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Welcome & Conference Schedule

April 16, 2010

Welcome to the University of Chicago Ministry Conference blog for our Worship in Crisis conference. We hope that in addition to providing pertinent information regarding our upcoming conference, we can already begin to spark discussion about the topic of our conference, our churches worshipful, prayerful and/or liturgical responses to the crises facing us today.Details about the conference can be found on the right.

Many thanks!

The Ministry Conference Visioning Committee

Register for the conference here.

Register for the Alumni Dinner here.
For more information e-mail:

ministryconference@gmail.com

Schedule:

9:00  Registration
9:15  Worship
10:00  Keynote address: Peter Rollins – “Worship and the Ritualising of Trauma.”
11:15  Panel:
-Elizabeth Hiller
-Dr. Ted Jennings
-Alisha Jones
-Fr. David Kelly C.P.P.S.

12:30  Lunch

1:30 Breakout Sessions
-Alisha Jones
“Sing for Change”
(Rm 106)
-Dr. Ted Jennings
“Queer Critique and Transformations of ‘Marriage’ Rites.”
(Rm 200)
-Fr. David Kelly C.P.P.S.
“Ritual and Reconciliation in Back of the Yards”
Lecture Hall
-Elizabeth Hiller
“Speaking of Faith When You Don’t Speak the Same Language: Worship in Multi-Cultural Communities”
(Rm 400)
-Mosaic
“Worship for Worldly People: Blurring the Sacred / ‘Secular’ Divide”
(Rm 201)

2:30  Keynote address: Siobhan Garrigan
3:30  Break
3:40  Conversation between Siobhan Garrigan and Peter Rollins
4:30  Mosaic Worship Service
5:00  Reception

6:30 Alumni dinner at the Quad Club. Register here.

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Mosaics of Janus-faced faith by Sylvia Clark and Margaret Farris

April 14, 2010

We are participants in Mosaic, co-sponsors of this conference.  We have met together for just over a year now, gathering in alternative weeks to discuss scriptural texts in light of secular experience.  In this, we have explored a faith that is rooted in a careful attention to the past that renews what is old by making it freshly present.

Before each meeting, an invitation is offered that suggests reading the text in advance, considering what the text evokes, and identifying “artifacts” that resonate: songs, prose passages, short videos, music, poems, personal photos, graphics and news items.  These artifacts are posted on the group’s website, though it is often unclear how these artifacts are connected to the text until the discussions take place.  At the meeting itself, the text is read aloud, and discussion begins, spontaneously or after a period of silence.  We make our way through the artifacts that have been brought, attending each time to the surprising ways in which these discoveries illuminate the text – or stand in tension with it.  Group members freely associate personal stories and spur-of-the-moment connections inspired by the discussion and what other people have shared; in this way, we work with each other to discover unplumbed depths in our experience of scripture.

In addition, a smaller group has met in parallel with our text-centered discussions to plan how worship services could be derived from the plethora of material we have collected.  In the two services we have developed so far, we chose occasions that related our artifacts to a liturgical framework, fitting them together to create the mosaic and frame of each service.  In neither case did we begin with a predetermined theme, order or conclusion for the services.  Instead, the planning group reflected on the contrasting responses of the original meetings and the artifacts that had been presented and discussed, continuing to work over and through the material in a process that continued almost right up to the moment each service began.  In this, we sought to faithfully extend the careful and creative reflection that characterizes our meetings.

For our services, we ordered and reordered the artifacts we selected to most effectively juxtapose the sacred and the secular.  Our first service took place on All Souls Day in Bond Chapel on the University of Chicago campus, a neo-gothic structure with beautiful stained glass windows and many rows of pews.  A large screen was placed behind the altar, with the projector resting upon it, and a large mound of dirt sitting directly in front.  The service order emerged from one evening’s discussion of a text from Ecclesiastes: The “prelude,” a Johnny Cash song, was played as people gathered; the scriptural text was initially read in its entirety from a seated position, then portions of the text were re-read throughout the service, interspersed with projected images, poems, music and fragments from the “Office of Compline.”  The pace was unhurried, with lengthy periods of silence intertwined with speech.

