The Weekend Wanderer: 24 September 2022

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. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


c3a88de3-3f75-48c8-a590-f64d16f580bd_696x357“Intermission: Last Post for Christian England” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “I spent much of the day, along with several hundred million other people around the world, watching the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth on TV. It was full of remarkable, beautifully choreographed and often moving moments, as you would expect of an event which has been prepared for since the 1960s. A lot of things don’t work very well in Britain anymore, but this kind of pageantry is something we can still do well. We will not see its like again, I don’t think. I say ‘pageantry’, but this is a dismissive word. What happened today was a rolling, dense mat of symbolism, replete with historical meaning, anchored in a very particular nation and time period. What did it symbolise? Above all, I think, it symbolised something that our culture has long stopped believing in, and as such can’t really process effectively, or even perhaps quite comprehend. This was brought home to me by one particular moment in the ceremony.”


Taylor - Silence“In Praise of Silence” – W. David O. Taylor at his blog: “I’m excited to be speaking at the Liturgy Collective conference in Nashville on October 13-14. It’ll be a wonderful opportunity to connect with other musicians, pastors, and liturgists. This year, the theme of the conference is ‘rest,’ which I think is perennially needed, but even more so these days. The topic of my two talks will be on the nature of Silence in Worship, and my basic argument is that we need far more of it than we usually presume. Silence is fundamental to faithful prayer, I suggest, because prayer begins with the act of listening, not talking. God gets the first word—not the pastor, not the musician, not any of us. Silence also is fundamental to faithful singing because in silence, we attune our ears to ‘the chief Conductor of our hymns,’ as John Calvin once put it. We do so in order to be reminded that we were not the first to arrive on the liturgical scene. In humility, we listen first—then we sing. Silence is likewise fundamental to faithful preaching because the preacher must make time for the people of God to inwardly digest the word of God so that it has a fighting chance to take root in our hearts and bear good fruit in our lives.”


HTB“Wanted: Creation Care Coordinator for Major British Evangelical Church” – Ken Chitwood in Christianity Today: “The job ad was a little different than the ones normally posted by London’s largest churches. It wasn’t for a pastor, priest, choir director, or organist. Instead, the large evangelical Anglican congregation wanted an environmental project manager. Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), perhaps best known as the birthplace of the evangelistic Alpha course, has advertised a position for someone who will help ‘oversee the strategy, planning and execution of HTB’s approach to Creation Care.’ The individual will work closely with other lead team members to put an ‘environmental response at the heart of church life.’ Jobs like this at places like HTB are notable, said Jo Chamberlain, national environment policy officer for the Church of England. Such roles, she said, signal a sea change. Evangelical churches in the UK—and perhaps elsewhere—are embracing the critical importance of creation care and environmental stewardship at the congregational level.”


Charles Spurgeon“The Secret to Spurgeon’s Success” – Stephen Story at The Gospel Coalition: “Everyone is a theologian, R. C. Sproul rightly observed. Anyone with ideas or beliefs about God is doing theology. It may be poorly considered, but it’s theology nonetheless. By the same token, it might be said that everyone has an ecclesiology, a doctrine of the church. We all have beliefs or assumptions about what the church is, why it exists, and how it ought to function. Rarely do we pause, though, to think deeply about these things. Even among pastors, the incessant demands of ministry often pull us toward fixing urgent problems while neglecting larger questions. What does healthy pastoral ministry look like? What matters most in the life of my church? Am I shepherding God’s flock in a way that pleases him? In Spurgeon the Pastor: Recovering a Biblical and Theological Vision for Ministry, Geoffrey Chang shows why the 19th-century Baptist expositor should be regarded as more than ‘the Prince of Preachers’—he should be studied as an example of a faithful pastor. Chang—assistant professor of church history and historical theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—contends there’s “no better model of faithful pastoral ministry and commitment to the local church” than Spurgeon (2).”


Wirzba - This Sacred Life“What in the World is the World?: A review of This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World” – Doug Sikkema in Front Porch Review: “In The Myths We Live By, the late Mary Midgley explores how we humans are deeply storied creatures. Myths—the grand narratives that give shape and meaning to our lives—tether us to each other, to time, to place. They tell us who we are, where we came from, how we might live and, possibly, why we are even here at all. One might think myths belong to that benighted classical world of pagan ritual or even that Dark Age of Christendom teeming with its irrational superstitions, but that’s only because, Midgley would argue, we’ve been held captive by another, more potent, set of stories….What is one to do? Perhaps one thing is that we can live by a better myth. Or perhaps recover such a story that’s been ignored and largely forgotten. This is what Norman Wirzba sets out to do in This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World. For Wirzba, a possible antidote for our dis-ease in the Anthropocene is to recover some of the essential pieces of the narrative, the lived mythology, of Christianity.”


