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.