Passion for the Gospel

Last Sunday night my friend Giles Fraser put me up at his house in the midst of a media storm surrounding the closure of England’s national cathedral, St. Paul’s.  The Occupy London protesters have encamped in front of the Cathedral in order to be close to the London Stock Exchange and raise consciousness about economic corruption.  The Dean of the Cathedral claims the encampment has created a health and safety hazard and has shut down the cathedral (something that Hitler was unable to do).  The shutdown, according to the church leadership, is costing the cathedral nearly 20,000 pounds a day.

As Chancellor of the cathedral and head of St. Paul’s Institute for Financial Ethics, Giles has been working to protect the rights of the protesters and keep them safe from violence, at the same time he has tried to negotiate with protesters to protect the rights of those who worship at the cathedral. It’s a very complex situation and the closure of the cathedral has drawn lots of media attention.

At the time of my visit Giles was serving as Chancellor of the cathedral and was head of St. Paul’s Institute for Financial Ethics. Yesterday Giles resigned from his position in protest of the Cathedral’s decision to support the city of London in taking action against the Occupy London group, “I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church.”  It was a brave and principled decision that will cost Giles and his family personally (he’ll be without work, he’ll lose his home, his children will have to be pulled from school).

I was sorry to hear this decision, particularly because I know this will cost him and his family.  At the same time, I have much admiration for Giles (and his family) for his willingness to do what many in the public see as the obvious, Christian, action: work for economic justice, prevent violence.

The church needs more people willing to do the right thing, with compassion and humility.  During my overnight at the Frasers’, we talked about the qualities of a good pastor.  At one point Giles said, “Passion for the gospel.  That’s the most important requirement.  You must have passion for the gospel.”  I will be praying for Giles and his family.  And I will be praying that more of us will become passionate for the gospel.

You can read more about the issue’s surrounding the closure of St. Paul’s Cathedral here.  You can here Giles explain his decision to resign here.

Disco in the UK

I had a beautiful, powerful week in the UK.  Lead a one day retreat in Manchester with about 170 youth workers where we learned (among many things) how to address our fears in community (something Brits just don’t do). I then spoke at one of the best youthworker conferences I’ve ever attended: the Youthworker Summit. Similar to a TED conference, the event had a diversity of speakers presenting insights on youth culture, ministry, and faith.  They let me speak at the closing worship where I brought them an ancient spiritual practice in the American tradition: disco revival.  Check it out here:

The Spirituality of Service

Here’s my new post for Immerse Journal’s Immerseblog on the Brother Lawrence and youth ministry as prayer:

When I first began serving as a youth minister, my Christian life had two modes: reflection (prayer, devotional reading, silence, spiritual direction, journaling, receiving, loving God, Mary) and ministry (planning events, leading youth meetings, befriending kids, serving on church committees, tithing, giving, loving others, Martha). Often these two ways of being were separate and distinct. Like Mary and Martha, one part of me spent time sitting at the feet of Jesus listening and learning while the other part of me worked hard to serve the kingdom of God. The longer I worked in youth ministry the more distance grew between these two sides of my spiritual life. Over time this separation caused my more active self to become angry and resentful while my contemplative self became more withdrawn and full of longing.

One of the ways I began to heal the separation between prayer and service, contemplation and action, ministry and devotion, was through encountering the teachings and witness of Brother Lawrence; this humble, seventeenth-century Carmelite opened a way of integrating love of God and love of others into what might be called a “spirituality of service.”

Brother Lawrence, a lay (due to a lack of education) monk, lived a life of obscurity, serving his community as a cook and repairer of sandals. It was only late in his life that his community members began to realize the profound tranquility and wisdom that Lawrence embodied. In his conversations and correspondence with seekers and fellow monks, Lawrence talked about practicing an intimacy with God that was not bound by devotional practices. For Lawrence, what mattered most for nurturing a life with God was not the task or activity one was engaged in as much as the desire or intent behind that activity. Lawrence found that God could be present and available to the human heart in every moment, if one was only willing to be receptive. Thus, for Lawrence, “the time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” Read More

A Full House for Change

Duane Whitcomb, Noah Yaconelli, and Joseph Yaconelli play "Tear Down the House" at the Hearth: Real Stories by Regular Folks

People sat in the aisles, stood along the walls, and crowded out into the overflow room for the Hearth’s fall storytelling event. The theme was Change: True Tales of Transformation.  We had stories of childhood grief, surviving sexual abuse, living through the Argentinian revolution, following in the footsteps of St. Frances, renouncing all possessions, and working oneself out of poverty.  The event raised over $600 and a new set of volunteers for the Maslow Project, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Southern Oregon.  Our next event will be January 19th, 2011. The theme is Winter Tales.  The Hearth will also be sponsoring a weekend retreat entitled “The Inside Story: A Retreat in Self Discovery,” February 10-12, 2012 (space is limited to 25).

Author and national parenting expert Jennifer Margulis has written a post (with photos!) about our last Hearth gathering here.