So what in the world is a “copastor?” We figured that some folks may have questions about our “leadership structure” or lack thereof. First things first, the only paid staff person at The Distillery is our childcare worker, Patti. All of our copastors lead from a passion within them to care for the community. Sometimes [...]
Our Sunday gathering happens every Sunday from 5-7 PM at our church facility on 67 Watervliet Ave. in Albany. We use the word “gathering” to describe what it is we do on Sunday when other folks might use a word like “church service.”
On a typical Sunday folks are invited to come and hang out around the bar [...]
At the Distillery we consider our children to be part of our community from birth on. We make no distinctions about age when it comes to membership, nor do we require the children to go through membership classes to become members. We include them from the beginning by inviting them to worship with us for [...]
The youth of our church are people generally from 6th grade – 12th grade. A typical gathering for them would include musical worship with the rest of the community, communion, and alternating week to week they may stay in the gathering with the adults and participate in the discussion, or they might go to a [...]
After discussion with our leaders we have decided that after 5 years of being an indie faith church experiment, that we will end the project today on a good note.
It has been amazing and fun and fulfilling, but due to the fact that we are all very busy folks, we are finding that we just don’t have the time and energy to devote to this very worthy project of building and growing a home church community.
Because of that we have decided after a nice relaxed Summer, to all stay good friends, and let the church experiment end as a successful experiment. To everything there is a season and The Distillery Church had it’s season or two.
If you are looking for a good church to belong to in the Albany, Delmar, Colonie area I suggest finding a few friends first, then see what they are doing in regards to church. There are plenty of good ones out there. If you were trying to get in touch with us because you know us and want to reconnect, just email John at jaymar[at]Outlook[dot]com and he will get you in touch with the community of friends that at one time made up The Distillery Church.
So we spent some time Sunday clearing and cleaning the building getting it prepared to turn over to the owner. We have most everything out barring a few chairs, a PA system and a stove and microwave.
It has been strange not meeting this month as a community in fellowship with God. It has left me feeling sort of like this building – a little empty inside, I cannot wait until we are back to doing church together as friends and family. That of course is starting soon.
Friday night will be our first official home gathering and I am really looking forward to a good meal with good friends and potentially good friends. Let us know if you are coming so we can pull up a chair for you.
To say that we have it all figured out as to what the future of The Distillery looks like is a little bit like telling you we know what the weather will be next month. However, we are closer to a schedule and structure than we have ever been. So let me lay out for you how that looks at this time. Remember that since a church is made of people, we are likely to change this up tomorrow. A safe bet is always to just contact us and we will let you know what is going on. If we change things we will be sure to post those changes up here as soon as possible.
You can contact us by calling our phone number, (518) 772-5706 and leaving a message. We get an email whenever you leave us a message and we will respond promptly. Likewise, you can just email us at inquire[at]thedistillerychurch[dot]org. We promise to get back to you soon.
So, below is the schedule begining in June 2012. The constants are the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month. Every month we will have potluck on the first Friday, then 9 days later on a Sunday we have The Gathering. Then the following Friday (3rd friday) we have a prayer meeting, and then 9 days later The Gathering:
The specific dates and times and places are listed on our Meetup, but if you are new to our group you will want to contact us for addresses. Check out our meetup for current events (again begining in June 2012)
So as you may know, The Distillery Church based in Albany, NY is going on the road and will be making stops in suburbs near you soon. We have decided as a community to allow our lease to expire at the end of May and not renew it at 67 Watervliet Ave, and it would appear to the untrained eye that EVERYTHING is changing for us.
But, that of course is not the case. We are merely graduating from a leased facility that we do not own into each other’s homes. We are taking the next step of intimacy in community and choosing to grow closer as friends, neighbors and community members. Oh yeah, it’s also cheaper. What does that mean for folks who want to grow with us? Well, all it means is that you will now have a few options on how to join us.
We are discussing things at present in regards to where and how often we will be meeting as an official church open to the public. We will announce before June when and where those public gatherings will take place. In the in between times we will be getting together as friends and community members in more informal ways.
Now that does not mean that these informal gatherings are NOT public or open to the public, but what it means is that you will have to come and join us first on a Sunday that we meet publicly in order to find out about our other informal gatherings, or if you know one of us, just ask.
Sounds like a big mystery I know. Like some kind of secret cult? Naah. We just are tired of doing the whole church maketing thing. We have decided to just quit trying. If people want to join us and participate in the crazy things we are doing, they will find us, because we are not hiding.
