Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter is Here!

Dear Ones,


Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ( I will post this again but I am moving my blog to a new website, please join me there!)


I want to thank all of you who took the time to join in the reading of "The Great Emergence" throughout Lent. It added a rich dimension to the season for me. Thanks to Bishop Rivera taking St. Mark's Cathedral through this Triduum, I was able to travel to several different congregations for Holy Week.


St. Clement's, Seattle for Maundy Thursday

Grace, Bainbridge for Good Friday

"Dancing in the Darkness" Good Friday, Commission for Emerging Ministries

St. Micheal and All Angel's, Issaquah, The Great Vigil of Easter

St. Columba's, Kent, Easter Day.


In those travels, at Grace, Bainbridge, I was blessed to get this poem, by Mark Jarman entitled "If I Were Paul" It moved me greatly and I offer it to you as my Easter gift to all of you.






Consider how you were made.


Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed

flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets

across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull's cup.


Consider the first time you conceived of justice, engendered mercy, brought parity into being,

coaxed liberty like a marten from its den to uncoil its limber spine in a sunny clearing, how you

understood the inheritance of first principles, the legacy of noble thought, and built a city like a

forest in the forest, and erected temples like thunderheads.


Consider, as if it were penicillin or the speed of light, the discovery of another's hands, his oval

field of vision, her muscular back and hips, his nerve-jarred neck and shoulders, her bleeding

gums and dry elbows and knees, his baldness and cauterized skin cancers, her lucid and

forgiving gaze, his healing touch, her mind like a prairie. Consider the first knowledge of

otherness. How it felt.


Consider what you were meant to be in the egg, in your parents' arms, under a sky full of stars.


Now imagine what I have to say when I learn of your enterprising viciousness, the discipline

with which one of you turns another into a robot or a parasite or a maniac or a body strapped to a

chair. Imagine what I have to say.


Do the impossible. Restore life to those you have killed, wholeness to those you have maimed,

goodness to what you have poisoned, trust to those you have betrayed.


Bless each other with the heart and soul, the hand and eye, the head and foot, the lips, tongue,

and teeth, the inner ear and the outer ear, the flesh and spirit, the brain and bowels, the blood and

lymph, the heel and toe, the muscle and bone, the waist and hips, the chest and shoulders, the

whole body, clothed and naked, young and old, aging and growing up.


I send you this not knowing if you will receive it, or if having received it, you will read it, or if

having read it, you will know that it contains my blessing.



Monday, 6 April 2009


Dear Ones,

Yes, I did indeed "turn on the fire hose" on these last two weeks. And all of you handled it so very well! I am so sorry I have been a bit out of the discussion, but please know I have been watching and listening as they have come in. I cannot tell you how inspiring the posts have been. You have entered into this discussion with a depth I could not have imagined. What is probably most clear about this discussion is that a lot is not that clear. The Great Emergence, or whatever we might call it, something is happening, there is a change afoot. Perhaps more than anything this discussion with Tickle's offering as our catalyst has helped us learn a bit more about how to think, and not exactly what to think. I pray you have learned and grown and enjoyed our discussion. I hope we keep having it! I am already thinking of our next possible book. If you have ideas let me know.


For now, I hope you can let go of the intensive thinking on what is happening now and focus on the journey ahead of us on this week. In my sermon Palm Sunday I challenged those there to the following

"I would ask that in these first few days of Holy Week that you forget everything you think you know ABOUT these last days of Jesus life and instead of learning ABOUT Jesus this week, LISTEN TO Jesus and the events this week. Listen. "

I hope to also read in even more depth some of the fabulous posts here and to keep the conversation going .


Again, blessings in gratitude for your engagement in this little experiment,



Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Weeks 4 and 5!

Dear Ones,

I am so sorry to be away from the discussion for so long. I continue to get great reports from all around the diocese. I have been reading the posts as they come in and I am so thankful for all of you, and your diligence in staying in the conversation. I want to still go through some, perhaps comment even more on some of the specifics, but for now I wanted to get out our final two weeks of readings as well as the study guide. Some of you may have found the guide at the "Great Emergence" website. If not, I am posting here the Guide for these last two chapters. For these two weeks the readings are as follows:

March 22-28- Part III intro and Chapter 6, pages 119-144

March 29-April 4- Chapter 7 and end discussion, pages 145-163

The Study Guide is just below, many blessings to all of you and don't blog so much that you miss out on Lent!



The Great Emergence Study Guide CC 6-7 The Great Emergence: Where is it going?

