Tag Archives: religion

Animate: Week 7

Church| An Imperfect Family • Bruce Reyes-Chow
Bruce Reyes-Chow knows he’s not inventing the metaphor of the church as family. So he suggests we take our changing notions about what it means to be a family and let them seep into our understanding of the church. For Bruce, it’s the messiness, the dysfunction, and the joy that comes from complex relationships that make church worth hanging on to. So how do we stay connected to this sometimes-broken family system? What does it mean to commit ourselves to the church family, for better or for worse?

We began our last class together (for this round of Animate) talking about reasons for going to church and reasons for not going to church. These are the lists that you all came up with:

Reasons to Go to Church: 

  1. To be with people who also are celebrating Christ
  2. Face-to-face interaction / community.
  3. We are supposed to go.
  4. To have a dedicated period of time to center in on my relationship with God. Helpful to be around others who are hopefully seeking the same.
  5. To keep the sabbath day.
  6. Come to expose children to Christianity, other generations of people.
  7. Getting in hopes of getting a message, a spirit of renewal. Reminder that we are Christian.
  8. Find family there.
  9. To be around others who do believe in a very spiritual but not religious area.
  10. Engage with scripture.

Reasons to NOT Go to Church:

  1. To sleep in.
  2. To enjoy a day off with family.
  3. To read the paper / cup of coffee.
  4. We have other small group opportunities, that might be better.
  5. The services have gotten too routine/predictable.
  6. Hard to be somewhere if issues being spoken about are not where you are at on those issues.

When we were having our conversation yesterday, I was reminded of this video here, which I think is pretty well done:

In Bruce’s video, he talked about a variety of metaphors for the church, and for him, he landed on the Church as Family being a very helpful metaphor for him. Probably one of the reasons is that we all know how messed up our own families are. Though, perhaps because of that, that makes us have unrealistic expectations that our “church” families would be perfect, or at least better than our own families. But if we stop and think about it honestly, we’d realize that our churches are just as messed up as any family. Bruce asks the question, “When we call the church a family, do we really mean it?”

So…do we? We’ve been talking about that a lot here at First Presbyterian Church, and have used the language of wanting to be a unified church family. So, we could ask ourselves that same question that Bruce asked: “When we call the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland a family, do we really mean it?” What do you think?

I really appreciated people’s honesty and vulnerability in sharing about their experiences with church, specifically their experiences here at First Pres. Some shared that they haven’t found our faith community to be as welcoming and friendly and inviting as perhaps we’d like our community to be, and those are always good reminders of things that we can work on.

Any lingering thoughts or questions that came to mind about the topic of the Church?


Animate: Week 6

Bible | A Book Like No Other • Lauren Winner
Why read the Bible? This is Lauren Winner’s central question. For Lauren, an avid reader, there remains something odd about the way Christians read the Bible. Why do we keep turning to the same stories in search of some new revelation? What is it about the Bible that makes it worth repeated reading? What gets in our way as we read the Bible and try to make sense of it? These are issues the church has wrestled with for centuries and yet we keep at it. We keep coming back to this book and its strange narrative full of plagues and miracles and destruction and rebirth. So why do we do it?

Here’s just a brief video about Lauren Winner talking about Animate – this will be great that we can use some of these videos in church to talk about the Animate 2.0 Adult Ed that we’ll be doing, starting in January.

One thing that we didn’t get a chance to talk a ton about was from pages 92-93 in the Animate Journals: the Uses and Abuses of the Bible. I think that for many people, that’s one of the big problems with the Bible – the way that it’s been abused and misused by so many Christians throughout the history of Christianity. Check out this video below, which shares a story from Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz.” In that book, he tells a story about setting up a “Confession Booth” at an event at Reed College in Portland. However, this wasn’t like any other confession booth, it was a chance for people to come to the booth, and for Christians to confess the sins that Christians have been a part of over the years.

I think we have much we need to confess for, when it comes to how Christians have used and abused the Bible. What are some abuses of the Bible that you can think of now?

Lauren shares this quote from Thomas Merton in the video, in which Merton finally started reading the Bible and then had this to say:

“By reading the Scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, cooler blue, the trees, a deeper green. The whole earth is charged with the glory of God, and I feel fire and music under my feet.”

Have you seen this happen in your own life? What other questions remain for you about the Bible, its authority and how we interact with scripture in our daily lives?

“A Conversation about Prayer” by Dianna Warner

This past Sunday in worship, in lieu of a traditional sermon, we were blessed with an original piece of reader’s theater written by Dianna Warner. Everyone involved (children, young adults and adults) did a wonderful job, and we wanted to at least share the text with those of you who weren’t able to be there. Many thanks to Dianna and all those involved.

