Learning to live a life of love.
Last night we began chapter three of the Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren. The title of chapter three is Learning How To Love. Brian McLaren worked as a teacher before he became a pastor and writer. When he left pastoral ministry he was looking for a church to be part of. He wanted to find a church that would help him live a life of love. He wanted to belong to a gathering of people that could help him to love God, love people and love the earth. He was afraid he might drift away and his life might stagnate and sour. Many churches he says have sign boards that say 'All welcome' but when one gets there one finds that one is welcome as long as one believes what the people in that particular church believe. He wanted a church that focused not on beliefs but on the way of Jesus, the way of love.
When asked what he thinks the future of the church will look like he responded by sharing his vision of congregations becoming schools or studios of love. They may all look different, meet weekly or monthly or online but what they all will do is teach people to live a life of love, from the heart, for God, for all people, for all creation. He believes that just as schools teach a maths curriculum the church needs to develop a curriculum of love that teaches practices and skills of love.
So when we ask what are we doing at church, or why do we go to church, we can answer, we are learning to live a life of love.
Last night at Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Congregation we began our study using Brian McLaren's book 'The Great Spiritual Migration'.
As well as reading the book as a group we purchased the book on CD. When we meet, we will listen to Brian read the book to us and stop at the end of each section to ask questions, clarify meaning and share thoughts and reflections. So far we have covered the preface and part of the introduction.
Migration is a key word in the book. People have always been on the move. Many animals and birds migrate, adapting to the changing seasons. As we listened to Brian we thought about our empty church buildings and people long gone. There is an eerie emptiness in them and a distinctive church smell, People have moved on or rather moved out of the area and out of the church and the new people who have moved in have little connection with our church community. We thought about the desire for us to move out of the church too. Some desire a more lively expression of worship, some desire a more grounded expression of living out their faith and some desire freedom from the church's teaching and expectations (a cage as Brian puts it).
The book calls us to get going, to move forward in the journey of faith, to move from seeing Christian faith as a system of beliefs to rediscovering Christian faith as 'a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion.' Brian puts is as moving from an organised religion with a timeless system of beliefs to an "organising religion" that challenges all institutions (including the church) to learn, to grow and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbour, enemy and creation.
I felt myself very much included in the book when Brian spoke about us being offered again and again two ways of being irrelevant: a regressive movement on one side with updated styles and structures and an outdated message; and on the other side a progressive bureaucracy with an updated message with outdated styles and structures. I felt part of the second group, my message has changed or changing, but the style and structures are largely outdated. I also felt part of the group that is preoccupied with formalities, committees and traditions, therefore sucking even more life out of the church.
We thought about the word 'conversion'; about becoming different, learning to iive life in a new way, a deeper aliveness, a better version of life, a truer version of Christian faith. The last image we were introduced to was of a house that had fallen into disrepair. Should we knock the whole thing down and start again or simply add another coat of paint? Brian suggested careful demolition, not for destruction but for salvation. He suggests that now is the time to move beyond knocking down all that we find wrong with the church and instead focus on construction, to identify what we are moving forward to and what we want to build.
The Great Spiritual Migration: How the world’s largest religion is seeking a better way to be Christian
On Tuesday 18th October we begin a new study group at Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Congregation as we join an exciting adventure journeying with Brian McLaren in his new book 'The Great Spiritual Migration'. We will begin at 7.30pm and finish at 9.00pm. I envisage that the book will help us to widen our perspectives on many things including our faith, our views of God and the world we live in. I hope it will help us to find spaces where we can find ground to explore our spirituality with people who do not identify as Christian but rather as spiritually open or aware or seeking. Below is more information about the book. If interested please contact me via this blog or just turn up.
People by the millions are migrating out of traditional religion - some into secularism, some into experimental forms of nonreligious spirituality. But even within religious communities, people are on the move, migrating in exciting new directions. Drawing from his work as a pastor, speaker, public theologian, ecumenical networker, and activist, Brian D. McLaren challenges Christians to embark on a great spiritual migration: to seize this dynamic moment as an opportunity for Christian faith to become more just, generous, and joyful - and therefore more truly Christian.
The book explores three conversions or spiritual migrations. Spiritually, McLaren advocates a migration from Christian faith defined as a system of beliefs to a love-centered way of life. Theologically, he challenges people to move from defending God as a violent Supreme Being to experiencing and embodying God as the nonviolent Holy Spirit. And missionally, he explores how congregations can move from being institutional outposts of organized religion to networked cells of organizing religion. In The Great Spiritual Migration, McLaren invites readers to join a movement that can shift the direction of Christian faith to be more in sync with its founder, more life-giving for individual Christians and congregations, and more of a just, generous, and joyful resource for the whole world.
A memorial service was held at the Drop In on Thursday 15th September for Jimmy Silas. Residents and staff from Frank's boarding house, community support staff, others who attend the drop in and volunteers all participated in honouring Jimmy's life.
As there were no relatives of Jimmy's at the ceremony people shared what they knew of Jimmy's life. One by one people spoke offering some anecdote or fact or memory. it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with some many pieces missing.
We discovered that Jimmy's real name was Kaki Biliu and he was born on the island of Daru, Papua New Guinea. Jimmy was born among the bushes in the traditional way of giving birth in the 1940s. As a child he had witnessed a number of attacks on his village by neighbouring villages. He and his siblings hid in the bush until the attackers were driven off. One of his brothers was drowned at sea while trying to cross to the Torres Strait islands.
He came to Sydney and worked for the railway, living for many years in a hut beside the railway line. He assisted with the rescue of people during the Granville train disaster in 1977.
Jimmy had not seen his family in years. He made contact with his sister in Brisbane by phone about seven weeks ago but sadly they had not been able to meet up before his death.
Those who lived with Jimmy spoke of his dignity, his gentleness, kindness and his honesty: his word was his word. He loved classical music and spent his days listening to ABC Classic fm and reading his bible.
He was buried at Riverstone Cemetery, New South Wales on Friday 16th September 2016.
Jimmy is very much missed at the Drop In. May he rest in peace.