Our second service took place on Candlemas (the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple) and was based on several texts associated with Joseph.  It took place in the basement chapel of Brent House, the home of the Episcopal Ministry at the University of Chicago, a space that we cleared of furnishing except for two candelabras, the screen and projector.  A few chairs were available, but most participants stood.  A column in the center of the chapel divided the space; accordingly, while Luke’s description of the flight of Mary and Joseph into Egypt was read over an ambient thrum, we processed around it with lighted candles.  As in the first service, images and music were interspersed with liturgical fragments and the “postlude” was a secular song.  As with the first service there were periods of silence, allowing all participants time to experience and process all of the visual and audio stimuli being presented.

We make no grand claims for these fragmentary experiences; indeed, to do so would sit at odds with our ethos and approach.  However, we do believe that both services provided a new way to experience texts that are, for many, old and familiar — it is this renewal of what is old by carefully and creatively juxtaposing it with what is new that serves as the goal of Mosaic.

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Walking with the immigrant on the Way of the Cross

April 9, 2010

– Michael Le Chevallier

At the 4th station, Jesus meets his mother. We are asked to remember the suffering of immigrant families torn apart due to deportation. 32nd annual Via Dolorosa. Good Friday, April 2nd, 2010. Pilsen.

Attending the annual Living Stations of the Cross in Pilsen this year, as a Catholic I looked forward to a cross-cultural encounter with the Spanish-speaking Catholic community. Good Friday has always had a means of reaching across 2000 years of history, bringing the passion of Jesus into my mind and heart in meaningful ways. Rather unexpectedly, as the Way of the Cross of Pilsen proclaimed the plight of immigrant alongside the sufferings of Christ, this unified piercing message connected my own individual personal concerns and prayers to social concerns. My own spectatorship, the disconnected and thus detached observer of the plight of the immigrant became aligned with the silent spectators of Christ crucifixion in Jerusalem. And together, myself and thousands others on pilgrimage down 18th street, Spanish and English speaking, sang out “Perdona a tu pueblo Señor” (Lord, pardon your people.)

The living Stations of the Cross began at 9 am in the basement of the Providence of God Church. A sizable crowd of around a hundred gathered with me outside, unable to enter due to the number of people already there. We joined with them on this mini-pilgrimage however, directed towards Harrison Park almost 2 miles away where the crucifixion was to take place. I have never participated in a Living Stations, and was excited to see this living relic of Latino Catholicism in America. At each station, Christ’s journey became the journey of the immigrant. At the 4th station, where Jesus meets his mother, Mary’s own suffering from seeing her son being taken to be crucified was linked to the deep pain of immigrant families torn apart due to deportation. At the 9th Station, as Jesus falls the 3rd time, we were called to remember the difficulties that many immigrant teenagers and children of immigrants face in completing their studies right next to a vacant lot where the Resurrection Project, one of the Way of the Cross’s cosponsors, would be building a new dormitory for Latino/Latina immigrant students. Throughout, Spanish and English speakers alike were called to remember and acknowledge their own lack of compassion before those within our communities living in fear, desperation, and in need. As we marched on, thousands joined, entering into this Living Way of the Cross that was as much an enactment of the stories surrounding us in and beyond the Pilsen parish communities, as it was an enactment of the story of Christ from the Gospels.

Though the grandchild of a French immigrant and a native of a region filled with migrant workers and immigrant families, it is easy to live my own life disconnected from the plight of the modern immigrant. This liturgical binding of modern crisis to the biblical crisis event that we lift up as a central part of my Catholic faith enabled me not only to attend to this social justice issue in a new way, but also to draw it into my full person in prayer. As a spectator of this modern day crisis, I was drawn into the spectatorship of the city of Jerusalem watching Jesus. I was equally compelled towards action as these living stations demanded the painful gaze of attention be directed to those families and communities all around us living under fear of the threat of disruption, as well as to the grief of seemingly irreparable loss as family members are deported out of this country without word or notice.