A Conversation about Prayer

Beginning: One Verse of “Oh Lord Hear My Prayer” (a Taize piece)

Voice One: Why do we Pray, when do we pray, How do we pray? The writer of James tells us in Chapter 5:13 – 18 – Are any among you suffering? They should pray.

Voice Two: “Help me, help me, help me!”

Voice One: Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.

Child’s Voice: “Dear God, thank You for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.”

Voice One: Anne Lamott says:

Voice Two: Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you…’ I have a friend whose morning prayer each day is

Katie: “Whatever,”

Voice Two: and whose evening prayer is

Katie: “Oh, well.”

Voice One: James continues in verse 14: Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. In Prayers from the Heart by Richard Foster, he speaks this healing prayer:

John: “Lord Jesus Christ, when I read the gospel stories I am touched by your healing power. You healed sick bodies to be sure, but you did so much more. You healed the spirit and the deep inner Mind. Most of all I am touched by your actions of acceptance that spoke healing into those who lived on the margins of life-shoved aside by the strong and the powerful. Speak your healing into me, Lord -body mind and soul. Most of all, heal my sense of worthlessness. My head tells me that I am of infinite value to you but my heart cannot believe it. Heal my heart, Jesus, heal my heart.”

Voice One: The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

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Animate: Week 2

Religion | Spirituality Is Not Enough • Lillian Daniel
What does it mean to be spiritual? Is it the same as being religious? Lillian Daniel pushes back at this question that has been stirring up the cultural conversation for a while now. She asks us to consider how the seeds of faith to take root and thrive. What role does organized religion play in helping—or hindering—growth? If religion is the problem, why has it held fast for thousands of years? In this age of religious pluralism, is it possible or even desirable to stick with our age-old traditions?

Thanks for a great conversation last week at our Animate Adult Education Class. I’ve been gone this week at a retreat, so just now getting to put up a short post. As I was thinking about our conversation on what religion is, what spirituality is, etc., a few things came to mind:

  1. Sarah, who is getting her PhD in Christian Spirituality has defined spirituality as such: “Spirituality is the reception of, and response to, the Spirit (understood to be God at work in this world).”
  2. The video below went viral on YouTube about a year ago, and currently has over 22 million views. It’s an interesting take on our question – someone who says that he hates religion, but loves Jesus. You might be interested in watching it. For many people, it’s very easy to separate the two. There are a series of books written by an emerging church pastor, Dan Kimball, and one of them is titled: “They Like Jesus but Not the Church.”

I’m interested in seeing if anyone else is comfortable sharing where they placed themselves in that drawing between the religious side and the spiritual side?

One of the questions we didn’t get to was where you would place Jesus on that same drawing. Where do you think Jesus fit if you had to place him between “religious” and “spiritual”?

As I shared during the conversation, I don’t have as many pleasant thoughts about tradition, like Lillian does. I do think that we need to be thinking beyond our own individual selves, I think it does mean something that we believe in something bigger than ourselves. But I think our tradition, and our traditions, have really screwed a lot of things up. We’ve hurt a lot of people. Our opinions, and beliefs, and theologies and doctrines…which have all been a part of our tradition, have caused scores of people to leave the church and not want to have anything to do with God.

So…I think that’s an issue. We are the church reformed and always reforming. I think that Presbyterians spend a bit too much time on the “reformed” side, and not enough on the “always reforming” side.

Anyway – would love to hear some of your thoughts, what have you been thinking about this past week? What questions still linger for you?

Animate: Week 1

God | Faith is a Quest • Brian McLaren
“If you ask me, ‘Is God real?’ I first have to ask, ‘Which God are we talking about?’” With these words, Brian McLaren gives voice to a common struggle among people of faith—who exactly is this God we worship? Is God a mighty fortress, solid and unchanging? Is God a mystical, unknowable force that floats around us like a vapor? How can we speak of faith if we can’t even speak of God with any certainty? How can we chart a course through the often-murky waters of Christian tradition and find our way to God?

Well – we covered a lot yesterday morning. Sorry if it felt a bit rushed – we did have some introductions to do that I think were important. Next week (and all of the remaining 6 weeks), we’re going to be starting the video RIGHT at 9:05am, to make sure that we have a solid 30+ minutes after the video for discussion.

So, first off I’d just be interested to know what your overall thoughts were on this topic of God, apophatic vs kataphatic theology, fortress people vs cloud people, etc. What did you hold onto from this morning, and what lingering questions do you still have?

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Session 2 Reflection

Why the cross?

I’m sure this will prove to be an interesting discussion, as the cross and all of the different atonement theories often prove to be fodder for some rather intense conversation…so, let’s see where all of this takes us. But first, let’s take a look at some images of the cross – some of these may be familiar, and some may be new. Take a look through these, and share  any thoughts you have on specific images. What do you think each artist is trying to say about the cross in a specific image?

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