Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Many people would love to visit Christian holy sites in various parts of the world but due to time constraints, higher travel costs, and family and work responsibilities, travel becomes very difficult. However you can always take a virtual tour. What is a virtual tour? A virtual tour is exactly what the phrase says--a virtual tour of holy sites. Now with greater technology the internet provides pictures, videos, and plenty of written information about holy sites of interest.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
MP: I have been teaching at
I used as a point of departure Paul Evdokimov’s comment that in our time, holy people would be both more ordinary and diverse in their
MP: I am not sure if there will be more writing about holiness and those struggling to live it in the 21st century, but all three volumes as well as my own pastoral experience (and that of colleagues and seminarian interns serving in our parish) have nudged me toward a related project. I am calling it “The Church Has Left the Building,” borrowing a phrase I saw on Religious News Service (RNS). I have asked colleagues and former interns to reflect, in essays, on their experience of parish life and pastoral ministry in the first decade or more of this new century. I think of those who may write, there is well over a hundred years of pastoral experience upon which to reflect, and all have encountered the complex collection of demographic, cultural and social factors challenging the churches now. For example, through no fault of dedicated clergy and laity, there are numerous “redundant” parishes across the churches: parishes in small towns now only a few minutes away from the next parish, also parishes where the economic and social bases have long since disappeared: mills, factories, mines to which immigrants flocked a century or more ago. Also the communities of ethnicity/language have now moved into the third or even fourth generation, with many, actually most “marrying out” of ethnic and denominational roots. Quite contrary to the myth that we continue to suffer from a “priest shortage,” the actual situation of basic church life, that is, parish life, is crying out for clear, insightful commentary. This is what the project hopes to provide through a handful of experienced pastors. It is not going to offer “recipes” for improvement, though clearly the conditions in which many parishes of all church backgrounds are finding themselves do signal a need to return to simplicity of life and the basics of prayer, sacraments, fellowship and service—precisely the characteristics Diana Butler Bass found in a study a decade ago.
MP: Yes, I have. Alongside these books, I have been involved in editing translations of some important studies in ecclesiology and church reform. Last year there was Jerry Ryan’s translation ofToward the Endless Day: The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (UND Press, 2010).
AD: Yes, that was a splendid biography, which I discussed briefly on here last fall. As soon as I read it, I wrote to the editor of Reviews in Religion and Theology telling her of the importance of the book and volunteering to review it, which I then did. The review was published earlier this year. EBS is such a fascinating figure that I wanted to spread the word, and also encourage further discussion of her challenging and important ideas on, e.g., gender.
MP: In addition, I edited Vitaly Permiakov's translation of an important classic in ecclesiology: Nicholas Afanasiev's The Church of the Holy Spirit (UND Press, 2007).
AD: I know it well, and have used it in my courses. My own book Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity shows its indebtedness to that book of Afanasiev, especially my conclusion.
And ahead lies the publication of Hyacinthe Destivelle, The
For whom were the books written—did you have a particular audience in mind?
Nicholas Afanasiev’s The Church of the Holy Spirit (UND Press, 2007)
has had a much wider audience, involving theologians of the liturgy, ecclesiologists and ecumenists. Ecumenically minded readers would also have had a great deal to invite them in the three books on holiness, since the effort there was deliberately ecumenical in the writers selected and examined. Now I would hope that “The Church Has Left the Building” will be readable and accessible insofar as the reflections will be personal and based on everyday parish life.
I have also been encouraged to see the swell of support for theologian Elizabeth Johnson in the wake of the heavy-handed criticism and rejection of her recent book, Quest for the Living God.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Earlier I posted a book review of Sarah's new book Breaking Up With God (Harper One, 2011) an honest look at her own work and ministry as she prepared for official ministry in the Episcopal Church. Her own faith crisis and journey is an honest look at the difficulties and issues involved with a spiritual journey. While I didn't agree with everything in the book I do think that her honesty and openness about her faith is commendable. Below is an interview with Sarah:
Tell us why you wrote Breaking Up With God? How long did it take to write it?
I was almost an Episcopal priest but now I don’t call myself a Christian. I wrote Breaking Up with God to figure out what happened to my relationship with God. Technically, I wrote the book in two years, but you could also say that it took me my whole life to write this book. The seeds for Breaking Up with God were planted when I wrote A Church of Her Own, which examines the sexism women face when they try to lead churches. My editor for that project made me take out all the parts of the story that were about me and focus instead on the ministers I interviewed. I realized then that I had my own story to tell.
For whom was the book written—did you have a particular audience in mind?
I always joke that I had Oprah in mind when I wrote the book (what writer doesn’t?), but in reality I always try to write imagining my closest friends as my readers. I think this is part of what gives my book an intimate feeling. Several readers have written to me to share that after they read the book they felt as if we were friends, as if we had just had a conversation in their kitchens late into the night. Sometimes I write just for myself, a choice that allows me to take bigger risks with my writing because I don’t worry about what anyone else will think of my words. For this particular book, however, the audience I most often had in mind was the person who is trapped in a faith—or a job, or a relationship, or a home—that is making her feel small and alone and frightened. I hope my book will help her give herself permission to leave, help her know she’s free to go, that she can claim a different kind of God.