Where is the Great Emergence going? And, similarly, where is it taking us as it goes? Both questions intuit two seemingly opposite yet complementary issues. On the one hand, it is our responsibility to make educated guesses about what is happening in our religious landscape and instigate what we hope to be productive measures for the future of the church. Action is needed, and it is needed now. On the other hand, we must be honest with ourselves that, like in any previous time of "Great" change, we are not fully in control of what is going on here. We are located in a far larger environment than our own ecclesial (and even religious) walls.

Perhaps surfing is an apt metaphor for the kind of dual action required of us. Though we may choose our surfboard, our spot in the ocean, and the wave we take, we are not, in the end, able to control the movement of the ocean. We cannot determine the tide, or the length of the wave, or its intensity. It is our duty to ride it, and ride it well, in hopes that we arrive safely (and, with a little luck, gracefully) on the shore.


1. What do you find most difficult about facing the changes of the Great Emergence?


2. Taking risks through particular actions, or relinquishing control and accepting limits?


3. What spiritual practices can best inform us as we learn to ride the wave of the Great Emergence?


Chapter 6: The Gathering Center

As we consider the changing religious landscape during the Great Emergence, the diagrams of the quadrilateral, the cruciform, the gathering center and the new rose are helpful ways of mapping the responses and directions of particular religious traditions. Over and above and between all of these directional movements is centripetal force.

Centripetal force literally means "center seeking" in Latin. Centripetal force is absolutely necessary when matter begins moving in a circular direction. It is the only means by which movement toward the gathering center can be maintained. Each of us has experienced centripetal force when we have ridden in a car that suddenly turned while our bodies continued to go straight, shoving us into the passenger next to us or possibly the door or dashboard. It feels like we are being pushed outward, but this is not actually the case. We have been pulled inward toward the center of the turn. Our bodies sense a push outward despite the fact that we are not in any way moving outward, but what previously would have been straight. This is because during acceleration, Newton's first two laws of motion no longer apply (think the Heisenberg principle). It is no wonder that many of us have a difficult time finding our directional bearings during this time of acceleration around the gathering center of American religious life. We are currently in

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the middle of the turn, and we are unsure which direction we are actually going. We also happen to be picking up new ideas, new people, new traditions en route, changing the size and shape of the center itself. There is hope, however, in Tickle's assertion that we are perhaps being pulled inward by our common desire to become more incarnational.5 Before we are able to be pushed outward into "a new way of being Christian, into a new way of being Church,"6 perhaps we are gathered toward Jesus-the-Center through the guiding force of the Spirit.


1. How has the center-seeking centripetal force of the Great Emergence affected your faith? Your church? In what ways do you feel unsure of your direction? In what ways do you feel pulled toward Jesus-the-Center?


2. As you consider the final diagram in the chapter, where do you classify yourself? Did your classification change as the diagram shifted from the quadrilateral to its final surrounding currents? How can the diagram be used to help people describe their journeys of faith?


3. If you happen to be one of the "hyphenateds," how are you navigating the tensions between the pull to the center and the pull to the corners?


4. After the Great Reformation, the process of drawing up systematic doctrines provided both cohesiveness and clarity to new denominational bodies. While the confessional age was based upon distinction, the age of emergence will likely be based upon collaboration. Though this is not without its difficulties, Protestantism's "hallmark characteristic of divisiveness" is also being replaced by a significantly more harmonious one. Tickle uses the metaphor of a bursting geyser, gathering people from each corner and quadrant and spewing them upward into a new way of being Christian, to describe the gathering center phenomenon. What benefits and drawbacks do you see in the propelling force of the geyser? What are your greatest hopes for this "generous orthodoxy?" Your greatest fears?


5. Tickle writes, "In the Great Emergence, reacting Christians are the ballast." By reacting to the gathering center, they provide necessary stability as the center continues to take shape. If you happen to be someone nearer the center, how do you feel about those reacting most stringently against you as helpful, and even necessary? If you happen to be someone nearer the corners, how do you feel about stabilizing (if not strengthening) a movement with which you fervently disagree?


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6. There has been marked tension in the Great Emergence, specifically in the interactions of those in Emergent Village, between a desire to speak freely of what one currently does/believes/perceives and a desire to speak against what one used to do/believe/perceive. How, if at all, have you experienced this tension? How does it correlate to the changes happening in the Great Emergence? How does this experience coincide with our Christian understanding of the tensions between the now and the not yet?


