Okay, I haven't added links to everything I could. Still, here it is, the preface that my research assistant, Kristi Kleinbeck, said I needed to write so that the introduction made sense. I'm not going to post any of the chapters--they're too long--but if I can think of another way to make them available, I'm open. I've got the preface, chapter one (introduction), chapter two (family/kinship) and chapter three (work and the economy) done--about 75 pages. So, I'm over half way. I'm going to do chapter four (civic life and politics) next week and that only leaves five (arts and leisure) and the final chapter six (congregations as nexus) for after vacation in the last weeks of August. Pray for me, that my hands and mind might get the draft on paper before the fall semester begins or oops! I won't write more till winter!
Peace, and thanks for reading!
Preface | The Moment We Realized . . .
In January of 2004 I began my work at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture leading the Faith as a Way of Life Project. I’ll say more about the project below, but two interconnected moments that took place in those early months on the job help to point at the key issue this book is set to address. First, as I struggled to get my head around the project, one of the pastors involved, Susan Johnson, sent me a wonderful cartoon to help clarify what exactly this project was all about. The comic strip, Agnes, presents the core worry of this book in humorous fashion but its implication on the faithfulness of the church’s witness in the world is anything but a joke.
Second, during this same period of getting my bearings in this new job, my theological mentor and long-time friend Martha Stortz sent me her new book, A World According to God: Practices for Putting Faith at the Center of Your Life. When I pulled it out of the package, I was struck by how much it resembled another book I’d recently picked up by Ruth Frankenberg titled Living Spirit, Living Practice. By surface appearances one might surmise that these two books might have been cut from the same cloth. Both were written by mid-career professors at institutions in Northern California, both aimed at the burgeoning spirituality market complete with reference to the trendy term “practice” and both were well packaged in evocative artful blue-tinted covers. Upon opening the cover, however, they might be viewed as two nearly opposite directions available for those seeking spiritual guidance for living. Frankenburg’s book, while erudite, portrays the fundamental incoherence of spirituality as smorgasbord—of each person creating their own ‘religious journey.” Additionally, it makes clear how when spirituality conceived in this way, its role is to enhance one’s soul, giving a sense of centeredness or peace in relation to the rest of one’s life. Stortz, on the other hand, writes about the coherence of core practices in the Christian life that are God-shaped and therefore reshape us for a life that works to reshape all aspects of our lives.
The book in your hands, Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership, emerged from this fundamental worry: that too many people today take the path of the individualistic spiritual smorgasbord, offering peace for the soul, perhaps, but certainly not convictions rooted in a communal practice of faith shaping our whole lives according to faith as a way of life. In fact, as we argue in the introduction, such realities over against us have been increasingly successful in shaping the church and its leadership according to the model of the individualistic spiritual smorgasbord. How does the book respond to this troubling circumstance? The book is one effort to reflect on Christian faith as an integral way of life, and of pastoral leadership centering on the ability to shape persons and communities for living faith as a way of life. Let me now say more about what we mean by this phrase—faith as a way of life.
Faith as a Way of Life (FWL) project, generously funded by Lilly Endowment through its Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program, was designed to respond to the difficulties of living faith as a way of life today. Here, faith is a shorthand way of saying the creedal orthodoxy of the Christian faith—the beliefs summarized by at the climax of Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts of the Apostles 2:38 “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” But we don’t hold to this faith as ad hoc—or even a coherent set of—beliefs. Faith here refers to a coherent vision for a way of life in response to Jesus’ invitation to “follow me.” Working from this basis, the project focused on clergy excellence but was from the outset a broader conversation. As initially envisioned, the project “include lay members to whom clergy direct their work and theologians from whom they gain resources for their work.” In a three-year series of reflective retreats, we sought to uncover both the problems and possibilities for pastoral leadership that models and mediates faith as a way of life.
The twenty-five members of the “National Working Group” represented diverse regions of the country and traditions within the Christian church. We first met in New Haven in October 2003 to sort out how people of faith—and especially church leaders—do in this core task of living faith in daily life. To push us in thinking about these issues, we all read and then vigorously debated Alan Wolfe’s recent book, The Transformation of American Religion, in which he argues that convictions of culture, not faith, most influence people of faith today. For our second meeting in April 2004, the group decided we live struggle to live our faith daily, never fully succeeding, but in forms distinctive to the shape of our particular life circumstances. So in response we asked each person to reflect on the problems they face in their own local context in relation to the task of living faith as a way of life. Here, in a move that proved crucial for the unfolding of the process, people self-selected into groups that focused on particular spheres of life: family, work, citizenship, arts & culture, and education. We have spent the subsequent biannual meetings focused on these spheres of life, each time focusing on one sphere.
