Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P.S. to "A justice system at its best"

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Photo by my mommy!
(Click for the whole gallery.)
In my part-time role as Web & Information Systems Coordinator for EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, hands-down one of my favorite parts of the job is being co-editor of the Peacebuilder Online blog. Over the past few days I've been working with a part-time CJP student in my home state of Iowa, who wrote up an excellent restorative justice story/case study about a vandalism incident in the mid-90s at a synagogue in Des Moines. Here's that:

A justice system at its best by Fred Van Liew

My p.s. has to do with the photographer credited on the piece: my mother, Diane Gumm! On any blog which I post or edit, I always try to use photography or images that I know are honoring copyright. So even though there were a few small images of the synagogue dug up by Google Images, I couldn't determine their copyright, and all the ones I found on Flickr didn't have open copyrights (I always search for Creative Commons-licensed photos).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anatomy of a mini-conference

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Peter Dula and Chris Haw field questions from participants. (Click for more photos.)
This past weekend, seven months of shared work between my friend, Aaron Kauffman, and I came to fruition. #Occupy Empire: Anabaptism in God's Misison was by most anecdotal accounts a great success. Around 60 people converged on the Discipleship Center, perched atop the campus of Eastern Mennonite University, for 24 hours of worship, academic presentations and responses, discussion, food, and fellowship. Aaron and I started working at 8:30am on Friday and didn't stop until 7:45pm on Saturday. Having never organized a conference before, I was simply floored (almost literally) by the amount of details entailed in conducting even a small conference like this.

So despite being exhausted from end-of-semester demands for my wife and I both, which resulted in me being unable to fully engage my intellectual faculties during the conference, I still sensed that things were going quite well throughout. Logistically, things flowed smoothly, and all the intentional ways in which Aaron and I structured the conference seemed to bear the kind of fruit we had hoped and prayed for. So this post is intended to be a post mortem of sorts, assessing how well our design held up.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

#Occupy Empire in tweets

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three Brethren Desiring the Kingdom

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
A few months ago, Josh Brockway, my friend and fellow Brethren brother (and presenter at this week's #Occupy Empire conference!), fired up a new blog for the Brethren Life and Thought journal. Described as having "an Anabaptist and Radical Pietist voice," the blog is intended to bring scholarly discourse amongst folks in the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition into the digital age, something attempted in a few other places (including here) but with no institutional support.

Ever the tech nerd, I managed to wiggle my way into helping Josh administer the blog, but also contribute  to it. And just a few hours ago, Josh posted the final piece in a three-part/three-author series engaging James K.A. Smith's awesome book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.

  1. Ascetic Christianity: Brethren Dress and Smith’s Cultural Liturgies by Joshua Brockway
  2. In place of (non-)sacraments: Re-enchanting the Brethren by me, Brian R. Gumm
  3. The Anabaptist’s Will, The Pietist’s Heart & The Lover’s Gaze by Scott Holland
It's been a lot of fun taking the work in this excellent book into conversation with two friends/brothers/colleagues with an eye on what its import may be to the Church of the Brethren today, and indeed I think there is plenty of import. My thanks to these guys!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter at Arlington

From Arlington National Cemetery, McNair Rd, Arlington, VA 22211, USA
"He has risen." Easter sunrise at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
First, a confession: Holy Week did not feel very holy last week, at least in terms of how I engaged it. The demands of the final three weeks of grad school are starting to compress, and my participation in local worshiping bodies - seminary and our congregation - has been strained. No Wednesday evening lenten worship with folks at Park View Mennonite, no Love Feast with a Brethren congregation on Maundy Thursday, and no Tenebrae service. As someone fairly convinced by the formative influence of communal worship upon our body, personal and collective, this absenteeism from Holy Week worship practices really ate at me. Then my wife told me what we were going to do for Easter, when we happened to be in Washington, D.C., with her sister's family.

"We're going to the Easter sunrise service at Arlington National Cemetery."

For a Christian pacifist in the Anabaptist tradition, this is no trivial thing. But despite my initial shock at the idea, I quickly said "Ok," thinking to myself, "this will be interesting." For one thing, we were with my sister-in-law's family, and her husband is career military. Indeed, there is a strong military tradition in my wife's family, which is completely absent from my own. So in spite of my deepening Christoligcal pacifist convictions, I have a deep commitment to brothers and sisters in Christ who don't share these, especially Americans and those in my own family.

Much like I can't go a movie theater just to see a movie, I can't do something like go to a cemetery for fallen U.S. soldiers just to worship on Easter. There's no "just." There's too much other stuff going on all around, all of which has just as storied a nature as what's being celebrated on Easter. My wife will be the first to tell you that I think too much, and this is a prime example. So take a deep breath for this looong and somewhat rambling reflection on an Easter morning spent at Arlington...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Micro-saga: On becoming a peacebuilder

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
In March 2008, Howard Zehr entered my comfortable life as an IT professional climbing the corporate ladder in central Iowa...and he promptly pulled me off. This encounter with Howard led me and my family to EMU, the CJP and seminary, and the dual degree program between the two. To say that I’ve been challenged and changed is a vast understatement, and CJP has had a big say in that process. The notion of “lenses,” for example, has become deeply embedded in my approach to the world. So thanks, Howard et al, for ruining my life in all the right ways!

[The preceding 100 words were written for my "blurb" in the forthcoming (25 more days!) graduation program for the Center Justice and Peacebuilding here at EMU. Sometimes narrating a significant experience in a ridiculously small amount of space is a very good discipline. I provide it here for posterity.]