005“London Goddess Purée: Is the celebration of ancient goddesses female empowerment or rank patriarchy?” – Matthew J. Milliner in Comment: “The British Museum has good reason to put together the exhibition Feminine Power. After all, when girls are actually being advised, with the full endorsement of the psychological and medical establishments, to surgically remove their breasts in an attempt to become male, misogyny has reached a new apogee. (See, for just one example, the harrowing interview recorded here.) Accordingly, any museum’s effort to signal the importance of being female should be welcomed. Clipboard-bearing curators at this show collect viewer responses and display them on a large screen. One of them boldly proclaims, ‘Woman, an adult human female,’ surely indicating this visitor knows that very definition is under baffling new attack. Even so, the subtitle of this particular show at the British Museum suggests problems: Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic. The images here gathered span epoch and geography, their only commonality being ‘profound influence on human lives, both past and present.’ Which is to say, every global goddess within reach has been thrown into the curatorial blender for this exhibition, and—not unlike the $25 smoothie I recently saw advertised and sampled in Los Angeles—the results are less than invigorating. And that may be part of the point.”


Music: The Porter’s Gate ft. Liz Vice, “Brother Sun (Giving Glory),” from Climate Vigil Songs

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 September 2022

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. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


thumbRNS-Queen-Elizabeth4“Elizabeth II, longest to rule Britain and Church of England, dies at 96” – Catherine Pepinster at Religion News Service: “Elizabeth II of England, Britain’s longest-serving monarch and official head of the Church of England, died Thursday (Sept. 8) at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at age 96. She came to the throne in 1952 but had dedicated her life to service of her nation six years earlier, as a 21-year-old princess, saying, ‘God help me to make good my vow.’  When Elizabeth was crowned, following her father, George VI, Britain was still recovering from World War II and its heavy bombing campaigns; Winston Churchill was prime minister and the country still had an empire. The young queen’s coronation suggested a new era — as the millions of television sets purchased to watch the live broadcast of the ceremony from London’s Westminster Abbey signaled. But the coronation itself was steeped in tradition and confirmed the monarchy’s intertwining of the monarchy and religion. The more-than-1,000-year-old ceremony involves the anointing of the monarch, who commits himself or herself to the people through sacred promises. One of those, to uphold the Protestant religion, is also a reminder of the religious divisions of the nearer past. The queen’s two titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, given to her at her accession, also owe their existence to Reformation history. The first was first bestowed on Henry VIII by a grateful pope for the king’s rebuttal of the teachings of Martin Luther. Henry defiantly held onto it even after breaking with Rome to declare himself head of the new Church of England.”


spiritual-formation-leader“How the Spiritual Formation of the Pastor Affects Spiritual Formation in the Congregation” – Ruth Haley Barton in Beyond Words: “I remember sitting in a staff meeting once at a church I was serving; the purpose of the meeting was to talk about how we could attract more people to join the church. At one point someone counted the requirements for church membership already in place and made the startling discovery that there were at least five time commitments per week required of those who wanted to become church members! Outwardly I tried to be supportive of the purpose for the meeting, but on the inside I was screaming, Who would want to sign up for this? I was already trying to combat CFS (Christian fatigue syndrome) in my own life and couldn’t imagine willingly inflicting it on someone else! As I sat with my discomfort a whole new awareness opened up:  all of us leaders sitting around the table that day only knew one speed in life and that was full steam ahead—and we had been stuck in that speed for a very long time.  The kind of frenetic, unworkable schedules that we were all living was exactly the kind of life-style we had been leading others into and if we didn’t pay attention, this meeting was only going to produce more of the same. If we as leaders did not deal with ourselves and establish saner rhythms for our lives—rhythms that would curb our unbridled activism and allow space for the work of God in our own lives—we would not have much of value to offer others. We would not be able to lead others into a way of life that allowed time and space for the patient, plodding, and mysterious process of spiritual transformation.”


Timothy Keller (WSJ)“Pastor Timothy Keller Speaks to the Head and the Heart” – Emily Bobrow in The Wall Street Journal: “As a first-year student at Bucknell University in 1968, Rev. Timothy Keller began having doubts about his faith. Growing up Lutheran in Allentown, Pa., he gathered that being a Christian simply meant trying to be good and going to church on Sundays. When he was in high school, however, his parents switched to a conservative evangelical congregation, where he was taught that being a Christian meant ‘surrendering’ his life to Christ. By the time Dr. Keller got to college, he didn’t know what to believe. ‘I was trying to figure out who I was,’ he recalls. He soon met some evangelical students who introduced him to books by C.S. Lewis and other Christian writers who approached their faith with scholarly rigor. ‘Here were these very smart people who believed the Bible, who believed Jesus really rose from the dead. I thought, oh my goodness you really can be a thoughtful person and be a Christian,’ Dr. Keller says over video from his book-lined home on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Invigorated by a take on Christianity that spoke to both his head and his heart, he says he never looked back: ‘That was the beginning of my Christian journey.'”


