Since meeting Alan Roxburgh last year and attending Allelon’s missional order gathering last October, I’ve been gradually becoming more familiar with Allelon and their work. Recently, I’ve been looking at Allelon’s Mission in Western Culture Project based on some of the material they’ve published on their site. While I was out of town, Alan Roxburgh published an update and appeal concerning the project and their meetings this August in Zambia (coincidentally where Todd Heistand is right now).
I’ve been pretty much too busy to read or write for the past …almost two weeks now. As my friend Bill Kinnon mentioned, the project that’s had me snowed under for that period of time has been the redesign of the Allelon website. There are a few bits and pieces yet to come and some small tweaks to be made, but there it is in all its glory! I came into the project at the 11th hour when most of the design was done, but as Bill mentioned it’s been a large amount of work by a small number of people. The new site is much easier to navigate, and I found all sorts of things that I’d never seen on the old site… and that’s without even browsing through all the articles. We updated some site content today, including a new article by Sally Morgenthaler and a video report from Seabeck and our Missional Order conversations this past October. You’ll find me talking in the video… but that’s not the best part of the eleven-and-a-half minutes. Bill spent a lot of time editing today, and he did a great job… he left me asking, “So, when is the next gathering?”
(RSS readers can click through to this post to view the video.)
The catch line was more along the lines of, “So a priest and a rabbi walk into a used bookstore…” not just because it sounds like the lead-in to a good joke, but because it’s actually what happened. I’ve said before that I have trouble keeping up with podcasts. I don’t take the bus anywhere, and in front of a computer I tend to prefer to read instead, which means if I start the computer playing something I still end up reading while it plays, and I miss stuff from the podcast. I tried listening while washing dishes, but (a) dishes don’t take that long and (b) people keep talking to me in the kitchen. But I really wanted to listen to the podcast of an event I was sad to have missed, from the Idea Exchange series last season: Rabbi Larry Pinsker and Jamie Howison — “A Rabbi and a Priest in conversation on how we read the Old Testament.” Fortunately, I had a perfect opportunity while last month on the flight to Vancouver en route to Seabeck for the Allelon Missional Order conversations.
There’s one thing from the Seabeck gathering which impacted me quite deeply, but about which I’ve really said nothing so far… the language of revolution. Much of this comes from a brief talk that Al Roxburgh gave on Wednesday morning, but for those who weren’t there, it also features in an article on the Allelon site (Page 3 in particular. It was also part of the subject matter for a walk around the mall with Papa Al and Brother Maynard. (Sara Jane dubbed it, Paparazzi Bill publicized it.) If this post is of interest, I recommend chasing down some of the longer explanations and discussions in the links I’ve provided. In the nature of the zen story which is told and retold orally in part because it is then shaped by the experience and understanding of the storyteller, here, mostly in my own retelling, is what I got, which I relate under the question with which Al opened his brief address at Seabeck: “How do cultures change?”
One day as we were dwelling in Luke 10 at the Seabeck gathering, I stopped on the “70” — or as some manuscripts report, “72.” One explanation of this textual error is that a scribe somewhere along the line “corrected” it to read 72 instead of 70 because it was associated with Numbers 11, which also features a group of 70, from which two were missing — or not.
I’ve been working up to this all week, and I doubt I can cover it off in a single entry, but let’s see what we come up with, shall we? Just piecing together some themes following the Seabeck Gathering sponsored by Allelon, I have begun to consider The Role of The Rule (and other disciplines) as part of The Subversive Nature of the Ordinary in helping to keep us on the path during a mapless quest or an aimful wandering — a Peregrinatio. Len picked up a theme from me of covenant renewal, which I commented further upon, saying I didn’t plan to hit the theme until today, that I was just foreshadowing. Well, the pressure’s on.
Pictured: an ordinary lunch at the Missional Order gathering last week, time spent not only sharing meals, but listening to the ‘other’ and entering into their stories. It’s a mundane sacred practice… but I’m getting ahead of myself. I have now transcribed my notes from cards into an OpenOffice document, partly as a way of reviewing, processing, and synthesizing. As I was reviewing my notes and thoughts with my cards spread before me, typing words that I jotted down and having those words jog others, voices, phrases, I began to feel strangely moved. I wonder if the truly subversive nature of what we’re talking about has not fully sunken in for most of us. We really are talking about changing everything, but we aren’t changing much of anything. As we return to the ideals God set in our hearts and the practices he has given us, God himself is on the move, changing things fundamentally. The cheese has slipped off the Romans’ cracker, and while they fumble about to find it and reassert its position, it’s being gobbled up by the peasants. The lowly, the ordinary. The meek.
One of the subjects that came up at the Seabeck Missional Order Gathering on Tuesday (I think) was the question of language. In the formation of an order and the conversation around St. Benedict’s rule, some question was made about the language we use and how we express it. Before I left for the gathering, the question had been put to me by more than one person. After all, words like “rule” and “order” sound a little to the rigid or legalistic side. In the charismatic tradition, the verse that speaks of “a God of order, not disorder” is met with the challenge of what order might look like to God, and the fact that it might look very disorderly to us. In context, the conversation was essentially what we hope to achieve in the formation of an order… whether it’s done in an elitist exclusionary way, a legalistic fashion, or what. What does such an order or rule do for us, anyway?
I’ve been intrigued for a while now with the idea of an unconference. I mean, I really got conferenced-out through the 90’s… the 80’s were still fun, but by the time the calendar rolled over “00” I couldn’t be bothered. But The recent Allelon gathering to discuss the formation of a Missional Order looked different. I decided to give it a chance.
This week I’m at a retreat center in Seabeck, WA meeting with 40 or so pastors, writers, bloggers, leaders, and “laypeople” to discuss the creation of a Missional Order. Notables include Andrew Jones, Rick Meigs, Alan Roxburgh, Bill Kinnon, Pete Askew from Northumbria, Bob Roxburgh, Mark Priddy, Len Hjalmarson. I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and to seeing and catching up with others that I “know” online or have only met once or twice before. I also owe Andrew Jones a beer, despite the fact we’ve never met in person before… so hopefully I can pay up. The Internet has really changed social interaction — I’m flying out a day early to spend an evening with old college friends that I’d lost touch with for about twelve or fifteen years before renewing contact through Facebook.
Dale Allison Jr. speculates in The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places on wonder, and the impact of its loss. He gets there by observing a shift over time in the way people interpret and respond to major events such as natural disasters or even human-inspired catastrophes. Where once people would assume some fault in their relationship with God or the gods, they now assume some fault in God himself, if he exists: “Before 1700, misfortune made people doubt firstly themselves, not God and the Christian faith. Obviously, much depends on our prior inclinations. My question then is, What accounts for prior inclinations? In particular, what accounts for the medieval tendency to believe, or for the modern tendency to disbelieve?” (p.6-7) Just so we don’t get sidetracked, let’s imagine he’s using “modern” in its non-technical form to mean “today” despite the apparent reference to pre-modernity or post-medieval times, and despite the later reference to “us moderns.” I don’t consider myself “a modern” but perhaps the ongoing shift is the appropriate context for these observations… but we’re not getting sidetracked. Allison notes there can be no one answer, and goes on to consider possibilities, beginning with the concept of wonder, which is what I want to major on here.