worship leaders and father who came to support our Anglican youth and who helped make the weekend a memorable one for them.

Indeed – “Keep Calm and Love God”.

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. He was very blessed to be part of the “Keep Calm and Love God” Retreat.

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Christianity 21:Adventures on the Emergent Frontier – Part Three: Jonathan Merritt

“The God who created us is better than the God we created.” That’s Jonathan Merritt’s testimony to the Grace of God which enveloped  a young man struggling with what to do with Jesus.

Jonathan Merritt of the “Faith and Culture” blog of the RNS (Religion News Service) recalls his life as the son of a Baptist pastor who remembers when a day of emptiness came and he felt that “God and I were an old married couple”. He empathizes with the scores of young adults who have similar stories of emptiness as they feel increasingly alienated from inherited faith – particularly in an angry parent God.

In his seeking for a fresh encounter “with the God who is”, Merritt allowed the Grace of God to fall upon him and work in his life in ways he could not imagine. In his own experience, he recalls the Biblical account of Jacob’s dream, one of the most engaging accounts of deep human experience included in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Merritt points out that in coming to Jacob, God places no conditions on him – no moral obligations “other than a beating heart”. God loves Jacob and envelopes him because of who God is, not because of who Jacob – or any one of us – is. Like Jacob, we must eventually open our hearts and minds to the dream of God and open our hands to the holy in our midst. Jacob named his place of God-encounter “Bethel” – The House of God”. The Holy is all around us.

Merritt reminds us that Jacob did not immediately accept the grace poured out upon him, but tried to bargain with God. He simply cannot believe grace is real. That, says Merritt, is our story too. “The Lord is in that place, and I did not know it,” reflects Jacob.

So a question faces us that is reflected in Jacob’s experience: Could God and Jesus be better than we imagined? Can we see beyond the strictures of ‘institution’ to embrace a new vision of God’s constant unpredictability? Like Jacob we need to accept that the “Good News” shows up in the strangest ways in the strangest places; God never shows up the same way twice.

At Pentecost, “People spoke words they didn’t know they knew”. Are we called as 21st century Christians to do the same? Can we live into the fact that God comes when needed most, but is least expected? This time in which we live can be our Bethel and our Pentecost, Merritt reminds us. That’s quite the challenge.

Indeed, the God who created us is better than the God we created.

Merritt’s answer to the question, “what’s the one big idea for Christianity in the 21st century?” is simply that we need a renewed vision of who God in Jesus is and who we are as open recipients to God’s Grace and God’s constant unexpected surprises.

Next: Two “Big Ideas” for the Christian Future from Paul Rauchenbusch and Noel Castellanos. Paul is the grandson of well-known American Christian thinker Walter Rauchenbusch and Noel  is with the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) founded by Rev. John Perkins, respected American civil rights advocate and community activist.

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam, and a blog master at NW Anglican Blog. He recently attended the Christianity 21 gathering in Denver, Colorado.

 

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Anglican / Roman Catholic Dialogue Session – January 26, 2014

Topic will carry a formal story on this event, but I’d like to add my personal observations.

First of all, our diocesan Ecumenical and Multi-faith Unit is doing a lot of work behind the scenes. The members are to be commended to their dedication to broadening our conversation with our Christian cousins and with our neighbours of other faiths.

Gladly, there was, however, a strong representation from both the Anglican and Roman Catholic communities. This mixture made for very lively and engaging table conversation held in the context of the dialogue between Rev. Dr. Richard Leggett and Dr. Christophe Potworowski. The personal dimension that Leggett and Potworowski brought to their conversation reflected a genuine developing friendship between the two. They are taking steps on both academic and relational levels to ‘lower the walls’, so to speak. They were a wonderful example of the challenge that Rev. Grant Rodgers placed before us at the end of the gathering:

“As a result of today,” Rodgers said, “what one step can you take so that we may grow together in unity in mission?” Richard and Christophe have taken one vital step: they have entered into productive and appreciative dialogue with one another. This example will motivate others to go forth and do likewise.

