Tag Archives: Church

Reading About Cultures

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“Pilgrimage (detail)” Acrylic on Canvas, DS

There will be all cultures in heaven.  Rah provides a history of challenges and a way forward to embrace humanity in all of our colours.

Readings from Soong-Chan Rah’s Book: “Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church:

Stories have the power to build and develop community on multiple levels. In Western approaches to communication, we tend to focus on facts and information. Truth is communicated through statistics, numbers, dates, and information based on cognitive knowledge and is usually expressed through logical rhetoric. In certain non-Western approaches to communication, stories that evoke feelings and draw out a more emotional response may be the norm. The difference between these cultural expressions is that effective storytelling may have different intentions and approaches arising out of these different cultural values.

Aristotle stated, “When storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence.” Society and culture cannot progress and be transformed without real, honest, and powerful stories. The church also loses its influence if it fails to engage in powerful storytelling.

A speaker will often close a sermon with a stirring and inspiring story. My earliest memory of public speaking was sharing my testimony before the entire church when I was a high school student since, like many American evangelicals, I was encouraged to share my personal testimony almost immediately after I became a Christian. Stories have the power to communicate elements of our faith in ways that a lecture cannot. When in doubt, share your story.

In our current American cultural context, some of our best storytellers are found through film. As a pastor, I found it fascinating that my congregants would connect to my referencing a movie more than a book.

Media have the power to transcend culture in ways that direct verbal communication cannot. Eric Law *explains the equalizing power of media by asserting that “verbal communication alone is a biased means of communication, favoring people who have a strong sense of individual power and verbal ability.

 It is important that a character undergoes credible and authentic change in the course of the narrative, keeping the setting in the forefront. A conversion story, for example, must not occur out of the blue—it must reveal the work and character of God, as well as the transformation that can take place in a man or woman. (3) Conflict Every worthwhile story needs an element of conflict. What difficulties is the character going through, and how do these affect change in him or her? As Christians, we are especially concerned about transformation. How is it accomplished? by a logical argument? through convincing rhetoric? No, true re-creation comes from the Spirit of God.

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When Art is Not for Sale

intolerance and materialism

“Intolerance and Materialism” Acrylic and Ink on Canvas, DS

Recently my art was exhibited in a public alternative space.  It went mostly ignored until the last day of the show.  When I was taking down the paintings and carrying them out to be packed for transport, someone brought out the next one for me.  Someone insisted they take my picture in front of them. Four people grabbed my arm and attention and introduced themselves and asked if the art was for sale.  They seemed to like it without really looking at what it was.

As an introvert in a hurry to meet someone a few kilometres away, I said to the first: “I can carry them.” To the second, who wanted me to pose here and there and not where I wanted to, I blurted: “I am in a rush.” The last group, I fear, saw that I was very non-artist-like.  I said, nice to meet you, and quickly left, extricating myself from their kindly grip.

The display was installed to promote thinking and awakening to new ways to consider the Christmas story. The ideas visually presented were not heresy but they were alternative like imagining what Mary and Jesus would look like in today’s culture.  I dreamed one night that angels had meetings to discuss how they might help us with our issues.

The everyday person, educated but not in art, has probably been to European galleries exhibiting traditional, historical paintings.  The new, the avant-garde for them, is maybe Van Gogh or Picasso in extreme.  Perhaps anything contemporary does not register on their consciousness as art.  After all, as a non-musician uneducated in music appreciation, classical music has only appealed to me in the past decade.  My rhythms flow in the era of disco and ballad.  After all, I am a narrative painter.

We need more shows of art that is not for sale: art that can challenge our current ways of thinking and being in a changing world.  Lately most shows that offer art, not-for-sale, are self-funded by the increasingly silenced artist.  The arts used to be totally supported by the church.  Patrons paid artists to paint for the church.

Art reflects life. The way a society supports the arts reveals its inner health and outer vibrancy.  Perhaps we need venues for viewing and circles for discussion.  I like that ad I think it is for Levi’s jeans where everyone of many cultures just dance together to the great music.  Art is like that.  Art for art sake, not sale.

“Art Makes Us” Vancouver Art Gallery

http://vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/upcoming_exhibitions.html

First Time Ever

An e-mail arrives to the in box with the subject line: No Service Tomorrow Due to Snow. The church is closed – what? No one can be found in time to clear the parking lot. It is unsafe. A contractor wrote: Even if we were able to plow today it would only expose the ice and make a very bad situation worse.

I guess it is good to know that the pastor has our safety in mind. Now it is on me to deal with the disappointment of the day’s festivities being cancelled – including the Blue Christmas service. It allows me to take stock.

These words came to me after breakfast: The service is cancelled for the first time in the 25 years I have been going there. This snow is too much. The driveway is impassible, the 30 steps a risk to ankles, and the car covered with ice again. It must be said though that we are warm, we have light, we are together and we have enough food. God knows the situation.

We are thrown back on our own resources. We must worship God on our own without the benefit of a worship team today and pray depending only on the Spirit’s prompting. I found help at youtube.com:

“When I’m with You” Citizen Way

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A2jGZfgYH0

Ken Shigematsu’s book “God in My Everything” comes to mind. The next chapter focus in giving Spiritual Direction will be “Sabbath: Oasis for Body and Soul”. We need to rest from our activities. We are invited to ‘question our assumptions” about life and express our love to God. In doing this we trust that God will look after all that concerns us while we take a break. I work on making some Christmas collage cards.

It has been several days now since I have been ‘out and about’. I injured my neck and shoulder early in the week clearing snow from my vehicle. Ice and heat packs have been my intimate companions. I wait for our name to come up on the list for driveway clearing with a local company. We are certainly not alone in our condition of isolation.

A holiday of sorts has begun. I find myself thinking in different ways about many things. Who could really use some extra prayer today? Should I do some contemplative knitting with my sore neck? It is only fall; will we get through winter this year? Will the turmoil of my time commitments falling like dominoes make me draw back from being involved? Should we move to a place where the streets have better snow removal?

Yet the day, as it wears on, becomes a true holy day. I feel more at peace. I remember when God has looked after us in worse situations. I breathe. I trust. I pray. I pray for my family and for those who would have attended the Blue Christmas service this evening.

Hope arrives in the form of dripping snow. The trees are becoming less white as clumps of snow slide down the boughs to thump on the covered grass underneath. Like my knowledge of the green hidden under the white, my faith is there under the fears –

“All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well”

Julian of Norwich.

In Vancouver snow means recovery from trauma – that of realizing that we are not totally in control of our lives. I have faced one of my basic fears – being snowed in – and discovered again the real meaning of Christmas – that God’s Son is with us – Emmanuel.

I am OK. I am rested. Tomorrow will come with its health and work. God invites us as friends into the changing plans.

John 15:11-15 The Message 

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

iPhone Photo DS

“30 Snowy Steps” DS