But for those folks that need an ad campaign and some flashy marketing and maybe a clown or two and a block party and a promise of excellent programming and elaborate rock-style worship bands, fireworks and laser-light shows to get you to go to our church, well you will probably not like our church anyway, so we won’t be doing any of that.
However, if you are interested in your children being part of a community of folks who care about them and who bother to talk to them, and include them in worship and communion then you should come hang out with us.
If you are interested in your teenagers making life-long trusted adult friends and having a place to share their troubles and successes, then you should really check us out.
If you are tired of being told you are wrong when it comes to your ideas about God, and you think you have a few good ideas about spiritual matters that you would like to share with folks who are genuinely interested, then maybe you should come to one of our gatherings.
We don’t claim to be revolutionary or really any better than any other church out there. We just claim to like what it is we are doing and the way we are doing it. It works for us, God doesn’t seem to mind, and we think others might enjoy it as well.
So, keep an eye here for our scheduled gatherings in June. We look forward to our first official home gathering, and we hope to see you soon.
So, as some of you may know the business office of The Distillery was shut down due to a fire that threatened to destroy everything. The Albany Fire Department was able to stop the fire before it actually burned anything in the office (which also happens to be copastors John and Tammy’s home), however there was still a significant amount of smoke damage and some water damage, thus forcing the city to turn of the power and gas and evacuate the premises.
So the office location has changed an along with all of the changes comes the news that we too are changing. The church, I mean. After several good conversations we as a community have unanimously decided to let the lease on the building go at the end of our contract in May. That means that the Distillery will no longer have a single physical home, but many.
We decided to begin meeting in homes in May. So far we have discussed going to two public gatherings a month, each one hosted by a different copastor’s family. These two meetings will be published on the site here for all to join with us.
As far as the rest of the month, the in between weeks, we will have several private gatherings in homes, restaurants, campsites, parks, and everywhere in between. These meetings will not be published on our site and are for folks that are participating with us regularly, their friends and family and anyone else we choose to invite.
So there you go. We will of course offer more on the site here once we know more, but look here to see our meeting times and dates for May soon. We are all very excited about theopportinities that this new format will present for each of us and all of us and look forward to meeting a few new people along the way. If you are interested in participating with us in any of our adventures together, please contact us via the website. We are very responsive to the site and to emails and other correspondence. Until we see you, take care and God bless.
Hey, looking for something to do on Superbowl Sunday and want to come to The Distillery? Don’t! We won’t be there. Instead, send me an email and I will tell you where we will be meeting. It’s about 15 minutes from there in Delmar, NY and we will be eating at 5:30 PM and hanging out together for the game. I will be checking Email up until about 6:30 PM on my Iphone. Hope you contact me: john[at]thedistillerychurch.org
So tonight we all met at the Distillery and read the Christmas story together with songs played in between. It was a lot of fun. The kids seemed to really get into our music and we realized that recording our music was a little bit silly this year because the camera was actually closest to the children and their hand instruments. So we apologize for the excessive, “rhythm”, and offer to you a realistic Christmas celebration that includes our children and their hearty “rhythm.”
This post is for all you folks that like to know what we are doing at all times, but that don”t usually bother to join us. Oh and it’s also for you folks that wish to join us. Saturday, December the 24th 2011. come. Join Us. we will have a time of advent celebration that involves music, and worship and candles and food, not in that particular order.
So come, join us at 6:00 PM until about 7:30 PM at The Distillery.
Tonight we heard from our youth at the gathering. What did they say? Well a lot. They started off lighting our four advent candles and leading us in the topic of the week. Which is “Waiting on Peace.”
After our musical worship time and communion the Youth led us in a conversation about an organization that is actually doing stuff to help people in other places in the world who are having a harder time than we are — particularly girls. The organization they told us about is called Girl Effect.
Girl Effect is about helping girls in other cultures who are at risk by enabling them to go after things like medical help, education, loans for small businesses and other stuff. It is not about giving heaps of money to them, but about helping them to help themselves and ultimately their children, their communities, their regions and the world.
Here is a good video that explains a bit about why they are needed, and why we as a church have chosen to adopt this organization for this season:
We also watched this video.
Afterwards we dedicated ourselves as a community to go to the site located here: http://girleffect.org/ and learn more as well as help out. You can help out too by going to the site to learn more and then talking about it to others, sharing this post or the girl effect web site with others on facebook and twitter, or by donating money (via the web site). Take a look and see if there is some way you can assist, we will join with you.