While the liturgical calendar seemingly trudges on without any notice to the ordinary lives that we lead, the Christian story equally can pierce through the layers of history and our own indifference to speak to our hearts and our social context as this Good Friday Way of the Cross illustrates. Theologically, the witness of Christ’s incarnation imposes an understanding that if we are to not “cling to” him as a resurrected Jesus warns Mary Magdalene from doing in John’s Easter season Gospel text, we must acknowledge the story of Jesus of Nazareth is not merely one moment in history, nor a locked away personal treasure, but instead continually lived out in the interconnected social world around us. Christ’s story is not lost to history, but living everywhere there is injustice, even in our failed immigration system. As Christ’s story liturgically fuses to our shared stories, new resources in ritual and prayer are given to us to align our suffering with this cosmic injustice of the God-abandoned crucified Christ and the ultimate triumph over death. As the liberation theologians used to proclaim, “Christ is crucified with the poor in their sufferings.” Those like me, who falsely live apart from this immigrant crisis that touches our neighborhoods and faith communities, are also impelled to solidarity in the realization that our own culpability as mute and inactive spectators of this modern day crucifixion calls us to responsibility to receive pardon and to penitentially move to new action. Witnessing the Living Stations of the Cross in Pilsen efficaciously draw thousands of us into the story of Christ and the story of the immigrant inspires confidence in the power of liturgy to affirm our faith identities not apart from our social context, but instead drawing in our pains, sufferings, histories, and even guilty inaction along with our whole hearts. “Perdona a tu pueblo Señor”

Michael is a 2nd year MDiv Student at the University of Chicago and a pastoral intern at St. Clement Church

More Links:

Video of this year’s Pilsen Way of the Cross by Yo Chicago:

The Resurrection Project in Pilsen: http://www.resurrectionproject.org/home.aspx

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(Not) Queer by James Hoke

March 11, 2010

The second half of the Peter Rollins’ book (How (Not) to Speak of God) describes different services that Ikon, Rollins’ community in Ireland, has put into practice. The final service in the book is “Queer.” The service is a good start, but it leaves something to be desired. Some of my discomfort may stem from my unease with the idea of the “Emergent Church,” which—in my particular view—seems to think that people who come to worship can leave behind their ideologies when worshipping G*d. Perhaps this is a over-generalization on my part, but the statement is true in the case of Rollin’s “Queer” service:

    “But in this room, for this hour, we lay down these debates to concentrate on the fact that all are welcome at the table and to reaffirm that the only ones who are excluded are those who exclude themselves by not wanting to sit with others, listen to others, learn from others and love others.”

As a gay man, it is statements like this that bring my state of worship into crisis. I have sat at enough tables where I have not felt welcome and embraced; the Presbyterian tradition I was raised in still refuses to ordain LGBTQ people. I’m sick and tired of being told that I should put aside my differences with people who judge me based upon my sexual orientation.

Furthermore, I’m done with worship services that try to deal with the discrimination faced by queer people by loudly projecting FAGGOT in the middle of a room.

Maybe I am overly critical. But I don’t want a worship service that asks us to set aside our disagreements about being queer. I want a queer worship service that celebrates queerness, that celebrates the fact that G*d created and loves queer people, and that acknowledges the deep sense of spiritual wholeness that I felt when I came out of the closet and fully embraced the person G*d created me to be. I want to find this kind of acceptance within the realm of worship.

Perhaps part of the acceptance I am looking for in a service is something that is more than just a surface acceptance of queerness. In an interreligious discussion group that I lead on religion and sexuality, one participant noted that religious traditions rarely know how to create an affirming space for relationships. Queer people are welcome in congregations, but things become awkward when a queer couple joins and wants to be publicly present. Is there a way in which a queer worship service could not only celebrate queerness but also honor and affirm queer relationships?

Laying down my strong viewpoints on debates about queerness in order to worship is difficult. When I have to do this, I am often one of the ones who excludes himself from the table. But I often exclude myself because I don’t have another table to which I can go; I have not found a worship space that celebrates queerness. I acknowledge the value to Rollins’ service, but it is not what I am searching for. I am interested in seeing a worship service that can celebrate and integrate queer identity with the celebration and acknowledgment of G*d and Her presence in our lives. I believe that this is achievable, but I am not certain how to start. So I raise my concerns and my ideas here in hopes of a more fruitful conversation about worship and queerness.

James N. Hoke, MDiv candidate 2011, www.questioningcertainty.blogspot.com

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“Engineering Hope” by Rev. Bonnie K. Carenen

February 20, 2010

Rev. Bonnie K. Carenen
Church World Service, Project Advisor

“Engineering Hope”

I Cor. 12:12-26 and Luke 4:14-21

I preached this sermon at Jakarta Community Church on 24 January 2010, two weeks after the 7.0 Earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince Haiti. I am working with Church World Service Indonesia as a program advisor on disaster and development issues.