Were there any surprises you discovered in the writing? Any painful moments? Any funny ones?
The writing process is filled with surprises for me. I never know what a book will look like until I am finished writing it, which is what makes writing so life-giving and exciting for me. The biggest surprise that came with this book was the revelation that the story I had been telling about why I was not a priest was not the whole story. I had been telling people that I left institutional Christianity because the institutional church was sexist—which is true—but I also left institutional Christianity because my faith in God changed dramatically. I no longer believed what I once believed. I had also been telling people that I lost faith in God, but writing this book I realized that wasn’t exactly right either: I didn’t lose my faith; I left it. I think that’s why the break-up metaphor works so well.
I think the funniest moment writing this book came when I first saw the design for the cover. I happen to love the cover. And at the same time I am a little embarrassed as a feminist that I love the fact that my book has a beautiful model on the cover. I sent my friend Amy Walsh the cover when I saw the first version of it to see what she thought of it, and she reminded me how weird it was to have a model on the cover. She said she wished I was on the cover, which made me laugh, so my husband and I did a fake photo shoot, and remade a version of the cover with me on it. Instead of sitting next to a suitcase, I sat next to my own dirty laundry. And instead of looking beautiful, my hair was all greasy because I’d just gotten back from the gym and I hadn’t yet showered that day. We laughed for days. Amy later sent me an even funnier version of the cover that now hangs on my refrigerator and that is too brilliant to try to describe here.
Are there similar books out there, and if so, how is yours different?
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a beautiful book called Leaving Church about her decision to leave the church where she was a priest. William Lobdell wrote a book called Losing My Religion about losing faith as a religion reporter for the LA Times. And there are, of course, all the books by the “new atheists”—God Is Not Great and The God Delusion and The End of Faith—but I think my book is very different from those. First, I am not an atheist. I am agnostic. And second, I understand the value of being part of a religious community, and I still very much miss that.
Is there anything in particular that you want readers to learn when reading Breaking Up With God?
That there is more to God than most of us have been taught in church. That faith is an imaginative, constructive, ethical enterprise. That theology matters. That the way we think about God has real effects on the earth and on other human beings. That we are the ones we have been waiting for. In the book I write, “This is my faith: a fragile hope in what humanity might be able to do when we stop looking for someone else to save us,” and I think that sentence sums up what the book is about.
I also think the book is an invitation, a way to let other people know that they don’t have to stay in faith communities just because they find themselves there by birth or by choice. It’s an invitation to come out—as a seeker, an atheist, an agnostic, a dissatisfied believer, a questioner. Sometimes you know something doesn’t feel right, but you force yourself to stay—whether it’s in a relationship that isn’t working, in a job that is making you miserable, or in a faith community that is making you feel small and scared. That is part of why I figured my faith in God as a romantic relationship. Just like you wouldn’t tell your friend to stay with a partner who hits her, you shouldn’t tell someone to stay with a version of God that makes them sick or scared or impedes her ability to thrive and shine and be her biggest self in the world.
What are you doing now professionally? Are you teaching? Doing more writing?
I am in the beginning stages of three books right now. I’m working on an edited volume with Karen King called Torture and Christianity. I’m working on a book about artists’ responses to torture. And I’m writing a novel based on the true story of a conscientious objector during World War II. I taught courses in critical thinking and art theory at a university when I lived in southern California. I am moving to Portland at the end of the summer and hope to find some teaching opportunities there. I’d love to teach in my field again, which is somewhere at the intersection of religious studies, ethics, visual culture, and theology. At the center of my work is a commitment to investigating the roles religious language, images, and practices play in oppression, violence, social transformation, and justice movements.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Foreword by Donald W. Shriver, Jr.
Preface: Stories of Work and Calling
Chapter 1: Setting the Context
Chapter 2: Childhood and Formative Events
Chapter 3: Beginning Theological Education
Chapter 4: The Middle Years of Theological Study
Chapter 5: Reassessments and Moving On
Chapter 6: Years in Ministry
Chapter 7: Looking Back and Going Forward
Chapter 8: Summing Up
Afterword by Serene Jones
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
This book A Life Together: Wisdom of Community from the Christian East began with a talk in Moscow and with a British man from BP actually who was present asking if I would consider writing more on the idea of 'sobornost' because (himself a member of a renewal community in Britain) it seemed important to him... So began to write...in my way which is rather recursive...or perhaps it is as Ingmar Bergman says one throws a spear as far into the forest as one can and then goes and finds it. I tend to write in paragraphs circling the topic and then draw them together. This has analogy to the 'centuries' of St Maximus or of course the Temple of Thomas Traherne. But I have gotten into mechanics... as to why? It is my little offering to the Church, might be an answer...? To try to suggest ways forward...ways of elan and even a little romanticism (Chesterton and Merton and Lax were romantics werent they) to the extent that I could... ways of hope in the work of the Spirit...And of course what I might have to offer includes my being a Christian of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and my experience in life and so on...