And ‘growing together in mission’ is what the participants in the table discussions seem to want to do most. Many want to move beyond talking to finding ways that we can, as Anglicans and Roman Catholics together, engage in mission and witness together to our community. Yes, recognize and appreciate our differences; yes, let our common life centred in Jesus Christ propel us beyond those differences into being more genuinely Christ-like; no, let’s no produce report after report about what we should be doing.

The afternoon began with a warm welcome by Marjeta Bobnar, Coordinator, ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, of the Archdiocese of Vancouver and by the Venerable Grant Rodgers, Chair of the Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Unit of the Diocese of New Westminster. Following this welcome, Rt. Rev. John Braganza, OSB, Abbot of Westminster Abbey in Mission led us in the Liturgy of the Hours, an opportunity for contemplative recitation of the Scriptures and prayer together.

Following a time of informal talk and refreshments, Anne Larochelle of the Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Unit moderated the discussion between Richard and Christophe. She moved the conversation along thoughtfully and engaged both speakers in focussed observation about the time they have spent together.

As facilitator of my table group of eight, I was inspired by the desire to work together expressed by the three Anglicans and five Roman Catholics around the table. Other table groups included Lutherans and representatives of some other denominational groups. There was a healthy mixture of lay people and clergy and ages ranged from university students to a lady who talked about being a part of St. Helen’s RC Parish(our hosts) since 1929. She remembers attending St. Helen’s School and witnessing the friendship that existed between the priest at St. Helen’s and the priest at St. Nicholas Anglican across the street. She quipped that later the priests acknowledged that “we had an ecumenical presence long before such things became popular”.

I hope that more Catholics and Anglicans will gather for the next session of these three dialogue opportunities on Sunday, March 23. The third session is slated for Sunday, May 4.

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. 

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Journey to an Emergent Frontier – Part Two: An Appreciation of Nadia Bolz-Weber

If you haven’t read Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint you’re continuing to miss something very special and inspiring. This spiritual memoir tells it like it is in forthright language and vivid description. It speaks to what has at times been a challenging life journey which God is filling and using to bless countless people – some of whom have never been able to identify with faith in Jesus Christ before.

Nadia’s weekly sermon post appears on Patheos, the number one US religion and spiritual news, opinion, and blogging site. Get tuned to Patheos if you are not already there. In addition to Nadia’s great sermons, you’ll be challenged by the blogs of Tony Jones, Scot McKnight, Marcus Borg, Frank Shaeffer Ben Covey and a host of others. Patheos.com has twenty blogger channels with hundred labled “Evangelical”, “Catholic”, “Progressive Christian” and on and on. Hook into Patheos for a veritable feast.

But back to Nadia Bolz-Weber. Nadia pastors a Lutheran congregation in Denver, Colorado that reflects progressive, emergent Christian life and practice at its best. Have a look at http://www.houseforall.org to catch an overview of the House of All Saints and Sinners.

In her talk at Christianity 21, Nadia outlined a number of important ministry guidelines that inform her work with her vibrant community.

1. She believes in bringing the seasons of the church year to life with vivid visual, auditory, and tactile imagery. She gave a striking example of burying an “Alleluia” banner at the beginning of Lent and digging it up at Easter.

2. She admits that in her own life, it is easier to preach grace and to receive grace.( Read Pastrix  to experience a beautiful and moving unfolding of this theme).

3. There is a positive correlation between participation in the liturgy and participation in congregational life and tasks. Organize worship accordingly.

4. Configuration of space matters. It reflects the views of organizations. Church of All Saints and Sinners has a worship space organized in concentric circles around the communion table.

5. Human voices matter. Singing together in worship is central. It’s done a cappella at HOASAS. Participation is valued over quality.

6. If you place a chocolate on someone’s pillow at a retreat, tell them about it so they don’t sleep on it. In other words, keep surprises to a minimum.

7. Do things together in the community as an end in themselves – not as a means to an end. Love and serve people without an agenda. Be the church together.

8. Accepting people as they are is hard, but not as hard as accepting yourself as you are. Accepting people helps us to accept ourselves.