7. This term has come into wide use through Brian McLaren's book of the same title, which aptly and beautifully describes the kind of ecclesial collaboration that will likely become a hallmark of Great Emergence Christianity.


8. Tickle claims the earliest assessment of the Great Emergence as simply a generational issue is an error that has since been recognized and understood. From your vantage point, do you and those you know agree, or do you continue to see the current religious changes as generational in nature? Why or why not?


9. If you agree the Great Emergence is not a generational issue, how can those in older generations seek to help rather than hinder the changes underfoot?


10. How can we focus on the emerging conversation not as one that rejects truth or tradition, but as a conversation seeking to create "new ways of being faithful in a new world?"


Chapter 7: The Way Ahead

The power of network theory can be summed up by the simple fact that interest in it has brought together physicists, sociologists, entrepreneurs, engineers, biologists, political campaign strategists and market analysts, just to name a few. The sheer volume of books written on the subject in the past number of years evidences a great desire to understand how the world is changing, and how network theory can enlighten people to effectively engage the new linked-in world.

Network theory quite simply refers to research being done to understand relationships, how they are formed, how they are strengthened or weakened, and what effects they have on individuals, groups and societies. At its most basic level, network theory can refer to two points, or nodes, connected by a line from one to the other. This line indicates the relationship between point A and point B. However, further inferences on what kind of relationship is happening between them can result in a variety of lines and arcs displaying mutuality, disagreement, commonality and proximity. Add a dozen or a hundred or

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thousands more nodes to these two at varying levels of complexity and you can see how quickly network theory books are needed if we are to make out the forest for the trees. And we must, for network theory is absolutely central in our quest to map the way ahead in the Great Emergence.

As we return to the question of authority, network theory gives us the Great Emergence's first answer. Where now is the authority? It is in the network, running in between all the nodes and connectors, this way and that, in no particular pattern, and asking nobody for permission. Authority exists for the church when the network, a collection of Jesus followers who are linked together, shares information back and forth about Scripture and faith. This is why Tickle suggests that an emergent would respond that authority now lies "in Scripture and in the community." This may be seen as a way emergents are reconciling the divorced parents of experience and Scripture. (Remember that experience was the foundational belief of modern liberal theology while a particular hermeneutic of Scripture was the foundational belief of modern conservative theology.) However, as Tickle describes, what we currently see in the Great Emergence is not a simple "patching together" of 1 + 1 but more specifically the emergence of something new, something greater than the sum of its parts. Emergence is not a bridge between the two warring houses of Scripture and experience. It is the demolition of both houses and the construction in its place of a highly networked web.

If we return to the concept of holism and the metaphor of a web of belief, which holds together what we deem true, then in the network theory world of the Great Emergence, there are multiple levels of webs, woven from the authors who wrote the Scriptures and people who experience the living God, the communities who preserved their writings and stories, a history of people who affirmed them, contemporary individuals, churches and denominational institutions that continue to believe them, and on and on. Therefore, authority that rests in both Scripture and the community suggests a network of two thousand years of relationships. Authority is held by each and every relationship strand, and yet is strong enough to withstand strands becoming broken by the sheer volume of the web. In this way, Scripture and community are not completely separate entities, but rather both are a means by which faith has been passed down to us and for us and with us.

As is always the case, parallels can be seen in the wider culture. Consider, as one quick example, Wikipedia. Previously, encyclopedias were painstakingly researched and written by experts, bound in leather and carted (quite weightily) around from door to door. In a world where even the morning newspaper could be hours late on reporting a breaking story that was sent all over the world in mere minutes over the Internet, the clumsy thick encyclopedia became the slowest turtle in the information race. It became impossible to keep encyclopedias up to date, for as soon as one was published the world had changed. Wikipedia not only provided much needed speed and editing capabilities to encyclopedic information. Perhaps more importantly, it proved that painstaking research by experts was no longer necessary. Regular, everyday people, using their own free time and without any payment, write, fill, edit and revise Wikipedia entries every single day. The network of relationships relaying information has become more impressive than the information itself.

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1. What is most exciting to you about the idea of authority resting in the network of Scripture and community? What is most worrisome?


2. Tickle describes authority being worked out in how the message runs back and forth over the network hubs and "is tried and amended and tempered into wisdom and right action for effecting the Father's will." Have you seen evidence of this kind of action working in your own congregation? How does this movement mimic the Book of Acts?


3. Tickle suggests that emergents would define the Church as "a self-organizing system of relations." How do you respond to this definition? How do you think previous eras would define the Church?