The first two meetings, therefore, focused more on diagnosing the shape of the difficulties we face. The subsequent four meetings turned towards thinking together about how to constructively engage the difficulties. Each time we met together, we felt the strengthening of our relationships undergirding deepening—and sometimes hotter!--dialog around issues of passionate concern. Each meeting focused on a specific sphere of life including family, work, citizenship and the arts. Our aim was not to rate programs that connect faith and life but rather to think theologically about how we live faithfully within and across various spheres of life. Such theological reflection, though difficult, seems to us the most effective way to find traction on the idea of living faith in all spheres of life. We discovered the importance of the practice of theological reflection together, a discipline of moving through a reflective circle in steps starting with examination of realities confronting us, drawing on biblical and theological resources to envision a response, and tackling strategic action that leads back into the realities with hope of change. Yet the importance of this practice of theological discernment, if you wish, was not clear from the beginning. It is to the moment when we realized this that we turn now.
As part of the Faith as a Way of Life Project, the National Working Group was charged with meeting twice a year over three years to explore the vibrancy and relevance of one central mark of excellent ministry: the call to shape persons and communities for faith as a way of life. One of the key learning points of our work together came at our October 2004 meeting on the relation of family, or kinship broadly speaking, and faith. It was the midpoint of our process and the first centered on one of the concrete spheres of life, as we’d come to define them. In planning our October conversation the idea was to encourage thinking theologically together about faith and family. We read scripture and theology related to families prior to our meeting. And one author whose book we read was present for our conversation.
After a particularly striking session in the midst of this meeting, project director Miroslav Volf and I debriefed in the hall. We both came to the same conclusion: how hard it is, even for theologically trained pastors in our group, to sustain practical theological reflection together. It turns out that the conversation quickly and predictably settled in the ruts of the “primary language” of American culture—what amounts to a mixture of feelings, experience, and pragmatism, without reference to faith’s conviction rooted in Scripture. The moment we realized what had happened, Miroslav in a sense knew his task. And so on the last morning of our gathering, Miroslav offered us a basic template to focus on thinking theologically together. Let me recall that moment through “posting” here what two participants wrote on blogs in the days immediately after that meeting. While blogging is a cultural phenomenon these days, it is also a different sort of medium than a book—more immediate and more blunt, perhaps! Quoting what we wrote then gets us closer to the event than my recreation of it now. The first is from Tony Jones, a youth ministry leader and national coordinator for Emergent—a network and friendship of postmodern missional leaders. He blogs at Theoblogy found at http://theoblogy.blogspot.com.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Faith and Technology
I spent part of last week at Yale Divinity School where I serve on the National Working Group of the Faith as a Way of Life, a Lilly Endowment-funded initiative of Yale's Center for Faith and Culture. It's a group of pastors, youth pastors, theologian, business persons, and artists who are meeting over the course of three years. Our task is to collectively reflect on faith, not as some ad hoc application to life's issues and problems, but as a thoroughgoing enterprise. Chris Scharen, who directs the project, blogs here.
So we were talking about family life this time, and on Friday afternoon we had a conversation that caught the first real traction since we've started meeting. There was, it seemed to me, a growing consensus in the group (and catalyzed by the book we had read) that modern technology is, on the whole, bad for the practice of the Christian faith -- that it keeps people from practicing our faith.
Well, there was also a minority (of which I was one) which claimed that it's not that simple. Someone noted that pew Bibles in churches were once a new technology, and I suggested that microphones may have been the biggest technological change to the church (enabling congregations of more than a few hundred). Someone else said, no, it was electricity.
So why did the church allow these technological innovations, but we now decry cell phones and laptops as dictating our days? Probably because these earlier decisions -- to use electricity, microphones, overhead projectors, etc. -- were not made theologically. There were most likely made based on practical concerns. They slipped into our sanctuaries under the dark of night.
So our group tried to start thinking theologically about technology and the life of the family. However, what was a little surprising was how quickly we devolved into personal and pragmatic arguments for our positions. Turns out it's really hard to think theologically, even for professionals.