There was one thing which kept bothering me all week, and made it hard for me to sleep at night. I just kept thinking: “What Haiti really needs right now are engineers, not a yippy do-gooding minister.” Maybe you too, have had doubts like this about what you are doing with your life and why. If you are good and doing good enough… with your family, with your relationships, with your work, in the things that matter most to you. For me, I keep wondering why my theology program didn’t teach me about Jesus’ skills as a carpenter, because those sure could come in handy for the people of Haiti. Not like the Greek and Latin I learned.

For me, feeling the practical limits of my good intentions in this way was particularly discouraging. I studied eight years, earned a professional degree, got ordained, and came (literally) to the other side of the world to think about and practice how the Church can deal with disasters. So to think, “Haiti needs engineers and not a Bible thumping minister” has been a tough break.

Because, you see, I think about disasters a lot. It is my job in Indonesia and the focus of my ministry to think about what disasters—all kinds of disasters—mean for survivors, witnesses, communities, and congregations. I think about what disasters say about God, and the world that God created and called good. I think about what the ancient wisdom of the Bible, and good news of the gospel, has to say about devastating news stories of destruction and death.

I think the hardest part about a disaster is not merely the tragic fact of death, but that a disaster has the capacity to break someone’s spirit. Disasters threaten to extinguish hope. And I am in the business of hope. Excuse me calling this a business, but let me tell you that the Church is in the business of hope. Therefore disasters (ought to) make the Church sit up and pay attention. You see, this is what I do!

Granted, Haiti needs hope! But anyone who sees pictures of Port-au-Prince would agree that Haiti really needs engineers. Well, let me be precise on a couple points: first, Haiti has hope. If there was ever a place which knew the inside-out of tragedy and disaster, it is Haiti; and yet Haiti’s people are proud, singing, vital, vibrant, hopeful people. Haiti could teach you and me, if we were wise enough to sit down and really listen, a thing or two about hope!

Second, there are many things Haiti needs in addition to engineers; international debt relief not least among them. I am not in a position to prescribe a solution to the long list of disasters which have cluttered her history. What I mean to say is that my heart is moved for Haiti. Like that tentmaker Apostle Paul who advises the Corinthians, where one suffers we all suffer. I want my life to stand in testimony to God’s desire, Christ’s example, the Church’s responsibility, and my capacity, to be for Haiti during this newest fiasco. Each of our lives stands for something and this is what I want for mine.

 

What consumes me during these sleepless nights is that I would give all the work of my hands and the sweat of my brow and dedicate the whole of my ministry to the good of Haiti and other places who experience disasters.

But, I am painfully aware that it isn’t going to be enough. Maybe, it won’t even be right. I want to build bridges of peace, but I don’t actually know how to build anything at all. I would give my personal worth, all my money, if it could really help, but not only do I not have enough money to give to tell Haiti how much I love her, and how much God loves her, but I think that might just be throwing money at a problem and not do much to fix it. Besides that, I really don’t believe getting or having money is a sign of God’s blessing.

Have you ever felt stuck like this? As a parent who would give anything to lessen the shock and grief of your daughter’s first broken heart, but unable to. As a friend who sees that your closest friend is drinking too much too often, but not sure what to do or what to say? As a spouse, watching helplessly as your partner is carried away on business trips and work obligations, aware that this is just the way it is going to be right now. As a classmate who gets news that someone from school was in a serious car wreck, and doctors are not yet sure if he will be okay. “You will just have to wait and see.” You’d do anything to do more, but no matter what, you won’t be able to do enough. You wonder if you can do anything at all.

It is similar for Haiti. Haiti needs engineers. And doctors, diplomats, teachers, mechanics, plumbers, poets, comedians, technicians, prosthetic limb specialists and more. Maybe you too have thought about how to help, but felt helpless. A college friend of mine who is working with the Episcopal Relief and Development agency put it bluntly: “I can’t say enough how much people should not come to Haiti to help anytime soon unless they are Creole-speaking very, very experienced trauma surgeons bringing all their own supplies.”

Well I am none of these things. So I have been thinking about the next three or four degrees I will have to get before I can be any good for God’s good people in Haiti. She goes on to explain: “It’s a [mess] of disaster tourists right now under the guise of “community journalism” and tiny NGOs bringing a little bit of water from the States. RAISE MONEY AND STAY HOME.”