9. Faith is a team effort; support one another in community.

10. Remember what’s at the centre: word and sacrament are central; everything flows from that. “Don’t water down the Jesus”.

11. Everyone is simultaneously sinner and saint. Together we are the broken people of God.

All this in 21 minutes! But great principles to remember as we build Christian community.

I recently introduced a good Lutheran friend with whom I serve on the Board of Directors of the BC Retired Teachers Association to Pastrix. She was envious that I was getting to go to Denver and spend time with Nadia. She’s not only read the book, but has had to buy copies for family and friends. I bought her another copy of Pastrix which Nadia kindly inscribed to my friend Regina.

The dust jacket of Pastrix describes Nadia Bolz-Weber as “heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed.” But those are minor compared to her qualities as a Christian leader.

“..A former stand-up comic,,,she didn’t consider herself to be religious leader material – until the day she ended up leading a friend’s funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor”, the dust jacket goes on to say.

Nadia has written another book and her brilliant sense of the comic and the ironic mixed with deep spiritual insight comes through. The book is a result of being asked by a publisher to watch 24 hours straight of American television evangelism fare. Taking up the challenge, her reflections are captured in Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours Christian Television (Seabury Books). It’s funny, poignant and deliciously wise.

During a question period at Christianity 21, I had an opportunity to ask Nadia about the book she’s currently working on. She reported that it’s based on the seasons of the church year. But then she commented that she really wanted to write something else. She mentioned the popular best seller Go the F__ to Sleep. She wants to write Go the F___ to Church. I can hardly wait to read it.

Books by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television. Seabury Press, 2008.

Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. Jericho Books, 2013

Next: Journey to an Emergent Frontier Part Three – “Jonathan Merritt on Jacob and his Dream”.  Merritt runs a blog entitled “Faith and Culture” for RNS (The Religion News Service). He is the author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and Green Like God.

 

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. Your comments and contributions are welcome. He wishes we all could have been at Christianity 21.

 

 

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I’ve just returned from Christianity 21 in Denver. I’ll say right away that the sunshine and warmth in Denver bested the rainy gloom I left behind in Vancouver. But that’s another story.

The story worth pondering is the amazing array of speakers and the intensity of this second gathering of Christianity 21 organized by Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Sarah Cunningham and their JoPa organization. The first gathering took place in 2009.

Many will recognize the names Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt from their work on Emergent Village and their books putting forth powerful ideas for what Christianity might look like as we move further into the 21st century. With several other scholars and thinkers like Diana Butler-Bass, Phyllis Tickle and Brian McLaren – to name just three – Jones and Pagitt are, when you meet them in the flesh, enthusiastic followers of Jesus whose deep desire is to nudge us all forward into a renewed Christian presence in our world that will reach people where they are and move beyond cultural, institutional Christian “religion”. It’s definitely a place where we Anglicans need to go – personally and as a larger Christian community.

I’m hoping that soon we can find a way, perhaps working with others in the Greater Vancouver Christian community, to follow up on Diana Butler-Bass’s visit among us by hosting Jones, Pagitt, Cunningham as well as some of the other powerful speakers at this event. I even suggested to David Ewart, Vancouver area retired United Church minister who also attended, that we might get up enough steam to host the next Christianity 21 in Vancouver. Life changing for all of us, assuredly.

Over the next while, I’ll be posting some summaries and comments on what I heard – and felt- at Christianity 21. There was a lot to digest. As my fellow attendee Ann McGlynn, director of Communications at a large Lutheran church in Davenport, Iowa observed – “It’s like drinking from a firehose”.  Amen to that!

The event was structured like no other I’ve attended. In addition to a series of 21 “21 minute” main stage speakers, there were  sessions of seven “7 minute” speakers presenting a total of 40 voices… brilliant, concise creative ‘bites’, and a couple of opportunities for small group discussions on a variety of topics. In addition, the large gym / meeting room at Denver’s Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where the event was held was filled with publishers’ displays and displays by various para-church organizations. Have a look at http:www.Christianity 21.com to get a closer view.