4. Tickle distinguishes between crowd sourcing and democracy, as crowd sourcing has flattened authority to a point democracy never dared. Crowd sourcing, she continues, rejects anything less than full egalitarianism, rejects capitalism, and rejects individualism. It should not surprise us that these traits were solidly implanted during the time of the Great Reformation, and are being rigorously dissolved in the century of Emergence. What does this do to the structure of the Church at ground level? At denominational level?


5. How does network theory inform Tickle's discussion of the concepts of orthonomy and theonomy? Can correct harmoniousness be evidenced by holistic, networked, sustaining relationships? What role, if any, does the concept of the Trinity play in such an idea?


6. Throughout the book, Tickle suggests that the role of the Holy Spirit, and our under standing of the movement of the Holy Spirit, will be essential in the unfurling of the Great Emergence. How do you see the Holy Spirit playing a role in the question of authority, the radicalization of the priesthood of the believers, and the future of the Church?


7. How does the shift from the bounded set of "believe-behave-belong" to the center set of "belong-behave-believe" affect the Church's understanding and practice of membership and evangelism? Of discipleship?


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8. Another marker along the way of Emergence so far is the shift toward narrative. This is not limited to theology, though narrative theology, preaching and the like is certainly evidence of it. It can also, and first, be seen in psychology in the works of Jerome S. Bruner and Donald J. Polkinghorne, who have discovered, much like Joseph Campbell, the significance of story on the human psyche. How can story serve as a helpful tool and guide for us in the Great Emergence? How can narrative theology disarm the difficulties and harmful carnage of the post-Constantinian Church?


9. As we move from an era of confessionalization to an era of collaboration, the concept of holism becomes central in describing how people and disciplines are shifting from the former to the latter. What once was held separate (whether one means the harmful distinctions between soul and body or the equally detrimental distinctions between humanity over and against the rest of creation, just to name two) is now moving toward one another, working to repair and re-network a relationship strand that had previously been severed. Holism is the natural paradigm of a world moving from one of competition and distinction to one of mutuality and collaboration. How does holism affect church practices? Doctrine? Structures? How does it connect us to a more Jewish worldview, over and against a Hellenistic one?


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For further study in the broader societal reaches of the Great Emergence:


Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe

Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything


See writings by Jacques Derrida, John Caputo, Michel Foucault, Paul Ricoeur, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Richard Rorty, Martin Heidegger, Jurgen Habermas


Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Bill McKibben, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty

Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor


William McDonough, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things


Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community


Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism



Monday, 16 March 2009

Week 3

Dear Ones,

Here we are at week 3. I hope, on top of the study, and other activities in your life you are also experiencing a good Lent. Book studies continue around the diocese and even beyond. For this week as a reminder, March 15-21- Chapters 4 and 5, pages 63-118. I am a bit late on my blog, my apologies as this week I am attending the House of Bishop's Meeting in North Carolina. I have, however, been keeping up with the response. I really enjoy the conversation. I think many others who are not posting, but reading nonetheless, are enjoying the conversation as well.

I think it is important to remember that Tickle is a journalist, editor, writer, and lay Eucharistic Minister in the Episcopal Church. She is a theologian, as I believe anyone who "studies" theology is, but she is mostly peering in, making observations, and of course, giving her assessment of this era we are living through. This week I am not going to try to focus you, but instead hope that you will attempt to focus us with questions from these two chapters. What did you find most interesting, troubling, compelling?

In this week's responses I certainly think Brian McLaren is under scrutiny. Knowing him personally, I have been surprised by some of that, but I appreciate the great care in which everyone is holding the various views on this. I may try to see if Brian wants to join in this discussion. I will most likely not have a lot of luck with that so we will simply have to make due with ourselves!

Blessings to you as we journey with Christ in this Lenten season,


Monday, 9 March 2009

Week Two: The Great Emergence

Dear Ones,

I want to thank all of you who have so diligently entered into this conversation. There are many others out there in small study groups, around the diocese working alongside you even if they do not get to comment online. So, this week, although many of you have already, we enter into Part II intro and Chapter 3, pages 41-62. I wanted to comment on an overall view of last week's comments.

