Archive for the ‘justice’ Category

Quincy Street

We’re having a blast in Memphis with the Holt Srs, which means we weren’t in town on Sunday to receive the Sunday Boston Globe. This Sunday’s Globe was especially significant because it began a seven-part multimedia series about the Quincy Street Missional Church of Dorchester.  Our great friends, Aaron & Amy Graham, were instrumental in following God’s lead in joining his work in the Upham’s Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, a table which was set with a simple Bible study led by a 70-something matriarch called Ma Siss in a chop-shop-turned-commodities-closet.

This story, written by Pulitzer winner Michael Paulson, along with the accompanying video and photo galleries, have been three years in the making.  I’m so proud of the Grahams, Ma Siss, and the Quincy Street community for this nod in a world-class publication, and proud of the Globe for this positive view of Christian faith in action in Boston.  My prayer is that this piece will serve as a positive glimpse into the Way of Christ to a broad audience of readers and viewers.  Please, spend some time to check out these articles and accompanying media.

Rule of St. Fiacre

I haven’t been much into blogs, books, or conversations about missions lately, but this blog post I could almost endorse. It’s a proposed rule for a proposed missional order — proposed by David Fitch as a response to the number of faith communities that have folded because of burnout and internal character weaknesses. I really, really like where Fitch is coming from with most of these proposals, and we’ve been attempting to live out many of them already. From looking at the list in its entirety, however, I feel we could do better. In fact, I believe the absence of a few crucial ones of these might just be why we currently feel a little off in our mission. Anyway, here’s Fitch’s list and the link to the original blog post. I’d love to hear your thoughts, including omissions and/or additions.

The Rule of St Fiacre Missional Order of Pastor-Servants: Sent Out to Cultivate Christian Communities as Gardens Midst the Cities, Neighborhoods, Towns and Villages of N. America

Committed to Plant Christian Communities as Gardens, not Grocery Stores, committing to long periods (at least 5 years) of habitation, gestation in and among a chosen neighborhood, geographical place of living.

Committed to a lifestyle of simplicity, frugality and bi-ministerial/bi-vocationalism to survive financially for the long term, yet be wise and prudent so as not to find oneself in hock or otherwise financially enslaved later on in life.

Committed to put down roots, take up jobs, and live in this neighborhood, to love, live and walk with lost people in the rhythms of everyday life, to cultivate relationships and a way of life that displays a witness to Christ, that incarnates His presence as a Body in and among this neighborhood of people. To be bearers of the gospel of salvation in Word and deed, never with coercion, only as invitation into the life of God thru Christ our Lord.

Committed to ministering the gospel to those in pain, in desperation, depression, darkness and poverty. This can take shape in numerous simple ways.

Committed to foster resistance to a.) consumerist structures which exploit the oppressed, promote unhealthy eating and living, b.) materialist behavior that promotes owning things over relationship, security over generosity and c.,) secular practices which subordinate and/or decenter God in Christ to another self help transaction, another thing we do in an overall consumerist materialist lifestyle, and d.) all other practices which distance ourselves from the relationships with neighbors, the poor, and those whose labor we benefit from everyday.

Committed to, whether commissioned as ordained pastor or minister, take up life together and ministry as an everyday vocation as part of everyday life.

Committed to get to know the community contextually, to know its needs, to minister to its hurts, to fight/resist its social sins, to incarnate Christ amidst the everyday rhythms and life of your community.

Committed to seeing secular vocation, the making a living, the amount of money one makes, and career as secondary to call of God on your life for His Mission.

Committed to regular practices of spiritual formation that center one’s life in Christ and in His Mission. This includes a proposed Rule of St Fiacre, a regular time of meeting in triads (groups of three) for Scripture reading, prayer, corporate silence, mutual submission of one’s emotions to God, mutual confession of sin, repentance and reconciliation, working out one’s struggles, pains and joys as part of God’s work in you for His Mission and finally a mutual benediction being sent into the Mission. And likewise this includes being committed to a regular time of communal worship of God that includes silence, confession, submission to Christ’s Mission, affirmation of Our Story, the reading and hearing of the Word, the Lord’s Table, corporate prayer, thanksgiving and prayer, the benedictory blessing and sending forth into Mission.

