Tag: arts

Six Reasons Why I Don’t Have a Bucket List

bucket-list-for-couplesA Facebook friend of mine recently commented on a trip she took. “It was on our bucket list, so we decided to do it” she wrote enthusiastically. I don’t have a bucket list. Here’s why:

1. The whole thing smacks of the Addams Family.

You remember The Addams Family, don’t you?. First they were a cartoon series in The New Yorker, then a hit TV sitcom in the 1960s. The Addams Family, not to be confused with the Munsters of the same era, made the macabre look normal. Speaking of the macabre, a “bucket list” is a compendium of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” Hence the name “bucket list.” Death and fun just don’t seem to belong together. Too creepy for me.

2. I worry about what happens when I complete my bucket list.

When you finish your bucket list, do you just kick the bucket? Or do you add more items to your bucket list to hold the Grim Reaper at bay? I figure I’ve got a good 30 or so years left and I’m not about to jeopardize that by running out of things on my bucket list.

3. Once you put something on your bucket list, can you take it off?

Suppose I decide I’m getting a little too old to climb Mt. Everest? Can I take it off my bucket list? And if so, do I have to put something equally exotic back on my bucket list? And what happens if you take lots of stuff off your bucket list, and then you finish it? Which brings us back to item #2 above. See, there’s no end to the anxiety involved in making and maintaining a bucket list.

4. I would be guilty of bucket list envy.

Suppose I’m at a party and we’re talking about bucket lists. I say a trip to Disney World is on my bucket list. The guy next to me says, “I plan to wrestle alligators in the Amazon.” Which may be the last thing on his bucket list, but still it trumps my Disney World and ups the stakes. What if your bucket list is better than mine? Can I copy off someone else’s bucket list?

5. I find the whole idea of planning my life around a series of things to do before I die rather disconcerting.

I know this sounds a lot like #1, but there is a nuanced difference. Creepy is one thing, but to have my whole life oriented around the phrase “before I die” — a.k.a., “kick the bucket” — seems to me to be weird, not to mention morbid (back to #1, again).

6. Finally, I don’t have a bucket list because I believe in cliches.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. Well-worn observations like “things change,” “you’ll get over it,” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” all seem to weigh against having a bucket list. Honestly, things do change.  I did get over wanting to do some of the things I thought I would like to do — like own a PT Cruiser.  And sometimes things don’t work out like you thought they would. The best laid bucket lists of mice and men, etc, etc…

Frankly, I had rather go right on living my rather simple life of pastoring a small church, reading good books, only going places I can drive to, and seeing my grandchildren often but not too much. Not much of a bucket list, but then it’s not creepy and it’s worked for me so far. Gomez Addams, take note!

Urban Church Connects with Local Artists

P1040079_lgIn its heyday University Baptist Church in Baltimore overflowed its expansive neoclassical sanctuary.  Designed by the same architect as the Jefferson Memorial, the church’s impressive dome now shelters fewer worshippers each Sunday.  But changing times haven’t discouraged the members of University Baptist Church.  Instead the congregation continues to find new ways to impact its urban neighborhood.

Located across the street from Johns Hopkins University, University Baptist Church draws dozens of students each week for its Sunday evening service, “The Gathering.” But as the neighborhood on the other side of the church evolved into an arts enclave, church members wanted to reach out to these artists as well.

“We are in our fourth year of hosting an arts camp for children,” Associate Pastor Robin Anderson explained.  With that experience, and a growing arts presence in their neighborhood, members sought new ways to engage with their creative neighbors.

A casual conversation about art galleries led Robin to ask, “Would it be a dumb idea to do an art gallery at the church?”  Church members thought she might be on to something.  The result was  Art Under The Dome, a gallery show for local artists hosted by the church.  Twenty percent of show sales went to the African HIV/AIDS ministries of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  On the night the art show opened, an African drummer stood on the steps of the church, beckoning passersby inside with the rhythms of authentic African drums.  Almost 500 people attended the art show opening, and 400 of those had not been to the church before.  Dozens more viewed the show during its two-week run, and many signed up for a small group study.

Here’s how they did it:

1.  Direct mail and internet sites advertised the event. The church solicited artists through art-related internet message boards.  Direct mail invitations to the show opening were sent out to the neighborhood surrounding the church.

2.  A gallery team coordinated the show. One member acted as curator, selecting artwork submitted by local artists.  The curator’s choices were reviewed by the entire gallery team for final approval.  Over 20 artists participated in the art show.