Soooooooo, tonight was a lot of fun. It was cool to have new friends and old at The Distillery tonight as we celebrated the third Sunday of advent together. We started off with the lighting of the third candle of advent and the topic of advent we chose was Waiting to Belong. Our readings reminded us that there are those folks that the world rejects and who have no place to belong, and that we are to be about these sorts of people:
The world has a habit of creating gloomy
clouds and of discarding what doesn’t fit. Our God does
the opposite. Isaiah 11 says that “He tends his flock like a
shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries
them close to his heart.”
God sends angels to shepherds and gathers in
what the world throws out. God restores people to health
and heals their wounds because they are called outcasts
according to Jeremiah 30:17 — and according to one night
In these final days leading up to Christmas we see
angels visiting shepherds. And we remember that God cares
for us as lambs. God loves when we do not. God calls us to
love everyone, no matter what. (WorldVision Canada)
After our reading and candle lighting ceremony we went on to sing songs together Some Christmasy ones and some not. We took communion with the kids and sent them on their way to go to the children’s gathering.
In the midst of the blog is a song from Heart called “Dog and Butterfly” and so we listened to the music and read the lyrics together:
In the song it speaks about “Just begging to go back where I’m free.” And that made me think of tonight’s discussion.
Tonight we talked about the idea that as a community of Jesus, one of our primary motivations needs to be “celebrating our freedom and the freedom of others.” But the kind of freedom that the lyricist talks about in the song here is not really freedom now is it? She is begging to go back where she is most comfortable, because it feels most like freedom.
There is a story in the Bible that this reminds me of. God has sent Moses and Aaron to literally free his people, the Israelites from slavery and lead them into a life of relative FREEDOM. Yet in the book of exodus, chapter 16 we read these words:
“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” (Exodus 16:2-3)
So here they were, after a lifetime of bondage, they are finally free, yet they are grumbling, angry, scared, unhappy, hungry, even suicidal. This is Freedom isn’t it? So as a community that celebrates freedom, we also have to consider that freedom may not be what we think it is. Sometimes addiction is easier. Sometimes our obsessive lifestyles feel at least predictable. Sometimes slavery feels safe. Sometimes finally learning to love ourselves and who we are can be lonely and terrifying. Sometimes our sickness can be embraced as our lifestyle, and freedom looks like chaos, freedom looks like danger, freedom looks like bondage.
Freedom can be really scary. So as a community, we must celebrate our own freedom and the freedom of others regularly together. We mustn’t abandon others in their freedom. Nor must we ever forget the things that once held us captive and how we were before God began to change us.
So, I closed my message with this.
“I have given you a few things to consider here. One is the way that God delivers us from death many times looks like a butterfly. Many times we don’t even see the butterflies calling us to… something better.”
“Then if we think of this “something better” as a type of freedom, the kind of freedom that God calls us to, then we can see that God IS in the business of freeing the captives — us. Looking back as far as Isaiah in chapter 61, we see that Jesus in fact:”
“…came to proclaim freedom for the captives, release from darkness the prisoners, bind the brokenhearted and preach the good news to the poor.” (Is 61:1)
“We are the poor… Likewise, freedom does not always look like “freedom.” We sometimes completely overlook freedom in lieu of things like “appearances, circumstances, behavior change, success, progress, etc.” Freedom rarely even looks like those things.”
“Sometimes freedom and healing mean that nothing shifts on a circumstantial level, but our hearts, relationships and view of God and ourselves somehow do. Captivity and bondage produce death, while healing and freedom produce life.” (Escobar 213)
This launched us into a wonderful conversation on how freedom itself is scary at times, many times it lacks the kind of structures that we have grown to depend on. We find that as free individuals we are no solely in charge of dictating the structures we use to be safe, secure and healthy,
Freedom is HARD. It is harder then slavery, obsession and addiction. We talked about the phenomenon of people who cannot live outside the walls of prison, because freedom is THAT hard. We also agreed that we cannot accept a community that pretends that everything is okay all of the time. That freedom looks a lot like, asking someone for help. Freedom has a lot to do with moving on to the next thing, the next step, the next milepost.
Though freedom is certainly attainable through a transformational relationship with Christ, complete and total freedom does not seem achievable this side of the Kingdom. So in lieu of total and complete freedom is a community of people who will not condemn our baby steps. Who will go on this journey with us. Who will admit to us and each other when they are in trouble, when they are begging to go back to what they thought was freedom, but was really comfort.
A new community contributor, Mike gave us these lines from a Nine Inch Nails song that seemed rather appropriate:
slave screams he spends his life learning conformity
slave screams he claims he has his own identity
slave screams he’s going to cause the system to fall
slave screams but he’s glad to be chained to that wall (Happiness in Slavery, by Nine Inch Nails)
We had a lovely time tonight at The Distillery. It was our monthly mealtime, where everyone brings food and eats together, but with a little bit of Advent mixed in. This being the second week of Advent, we celebrated with the traditional lighting of the candle, and the customary reading from the Flanagan Ladies.
