This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wild Goose 6. Picha, Scandrette.

Steven Picha.

            Almost accidentally (I walked the labyrinth one morning and as I was picking up my stuff to leave I met Steve Picha, whom I had met a couple of years ago in Albuquerque.  He invited me to stay for his men’s spirituality thing, which I took as a sign from the Spirit…), I gathered with some men in the Prayer Garden.  The theme here was masculine spirituality.  We did an interesting exercise: blindfolded and given a number, which we had to keep to ourselves, groups of us had to line up in sequence without talking.  The outside-the-box pieces were the fact that some of us were 0 or -1.  Several issues emerged: first, there was no way to avoid being physical, as that was the only way to communicate.  Second, it illustrated the way our assumptions are often erroneous, which is something men are having to deal with increasingly in the world.  Third, issues of power and frustration emerged because invariably one or more men in the groups tried to take charge and line the others up according to their, usually wrong, vision.
            We processed that for a while, realizing that the best stance to take in our changing world will have to include humility, openness, and cooperation, not to mention some attention to our bodies. 
            Picha then reflected with us on some more general themes: eldership, mentoring, the way the industrial revolution separated men from the earth and from their own families. 
            In the end, we went around the circle and spoke of personal concerns.  I had several men approach me later in the weekend affirming what I mentioned.

Mark Scandrette 2.

            Scandrette began by asking what it means to seek the way of Jesus in an urban context today.  He wants to rediscover the holistic gospel of Jesus – the Way of the Kingdom of God.  This is not something we can do with just our minds.  Frustrated with standard models of church life, Scandrette and several friends hit upon the idea of a “Jesus Dojo.”  A dojo is a Japanese institution; it is a place where you go to learn a particular way.  More like a workshop or a studio or a lab than a classroom.  It is an active space where formation and practice are supported and taught.  A Jesus Dojo is a place where you go to learn to do as Jesus did.
            They wanted to take Jesus seriously in terms of what the Lord says about “money and stuff.”  “There’s a lot of us talking smack and not doing jack.”  We are longing for a more holistic path: we need to pray instead of just talking about prayer, etc.
            So they began experimenting.  What if we took Jesus literally about selling our possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor?  But they would make it a playful, not an oppressive and legalistic process.  They would frame it as simplifying their lives.
            So they developed a plan to take on a specific practice of Jesus for a period of time, then re-gather to discuss and summarize their learnings.
            In the process they began to realize there’s a new way to be human, that Jesus exemplifies.  For one thing, we feel closer to people with whom we take steps to realize our dreams.  They would launch a new dimension of this process every week, learning to shift into a new way of life by taking Jesus seriously as his disciples.
            This is the way real disciples have always been made, from the New Testament on.  A Jesus Dojo is a group experiment inspired by Jesus in which people get together and take steps of practice in terms of real needs, and reflect on what has been learned.  In the New Testament we find 40-50 specific things that Jesus said to do, summarized in the Lord’s Prayer.
            They discovered that gathering once and month is not enough; this work needs people to check in with each other at least once a week.  It is like being in a rabbi-apprentice relationship with Jesus.
            Over time, they identified three different kinds of activities here:  first, there is the personal experiment, which often has to do with addressing one’s own phobias.  Second, there is the group experiment, taking on a particular practice together.  And finally, there is the “public offering,” in which the groups invites the larger community to take risks together.
            What are the barriers to life in the Kingdom of God?  For example: What if we gave up media for 40 days?  What if we chose to wear only two outfits for 40 days?  What if we gave up eating meat for a period?  And so on.  The point being to see what happens, both within the people and in the gathering.  Our life together becomes a meditation on the Sermon on the Mount. 
            There is power in making and keeping a promise; and it’s a lot easier in solidarity with others.
            Scandrette is finding, both in larger communities and among Christians, much ambivalence about church institutions.  Followers of Jesus have to connect with things that have resonance in their local communities.
            All-in-all, I found Scandrette’s talk to be one of the most exciting things I heard at the festival.  But very challenging.  It resonates with some things I have been mulling over related to a gathering of people seeking to follow Jesus.  This is what the festival was all about: Following Jesus.

Wildgoose or Wild Goose?

            I am finding some confusion about the actual name of the festival.  Mostly, it is called Wild Goose, two words.  But the t-shirts when we got there, and other things, indicate Wildgoose, one word.  I don’t know why the difference.  (My theory is that they ran up against another Wild Goose Festival, in Missouri, and had to differentiate for various reasons, some of them perhaps legal….  But, as I said, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a colossal typo.

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