3.  Professionalism was important. The gallery team maintained a professional atmosphere by replicating a real art show opening at the temporary church gallery.  This approach showed respect for the diversity of artists and patrons, while inviting further contact with the church.

4.  The community came together for a good cause. Johns Hopkins University is world-renown for its research, including research into HIV/AIDS.  Raising money for this cause helped draw both church members and artists together for a worthy endeavor.  In addition, local HIV/AIDS groups were invited to display brochures about their work in the Baltimore area.

5.  Follow-up included a small group study. Over 30 people signed up to study “The Artist’s Way,” a book written by a Christian artist, but directed toward the broader arts community.

The church is already preparing for its next art show.  The majestic church sanctuary is now a landmark recognized by the arts community as a place where faith and creativity meet under the dome.

— This article first appeared in Outreach magazine in my Small Church, Big Idea column.

Ten marks of the church-as-abbey

celtic-abbey.jpg Models for how we should do church are not in short supply.  Seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, emerging, missional, traditional, liturgical, ancient-future, and the like all have their merits.  I am really interested in the church-as-abbey concept myself.  I have read extensively about the early Celtic Christian church and find it intriguing and encouraging.  In that research I identified 10 characteristics of the church-as-abbey, as I call it, or abbey church, for short.  Here are the essential characteristics, or marks, of what I mean when I use the church-as-abbey model:

  1. Worship.  The church-as-abbey has at its heart the practice of worship.  But worship that is public, powerful, and brings one into the presence of God through some type of intentional liturgy, whether formal or not.  But not every parishioner of the abbey will attend every service.  The idea is not to get everyone to one service, but to provide opportunities for worship that abbey adherents can participate in regularly, if not weekly.
  2. Arts.  The church-as-abbey celebrates creativity as a gift from a creative God.  The arts reflect our connection to creation and God’s creative power.  The arts are expression, statement, witness, and beauty for a world that needs all of those things.
  3. Hospitality.  The Celtic abbey was open to all who needed its hospitality and help.  Monks, even those fasting, would interrupt their discipline to greet and welcome those who came into the abbey’s confines.  Welcoming the stranger is a vital part of the abbey’s ministry.
  4. Economics.  The abbeys were self-supporting, engaged in cultivating fields, raising livestock, operating public markets, and giving employment opportunities to the community.  I read about a church the other day that also operates a farmers’ market, and has been doing so for years.  I am exploring the agrarian movement, particularly as it attracts followers of Christ.  More on that later.
  5. Learning and scholarship.  The Celtic monasteries became the centers of learning, preservation of sacred and literary manuscripts, and schools of instruction. The amazing Book of Kells is the prime example.  See How the Irish Saved Civilization for other examples.
  6. Catechesis and spiritual direction.  For new converts, the abbey provided initial instruction.  For more mature converts, the abbott or abbess provided spiritual direction and aided in spiritual formation.
  7. Rule of life in community.  The Rule of St. Benedict is the most famous of these “rules of life” but there were many others that defined the monastic community’s social and spiritual interaction.
  8. Ministry to the marginalized.  The poor, hungry, disenfranchised, sick, old, and disabled found help of various kinds within the abbey’s compound.
  9. Peace and justice.  St. Patrick was the first person in recorded history to speak out against the Irish slave trade.  Patrick’s appeals eventually resulted in the end of the Irish slave trade, of which Patrick himself had been a victim.  Patrick also prevailed upon the Irish kings and warlords to live in peace with one another, as much as they were able.  The abbey bears that same responsibility today.
  10. External missions.  Celtic priests, including some of the well-known figures such as Columba, went on extended “missions” to areas removed from the abbey.  In a reimagination of this practice, the missional church-as-abbey establishes external groups but groups with ties to the abbey church.  This is the area with which I am struggling now, but I believe it is a core part of the abbey concept.  These groups are not “missions” in the sense of international missions, but rather are groups that are “distant” from the abbey either in travel, culture, or status, but that have a connection to the abbey as “mother church.”

But, you say, “Where is evangelism, ministry, and education — those staples of the church as we know it today?”  The 10 marks of the abbey church above contain evangelism, ministry, and education, but from a new perspective.  George Hunter, in his intriguing book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, says that in the Celtic Christian abbey “belonging” came before “believing.”   Prospective converts were incorporated into the community before they became believers in Christ.  Not a bad model for us today, which is one of the main reasons I like the abbey approach.  What do you think?