It was lovely, and a good reminder of what the Christmas story is all about. The ceremony closed with our copastor and friend Linda leading us in this prayer:
Let us pray,
You are our heart’s home. Your home is safe, loving, and
eternal. But, so many of your children are trapped in homes
that are not safe. Or they are forced to leave homes that
are — for nightmares they barely escape.
You chose to incarnate yourself into a family that had little
else but love on the night you were born. Rescue us from
the danger of being obsessed with ourselves so that we can
see the needs, and the hope, around us. Draw us closer to
your light as we draw closer to Christmas.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
After a blessing over the food, we all migrated to the kitchen area and proceeded to hang out while preparing the food for eating, then we took turns getting food, getting seated and eating to our hearts content. Along the way, there were many good conversations to be had and many happy faces both small and adult size.
We were all very excited to meet some new folks tonight as well as hang out with good friends and family. Folks present tonight, in no particular order were Martin, Carolyn, Mirri, Bethy, Evan, Linda, Cassie, Emily, Hannah, Jennifer, Silas, Jemma, Me, Tammy, Johnathon, Vinny, James, Jess, Mike, Sarah, Mikey, Zach, Maude, Alana and Joe. I think I spelled all the names correctly, if not please feel free to correct me.
All-in-all it was another nice night at The Distillery.
I swam across,
I jumped across for you
Oh what a thing to do
Cos, you were all yellow
Tonight was another awesome night at The Distillery. We started off gathering together around the advent wreath and lighting out first candle of Advent. This week we celebrated the fact that we were Waiting for Love. Love in the form of a savior born to earth from a simple human being. A savior who would show us what love truly means. A savior that would speak to us about love and live love out for us in the low places, where most of us fear not go.
We continued the evening with celebratory music with our children, communion. The communion story was told mostly verbatim from the lips of little Beth Turnidge (7 years old) who had the story memorized down to the fact that Jesus said “…For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:18) It was refreshing to hear the story from the mouth of such a young person, and truly a delight to us all.
The children went on to be with their caregiver in the children’s area and we continued with this song:
Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.
I came along,
I wrote a song for you,
And all the things you do,
And it was called “Yellow”.
So then I took my turn,
Oh what a thing to have done,
And it was all “Yellow.”
Oh yeah your skin and bones,
Turn into something beautiful,
You know, you know I love you so,
You know I love you so.
I swam across,
I jumped across for you,
Oh what a thing to do.
Cos you were all “Yellow”,
I drew a line,
I drew a line for you,
Oh what a thing to do,
And it was all “Yellow.”
Oh yeah your skin and bones,
Turn into something beautiful,
And you know,
For you I’d bleed myself dry,
For you I’d bleed myself dry.
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine.
Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.
In our following discussion on Justice, this song seemed to speak to us about standing up for others that we love, knowing others, loving others and crossing the line when necessary to be with others in their pain and fear and helplessness.
We sang two more songs and moved on to discussion. Tonight’s topic (as said earlier) was about “Pursuing Justice.” Our conversation was very lively as we talked about what injustice looks like, what our response should be to it, and what the costs are to each of us that delve into pursuing justice for others.
At the heart of justice is the fundamental assumption of human dignity. Each human being bears the image of God and has inherent value. When that dignity is stripped, ignored or oppressed, there is injustice. (Escobar 183)
I related a personal story of how I have had to fight against injustice for the community over a recent dispute with our landlord and how in the midst of the conflict I had to remember that even the landlord, who at points in the conflict could have easily been seen as “the enemy” — even the landlord deserved justice in the way I chose to handle the situation.
This was a hard, messy frustrating story that does not have an end (yet), but it was a necessary one to tell. Far too often words like justice and particularly social justice get tossed around in the form of sending money to a good cause or doing a quick and easy charitable deed one weekend or one day a week. Churches and people see it as a duty, as opposed to just who we are supposed to be in all situations.