So I'm starting to think that the key to developing "faith as a way of life" is to inculcate in people the ability to think theologically, and that this ability would become second nature for followers of Jesus.
posted by tony at 9:34 PM 9 comments
And this post is from my project-related blog, faithasawayoflife—en:visioning christianity lived, found at http://faithasawayoflife.typepad.com.
work group 3: tony jones: thinking theologically--or not!
tony jones, who is at least one emergent villager who doesn't check his hair, blogged about our 'reflection pool' called the national working group, part of our faith as a way of life project that met in new haven last weekend.
miroslav volf and i debriefed after the meeting, both coming to the same conclusion: how hard it is, even for theologically trained pastors, to sustain practical theological reflection together. tony came away with the same insight, saying:
"what was a little surprising was how quickly we devolved into personal and pragmatic arguments for our positions. Turns out it's really hard to think theologically, even for professionals.
So I'm starting to think that the key to developing "faith as a way of life" is to inculcate in people the ability to think theologically, and that this ability would become second nature for followers of Jesus."
in planning this conversation, centered around issues of living faith in the sphere of family broadly understood, we knew we wanted to practicing thinking theologically together. yet we left the discussions relatively unstructured thinking 'of course' we would focus and push each other. it turns out that for many of us, our native language amounts to a mixture of feelings, experience, and pragmatism (for pastors, technical or programatic responses so quickly come to the fore around questions of what will work, be effective, deal with the pressures, conflicts, etc.)
so, we're going to work on this more. miroslav offered a basic template for thinking theologically and we'll seek some short guides like this for practicing thinking theologically because it really does seem that tony is right--it is key, we can practice it, and only if we practice it can it become second nature, and serve a way of life that is deeply christian.
miroslav's template of questions:
who is god.
what is god doing in the world.
how is god achieving this.
who are we.
where are we going.
how are we supposed to get there.
connecting the two.
what should we ultimately trust.
how should we order our loves, provisional and ultimate.
anon, and +peace
November 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2)
It was genuinely provocative for us to have such intense conversation, as is evident in how we reflected on the session in this session in our blog posts. At this midpoint in our project we saw in living color some of the difficulties pastors face in embodying excellent pastoral practice. In particular, we saw the difficulty of how all of us, pastoral leaders included, can revert to other powerful languages for orienting our work but covered with a veneer of faith language. Especially powerful for clergy are the emotion-driven therapeutic mode and the results-driven managerial mode. Caring deeply about how people feel or pressing for effective results with people are often highly rewarded skills among clergy yet when they dominate, faith becomes a weak sibling, doing little work as a community enacts its faith in daily life.
However, as Tony and I did in response to that particular conversation over faith, family, and the role of technology in our lives, many excellent clergy in some measure understand the overwhelming power of other moral languages in our culture. They long to grow in their ability to model and mediate a strong and substantive vision of Christian faith and feel that little matters more than this in their ministry. Our effort in the book that follows is to directly engage the question of the problems and possibilities for pastoral leadership for faith as a way of life.
The lovely task that remains is to give proper credit to those who played the key roles in making this project, and thus this book, come to be. First of all, I’d like to thank the key lay people, pastors, and theologians—disciples all—who worked hard on this project and gifted me with much of the insight I share in this book. The authorial “we” I use throughout is not so much to blame them for my faults. I take credit for them alone! It is, rather, out of profound respect for their contributions. They are: Dr. Vincent Bacote, Ms. Deborah Bohlmann, The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Britton, Ms. Catherine Brunell, The Rev. Matt Colwell, The Rev. Joseph Cumming, The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel, The Rev. Gregory Ellison, Mr. Makoto Fujimura, The Rev. Mark Gornik, Bishop Donald Hilliard, The Rev. Susan Johnson, The Rev. Danielle Jones, The Rev. Tony Jones, Dr. David Mahan, The Rev. Skip Masback, The Rev. Dr. David Miller, The Rev. Mary Naegeli, Ms. Emily Pataki, Dr. Carolyn Sharp, Ms. Sally Simmel, The Rev. Dr. Miroslav Volf, The Rev. David Wood, Ms. Marly Youmans, and Ms. José Zeilstra
Of course, the project would not have started at all were it not for Miroslav Volf who envisioned this project and wrote the proposal for Lilly Endowment. Likewise, the Lilly Endowment, led by Craig Dykstra’s passionate and visionary commitment to Christian ministry, read and accepted the proposal. Thanks also to Dean Harry Attridge, and early on, his predecessor, Dean Rebecca Chopp, here at Yale Divinity School for consistent and strong support, and to John Wimmer, our Program Officer at Lilly, for much encouragement on his end. I wish also to thank staff at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture throughout this project. They include our current administrative assistant Lucinda Gall and my research assistant, Kristi Klienbeck, as well as former student assistants Allison Brancho-Tichy and Catherin Reklis. Additionally, Maurice Lee and Rachel Maxon got the project off to a good start in its initial few months.