A new fire kindledMy whole world, forever changedIncense, holy smokes!
Incense is one of those things in the church world that elicits strong opinions. When I went adventuring to find a thurible to use for the first liturgy where we used incense, I ended up finding not one, but two thuribles. The first was lent to me by a dear friend while the other was happily given away, it’s custodian remarking, “Just promise you won’t bring it back.” Ha!!! Her Haiku might sound more like this:
A burden relieved
Thanks to God, no more incense
I can breathe again
From ashes, new lifeThe Great Vigil of EasterIncense all around
Back in December I was interviewed about the new church by the Communication Director from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, along with two other recently-called church planters. Check it out here.
My favorite quote: “There is no more perfect fit [than church planting]. I get to do the things I like most, talk to people about where they are in their walk with Jesus and do something together. It’s a bold statement that the Diocese of Texas is planting these new churches. It says God is speaking to people and we are following Jesus into the community.”
I couldn’t be happier than to be part of this bold vision!
After asking the religious hive-mind on Facebook for recommendations, I began reading “For the Life of the World,” by Alexander Schmemann, which is currently blowing my mind every time I pick it up. Schmemann admits that to speak of liturgy is to invite controversy, in part because we now talk of “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” churches as though liturgy were simply an esthetic matter, which he says reduces it to a “‘cultic’ category” (For the Life of the World, p. 25). But that is to misunderstand the term. The Greek word leitourgia means “an action by which a group of people become something corporately which they had not been as a mere collection of individuals—a whole greater than the sum of its parts” (p. 25).
Since I started this work of planting a church I have been meeting with a ministry coach by phone once a month to get feedback and set goals related to my work. In our last conversation, one of the goals I set was to ask 12 people this question: “What do you want?”
It’s a simple enough question, but was surprisingly hard to ask people. My first week of undertaking this assignment was a flop. I mostly forgot to ask the question, and when I did remember, I was hesitant to ask total strangers, or to interrupt people in the middle of their work or conversations. By the end of the week, in my last meeting on a Friday afternoon, I finally asked someone who said he wanted “wisdom and humility.”
Encouraged by how simple the question and the process really were, I started asking others. The answers I have gotten have been refreshing and wonderful, and even the brief interaction between these folks and myself has felt vulnerable and wonderful and holy. The answers have ranged from simple to elaborate and though none of them have been particularly religious, all have felt spiritual in some way. They have included personal desires as well as professional goals and ambitions for success, and at heart, they’ve all had something to do with finding happiness, wellbeing, or connection. Moreover, I’ve been blessed in every encounter.
After listening to a friend who I run with tell me what she wants, she asked me the same question. What do I want? I had to think about it for a minute but what eventually bubbled to the surface was this: I want to be part of a church that has the most authentic expression of Christian community that is possible for broken humans to put into practice. I want a community that is engaged in the work of becoming disciples and that is committed to knowing and following Jesus through worship, service, study and prayer. And I want to worship in a way that both preserves ancient mysteries and holy traditions, but that is also fresh and expressive. I want all of these things, not just for the church that I am working to create, but for my family, myself, and my own spiritual journey.
Now that I’ve cracked the surface of asking this question, I am eager to hear what people have to say and look forward to many more conversations. I hope you’ll be part of the conversation too. What do you want? Post your comment here or drop me a line to share your thoughts with me directly.
On a different note, I also told my running partner that I want to survive my first marathon, which I will be running in Marble Falls, TX, on Sunday morning, November 11. If you have any spare prayers, I’ll be happy for you to send some my way!