As Christ-followers, we are supposed to model the image of God to the world, in order to restore the world. In Micah 6:8, God expresses what is required of us: To seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly. I love the words “seek” and “pursue” because they imply something very important: they won’t come naturally. We will have to work, advocate and sacrifice for it. Part of life on the journey down is pursuing justice on behalf of those being treated unjustly. In seeking justice and fighting for it, we give it meaning and value. (183-184)
We each gave input on the subject and many good things were said in regards to our pursuit of justice, not just in the story I related to the group, but in our reflection of everyday life and how we are to model Jesus in this downward journey and stick up for those that cannot stick up for themselves. We agreed that we are to use what power we possess to defend and speak on behalf of the powerless among us. We also agreed that the costs of this pursuit could come at our own personal risk of life, liberty, economics, and happiness. We acknowledged that following Jesus does not always mean a happy go-lucky care-free life for us. Often times this pursuit can be hectic, hard and anything but fun and joyous. Sometimes, you just want to run away screaming and find a nice docile life living in a cave somewhere.
We closed the evening in prayer and I felt relieved to have shared my story and my heart with others on the subject. A good cup of coffee later found me giving hugs to the children and agreeing to see folks next week. This was a good night for me and The Distillery.
We had a nice time tonight at the Distillery. We continued our discussion on the downward journey of following Jesus by talking about power. In our discussion on power we started off by watching a video.
After the video we took turns reading through the following scripture in Matthew:
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1 – 12)
These are the words of Jesus spoken to a large group of people prior to launching into the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. After watching the video someone commented that “wow, John I really should have listened to you when you said churches in the South are different than up here.”
I smiled and said “well yes churches are different in the south, but this next example comes to us from the Northwest. A pastor in Seattle, Washington named Mark Driscoll was being interviewed by Relevant Magazine when he was asked the following question, “What do you see as the greatest challenge for young Christians in the next 10 years?” He responded by saying the following:
“There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.”
So all kidding aside, Mr. Driscoll is a highly influential and respected pastor of a very large church and network of hundreds of churches known as the Acts 29 Network.
When Jesus positioned himself above the crowd of folks to speak in Matthew 5, he was preaching against power. He was telling the crowd that the folks who are blessed are the ones who have given up on using power to control, manipulate, threaten and coerce others.
The rest of the sermon on the mount tells a much different story and sheds a much different light on who Jesus actually was than does Mr. Driscoll’s comments.
Kathy Escobar defines power in the church like this:
“When I use the word “power,” I think of these words: leadership, value and voice. One of my dreams is that we would learn what it means to diffuse power – to give away leadership, value and voice as much as possible, and as deeply and creatively as possible” (Escobar 153)
So while there is no innate evil in power – in other words there really is nothing unusual or wrong about the use of power in the world — in fact it is often times necessary, this is NOT the way of Jesus. The idea of mixing power with Christian community is something that Jesus seemed most against from the very beginning. It is the reason he ran the money changers out of the temple, it is the reason he chooses to wash the disciples’ feet as opposed to making them clean his feet first, and it is the reason he refused to use his “power” against other men who were about to do physical harm to him. It is the reason he allowed them to crucify him.
Unfortunately in 330 AD when the Roman Governor Constantine chooses to adopt Christianity as the national religion, that very thing begins to happen to the church. One could easily argue that power and Christianity have been less than enemies since the time it was placed in the hands of men, but it really started to become an issue when the national government adopted the faith.
So, today the way that looks is that the church…
“…inadvertently adopts the world’s thirst for power into our culture, our homes, and the fabric of our lives. The upside-down message of Jesus then is radically lost and we are sucked into the same fuel the world thrives upon.” (152)
So what do we do about it? We become a community that is all about diffusing power, which means, we give it away to others. We give our power to those that are less powerful. That is what Jesus did,
“Genuine power diffusion means giving it away to people who aren’t typically influential. The least. The last. The marginalized. The oppressed. The not quite as pretty, talented, educated, or socially accepted individuals.” (153)
When we first planted this church I had all of the power. Not only was I the Senior Pastor, I was the President of the Board. The bylaws were written in such a way that the board could not fire me. I was in charge of leading the board to make financial decisions and I was in charge of the spiritual doctrine and practices of the church.
Shortly after I began as the Senior pastor, I felt that God was telling me over and over again to “give away my power.” Give it away. God’s voice spoke to me trough books I was reading and through my closest friends, He spoke to me through the words of Jesus we read earlier and through church history.
I had only been in power for a short time before I started giving my power away to more and more people. Today the church’s power is diffused. We have given our power over to it’s members and the team of copastors we now have work together towards the common goal of safe community here. I am no longer a lead pastor, nor do I have any more power over what happens here than anyone else.
I am still president of the board, but the board makes very few decisions about what happens here and it must exist to satisfy the federal government’s understanding of what a church is.
What we did as a community over the last few years is classically known as “shooting the Sherriff.” By shooting the sheriff we took the leadership, value and voice of ONE individual and we put those things into the hands of the many. In what ways do you have power? Again, it is no sin to be powerful. Each of us have power by the positions we hold in public, by the positions we take on in our family and at church and at work and school. Some of us have power in our influence over others or simply the fact that we have a full-time job, or an education or a keen intellect.