Committed to banding together with no less than 8 other St Fiacre Ministers to go where God calls to inhabit space for the presence of Christ in Mission.

Committed to a living a life of hospitality, opening up our homes and lives for those who are hurting, alone, depressed, and without the gospel.

Committed to meeting together once a year every summer at designated place to foster encouragement, mutual support, and prayer. Committed to having a regular practice of connection via the telephone whereby we stay connected to two other St Fiacre members once a week for an hour, whereby we read the Scripture, share stories, encourage and pray together.

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social gospel

I am an adherent of the social gospel.

God is at work in the world transforming not only the souls of individual human beings, but re-building communities of people by reconciling the broken social bonds that have created injustices and inequalities. One need only look at the life of Christ to know this is true. Christ’s first recorded sermon (Luke 4), spoken from the book of Isaiah in the Temple, reveals that his mission is to “preach good news to the poor … recovery of sight for the blind … to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” As I’ve written in a previous post, Jesus’ words likely would have been heard first and foremost as being restorative of broken social relationships, then spiritual lives. What a profound sermon to begin the formal ministry of Jesus!

And Jesus’ ministry would back up his words in the Temple that day. He called together a community of disciples that contained individuals who would, under any other circumstance, be enemies — an employee of the Roman government (Matthew, a tax collector) and a violent revolutionary against said government (Simon, a Zealot). Over and over, he sought to restore the humanity of prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers, declaring that his good news was for all people and essentially evens the playing field. The Bible is replete with examples after example of a God that restores broken social relationships and the humanity of the marginalized and poor, but space doesn’t allow me to list them all here. (what are some more? list them in the comments section)

Yes, we are restored spiritually to our creator when we call on Him and live into His way. But the reign of God — his Kingdom — breaks into every area of our lives, “on earth as it is in heaven,” not least our social bonds and physical world. We were created for community, and God’s mission is to restore us to community with himself and with others. By relegating the gospel to the spiritual realm or the afterlife, Christians have ignored the clear social implications of the gospel, which declares good news for people here on Earth as well as when we die. This theology profoundly affects the way in which we live in this world.

So I believe in the social gospel. And the physical gospel, and the spiritual gospel. May we never truncate or sell short the vastness of the mission of God, into which he invites us to join him. May we do just that.

Note: The Social Gospel movement began in the late 19th century as “a movement that applied Christian principles to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, poor schools, and the danger of war” (wiki). When I mention the social gospel, I am not referring to this movement in Christian history.

weekend roundup

Had a good weekend. Busy, but good.

Dad beat me to the post, but we saw SiCKO, Michael Moore’s documentary on the ills of the American healthcare system, on Friday night. To be honest, I was floored. It wasn’t typical inflammatory Michael Moore … he simply let the stories of those affected negatively by healthcare in this country speak for themselves. For those of you who have seen SiCKO, what did you think? If you haven’t seen it, please refrain from commenting on the movie. (because it’s probably quite different than you think) Questions for everyone: What is right/wrong about healthcare in America? Do the poor get shafted by our system? What, if anything, could/should the church do about this?

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Yesterday (Sunday), we joined many close Boston friends in blessing and sending off our dear friends Aaron & Amy Graham. Aaron and Amy are moving to Washington, D.C., where Aaron will serve as the National Field Organizer and Justice Revival Coordinator at Sojourners / Call to Renewal. The Grahams have been über-active in the Boston community the last several years, planting a church in Dorchester (a rather dicey neighborhood, crime- and poverty-wise), earning master’s degrees at Harvard (Aaron, public policy) and Boston University (Amy, social work), running an inner-city community house and internship program, organizing international development projects and trips around the world, and starting from the ground up the Boston Faith & Justice Network. Yeah, they’ve been busy.