There were a few comments about the Creeds. Many seem to point to the need to change them in some way. I want to throw into this discussion the idea that we have just passed through an era where this was the "plan." If only we could get the right word usage, or drop a line here or there, or simply leave it out altogether, we would be better off. In some ways I wonder if this does not show some contempt for those who went before us, a somewhat arrogant belief that we are smarter than they are. I put this up against the reality I am seeing in the newer generations, who do not seem to have the need for the semantic changes to yet continue the conversation. With this, they hardly check their brains at the door either. They seem more willing to honor those that left the tradition and history as they knew it, and to instead look for the Truth our forbears were trying to tell us in the story. Even in these conversations there seem to be insinuations, or outright statements, that Tickle is not very smart, that those that came before us are not very smart, and that it is up to us to "make this all right." I am pushing a bit I realize, but so have some of you! I used to teach a class where I invited the class to rewrite the Creed to "make sense" to them. Of course, if there were 20 individuals in the class, there were 20 different versions of what is "right." Even after putting them together to come up with one, well you see where this is going. I am well aware that this is how we got the Creeds we have, but having some unaltered centering point to come back to, to honor, and to question seems to make sense as well.

On a totally different subject, a rather passing thought in this but brought up by Tickle nonetheless, is music, and the importance of it in sharing and passing along the story. I have to say I am quite attached to this feeling as well, and wonder what others think about it. I see many places where music seems to get in the way, rather than help, and other places where it carries the day in profound ways. What do you think about this?

Finally, in some defense of Tickle, this book is not there to answer all questions, but rather, as Anonymous in the 8:39 p.m., March 8th post states,

"The "greatness" and 500 year intervals seem contrived but there is an underlying truth: every so often the institution that is the church becomes inadequate. Today's inadequacies, in my view, include being disconnected from both its foundation in Jesus and from the culture in which we live. In what little I know of emergent churches I see an attempt to pull Jesus into the context of life today-and it's not one size fits all."

Although I do not want to try to direct this away from the way you choose to take it, my hope in this was more of what is spelled out above, less a critique of the book, and more of a "push" on the larger questions and what we might do here and now to address those.

Again, I am most honored by your engagement in this study.



Saturday, 28 February 2009

’The Great Emergence’ Schedule and first discussion

Well, I may barely make it but I did promise you a schedule and the kick off of our discussion. Actually, the author Phyllis Tickle did that pretty darn good herself last night. I know many of you have embarked on a schedule of your own, one that fits your context and community. I urge you to stay right with that. I offer this for those who would like to join in the discussion on the blog and anyone who wishes to be essentially reading at the same pace I am. Those on Facebook may certainly meet me there as well, although the blog will be the primary discussion point and where I hope we can center the discussion so that all that want to be, can be part of it, and can benefit from the responses.

So, here is my proposed schedule:

March 1-7- Part I intro and Chapters 1 and 2, essentially pages 1-40.

March 8-14- Part II intro and Chapter 3, pages 41-62

March 15-21- Chapters 4 and 5, pages 63-118

March 22-28- Part III intro and Chapter 8, pages 119-144

March 29-April 4- Chapter 7 and end discussion, pages 145-163

April 5-11- Holy Week and April 12th Easter!


For this week, Part I Intro and Chapters 1 and 2.


Of course Part 1 sets the case that Tickle wishes to make, that every 500 years the Church has a rummage sale, and we are living in the midst of such a time today. It would be interesting in our discussions to see where you are with that. Do you agree? Do you see it as she does? This quote from the bottom of page 26, and then top of 27 really intrigues me.

"When Christians despair of the upheavals and re-formations that have been the history of our faith-when the faithful resist, as so many do just now, the presence of another time of reconfiguration with its inevitable pain-we all would do well to remember that, not only are we in the hinge of a five-hundred year period, but we are also the direct product of one. We need, as well, to gauge our pain against the patterns and gains of each of the previous hinge times through which we have already passed. It is especially important to remember that no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millennial eruptions. Instead, each simply has lost hegemony or pride of place to the new and not-yet-organized from that was birthing."

That one paragraph is packed with so much.

Finally, "The Cable of Meaning." What do you think?

I look forward to our discussions!



Friday, 27 February 2009

A Message to Olympia from Phyllis Tickle

Dear Ones,

Well, Lent is upon us and so our study and discussion now begins. I have been so moved by the response. Churches, communities, across this diocese are taking up the challenge to read and discuss this book together. This will happen in many different ways. I have heard of groups meeting weekly in parishes across the diocese. Many are primed to follow along and comment on the blog. Tomorrow, I plan to put out my first musings and a question or two, but more than anything I simply hope you will engage one another in this journey. The discussion alone will be priceless.