Think about the ways that you are powerful and how you have wielded that power in the past, also think about ways that you have yielded your power to the less powerful. Think about ways that you too can “shoot the sheriff.” Remember that when it is possible we should all be trying to give away power to those that normally do not have it. So, yes, Mr. Driscoll you could probably beat up Jesus. Just remember that you can not take Jesus’ life away from him, because he chooses to lay it down freely on behalf of each of us. (John 10:18)
Escobar, Kathy. Down We Go: living Into The Wild Ways of Jesus. Folsom: Civitas Press, LLC. 2011. Print.
Tonight’s gathering was fun as usual. We started the evening with some good conversation around the bar with old and new friends. Then we migrated to the couches and chairs and sang some music together as led by Martin. It was a good time of kids dancing and playing hand instruments and adults singing and worshiping together. After worship, we started our evening off by watching two videos.
Each video told the story of two different 9/11 survivors from NYC. Each of the survivors had different perspectives and each took something different away from the tragedy.
Our conversation began with a question. First question was “Was there anything about the videos that bothered you or that struck you?” Later we asked “Do we as Christians sometimes miss the big picture because of our assumptions about what ‘God’ is trying to do here?”
This launched us into a good discussion on doubt as it relates to faith in God. We agreed on several things regarding doubt as detailed below:
Doubt is a fact of life and one of the ways that God speaks to us
The presence of doubt is not the absence of faith.
Faith without doubt is an untested kind of faith
Doubt is one of the ways that God reveals to us just how big he is
Whenever someone in our lives expresses doubt, we should honor that doubt, not try to stop the person from doubting.
God does not always do the things we expect him to do for us. we will not always be “protected”, bad things will happen to us at times and there is will be no good explanation for it.
Some things can not be explained with pat answers.
Some things we will not know why they happened or be able to explain in terms of “God” this side of Heaven.
In the mean-time we have reason to hope and dream and live in exploring the possibilities together.
If we can not agree that doubt is something that happens to all of us all of the time, we will not be able to embrace others who struggle with doubt regularly.
We tend to make most traumatic experiences in our lives about us. Often we try to explain those things in terms of why they had to happen in relation to our individual experiences rather than see them as an event that happened to many others and that really had nothing to do with us as individuals.
God is not responsible for many of the things that happen to us, but he is known to always be with us even through the hardest times.
When we honor doubt we begin to preface the things we say with phrases like “in my opinion…” and “the way I see it…”
People who have a lot of certainty about things and believe they are right all the time can be hard to embrace and converse with.
There were many other good observations and comments during our discussion time that are not recorded here. After our discussion time we prayed for each other’s requests and needs and went back to the bar area and had coffee and some more good conversations. It was nice to have a visit from our friends from NYC tonight Meghan and Ben. Their presence with us helped to fill our rooms with a little more light and levity.
“As we get more comfortable with the idea that the presence of doubt is not the absence of faith, we can help people learn to live in the tension along with us. We can affirm that real people have a wide range of feelings, emotions and responses that shift and change over time. A beautiful gift we can give to others is the space to be wherever they are and trust that God is at work and doesn’t always need our two cents added to the mix.” (Escobar 146)
Sorry it took me so long to post this this week, but I have been crazy busy. Sunday night this week was wonderful as usual. It was another evening of worship led by Carolyn, and time with the children. We took communion together and there was this point during that time that I was especially blessed.
I was sitting behind the altar on the drum set when my 4 year old grandson Vinny stepped up on the altar’s kneeboard and took a piece of bread, dipped it in the juice and put it in his mouth. He looked so happy, being allowed to partake in communion with us and seemed to truly display the idea of coming to Jesus as little children. I could not help but to smile and feel all warm inside.
After communion we had a time of more contemplative worship, where Carolyn asked us each to share what the Lord has been speaking to us about, or cool things that God has shown us over the last few weeks. As I listened to everyone’s stories and word images, I was overwhelmed with a sense that God had been speaking to all of us about a similar theme. God seemed to be giving us each insight into how we all fit into community with each other — how we tend to inadvertently help one another, how we need each other and how we all need to be willing to change.
It was really a special time for each of us. Next we continued our discussion of safe people, safe communities. We decided to take the list if Unsafe attributes and speak only about how we have frequently been unsafe with others. we also reviewed the list of things that “Safe People” do and agreed that we at times are safe as well.
