generous space

[We’ve just benefited from the wisdom and experience of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter as she visited SSU. This is from her new ebook, which you can get from the link below]

If the goal of generous space is to nurture a positive relational experience of unity in the midst of difference, then we do well to test how the theology that undergirds the four core values of generous space serves to promote such unity. Humility calls us to live as incarnational people, willing to strip ourselves of privilege and status. Humility shapes us and prepares us to prefer the other over ourselves as we commit to listen deeply, suspending our desire to persuade and convince. Humility chooses to embrace God’s strategy of powerlessness to overcome systems of evil and injustice. Humility allows us to truly see the other….

Hospitality embraces the reality of difference with the anticipation of a richer and deeper sense of grace and truth as we travel together. When we
live in hospitable communities we ask, “Whose voices are missing?”

Mutuality challenges us to learn to divest and share power. It invites us to learn the grace of “power-with” instead of “power-over”….

We enlarge our vision of justice in the longing for all to flourish in the recognition that if, “I diminish you, I diminish myself.” Justice calls us to live out our interconnectedness. It invites us to cooperate with others to dismantle the barriers that prevent others from flourishing.

“God” gets stuck

Later I came under the influence of some Anglican monks who introduced me to the mystical and intellectual life…. The kind of faith that encouraged a questioning skepticism and, at the same time, a deep compassion, was new to me. I have a feeling that some of the monks would have been considered nonbelievers by many of my friends because they were too open, too ready to entertain ideas and listen to stories from other traditions. The big problem with “God” (the monks said) is idolatry. “God” gets stuck to ideas like patriotism or personal virtue – things that give us the illusion of control. Most of what we think of as God isn’t God. They taught me to be skeptical because believing was a moving target and its test was always love.

  • Alan Jones, from Reimagining Christianity

a kindly mist

[We had a lovely Fireside Chat today by Rachael Barham on the value of uncertainty and the power of a question. This is one her poems that she shared with us:]

If this be a kindly mist
Then I wish to surrender to it
Fall into its unclarity and darkness
As into a soft and giving sleep

But it must be Love:
It must love me like no other
And cause me to love in return
– To love the mist itself
And the shapes that rise in it,
Bodies softened,
Hard lines blurred

If this mist be Love
I wish to view all things in and through it
I wish never again to see clearly, boldly, singly
I wish never again to see the world divided, sorted, sifted
But joined, surrounded, lost in obscurity together

May the mist be thick enough to hide from me my own hands
Left from right, right from left
Good from bad, right from wrong
So that I can move unselfconscious
Unobserved and unnoticed

Should I feel myself tugged at by a hidden hand
Toyed with, pushed and pulled
Twisted round to face…
(What?)
Let me give in to the swirl, fold, whisper
And find myself taken in
Encircled, embraced and
At last
Lost

  • Rachael Barham

hospitality and freedom

[Our faculty are currently exploring the challenges of interfaith dialogue in the context of an academic and Christian community. At our last faculty meeting, we affirmed the role of hospitality and vulnerability and the next morning I read this passage from Henri Nouwen:]

Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.

: Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

sex and safety

[thinking of Ghomeshi made me think of the relevance of this quote from Wendell Berry – for those not familiar with Berry, be assured that the context here is the loss of community and the exploitation of consumerism much more than it is a loss of ‘public morals’]

Seeking to ‘free’ sexual love from its old communal restraints, we have ‘freed’ it also from its meaning, its responsibility, and its exaltation. And we have made it more dangerous. ‘Sexual liberation’ is as much a fraud and as great a failure as the ‘peaceful atom.’ We are now living in a sexual atmosphere so polluted and embittered that women must look on virtually any man as a potential assailant, and a man must look on virtually any woman as a potential accuser. The idea that this situation can be corrected by the courts and the police only compounds the disorder and the danger. And in the midst of this acid rainfall of predation and recrimination, we presume to teach our young people that sex can be made ‘safe’ – by the use, inevitably, of purchased drugs and devices. What a lie! Sex was never safe, and it is less safe now than it has ever been.

– Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community