Disasters like in Haiti, or in Padang (Indonesia) after the earthquake there, or a long litany of other natural and moral disasters, create a fundamental challenge to us as believers, and to the Church as the body of Christ. They create a scenario which is the bane of our personalized, self-focused, hero-oriented, bravo-macho, me-me-me sensibilities. The hard truth? You can’t fix this. Disasters throw us back on an irrefutable reality that is the intriguing, compelling truth of religion, and I do mean religion and not just spirituality or faith: We are in it together.

Paul describes the Church and its members as a body, an organized functioning unit. This union: solidarity, compassion, the shared resources and shared destiny, makes us more vulnerable, as you already know if you have ever wanted in vain to reach through the phone to hug someone. But it also makes us stronger, wiser, and more alive. This corporation of the Church, this body of Christ, makes every one of us something like engineers and consultants of “wellbeing.”

Jesus was a carpenter, but he was also a preacher, a prophet, a pray-er, a philosopher, a community organizer. He worked with a team of dim-witted apostles who often got it wrong, but knew (most of the time) how to show up when it mattered. When things were at their worst Jesus passed along God’s Word that was Good News to those who heard. He knew where to turn (to/in the Bible) and what to say to address the needs of the people he served with, worked among and loved.

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit when he entered the synagogue in his hometown. According to Luke (4:14-21), he read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He spoke with courageous conviction: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21). To be members of the body of Christ, as Paul puts it, is to embody and enact that capacity and vulnerability of Jesus to minister to a hurting world. We don’t fix the problems, but we in the Church are able to understand and respond differently, and uniquely, and this is good.

I love Paul’s description of the body of Christ. “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?”

According to Paul’s logic, the body of Christ has HIV/AIDS if any of its members has it. According to Paul’s logic, Christ himself is among the weeping wounded in dilapidated Haitian hospitals. According to Paul’s logic, Christ is one of the orphans who sing for us at Christmas in this congregation. Christ is not only with all people who suffer, but we all, as members of the body of Christ who partake in Eucharist and recite the Lord’s prayer or know the Creeds, are called also to be in the midst of the suffering as well. The body of Christ needs you whether you are a baker, a plumber, a knitter, a consultant, an oil magnate, an urban planner, a poet, a dreamer, or even a sickly cripple. “Where one suffers we all suffer, where one rejoices we all rejoice.”

Some helpful words that came to me during this restless week were from graduate school friends who reminded me there is a task for each of us—even ministers—in responding to disaster. “Who was out on the street the first night? Ministers, not engineers,” wrote Ian. LauraJean said “the yippy do-gooding theologians will have the task of reminding everyone about the need for engineers and long-term rebuilding once it’s out of the news cycle.” Don’t I know that to be the truth! And most helpful of all, from Kyle: “If all the whole body were an eye, where would hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”

My same friend in Haiti right now commented on what “the rest of us” can do for Haiti. She says, “I know the church thing makes some people nervous, but the churches, especially the Catholics and [Episcopalians] in Haiti, are the ones with the extensive organized networks in the rural communities. This recovery really needs to be run by Haitians (not in this phase, but when the emergency stuff passes). We have leadership and structure already in place to allow for local control.”

This is the elegance of the Church as the body of Christ. Even while Jesus is wounded and weeping with the other survivors of this earthquake, through Christ we are restorers, proclaimers, releasers, healers, helpers. We are consultants of well-being, engineers of hope.

As Jesus says, behold, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let it be so. Thanks be to God!

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Welcome & Conference Schedule

February 20, 2010

Welcome to the University of Chicago Ministry Conference blog for our Worship in Crisis conference. We hope that in addition to providing pertinent information regarding our upcoming conference, we can already begin to spark discussion about the topic of our conference, our churches worshipful, prayerful and/or liturgical responses to the crises facing us today.Details about the conference can be found on the right.

Many thanks!

The Ministry Conference Visioning Committee

Schedule:

9:00  Registration
9:30  Worship
10:00  Keynote address: Peter Rollins
11:15  Panel

-Elizabeth Hiller
-Dr. Ted Jennings
-Alisha Jones
-Fr. David Kelly

12:30  Lunch — (Provided for those who register for the conference)
1:30 Breakout Sessions
Alisha Jones- Rm 106
Ted Jennings- Rm 201
Fr. Dave Kelly- Lecture Hall
Elizabeth Hiller- Rm 400
2:30  Keynote address: Siobhan Garrigan
3:30  Break
3:40  Conversation between Siobhan Garrigan and Peter Rollins
4:30  Mosaic Worship Service
5:00  Reception

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