I brought up the idea that safety is not something our community achieves one day and then that’s it, we no longer need to strive to be safe, but rather “safe community” is on one end of a spectrum while “unsafe community” is on the other end, and at The Distillery we want to always be moving in the direction of being a safe community. That being said there will be times when we are unsafe to some while safe for others. Living this life of downward mobility is about being okay with making mistakes, and accepting that it is going to happen. It’s about understanding that whenever we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others, we are going to get hurt sometimes and we are going to hurt others. This life with others is messy and sometimes hard. But it is well worth the effort.
After our good discussion on safety, we had a time of taking prayer requests and praying for each other’s needs and we ended the evening with coffee and time around the bar. It was as usual a good time together. Here is the list of things that “Safe People and Communities” do that can be compared with last weeks list of unsafe people/communities:
Safe people (and communities):
• Offer love and acceptance freely, without strings attached.
• See beyond the surface to the good that’s within us.
• Are good listeners, willing to sit with painful stories instead of fixing or giving unsolicited advice.
• Help us feel comfortable being ourselves and challenge us to grow, stretch and practice.
• Value relationship over opinions or differences, and nurture a spirit of equality with those different from them.
• Receive help, input, and feedback instead of only giving it, and engage in healthy conflict instead of avoiding it.
• Are honest and kind, willing to say the hard things in love.
• Remain humbly connected to their stories and pain and are willing to share their weaknesses and struggles with others.
Escobar, Kathy. Down We Go: living Into The Wild Ways of Jesus. Folsom: Civitas Press, LLC. 2011. Print.
We had a nice gathering this evening at the Distillery. We started the evening off with some music and worship with our children, leading us to communion. Afterwards me, Martin and Carolyn did an acoustic version of the song “Vito’s Ordination Song” by Sufjan Stevens.
Afterwards we had a discussion on items on the below list that we struggle with and everyone contributed something significant to the discussion. As Kathy suggests we all looked inward to see where the problems lie within us and how we have been unsafe people at times, particularly with our current significant relationships.
Unsafe People and Communities
• Tend to be extremely judgmental and defensive.
• Are quick to offer advice to others but remain unwilling to receive input or feedback.
• Think they have all the answers and reflect certainty that their opinion or perspective is somehow superior.
• Blame others for their mistakes but refuse to take responsibility for any of their own.
• Often demand trust as implicit in the relationship without having to offer any work on their end to earn it.
• Remain closed to change and are extremely rigid in their beliefs.
• Offer unsolicited advice, quick fixes, and do not take no for an answer.
• Use their power to make others unequal with them.
• Avoid conflict all together or create disproportionate conflict to somehow gain control in their relationships.
• Project that somehow they “have it all together” and rarely express their own struggles or weaknesses.
Are you being an unsafe person to be around for others? We discovered that we are all at times.
Hello, and welcome to the Distillery web site. lol. whatever. Look I am so sorry, I have neglected my charge as the duly appointed blogger for the church web site. I have failed in my duties over the last few weeks of keeping the four or five people who actually read this stuff up to date. For that I apologize. Really.
No I mean really.
For those interested, we have had a very interesting few weeks that involved a meal, a couple of our copastors and their kids out on a trip to England, baptisms (which I did bother to post on), a hurricane, an earthquake, flooding ( but not the church), 9/11, messages and conversations and music and friendships and wow, what a few weeks we have had. We have even lost one of our dear members to a move. She is gone and we miss her terribly, but it was unavoidable.
All in all it has been a packed few weeks and yours truly has not really had a good opportunity to write. Okay, that was kind of a lie. I did have opportunity, but have more likely been too distracted to write about it. Okay — moving on.
Tonight was a lovely little evening packed with musical goodies, times with children, communion and a wonderfully prepared message and subsequent conversation and prayer. Of course I was the one who preached and led the discussion tonight so I am being just a bit biased.
But first let me tell you about worship. Carolyn was our lovely leader tonight and she started us off with two very rockin’ tunes that the kids played hand instruments to while chasing each other around the room. It was a typical evening with our kids and then we had communion. Unfortunately I neglected to get some gluten free crackers for communion so some folks did not partake. I felt pretty terrible about that, but they symbolically did share a meal with the rest of us.
After communion the children went off to hang out with Linda and Patti. They were very excitable and cheerful tonight, which made us all giggle a bit. Then Carolyn as our worship leader did something a bit different. She dismissed the rest of the worship team to their seats with everyone else and led us all in an old traditional hymn that she recalled from her childhood.
