Ok, today I'm spending some quality time at a Caribou's coffee in Atlanta. With my dusty history books and my laptop all around me, I'm writing an essay on the rise of mega-churches, church growth theory, missional churches, emerging churches, justice ministries, and the changing face of Christianity in the US since the 1960s. In 2007 I was invited to participate in a interdenominational history writing project on the history of the Christian Church. Several years later, it's time to finish up my essays. I have to turn in my essays in a few days.
I'm particularly fascinated with the fact that more and more churches are seeking to address the physical needs and hurts in their community. Both liberal and conservative churches are now interested in helping their community (that's a big change since the 1960s), even if they come at the problem from different perspectives.
When you write on church history your challenge is not just to explain a particular chapter of the past, but to give your reader a sense of how the people during that time thought, lived, prayed, and dreamed. It's a big order for short essay. You have to pick the trends and people that best symbolize an era.
This particular project is a challenge because I'm addressing the "contemporary past"--the 1960s to the present. To a certain degree you have to wear the hat of a futurist, predicting what the biggest trends are today that will shape the future.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today I had breakfast at the Denny's located across the street from the Benning Road Metro station. Had a great conversation with Pastor Brian (not his real name) who has a started a dynamic, interracial, justice-focused church nearby. We talked about the willingness of younger generations of Christians to foster interracial communities and pursue justice as a holistic lifestyle. This an example of how church leaders are behind the curve. We exchanged stories about how the churches we grew up in would never have said they were interested in justice ministries. Heck, sometimes they didn't even like the concept of benevolence. (After all, couldn't poor people just work a little harder to get ahead?). Thankfully, things are changing. God is moving. And Christians are listening. People are waking up to the fact that God expects us to act justly towards our neighbor. Simply put, our fostering of a just society for our neighbor is one way we love our neighbor.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A new Zora Neile Hurston-themed restaurant near the U St. corridor features food, folklore, and author talks. Hurston was a 1920s and 1930s folklorist, novelist, and alumna of Howard U. A three-day program of all things Hurston just concluded at the restaurant. A larger Hurston festival in Eatonville, FL is held annually in January.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Checked out the Gospel Choir Mass (12:30PM) at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, near the U St. corridor today. The choir brought the liturgy alive, and the sermon was good too! St. Augustine's is considered the "mother church" of African-American Catholicism.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Just got back from a great trip to east Tennessee. Now back in DC. I've been asking painters, pastors, and professors about the movement to use a greater and greater range of arts in the worship service on Sunday morning. I like to hear people talk about what difference the arts can result in worship. For me, when we include a variety of arts in worship we are including different perspectives and voices. Worship becomes a collective effort rather than the solitary concern of the pastor.