I asked my friend Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence, if she herself might kick us off. She readily and joyfully agreed, and sent the following to all of you!! I am so very grateful to her for taking the time and she is very excited to see what might come from our discussion.

From Phyllis "Seen through the long lens of history, ours may be the most exhilarating century of the last twenty in which to be alive and Christian, in no small part because we live for the first time as thinking and believing people in an information age. For the first time in our two thousand years of existence, we can know—we do know—across all the barriers and borders of time and culture what is happening to us as Church in the aggregate and as individual believers in particular. But like a good knife, that blessing cuts two ways.

That is, we would indeed be foolish not to take great comfort from the exposure of patterns and currents that are not of our making. We would likewise be foolish to not take enormous hope from the demonstrable evidence that our forebears have always survived and grown as a result of similar periods of upheaval. We would be more than foolish, however, to not understand that such a perspective, since it has been given us now, carries with it the holy obligation to participate in this time of re-configuration and re-formation in a prayerful and humble way. We know, but we also will be asked some day how we have used our knowing. For that reason, my heart and my prayers join you and yours in Olympia this Lent as you assume the work of considering the Great Emergence we are living in and which we also are fashioning, even as it fashions us.

And there is one last thing, which I am sure you know, but which I can not leave you without saying: A diocese is most blessed when its bishop chooses to become its shepherd in so direct and open a way as the one that you and he are pursuing together this Lent. May what you discover together inform not only Olympia, but all of us who are Church in this time of monumental change.


Phyllis Tickle"


Thanks to Phyllis and to all of you, blessings, and may you experience a Holy Lent.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lent is Just Around the Corner!



We will soon be in the midst of Lent. It is a season that invites us to "hold" Christianity a bit closer, to mine it for its depths, to move into realms of it that we have not visited before. Lent is often described as a time to give things up. In the past few years I have resisted focusing on that as much, while focusing more on taking on something you have neglected over the last year. Maybe better than that is the idea of "holy adjustment." Lent is a time to get the balance back, to assess with an open heart, mind, and soul the reality of what the living of our lives truly reveals to us, and to those around us. One idea is to essentially do both, to give up, not what most people do, something bad for you anyway, but perhaps something actually good! I'll give you an example. A few years ago I was inspired by a writer who loved reading books, spent lots of times doing it, who made the decision to give up reading books for Lent. Her journey and struggle was instructive. I had another couple in my former parish who decided to stop using a calendar or watches during Lent. They loved it, but many of their friends and co-workers did not! That reaction points out what we expect. About four years ago I decided to drive the speed limit, everywhere, for the whole of Lent. Just about drove me and those around me crazy. Many sentiments were shared with me by fellow drivers during that Lent, for following the law! I learned patience and forgiveness.

Lent is a time, like no other, where we are reminded that Christianity is not something that can be dabbled in. There seems to be more and more the quest for a spiritual smorgasbord. We want to look at spirituality like a buffet, taking what we want, leaving what we don't. I see some good in that, but also some that is not so good. I was struck by a friend of mine who was delving deeply into First Nations spirituality when one of the guides she had sought out became a bit frustrated and told her, "you have a spirituality, you should learn it, for all of the good and not so good you can find from it." Christianity, as quite frankly most faith traditions, especially the most adhered to, are not something to be dabbled in but something instead to give over your life too. It is a way of life, not a part of your life.

We will be soon sharing our book study together, studying The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. I have heard from so many who will be joining us for this. I will be launching this the first week of Lent after Ash Wednesday, letting you "get into" Lent a bit first. The best way for us to stay in contact on this is to use this blog. Perhaps this can be a way for us to look more deeply at our faith, where we have come from, and where we might be going. I wish for you a holy, blessed Lent, and the giving up or something, or the taking up of something that is just "off balance" enough to help you see balance again. I pray for you a depth that takes you deeper, less dabbling, more living! I will be working on it, and praying for it too.




Greg Rickel

Monday, 9 February 2009

I Did It!

I bought a snow shovel today. I guess I am home!

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Great Emergence: Let’s Talk

Dear Ones,


If you read the Episcopal Voice produced by the Diocese of Olympia, this post will look remarkably similar to my column in the most recent February edition. I offer it here to invite into the proposed discussion anyone who might like to enjoy it here. I received a great idea from my colleague the Rev. Hollis Williams. He suggested that I select a book that we might all read and discuss together. He called it the "Bishop's Book for Lent." I actually used to report the books I was reading, when in the parish, and people seemed to like that. I have not done that here and suspect you may not be all that interested anyway, however, I like this idea from Hollis and would like to give it a try. I like this as it will provide a way for us to have some discussion around the book and perhaps the issue the book addresses. I am thinking we might use my blog as a way to hold the discussion. Some of you have also found me on Facebook and we might chat about it there too.