Aug.jpgOn a personal level, the Grahams were some of our best friends over the last year, and their presence in our lives this first year in Boston has been such a help and encouragement. Last March (2006), we sat in Aaron & Amy’s living room and shared the vision God had given us about participating in His work in Boston. We realized then and there that God was indeed doing something mighty in this city, as was evident in the similar calling on the lives of the Grahams and many others they told us about. And as couples, we clicked immediately … in a big city, it is vital to find other God-seeking couples with whom to spend time. The time we spent over the last year with the Grahams has been precious.

But as it always is in the church, “goodbyes” don’t exist. It is merely “see you later.” If not in this life, then the next. But we definitely plan to stay connected to this amazing couple in this life as well.

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Last night, we wrapped up a year of service on the leadership team of the Boston Faith & Justice Network. We have decided not to renew our spots on the team for another year. Our reasons are twofold: 1) We’re trying to commit to less outside of our neighborhood, in an effort to connect more deeply with our immediate community; and 2) The organization’s emphasis on political and corporate advocacy, which I’ve questioned before on this blog.

We transition off the team with mutual understanding (I think) with the other leaders, as well as a year of deepened relationships and work toward Christian justice in our city. As I shared with the team at our year-end reflection meeting last night, this experience has exposed to us a remnant of Christ-followers in Boston who are committed to “preaching good news to the poor.”

Praise God.

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Finally, the following prayer was shared last night as we closed.  Pretty powerful stuff:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

&emdash; attributed to Sir Francis Drake, 1577

true religion

art.widow.cnn.jpgReligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

– James 1:27

This story is so, so sad.

simplicity

This is from Jared Looney‘s periodic prayer update for God’s work in the Bronx. Good stuff.

As of the year 2000, those identifying with Christianity of one form or another amounted to 33% of the world population (still the largest faith on the planet). Collectively receiving $15.2 trillion dollars a year (53% of the world’s total income), the global church spends 97% of it on ourselves.

A few nights ago, 20/20 featured a ministry called Ministry Watch (www.ministrywatch.org). This ministry is led by a man who handled millions of dollars on Wall Street for 10 years. Now, he has accepted a vocation of calling ministries to financial transparency. Weary of the financial abuses through religious, Christianity-like messages, they are working to create accountability. And they might just make an impact. For example, Joyce Meyer sold some of her multi-million dollar mansions after receiving an “F” from Ministry Watch. The ABC report highlighted popular preachers with multi-million dollar homes, private jets, and a message that seems to keep people motivated to make them rich.At the turn of the milennium, 2.8 billion (46%) of the globe’s population live in poverty with 1.1 billion living in “absolute poverty.” 26.9% of the world (1.6 billion) is “unaware of Christianity, Christ, or the Gospel.” Currently, for the first time in history the world is now more than 50% urban.

In the 1980’s Harvie Conn, an urban missions scholar, argued that the only way contemporary Christians will have the potential for world evangelism is to learn to live simply. Not necessarily a vow of poverty, but certainly more simply than our consumer culture.

Did Jesus discuss any subject more than economics and religion?

Heavenly Father, your name is holy. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Provide us with our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen.

-Jared

*Statistics taken from David Barrett and Todd Johnson.

the global village

DSCN2175-African-Village-1.jpg

If the world was a village of 100 people …

The village would have 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans, 8 Latin Americans, 5 from the USA and Canada, and 1 from the South Pacific

51 would be male, 49 would be female

82 would be non-white; 18 white

67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian

80 would live in substandard housing

67 would be unable to read

50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation

33 would be without access to a safe water supply

39 would lack access to improved sanitation

24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)

7 people would have access to the Internet

1 would have a college education

1 would have HIV

2 would be near birth; 1 near death

5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth; all 5 would be US citizens

33 would be receiving — and attempting to live on — only 3% of the income of “the village”

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