Saturday, November 28, 2009

10 Ways to Live Restoratively

My professor, adviser, and friend, Howard Zehr, just posted something worth reading over at his Restorative Justice blog on the EMU site:

10 Ways to Live Restoratively

A few things jump out at me:
  • Interconnection
  • Awareness/Sensitivity
  • Taking responsibility
  • Respect
  • Deep listening
  • Compassion
Since encountering them, the values of restorative justice have resonated deeply with me. Obviously, the field they seek to sustain inspired the name of this blog, and at some point I would love to start articulating what I think the name of this blog actually means, and it will likely be adapted from material like this and given Christian theological language. Indeed, there is already a chapter in Howard's landmark book, Changing Lenses, that deals with biblical justice, as well as there being a book in the Little Books of Justice & Peacebuilding series called The Little Book of Biblical Justice. So I'm not treading on fresh ground here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Restorative Church Government?

Found a great discussion on church governance this morning over at the New Ways Forward blog, and it got me thinking (uh oh).

I might end up rehashing some of what I posted there in the comments section, but wanted to throw it out to anyone who may see this on the blog or on F'book. The conversation there was about governance models (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational) but seemed to start morphing into a commentary on the decision-making process in a congregation. These two aren't necessarily the same thing, but neither are they so cleanly delineated.

This also came up for me in my "Formation in Ministry" class at EMS this fall, while watching case study videos on how church leaders can keep themselves from getting sucked into the emotional vortex that can sometimes (often?) be congregational change and/or decision-making. The focus of these videos was on the leader themselves, using a systems theory approach, but I kept asking myself "Yes, but what could have been done to keep the congregation from forming into sub-groups around special interests?"

A few options come to mind:
It seems to me that these kinds of approaches, which aren't common at all in congregations, would go a long way to eliciting broader participation without jeopardizing or changing the existing church structures. You don't have to get rid of elders or leaders or even committees. There is still a need for clearly defined leadership in organizations. But there is also a need for the wider body to have a voice (and they must feel it, too). And these methods can help with that, mitigating the chaos that can happen if you just let everyone speak at once with no clear process in place to facilitate order.

Another potential resource:
Promise and Peril: Understanding and Managing Change and Conflict in Congregations by David R. Brubaker (one of my professors at EMU's Center for Justice & Peacebuilding)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cheap book alert and a wish

Thx to Nate Myers for pointing this out: "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Greg Boyd, is only $1.99 (hardcover!) before shipping from  My copy showed up in the mail today and I just read through the introduction. No comments to put here yet, but I do know some quite patriotic (and intelligent) Christian brothers whom I love dearly that I would LOVE to sit down with after all having read this book for some good discussion.

Aside from a high degree of nonresistance/nonviolence/pacifism, my religious tradition, Anabaptism, has always been highly suspicious of governments because of our collective memory of persecution at the hands of states married to state churches as early as the 16th century in Europe.  It's that experience which had a profound impact on our modes of biblical interpretation and ethical practice.  Boyd doesn't come from this tradition, but he and I agree on this argument of his.  Therefore, I'd love to sit down with someone who does not share this tradition nor agree with Boyd's argument.

One thing I loved in the intro: while Boyd acknowledges the focus of his argument was intended for those on the political right, he made it clear that those on the political left need to hear it just as much, for different reasons.  As a perpetual political moderate, this was music to my ears.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Riding the waves of an elusive reality"

Just got back from lunch with a CJP-Seminary dual-degree prospective student, who was on a campus visit to EMU from Ohio.  I love the opportunity to meet with prospective students in the two programs.  First, it hopefully helps them in discerning a very significant, life-changing decision.  Second, it helps me figure out why I'm here in these programs, studying for four or five years, with no strong sense for what/where comes next.  Last, and perhaps most important: the lunch is free (to me).  Through stimulating discussion that went by in a flash, my discussion with him helped me see some of the things that are really great about living in two academic worlds simultaneously, and what's not so great.  So after the jump, there's a quick three-each list:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What does it mean to be faithful?

During worship planning this week for church, the guiding question for our scriptural discernment became: "What does it mean to be faithful?"  Moira Rogers is a professor at EMU, in the Language & Literature Dept. and came up with a beautiful reflection to share this morning:
[Faithfulness is] accepting God’s invitation to partner with him in the creation of His New Jerusalem: a city of beauty, a city where all are welcome, a city that does not need to close its gates with fear of who may enter.

Faithfulness means raising our sight, opening our hearts and minds to God’s powerful vision for creation and for all humans, and being willing to become agents of wholeness and restoration.

Faithfulness requires of us the capacity to accept surprises that upset our orderly views of the world and become artists who ride the waves of an elusive reality gracefully, empowered by his love and guiding Spirit.
The last line is what grabbed my attention in worship: becoming "artists who ride the waves of an elusive reality..."  Wow!  What an amazing description of the almost-but-not-quite Kingdom of God!  Phew.  I threw this YouTube video together, using these words as well as music from a composer in our congregation, Jim Clemens, and some fair-use-friendly visual art from my favorite Lectionary site.

Hope you like it!

[UPDATE: Had to remove the YouTube video for some copyright concerns from Moira.]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Research as Art & Transformation - class reflections

Yesterday in research class we were supposed to pair up and interview each other on how the class was going, and report back to the instructors, Howard & Paulette.  My friend, Ryan, and I grabbed the camera, ran outside, and took our 15 minutes filming our reflections...and a few other things.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Project update: 3 interviews in the bag

For Howard's research class tomorrow morning, I'm supposed to provide a report on the first interview for our project.  Well, I've completed three interviews since I last posted here, so I'll use this space to talk about the process and the progress.  Read on for more!