A highlight of the event was a book launch featuring two books: Phyllis Tickle’s latest offering in her “Emergence” series, entitled, The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church (co-authored with Jon M. Sweeney – a fine scholar in his own right), and Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future – a festschrift edited by Tony Jones that includes sections by Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren, Jon Sweeney and Doug Pagitt. Both are published by Paraclete Press.

There’s the overview. I wish more of our Diocese of New West folks could have been there to drink from that fire hose. At any rate, more next time when I’ll reflect on the joy of meeting and hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. If you haven’t read Pastrix, you are in for a unique treat. She’s one special Lutheran pastor. Get the book and enjoy it with your friends in a book club, or in a congregational discussion group.

But more of that anon.

Next: Journey to an Emergent Frontier, part two: Nadia Bolz-Weber

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. He’s excited by the possibilities of a future where the love of Jesus is shed abroad in new and exciting ways.  Your comments and contributions are always welcome.

 

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Journey to an Emergent Frontier: the Christianity 21 Gathering in Denver

I’ve just returned from Christianity 21 in Denver. I’ll say right away that the sunshine and warmth in Denver bested the rainy gloom I left behind in Vancouver. But that’s another story.

The story worth pondering is the amazing array of speakers and the intensity of this second gathering of Christianity 21 organized by Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Sarah Cunningham and their JoPa organization. The first gathering took place in 2009.

Many will recognize the names Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt from their work on Emergent Village and their books putting forth powerful ideas for what Christianity might look like as we move further into the 21st century. With several other scholars and thinkers like Diana Butler-Bass, Phyllis Tickle and Brian McLaren – to name just three – Jones and Pagitt are, when you meet them in the flesh, enthusiastic followers of Jesus whose deep desire is to nudge us all forward into a renewed Christian presence in our world that will reach people where they are and move beyond cultural, institutional Christian “religion”. It’s definitely a place where we Anglicans need to go – personally and as a larger Christian community.

I’m hoping that soon we can find a way, perhaps working with others in the Greater Vancouver Christian community, to follow up on Diana Butler-Bass’s visit among us by hosting Jones, Pagitt, Cunningham as well as some of the other powerful speakers at this event. I even suggested to David Ewart, Vancouver area retired United Church minister who also attended, that we might get up enough steam to host the next Christianity 21 in Vancouver. Life changing for all of us, assuredly.

Over the next while, I’ll be posting some summaries and comments on what I heard – and felt- at Christianity 21. There was a lot to digest. As my fellow attendee Ann McGlynn, director of Communications at a large Lutheran church in Davenport, Iowa observed – “It’s like drinking from a firehose”.  Amen to that!

The event was structured like no other I’ve attended. In addition to a series of 21 “21 minute” main stage speakers, there were  sessions of seven “7 minute” speakers presenting a total of 40 voices… brilliant, concise creative ‘bites’, and a couple of opportunities for small group discussions on a variety of topics. In addition, the large gym / meeting room at Denver’s Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where the event was held was filled with publishers’ displays and displays by various para-church organizations. Have a look at http:www.Christianity 21.com to get a closer view.

A highlight of the event was a book launch featuring two books: Phyllis Tickle’s latest offering in her “Emergence” series, entitled, The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church (co-authored with Jon M. Sweeney – a fine scholar in his own right), and Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future – a festschrift edited by Tony Jones that includes sections by Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren, Jon Sweeney and Doug Pagitt. Both are published by Paraclete Press.

There’s the overview. I wish more of our Diocese of New West folks could have been there to drink from that fire hose. At any rate, more next time when I’ll reflect on the joy of meeting and hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. If you haven’t read Pastrix, you are in for a unique treat. She’s one special Lutheran pastor. Get the book and enjoy it with your friends in a book club, or in a congregational discussion group.

But more of that anon.

Next: Journey to an Emergent Frontier, part two: Nadia Bolz-Weber

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. He’s excited by the possibilities of a future where the love of Jesus is shed abroad in new and exciting ways.  Your comments and contributions are always welcome.

 

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