It was so nice, and just a wee bit different than our typical song selection. Carolyn’s voice was near angelic as she sang the words to the song for the rest of us. It was all about depending on God and placing things in his hands. It was awesome. Afterwords she passed out paper hands to each of us and asked us to write on the hands things that are getting in our way of serving God and stuff that is keeping us from living our lives for him. We wrote things like pride, and depression, anger, and despair. Then we crumpled them up and imagined that these things were now in God’s hands as Carolyn played a song on her Ipad called: “Vito’s Ordination Song” – by Sufjan Stevens
Here are the lyrics:
I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called your name
I have an idea
Placed in your mind
To be a better man
I’ve made a crown for you
Put it in your room
And when the bridegroom comes
There will be noise
There will be glad
And a perfect bed
And when you write a poem
I know the words
I know the sounds
Before you write it down
When you wear your clothes
I wear them too
I wear your shoes
And your jacket too
I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called you son
I’ve made amends
Between father and son
Or, if you haven’t one
Rest in my arms
Sleep in my bed
There is a design
To what I did and said
After a sufficient time of silence and just soaking in God’s warmth and love, we continued with the gathering. Carolyn as usual was spot-on when it came to not just what was good for the gathering, but what we all needed from worship today. We thank God for her and Martin and the children daily.
With all that being said and done, I launched into a message whereby I told a story about my son James when he was small. To cut a long story short he hurt himself on his bicycle while playing outside and although he was wearing a helmet he suffered a fair amount of head damage. So much so that he had about a half inch of his skull exposed that was pushing out of a gash in his forehead. It freaked me out when I saw him and we quickly took him to the ER.
Afterwards, I recall him being in and out of pain. Interesting thing about the experience was that although Mom and I were always present with him holding his hands or taking turns holding a hand, we could really do nothing more for him than to let him express his pain. We could not stop the pain. Nor could we change the timeline so that this thing never happened to him. We were acutely aware that we were going to have to just be there with him until it was all over with. At no time did we say things like “please stop crying,” or “you mean to say that you are still in pain — I thought this was over with.”
We did not suggest in anyway nor allude to the idea that he needed to stop reacting to the pain. In fact we spent most of our time listening to him and letting him know we were there, and that we would be there when this was all over.
In a sense you could say we welcomed his pain. In welcoming it, we gave James permission to express his pain in the safety of the ER room with his parents standing nearby. So my question in the end after discussing all of these points was, “What does the church do when people are in pain?” “What should it do?” “What are it’s tendencies when dealing with pain?”
We had a good discussion on the matter and came to the conclusion that in fact the church can never simply tell people to “get over it” or pressure folks into hiding their pain. It is simply not what Jesus did. In fact, Jesus stepped into conflict and directly into the midst of people’s pain, and transformed the pain for them. So it is our job as the church to step into the pain of others and connect them with Jesus so that their pain can eventually subside and be transformed.
Sometimes this process can take years. We need to be patient and listen and assure others that they are not alone, and press on with them in their pain. We need also to understand that we all have pain, and it is affecting all of us all the time. It is important that we process it in a safe place with safe people on a regular basis.
Sometimes our pain comes from things that happened to us in the past, and sometimes we suffer in our relationship to God and it causes us a certain amount of pain. Sometimes it seems as if God is no longer there for us and nothing makes sense anymore. We call these times “Hitting the Wall” and Kathy goes on in her book to talk about the stages of faith that include hitting the wall. In fact everyone slams into the wall at one time. She also discusses the 6 other stages of faith that we go through at first in a linear fashion.
Stages of Faith
This was all very good information. If you want to read more about the stages of faith, I suggest getting Kathy’s book Down We Go: Living Into The Wild Ways of Jesus and checking out pages 117 – 120. Each of us go through very predictable stages including The Wall in our walk of faith, and reading about these stages really helped me to realize that I am not alone. I am not the only person going through this wall experience. And there is another side to it all. I highly recommend the book.
So much to do and so little time, was the feeling we had as we were wrapping up the evening in prayer. We took a few requests and then prayed for each other like we do best. Tonight was rejuvenating and restful and exciting and just good all around.
Yes, yes, it is a fact, the Distillery Church will be closed on Sunday due to the tempest forming right now in the Atlantic. So baton down your hatches and board up your windows and stick close to your weather radios, and see ya next week. God bless…
Wow, what a fun day. The weather was a concern earlier this week since we were going to be outdoors today and it was just perfect! We had no rain or thunderstorms as predicted. Then on the way home it started raining. So cool. Not sure that God suspends bad weather on request but if he does we have him to thank for such a cool day.
We were able to baptize two people — Joe and Jen– into our community today and then afterwards we swam and hung out and played like little kids and ate. It was amazing as usual. Take a look: