More serious thoughts about 30 years of ministry...

As some of you know, I sensed a call to Christian ministry when I was 16 - my youth group was on a summer mission trip - and we were at worship at the Potter's House - a ministry of the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC.  Dr. King and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated, tension between Black and White America was profound and the vulgarity and violence of the war in Vietnam continued to rage full blown.  The Potter's House was created to be an arts ministry in the deepest sense of that term.  Here's how they describe themselves...

The Potter's House is the first of several outreach ministries of the Church of the Saviour. We, the members of that church, asked ourselves, 'Would Jesus want to hang out with folks at a traditional institutional church? or would he want to hang out over a beer in a bar or coffee in a restaurant?' The resounding answer was the latter. We chose coffee over beer because of our support for the budding AA movement in 1960. Gordon Cosby along with several others opened the Potter's House doors in April of 1960 to the world as it was then. The Jesus embodied in our hearts and minds of our committed, intentional church met people involved in the Civil Rights movement, peace movement concerning Vietnam, anti-poverty movement. Our hearts and minds were transformed to make the Potter's House a birthing place for most of the 501c3 activist and service organizations in the Adams Morgan neighborhood today.
(check it out @

In 1968 it had become a vibrant gallery, coffee house, bookstore and gathering spot for many on the edge.  As we joined in the experimental liturgy and music, all I could "hear" within was:  "You could be doing this."  It was almost palpable and after about 35 minutes of being present to the worship but also someplace else, I realized I was hearing God's invitation to me into ministry.  I thought about this a lot over the next few days - I didn't share it with anyone until our ride home to Connecticut as Aretha Franklyn sang, "Freedom, freedom, whoa freedom!" - and wondered what it really meant.

Well, when I look backwards at my call into ministry, now it doesn't come as any shock that it started in the context of a progressive arts ministry with people on the edge, right? Apparently I've been dancing to this groove for most of my life in one way or another. Still, it has taken me over 40 years to honestly discern what I was being called into back in that hot, wild, exciting and dangerous summer.  And it has taken me a long time, too to find words for how I've reframed my commitment to Christ since 1968.

So in the shadow of my 30th anniversary of ordination, here is how I have summarized what is at the heart of my ministry:

+ First, I have found that music is the essential expression of my personal prayers.

+ Second, visual art is both a sensual form of ecstatic prayer and an invitation into other forms for beauty.

+ Third, feasting is the central metaphor for doing christian formation and ministry.

+ Fourth, humor is a the best spiritual discipline for nourishing humility.

+ Fifth, jazz is the spiritual discipline that helps me listen carefully and honor the sacred in every player.

+ Sixth, grace is the heart of God's truth - everything else is commentary.

+ And seventh, rest and sabbath living are the antidote to our obsession with results and addiction to over-stimulation.

I guess I could write an essay on each bullet point, but like my doctoral dissertation proved: it would be edifying for me but nobody else would want to read it!  And, honestly, I keep trying to learn that less is more - so just these 7 principles for doing ministry - that's enough.  And a little recap of the song that dominated that summer when the Spirit slapped me up side the head and said, "Man, you could be doing this, too!" Thanks be to God! 


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