Wednesday, January 10, 2018

critique, confession and gratitude as resistance: songs and sounds of solidarity part one...

NOTE:  This is part one of a three pronged reflection re: my take on the intersection of doing church in the 21st century and resistance to the current regime.

Today's reflection will be part critique, part confession and part expression of joy and gratitude for those who have collaborated with me during my years of ministry. This analysis springs from my imminent retirement from the local church on January 28, 2018. Each part arises from a place deep within. It is, therefore, fundamentally written for my own clarity; but also stands as an articulation of what I believe is essential for the church of Jesus Christ at this moment in history. Except for the most opaque, my commentary will not come as a surprise. Like Phylis Tickle and Brian McLaren before me - and Gertrud Mueller-Nelson and Richard Rohr before them - I see the third great reformation emerging in Western Christianity from within the matrix of tender sensuality, beauty, the arts, mystery, mysticism, radical hospitality in a broken world, humor, humility, partnership with all creation, poetic liturgy and a 21st century  sacramentality. Right doctrine - orthodoxis - is no longer sufficient without right practice - orthopraxis.  The flesh and spirit are not enemies. As Bono likes to say: Grace trumps karma every time - for all are part of the whole

CRITIQUE:  At our recent "Songs and Sounds of Solidarity" concert, I experienced yet again the power and promise of spiritual renewal - palpable hope and bread for the journey - within a diverse, multi-faith community. Our celebration was constructed upon the scaffolding of well-crafted and carefully selected music, brilliant original poetry, physical movement, cultural diversity and radical truth-telling. St. Paul taught that no one has a monopoly upon the truth. That's the inner wisdom of his "body of Christ" metaphor: we need all the gifts and burdens of every part of the community in order to be whole.

It is my conviction that giving time, attention and resources to this work rather than mere institutional survival is what the Spirit is saying to the churches in 2018. Committing to the hard and creative practice of interfaith collaboration for compassion and social transformation awakens our souls. There is a hunger for deep community in our broken culture. There is a yearning for life-giving alliances beyond our all too obvious differences. And there is an invitation from the Sacred to learn to dance together through our fears. Yes, our histories and traditions can be respected. Our very real question can be honored, too without maintaining the spiritual segregation that currently inhibits our collective renewal.

At Sunday's event, 400+ responded with verve when the Berkshire Jewish Musicians Collective shared the sounds of klezmer. We were on our feet as individuals fully aware of our shared journey. One of my colleagues spoke of this moment as "a bridge over troubled waters." The same communal embrace occurred when my Christian jazz ensemble performed "Don't Give Up." You could feel the crowd responding to the searing - and then gentle - guitar improvisations. You could sense our tears of lament as well in the whispered promises of solidarity in the closing crescendo of the chorus. When the Step Team chanted and marched to "Black lives matter... we shall overcome," all of us were empowered. When the poets spoke truth to power, not only did a sea of individuals find a unified voice, but a catharsis took place carrying us through grief into healing.  As the local new paper reported, this was a time for us to stand up for love in opposition to fear and hate.(http://www.berkshire stories/from-energy-to-health-care-to-social-justice-4-freedoms-coalition-still-pushing-a-year-later,528901?

The ancient prophetic poet of Israel, Isaiah, put it like this:? Why waste your money on that which does not satisfy? Ho, come to the feast. Having given most of my professional days to living in the tension between institutional survival and building interfaith alliances of hope, my gut tells me that more time for the later is the better option. Local congregations still matter, but the 21st century is calling us beyond the shackles of our safety zones into wildly new forms of spiritual solidarity. (Here is a link of Sunday's presentation that looks and feels to me like the real deal: TRMSVOD/28629-4Freedoms2018-Medium-v1.mp4)

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