Thursday, February 07, 2008

Community vs. Chaplaincy
Change Collaborate or Die Already

I find myself often a bit conflicted in the winter months. Christmas and New Year's have come and gone with their celebrations of community and promise of new things. Then January and February remind me that things don't change all that fast. That between the joy of the future and the comfort of the past (whether real or subjectively recalled) most of us want a chaplain, someone to take care of us in the dark, damp and depressing times. Someone who will hold our hand and tell us that things will all work out.

I increasingly find that when I began to allow myself to buy into this line of thinking I'm unexpectedly surprised. We actually want communication, conversation, collaboration and dialogue - the essence and ends of community more than we feign to long for chaplaincy. This might not make sense but it's my thoughts at the moment as I lead worship at our church and participate in an online discussion about the Presbyterian Church and Bruce Reyes-Chow standing for Moderator in a 2.0 way.

Last night at the Ash Wednesday gathering at our church I was humbled by the community response to our practice of lectio divina on Luke 18:9-14. Many and varied were the responses shared, people's dreams, desres and discernments. The gathering was all about dialogue, participation, experience and connection - it was community in word, deed, and presence. It was authentic, organic, instant, mutual: hanging it all out there risking acceptance, rejection and hoping for connection. That's what those in the church community I know (and the larger one I suspect as well) long for. It's the thing that those who long ago gave up on the church have resolved to find elsewhere. It's what our postmodern or emergent - or maybe just the context you live in - culture is insatiably hungry for. Blogging, Instant Messaging, Youtube, the youthful support of Obama, Community Yahoo Groups, the deep cultural adaptation of cafe culture, and shared meals all point to this undeniable aspect of human nature. We long to be together, to talk with (not just to) each other, to laugh, love and make-meaning of our lives and the world we live in. That's what faith is all about. It's what Jesus talked incessantly about in teachings, around tables, on the road, and with the sick. It's what the Church (the community of the gathered) comes together for.

But somehow we get lost on the way. Call it human nature. Call it sin. Call it brokenness. Call it chaos. Call it mistrust. We lose perspective of who we are, of who others are around us, of who the Divine is. We lose perspective on the difference between our needs and our wants. We dream of more and end up settling for the status quo, the familiar, the stuff that we can tolerate even if we don't love it. That's when we face the choice of community vs. chaplaincy, working towards something authentic and unchartered or asking for comfort and familiar words that won't rock the boat.

Bruce Reyes-Chow is standing for moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a catalyst, or at least as a conversation-starter for dialogue, collaboration and community that goes beyond the comforts of chaplaincy. Some are saying that he's going about it wrong, too fast, to electronic, too "all hanging out there" (read his latest blog entry on such comments "Problems with a 2.0 moderator") and yet isn't that what we want as people, as people of faith, as presbyterians? Aren't we longing to know and live from a transformation community that forms how we live, move and have our being in our culture, churches and families? You could argue that the technology we're surrounded by, and that Bruce is seeking to use in his standing for moderator of the GA, shapes the way that we communicate...but isn't the reverse also possible? That maybe the techonology we're developing and implementing was created to enable the way that we've longed to communicate? in particular in our faith communities both local and disparate?

Another articulate piece of the conversation comes from Shawn Coons at and his post "Not your father's moderator candidate"

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