The Weekend Wanderer: 29 June 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

lincoln_bible_-_front“A Bible Owned by Lincoln, Unknown to Historians for 150 Years, Goes on Display
– Via The Smithsonian: “Seven years after her husband was assassinated, Mary Todd Lincoln presented his friend and neighbor, the Reverend Noyes W. Miner, with a special gift: an 18-pound Bible, adorned with a hand-tooled leather cover and gilt-edged pages, that had once belonged to the president. The Bible remained in Noyes’ family, unbeknownst to historians, for 150 years. But the precious the artifact has now been gifted to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois, where it went on display for the first time this week.”


_107156925_ab_index_promo_976_v5-nc“The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion?” – From BBC News: “Arabs are increasingly saying they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa. The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women’s rights and migration to security and sexuality. More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey – for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network – across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019. Here are some of the results.”


hong kong christian hymn“With Hymns and Prayers, Christians Help Drive Hong Kong’s Protests” – “Christianity has had a striking influence in demonstrations against a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. A hymn called ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become an unofficial anthem of demonstrations against a proposed extradition law.”


refugee crisis“The Global Refugee Crisis Hit a Record High. The US Welcome for the Persecuted Is at a Record Low” – From Christianity Today: “In just a few years, the United States has gone from a world leader in refugee resettlement to only admitting a fraction as many as it once did—a shift that has allowed fewer persecuted Christians and other religious minorities into the country. On Thursday, World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declared a record-high 70.8 million people were displaced last year. Despite pleas from evangelicals, the Trump Administration continued to restrict the number of refugees admitted in the country to fewer than half of what it had been for decades.”


Congregation at church praying“Donations to ‘religion’ declined $2 billion in 2018 after years of growth: study” – “Giving to houses of worship, denominational bodies and religious television and radio declined in 2018 after years of growth as individual Americans donated about $3 billion less than they did in 2017 under a new federal tax code, according to a new study.  The Giving USA Foundation, an arm of the Giving Institute, released its 2019 annual report on philanthropy in the U.S. conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on Tuesday. The study is the longest-running and most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the United States. It finds that total overall charitable giving in the country rose 0.7 percent to an even higher record level of nearly $428 billion actual dollars in 2018. But when inflation is accounted for, the study finds that total giving in 2018 declined by 1.7 percent from a record level in 2017.”


Thorncrown Chapel“9 Exceptional Works of Worship Architecture in the United States” – “Let’s get this out of the way: God-honoring worship can happen anywhere—a strip mall, a bowling alley, a rented high-school cafeteria, wherever. And the how—worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth—is far more important than the where. But in 2,000 years, the global church has created some awesome architectural spaces that glorify God just by being. And in about a tenth of that time, the United States has produced a few as well.”


MusicBryce Dessner and André de Ridder, “Lachrimae,” from St. Carolyn by the Sea.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 August 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


83122“Evangelical Ethiopian Helps End Orthodox Schism” – “Ending 27 years of schism, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in their homeland and in America reunited the two feuding branches of one of the world’s oldest churches. Ironically, the push came from the Horn of Africa nation’s new evangelical prime minister.”


maxresdefault“Report details sexual abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania’s Catholic Church” – In a news report that will not only make your stomach turn but possibly leave you with nightmares, a grand jury released a voluminous report about sexual abuse in Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. CNN reports: “A new grand jury report says that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 ‘predator priests’ have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims.” We cannot turn aside from this crisis within churches related to sexual abuse.


GrahamsAfter reading that, you may need some recovery. Why not read Bob Russell’s reflective essay “These Pastors’ Stories Won’t Make The New York Times.” While I wish that Bob could point us to more than white males, I appreciate what he’s trying to do by sharing stories of everyday pastors who lived with integrity in the midst of their ministry.  If you enjoy this essay, you might also want to check out Bob’s helpful book written after a flourishing pastoral ministry: After 50 Years of Ministry 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same.


9780226365459“Why I’m Still Confident about ‘Confident Pluralism” – John Inazu writes: “Two years ago, I published a book called Confident Pluralism. In it, I argue that living together across our differences in this country must begin by acknowledging the depth of those differences. And our differences are indeed deep…The past two years have affirmed, if not magnified, these claims.” Read Inazu’s rationale for still standing favorably by his central thesis and claims in that book. [Thanks to Andy Cornett for this link.]


Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 11.29.31 AM“God at the Margins (Part 2 of 3)” – Here is part 2 of  the story of my friends, Michal and John Chabo. The brothers delve deeply into God’s faithfulness in the midst of their challenging departure from Syria. Don’t miss this amazing story. While you’re at it, stop by their website in order to discover more about their work with Chabros Music.


download.jpeg“CoWo-NoGrow” Kevin Martin offers his reflections upon liturgical faithfulness, contemporary worship practices, and the failure of many prevailing ministry models in this article over at First Things. “I remember a scorching article Richard Neuhaus wrote when he edited the old Forum Letter before he started First Things, in which he ripped contemporary worship as a betrayal of the gospel and called for getting the worship right because then the doctrine and the practice will fall into line. I believe he was right then and is still right on this today.”“How Fiction Fueled Madeleine L’Engle’s Faith” – Sarah Arthur provides a wonderful look at the way in which Madeleine L’Engle was shaped in her moral formation by good literature. “Her engagement with these books—Scripture included—was deeply formative. They nourished ‘the same hunger in me, the hunger for the truth that is beyond fact, the hunger for courage and hope in a difficult world, the hunger for something more than ordinary vision.'”


_102875847_15607--xiazhi-china“In pictures: World Architecture Festival 2018 shortlist” – If you love architecture or simply enjoy good photography, make a brief visit to the BBC’s website to peruse projects from 81 countries have been shortlisted in the World Architecture Festival Awards 2018. A sampling includes a research centre in Riyadh, a village lounge in rural China and a mosque without a minaret in Iran.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Mel McGowan, “Redefining Church Environments” (#Exponential 2010)

Mel McGowan is President and founder of Visioneering Studios (, a national architecture, urban and interior design firm which recently was given the Solomon Award for “Best Church Architect.” Mel is the author of Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space and Saving Suburbia: From the Garden to the City.

Here are my notes from the workshop session with Mel entitled “Redefining Church Environments for the Third Millennium.”

Studied film; used to be with Walt Disney; then with urban redesign work and studies

Sister ministry with Stadia & Church Development Fund

Live – Worship – Play

Changing mental paradigms for architecture from suburban (Orlando, FL) to urban re-imagineering (Anaheim, CA)

“Mr. Brady” architects who just unpack the same solutions over 20 years

Myth: “Build it…and they will come.”

Re:define (anti-church/anti-architecture):

  • Church: ekklesia – Christ-centered community;
  • Architecture: process / place design – multi-sensory, experiential environment

Need to be cultural anthropologists first and architects second

Economic progression: Commodities (basic coffee beans) → Products (Folgers/1950s) → Services (7-Eleven/1970s) → Experience (Starbucks/1990s) → Transformation (Global Needs Café/2000s)

Three places for human experience: Homelife – Workplace – Community Living Room/third place (Greek agora; Spanish piazza; New England village green)

Other examples of transformational economy:

  • iPhone
  • Celebration, FL – vision for a better tomorrow (Epcot); 17-minute video on his deathbed; village green, sidewalks, & smaller backyards
  • U2 concert experience

E.P.I.C.  Stories (form follows fiction – not form follows function):

  • From informational to EXPERIENTIAL
  • From passivity to PARTICIPATORY
  • From absorption to IMMERSION
  • From individualism to CONNECTEDNESS

False notion of church: 1 hour/week experience or, if we’re really religious, 2 hour/week experience

Pre-modernity: Form follows Faith

Modernity: Form follows function…sometimes

  • buildings as machines – houses as machines for living; churches as machines for worship
  • built around the functionalism of the car
  • prefabricated houses…and churches
  • con – temporary: literally, “with temporariness”

Raises the issue of stewardship: we should be thinking about maximizing kingdom return on investment

Raises the issue of locality: what is specific about the setting, climate, culture, and ministry philosophy

Some stats:

  • America is the 5th largest global mission field
  • Church attendance is declining by generation
  • Those ages 18-32 are the least likely to describe themselves as religious, as Christian, or as committed Christians
  • The church is losing ground in a post-modern, ‘post-Christian culture’

Postmodern Placemaking

  • Strategy: form follows fiction – spaces between the building (guiding metaphors for space)
  • Strategy: form follows finance – environmental graphics
  • Strategy: form follows feet
  • Strategy: form follows faith: Postmodern Agora; Destination Architecture; Architectural Evangelism

The Process

  • Envision: Strategic Planning & Feasibility (partnerships in community; mixed-use zoning;
  • Design: Destination Architecture & Architectural Evangelism
  • Build: Project development – From Dream to Dedication Day

Life Church (Memphis) – built through a strip mall

[This is part of a series of note-posts from the Exponential 2010 conference.]