So, I am willing to give this a try, see how it goes, and maybe we will hit on something here, a way for us to center a discussion. The book I would propose it The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle. I had a chance to read a draft of this book and to discuss it in person with the author before it was published. It has been published and I found it to be very compelling and thought provoking. The basic premise she takes comes from Bishop Mark Dyer who said to understand Christian history you have to understand that about every 500 years or so, the Church has a rummage sale. Tickle's premise is that such a seminal time is being experienced right now.


This article will come out the first week in February. Ash Wednesday is February 25th, so, should you decide to join this experiment you will have time to acquire the book and begin reading it before we enter Lent. What I will try to do is to provoke some discussion, perhaps even parcel out chapters over Lent so we might be able to "read it" together. This is a book you should be able to find at all the usual places. I hope to alert our Episcopal bookstores of this plan so they can stock up a bit as well. If you want to take a sneak preview there is one available at On this website you can view a three minute video introduction hosted by Tickle as well as other information about the book. Tickle will be the Clergy Conference speaker in 2010 and hopefully be present in other venues with us then too.


Let's see how it goes!




Greg Rickel

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Justice before our eyes

On this most important day in our common life together, when we have been called to a new era of personal responsibility by our new President, I offer this essay along the same lines, which was recently published. Here goes,

Perhaps my ponderings on this subject should be far more global and all encompassing. I suspect this is what is expected when one is asked to muse on what it means to be a Christian seeking justice. Actually, I am in total agreement that it is a big thing, crucial for the world, for all of us, even those who don't particularly feel that injustice is a regular part of their lives. In fact, it may be even more important for those of us in which this is true.


No, my thought on this is really a very small thing. Some will even dismiss it as too small and perhaps even irrelevant but I am going to persist nonetheless. I have three major ministry initiatives I have vowed to work on as I begin my new episcopate. The first of these three is work and focus on those 35 years of age and under. To this group, the church seems ever more irrelevant because the Church, to them, seems to be irrelevant to the world. This is not actually new. In some ways every new generation has had its "issues" with the Church. However, even when viewed historically, we seem to be witnessing as stark a denial as we have ever seen. The denial comes with a wish, at least from what I hear from these generations, that it might be different, which is hopeful.


When I meet with the mostly older generations that occupy the pews in our churches, I hear, eventually, some notion, and even accusation, that the younger generations seem to be uncommitted and self indulged. I listen for a while and then I have to ask, "Who raised them?" Somewhere, from someone, these young people learned to be uncommitted and self indulgent, if that be the truth. In reality, the entirety of the former generations raised them, corporately, as well as individually. I have to wonder if, in fact, they are not uncommitted and self indulgent at all. This is not what I sense when I engage them. Instead they are wise enough to sense, in the Church, an often inauthentic loyalty and some suspicion that our words and proclamations don't match our intentions or actions.


This is my small thing. Though I have not been one to jump on the family values bandwagon as the solution to all things, I am coming around to the notion that it makes a difference, perhaps a more profound one than many of us want to imagine. Instead of biting off the major social issues of our day, some of which are truly more than one has time to spend any time on, perhaps it would do well for us to calculate how we can make a difference within the moments in our lives which we cannot avoid, working in our jobs, making our way to those jobs, living with our families and others we live with each day. How can we live justice in those relationships so that justice becomes a way of life?


I think of my twelve year old son. Several years ago, I took him to Disney World. We lived in one of the perimeter hotels which require that you board buses, mostly packed unsafely to the gills with humans, so that you might make it to the various parks. I witnessed old women and men having to stand up, holding on for dear life, as we whipped through the park, while strapping young men sat inches away safely in a seat. It was clear that the thought had never crossed their mind to get up and offer their seat.

I became rather obsessed from then on to teach my son, making him get up, as I did on many occasions to allow others to sit. You will never know the great conversations that started as we offered this kindness. Sadly, it was so unusual as to be novel. My son began to actually look forward to doing it.


Lest you think I am taking it to the younger generation, you can witness the same from everyone. We are a pampered nation, a people blinded by our wealth, and so this type of entitlement living is all around us. I succumb to it too, I am not excluding myself. We, here, have to work hard to see beyond it. On a small ferry ride recently I watched an older woman plop herself down in a chair, prop her leg up on the one next to her, and proclaim loudly, "Just let someone try to take this seat away from me!"; all the while, all around her, the same scene; men and women bouncing around in the waves trying their best to stand.


