Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Region 5 is the Verdict

I have spent a great deal of processing over this past week since being assigned to Region 5 as the ELCA's spring Assignment Process. I realize that for those of you not part of the ELCA or even for those who are part of the ELCA this may sound like a foreign language in many ways. Assignment is a process that is used to spread the candidates for ordained ministry in the church across the Unites States based on their gifts and skills along with where the needs of the church are at any given time. A prayerful process takes place in Chicago over two days where bishops, regional coordinators, seminary representatives, and the Holy Spirit gather to discern and prayerfully assign those of us approved for ordination. I have made this process seem much simpler than it truly is, but that is the easiest way to explain it.

Here is a map of where Region 5 is located and the synods.

As I have discerned this week about my feelings of assignment I have realized how much this week has brought me back to the start of my process of moving to seminary and beginning candidacy. I remember this feeling of discomfort, excitement, and just a complete sense of the unknown when I moved to Gettysburg to start seminary. I never thought I would come to call the east coast home and never thought I would fall in love with the Washington DC area that way I have over the past three and a half years. Now I find myself filled with these same feelings as I head back "home" to Region 5. This time I may know the area to a certain degree but there is a great deal of unknown. I would like to think that this would be the last time I would feel these feelings in ministry, but I believe the Spirit has a way of working that this is just another instance of many to come. Tomorrow or Thursday, I will receive a call telling me which synod I am assigned to and from there I will begin the call process

It is hard to believe that three and a half years ago I could not wait to be called back "home" and now I am filled with such mixed emotions because there is great excitement and sadness that comes with going "home." It means I will have the chance to meet new people yet again, rekindle relationships, and do some of the outdoor winter activities I love again. It also means I will be leaving a place that has truly become home in so many ways, it means say goodbye for now to dear friends and we now begin bridging what it means to be long distant friends, and leaving an area that has taught me so much about life. The Spirit has some mighty ways of stirring and changing our lives in ways we do not always expect. Can we find ways to be comfortable with being uncomfortable? I am still working on this and have to believe I will be forever because the Spirit seems always to keep us on our toes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Theology and Movies

One of the many things I enjoy is to watch movies and think of creative ways they can be used in ministry. This could be using clips from them or using the entire movie for a Bible study. I think I enjoy this because it offers that connection point for people in their daily lives. This joy is exactly where the idea for my Religion and Media project came from. I had heard so much buzz about the movie Frozen and the soundtrack that I figured there had to be a way to look at it theologically. After watching the movie twice in theaters I realized there were many different elements that could be used to look at this movie through a theological lens. I created this Movie Mash as what would serve as an opening clip to show before engaging in a deeper Bible study on the movie Frozen. I think it could be viewed prior to watching the movie or after the movie is seen. There are points where I am intentional about creating a tension between the song and images/words, while other times I am trying to create a connected theme.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taking a Step Back!

As class ended yesterday I have spent the last day or so reflecting even more on the class. I just couldn't quite put words to where I was at last evening as I started to really tie some of the pieces together. Many of the elements started to link up as I started to think deeper about my project.

I went to Frozen last night to watch it through the lens of different theological loci. I was watching with the intent of starting to lay out my project. However, this discipline of watching or viewing a form of media through theological loci has tremendous power. We have this ability as Christians to always use a variety of theological lenses. I think to often we forget to do this and when that happens the media we are using lacks the full capacity it holds. Now, we may not always want to walk into a movie and watch it through a specific theological loci, but what might happen if you did every once in a while?

We may not always use a theological lens and that is ok. In the same way we may not have to always use social media or digital media. Tonight I witnessed how there is something special that can happen when we take that step back and let community develop naturally. At Youth group this evening I did not ask the youth to put their phones away I just helped initiate the beginning conversation. As the night went on the social/digital community they are often so attached to through their phone was placed on hold as they embraced the community around them and in their presence. There is something about us as humans that crave that relationship and true presence. The community that was present through their phone they would go back to but they also took the step back to embrace the real presence of community surrounding them. The further they engaged and embraced those around them the reminder to using caring language disappeared because they started to see Christ in each other. The transition was amazing to sit as an observer while still being a part of this community as it was forming. The media of a board game and the Bible was all that was needed for this group of youth to build on our human desire for relationship in profound ways. Which community is more important, the digital or real presence?

More on the project and Youth night to come. The one last thing as I reflect back on the class. I was nervous about starting this blog and have come to appreciate blogging. It goes back to a connection piece and to engage in conversation in a new way. I am thankful for this class as it has opened my eyes in new ways and I look forward to continuing to blog periodically.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Power of Authenticity

We covered a wide breath of information today, but what struck me was when we started to make the connections from the entire week that really creates a complex web. We talked about authenticity numerous times throughout the week. We also emphasized how important this is especially in social media. This hit me even more today when we started to talk about Pope Francis and the narrative that is told. The narrative that is told is the one that continues to be witnessed, but I think you could argue it also continues to be told because it is authentic. As humans, relationship is part of our very being, but authenticity is central in relationships. No one wants to be in a relationship with a fake. 

The narrative the is created about Pope Francis comes from more than one source. We looked at A Big Heart Open to God that was an interview published in America, we also looked at Evangelii Gaudium, and discussed the numerous images like this one. pope francis

All of these sources start to create a narrative that has a common thread that if you look to other places would more than likely be present as well. Authenticity is present!

Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson talk about how important authenticity is in social media in their book Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. This idea is present in many places throughout the book, but one place I really enjoy is this quote, "One of the reasons Bolz-Weber is so effective is that she has a clear and consistent voice - the same voice you hear whether you talk to her in person, text her, or tweet back and forth." (page 163) There is an authenticity that it present when there is a consistent voice being heard and perceived whether it be via media or not. 

Just as Drescher and Anderson, talk about social media has great advantages and I would be one of the first to agree, but as I have experienced firsthand this week one of the shortcomings in the digital world. I think, we have to always keep a filter on and ask are we being authentic? Is it one voice being heard or many? What narrative are we creating? 

This week I have been working on retrieving my lost/delayed luggage. United has utilized digital media just as many other companies, but as I have experienced this week the media has not always been a unified voice. I have received mixed messages and that has resulted in my perception of their authenticity to be greatly compromised. As I write this still sitting without my luggage at what will be one week when 1am strikes, I witnessed how digital media can go wrong. I am not saying we toss digital media out. Please hear that! I have said before and I will say again, I think digital media is important and has great value. Also, hear me say I think we need to keep in mind that we want to remain authentic and create a narrative, which shares a common thread. I think we also create within that narrative a way to handle situations when things go wrong in the digital social media world. What are some of the ways you have handled situations in the social media world when they went array so they did not compromise your authenticity or your narrative?

There is power in social media and there is power in authenticity! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If only the question was traditional vs. contemporary...

Today we discussed what is necessary for worship to be authentic in relation to Luther's Seven Marks of the church and adiaphora. I am one for whom worship is really important, but I also believe that there are many ways in which worship can be authentic. I have had many conversations with people about traditional vs. contemporary, church building vs. another local, but this conversation becomes even more complex as we enter into the media world, especially with digital and social media. We joked today if only the questions were about traditional and contemporary. If only! 

As we talked I had several questions I will continue to ponder. The one I would love to hear your thoughts on is what is important for you in worship? What makes worship authentic for you personally? 

Now, the Seven Marks of the church are important and I would say critical, but there are also those things that we categorize as adiaphora but are still of importance. I think those adiaphora things are some of what make us feel like worship is authentic or not even when it may meet all the Seven Marks. However, I think this gets interesting when we start to think about the community and the space that is created that is allowing for prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God. This is a mark of the church but I think some of the adiaphora things help it happen at times. For instance, we would say most of the time the church building and sanctuary are adiaphora, but how does that maybe influence the community in worship when we look at these two worship spaces below? Now I am not saying one is right or wrong. I think both can allow authentic worship to happen but does the set-up make a difference when we extend out to social media like Skype, FaceTime, LiveStreaming (Ustream), etc. 

Parker Palmer in To Know As We Are Known: Education As A Spiritual Journey talks about the physical arrangement of the classroom, is our worship space different. He talks about how the set-up can invite relations to form with each other and have an element of hospitality or this can be absent. I think this is true of our worship spaces virtual or physical. I also think the physical set-up could be the same in two different places and relay two different messages based on the community. 

For instance, I think you could Skype the same person into two different churches that were physically set up the same and that person could say one was authentic and the other was not. They could report that it was because one they knew the community there even though they were on the screen. They could say both were not because it is important to be physically present in the community. I have to wonder what is "public", what is the role of the community, and does physical presence matter.

If only it was the question of traditional vs. contemporary...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Whose in and whose out?: Christ as Community

As we talked today about what it means to be a Christian Community I wondered even more how we determine some of whose in and whose out. We seem to categorize all the time. We talked about social media communities and never came to an answer as to whether some social media communities were Christian communities or not. Does the element of a virtual space that exists on social media in and of itself mean it is “out” from being deemed a Christian community? Or is there something more to it?

I like to believe there is something more to Christian community. We talked about Dietrich Bonhoeffer today and his book Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible. I have to agree with him when he says, "The Christ of Life Together is the binding force of that community in its "togetherness," gracing Christians to go beyond the superficial, often self-centered, relationships of their everyday associations toward a more intimate sense of what it means to be Christ to others, to love others as Christ has loved them." (page 8) As this image shows, I think of Christ as the center in us the one in whom we are always welcome and where we learn how to see and love others. 


I think when we can form this commitment in Christian communities to love as Christ first loved, something powerful is truly at work. Parker Palmer talks about in his book, To Know As We Are Known: Education As A Spiritual Journey, community takes commitment. I do not think any community truly functions well without a level of commitment. It is in this commitment that forms in communities that knowledge arises. I would even go to say in Christian communities when we are committed to being Christ to others and to love others as Christ has loved it is then where we start to gain an even deeper and meaningful understanding of God. I also believe that when this plays out in effective ways, especially in social media there is a value for how it proclaims the gospel. The specific notion of this that comes to mind is Abiding Presence's YouTube channel and specifically this video. 

What ways have you seen Christian community effectively portrayed in social media? How do you see it proclaiming the gospel?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Perception of the Imago Dei

Today as we talked about being created in the image of the Imago Dei this video that was going around Facebook came to mind. http://clashdaily.com/2014/01/labelled-worlds-ugliest-woman-lizzie-velasquez-knows-god-sees-true-beauty/ Lizzie Velasquez who was labeled the ugliest woman in the world looks to her disease and her situation not as a disability. She talks about how she comes to understand that God sees her true beauty. I wonder some, what her response would be to being created in the Imago Dei. When we talked in class about being created in the image of God and if we could visualize God having a disability Lizzie makes me ponder this even more. I wonder how Lizzie helps or hinders each of our understandings of being created in the Imago Dei and our views of what is or is not a disability when it comes to God.