Pastor“Pastors battle skyrocketing burnout amid politics, pandemic: ‘Wearing on the soul'” – Jon Brown at Fox News: “Bitter divisions over politics and the pandemic have seeped into churches and led to increasing rates of job burnout among pastors, multiple clergy members and those who counsel them told Fox News Digital. ‘Our faith does not exempt us from anxiety, depression, temptation or COVID, so that’s to be expected,’ said David Ferguson, executive director of the Great Commandment Network, which provides counseling initiatives to help pastors. ‘But in addition to that, we obviously are in a real divided, polarized, politicized world, where sadly at times pastors feel the pressure to take positions on every imaginable topic.’ A study of Protestant pastors conducted in March by the faith-based research organization Barna Group suggested that unprecedented numbers are thinking about quitting the ministry. The poll showed that rates of burnout among pastors have risen dramatically during the past year, with a staggering 42% of ministers wondering if they should abandon their vocation altogether.”


33vollembed1“The Adventure of Obedience: It’s not popular but obedience can transplant us to places we never expected” – Norann Voll in Plough: “The Greek meaning of the word obedience is to ‘listen under.’ Twenty years ago, my husband, Chris, and I left New York and arrived Down Under on the back of the Millennial Drought. A vow of obedience got us here. After the longest journey of our lives, we emerged exhausted into the arrivals hall at Sydney airport, our two-year-old and ten-week-old sons clinging to us like little koalas. Knowingly, Chris looked at me, dug in my handbag and, holding out my hairbrush, said, “I’ve got the kids.” When I returned newly brushed, a glass of white wine sweated by a bowl of Thai noodle soup. My first sip of crisp Australian chardonnay (‘chardy,’ as I’d soon learn to call it) conjured up tears. My man knew just what I needed. But the day did not finish there. We boarded smaller and smaller planes, flying over scorched earth, empty farm ponds (“dams”), and thin cattle. As the local mail plane landed in Inverell, apparently the ‘Sapphire City,’ kangaroos bounded over brick-red dirt alongside the runway. We were four and a half years into our marriage. Five years is the sapphire anniversary, I thought. Please let us be rid of this place by then. An hour later, we arrived, welcomed by our Bruderhof church-community, forty other brothers and sisters, most of whom were imports like us. They had been braving this land for a couple of years already, and had set about the task of converting our new home, ‘Danthonia,’ from a single-family sheep farm to a place of welcome for many. Chris and I and our boys were ushered to our new apartment, in the original homestead. The freshly cleaned wool carpets gave off a gentle lanolin odor. We collapsed gratefully into bed, waking the next morning to the scent of jacaranda and the song of magpies, and butterflies tapping a tattoo on our window.”


vox_suburb.0.jpg“What if the suburbs were just a first draft?: Remote work, the arrival of home-owning millennials, and other forces can be an opportunity to remake them for the better” – Addison Del Mastro in Vox: “The Covid era has produced a number of mixed narratives about housing, land use, and migration patterns. People are leaving the city, but also returning. Remote work is a historic shift in how Americans work, but 50 percent of workers actually can’t work from home. Construction is accelerating at the exurban edge of many metro areas — but many of the homes going up are dense multifamily structures and mixed-use developments, mimicking what you might find in an urban downtown. Some interesting trends are taking shape in American suburbia. One thing we know, for example, is that the ‘flight,’ or return, to the suburbs is real (though the death of the city is greatly overstated). We also know that more people are spending more time in the suburbs, and that many who moved there under remote work arrangements are likely to stay. In major American metro areas in East and West Coast cities, suburban prices grew rapidly during the pandemic compared with prices in the urban core, according to one Brookings Institution paper. ‘Further,’ it states, ‘the gap between the two areas — urban and suburban — widened as the pandemic prolonged.’ This trend was most pronounced in the Boston and Washington, DC, metro areas; the DC metro area is a premier example of many of these trends, and where they may be going today. ‘It’s a very strong phenomenon right now, staying within the metro area but moving to a suburban neighborhood rather than central, dense neighborhoods,’ says economist Stephan Whitaker. It could look like another round of flight from the city. Or what we may be witnessing is a ‘second draft’ of the American suburbs.”


Music: Mark Heard and Kate Miner, “My Redeemer Lives,” from At the Foot of the Cross, vol. 1