I know, I told you these were small things, you might even be saying petty. But, like the ripples of waves that come from the stone thrown upon the water, or the old adage that the flap of butterflies' wings in Japan is connected to the tornado in Texas, I think this may actually be the world when we consider how a Christian seeks justice.


I think this same mentality keeps us from having real conversations, something also quite wanted by the younger generations and something they see quite missing from our midst. A friend of mine recently bore her soul regarding her experience with racism, only to have those very ones who should have praised her venture, eat her alive. It is so much easier to stay on the surface, to keep the veneer of care and concern alive rather than really delve into our demons; so much easier to look across an ocean than to see the injustice in our homes, schools, or churches. We have seen this played out on the national scene as well.


Thich Nhat Hahn once reminded us that peace is every step. I believe Jesus walked, with every step, purposeful and centered on justice and peace, for every person he encountered.


The call or need for justice is not far away, in some other place. The root of our response, the place we learn, is right before us every day. May we teach our children consideration, hospitality, and justice. Have them watch us do the same, and I think we will change the world. A Christian seeking justice, is a Christian doing justice with every step.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Now is the time for resolutions. To some degree most people make them. I am no different. I make many, every year. I am going to lose those 10 or so pounds I need to lose. I will work out more, pray more, eat less, or at least better. The turn of a new year is like a car tune up in a way, a reboot of the computer. The reality of how few of these get actualized in a year, and are lost before January is even history, may have something to do with our feelings of immortality. Deep down we know, or hope with all our might, that we will be around next year, and we will just do it then. I have to wonder myself if I might let these go believing in some strange way, if I were to accomplish them all, well, then what would I do next year? Which of course, means, I truly believe next year is mine already.

I remember fondly doing a Vestry retreat many years ago with a fabulous vestry from my home parish. A member of that vestry was one of the old, and he was, patriarchs of the parish. I had them do an exercise where they imagine if they were to die five years from now, what would they want people to say about them? Of course, the whole point is to show that usually what is on these lists are not possessions or even accomplishments, but attributes and relationships deepened; the punch line being, well why don't you live the next five years so that people would say all of that. This wonderful man, when first asked the question, what would you want people to say about you in five years, said, with a big smile, "he's alive!: I just want to be here in five years!" He, of course, had a good and timeless point.

And so, on this New Year's Day, surrounded by my family, sisters, mothers, fathers, I was thinking this same thing. I was musing about my "resolutions" watching some bowl game when the call came in, a frantic one, from my sister, who had just left our gathering hours earlier with her husband. She was desperately doing CPR, the ambulance had finally arrived. She did all she could, we met the ambulance at the ER and shortly after got the news, that her husband, who had sat right beside me at dinner just hours earlier, had passed on to larger life at the age of 45 leaving my sister and 6 children. His name was Norm. He was a good man who loved them all very much. The next day we were graced with lunch with our good friend, mentor, priest, Dennis Campbell, who just two weeks ago said goodbye to his wife, mother of our god children, priest, mentor, friend, Peggy Bosmyer.

Two days into 2009 and I had been given some rather pointed perspective. In both cases, what I hoped for was just one more conversation, a little more time, perhaps a little less of that notion that next year is mine, and that I will be part of it, along with everyone I love and value in this world. Of course we all have these moments in our lives, and then for some reason, maybe it is survival itself, we fall back into the inevitable illusion that we direct our time.

Perhaps the most difficult thing, and in the strangest way, the place I learned the most, was watching my 6 year old niece and nephew try to reason with the fact that their Dad was not coming back. They are, of course, at different places with this and yet their questions are the ones we all have. Most of us have answered them in one way or the other, some are answers of faith, and others simply the answer we need in order to go on, and in some cases both. Combine all of that with the many problems throughout the world, not the least of which is the continuing death and struggle in the Middle East and certainly some of our resolutions would pale in comparison.

I still have some things I would like to do this year, to better myself, always with the hope of more balance in my life. But perhaps more than anything, I hope I can just be more aware, and believe what has always been a line in my rule of life, that every day should be lived like it's my last, because one day it will be. Jimmy Buffett has a great song where he says, "I'd rather die while I'm livin' than live while I'm dead." These two, Norm and Peggy were great examples of just that, and that seems like a good resolution for us all, to truly, deeply, fully…. live.