2. What about your own background led you to the writing of this book?
Well the subject of sobornost is of a meditation of unity, sobornost being a Russian word whose root means 'gathering'. I am an American and for years I served in Japan and then returned to the United States where I live now. But my deepest experience of community perhaps came in visits to Russia beginning in 1994 and contact with disciples and spiritual heirs of Fr Alexander Men. Fr Men was a great leader of renewal of life and mission in the church at the end of the Soviet period, who baptized many thousands, wrote many books, and had an ever widening ministry through lectures and the media cut short by his assassination in 1990. However these works, including house meetings and all sorts of ministries to the poor,to prisoners, to youth and so on continue in the Church through those who learned from him...and with these people I felt a very deep sense of community and I have remained in contact with and sharing in this work until now...however paradoxical it may be, myself an American separated usually by many miles and also speaking little Russian and so on. But this experience and other experiences of community, and of what the theologian Antoine Arjakowsky calls 'the ecumenism of friendship' form a background for my feeling that the mystery of the church is indeed the mystery of community, and that the meditation of it and the opening out of the experience and reality of deep community and unity in Christ is ongoing in the Church and is something to which we are called...
3.For whom was the book written—was there a particular audience you had in mind?
I did not, and would not, conceive the appropriate readership to be narrowly limited. Of course the subject of community, or of sobornost, can be of particular interest to people interested in the Eastern Church, as to sobornost, or in the new communities. But also when we speak of unity we must start with inner unity, which is something which all people need, and all of us are involved with others in in the interweave of relationswhich is the ground of community. Certainly any Christian who takes seriously John 17 where the Lord says that the unity of the disciples can be and ought be of the order of that of the persons of the Trinity, will find it important to consider where we stand now, so many years after that high priestly prayer and after Pentecost and how this sort of depth of unity still comes to us as a call from the future...
4.Were there any surprises you discovered in the writing?
Well as I said earlier I started with discussing the meaning of the idea of sobornost, unity if you will, for the Russian thinkers of the 19th century. And then like the man throwing a spear into the woods and following to its place, I found many connections that opened out...For example to the idea of co-inherence developed quite independently by the novelist Charles Williams, and then beyond my initial intention there came the question of what spiritual disciplines can be ways of unity? The final three sections of the book propose a new discipline of attention, of 'watchfulness', not simply inwardly as in some monastic writing but to the world and to the times that are coming and to the coming Lord which we suggest recovers the original sense of the command to 'watch', secondly in complementarity the principle of opposites completing each other in physics associated with Nils Bohr we propose an important inner orientation also deeply related to unity and only beginning to be applied in religious thought, and thirdly that external mission which is dialogic, on the model of the conversation on the road to Emmaus, and is necessarily grounded in prayer...These are some of the ideas which came together as I worked with this theme.
5. Are there similar books out there, and if so, how is yours different?
I am honored by comparisons to Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I do cite Bonhoeffer in one place, but I think for one thing my discussion is more broadly focused... and, apart from simmilarity of title, the books quite different. The only book I know on simply sobornost is Sobornost by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. It is an admirable little book but again its scope is really the spirituality of her Madonna House and it is part of a trilogy (Poustinia--hermitage--and Molchanie or silence being the other two.) It is rather surprising fact that there are really no books giving a broad consideration just to Sobornost, and this in spite of the importance of the word and its currency in Eastern Christian circles. The more I looked into the subject the more I felt that something further ought be said and in A Life Together I attempted to at least open the discussion in a new way...
6. Sum up briefly the main themes/ideas/insights of the book
That the Mystery of Unity our Lord spoke of, should appear as fresh and unheard of in the 19th century, shows how the history of the Church is not finished...rather it seems we are only beginning to enter the depth of the experience of Pentecost...
This unity is, as the Russians felt, the necessary way between the loss of the person in collectivism and on the other hand the loss of the human family and of the Church in individualism...
The journey into unity is a spiritual calling to the Church but also to persons and we can become,as we are called to be, men and women of unity... We can live the sign of unity. It is a deeper question than that of 'ecumenism' and yet it is also of course the way forward for external church unity.
Christianity is in its infancy, Fr Alexander Men said. This is opposite to the current feeling which even enters the churches that Christianity is played out, exhausted... but as we enter the way of community and inner and outer unity we see how deeply true it is that the journey is only begun.. This realization I think is deeply liberating and renewing...
In this renewed journey is there not also a renewal of spirit and elan and of the sense of boundless possibility which we and, if we may say so, the Church so need?
+Seraphim Joseph Sigrist
Bishop, Orthodox Church in America
formerly of Sendai and East Japan