when love comes to town keeps on truckin'...

For nearly 10 years, this blog has served as a forum for my reflections, essays, rants on ministry, travel pictures, explorations into spirituality and music, sermons, prayers and so much more. The time has come, however, to make some changes. Mostly, after 35+ years of serving congregations throughout the United States, I don't have much more to say about ministry. I am still committed to the work - albeit in vastly different ways than when I was first ordained - and probably have a few more years of creative service left. But I've said my peace. My hunch is that it is best for me to be still now when it comes to matters ecclesiastical. A new church is coming to life from within and beyond the old - like Lazarus being raised from the dead by Christ - and I am only tangentially a part of that effort. Discretion suggests to me that now is the time to keep my own counsel on these affairs.

Over the years I have rediscovered my love of the essay - quite a different animal than a blog post even when I've blurred those lines)- so that's one of the new directions I am going to explore. The other involves renewing my commitment to theological considerations on culture - especially, but not limited to, music. I am currently working on a new experimental liturgy fusing John Coltrane's masterwork, "A Love Supreme," with other music and poetry to evoke the heart of Good Friday, so that will become my next featured project here.

And there is a slow but up-and-coming new project that Dianne and I are starting to create that has to do with travel, photography, jazz and getting to know the soul of a place beyond mere tourist consumerism.  Right now we're call it "cherchez le jazz." In time it may become our rolling record of jazz clubs, interviews with proprietors and performers, insights about the people and neighborhoods we cherish in places like Montreal and the importance of learning to listen and savor the soul of a new place. We are starting to dream - and research - how to kick off this endeavor. And we hope it will give shape and form to our retirement (whenever that comes to pass) when we sell everything and take to the roads for a few years.

Rick Steves, travel guide and bon vivant of PBS, writes in Travel as a Political Act

Travel connects people with people. It helps us fit more comfortable and compatibly into a shrinking world. And it inspires creative new solutions to persistent problems facing our nation. We can't understand our world without experiencing it... Ideally, travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally and politically. Suddenly, the palette with which we pain the story of our life has more colors. We realize there are exciting alternatives to the social and community norms that our less-traveled neighbors may never consider. Imagine suddenly realizing there were different genres of music. Imagine you loved books and one day the librarian mentioned there was an upstairs.
Both Dianne and I believe that in addition to travel being a political act, it is also is a form of prayer and pilgrimage. Being together with others can elicit selfishness or generosity, fear or trust, consumption or sharing. Once, while traveling to the former Soviet Union with a cadre of "peace activists," we found ourselves standing in stunned silence as some of our colleagues barked orders at the wait staff in Cracow like they were serfs. The presenting issue, during a time of Marshall Law in a Solidarity-challenged Communist Poland, was the lack of morning coffee available to tourists. I appreciate the need for caffeine in the morning being a voracious black tea consumer myself. But the way some carried on in the cafe when told that rationing allowed for only one small cup of java each day exposed a way of being in the world that was ugly, self-centered and abusive. So much for peace-making and compassion, damn it: give me my Joe!

I sense that there is a "witness" to travel - a public role as unofficial ambassadors - that we both honor and want to nourish. There is a mystery to travel, too: a way of learning to live into the rhythm of trust, listening for the deeper truths beyond our differences, and going with the flow rather than controlling and "owning" every experience. This suggests that our journeys have a moral wisdom to be discovered as much as a political component to celebrate.

So, onward to cultural and theological explorations here - and when the groove is ready for "cherchez le jazz," too.  I'll make sure you get an invite.

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