Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in the early twentieth century in the Roman Catholic Church and spread quickly to Protestant and Orthodox branches of Christianity. In 1948, with the founding of the World Council of Churches, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity became increasingly recognized by different churches throughout the world.

The heartbeat of this week focuses on the Church being united as the universal mystical body of Christ. It finds its roots in the prayer of Jesus that His followers be one in the way He experienced oneness with God (St. John 17:21). Somehow in the pursuit of unity, it has been my experience, we have failed to achieve this oneness and digressed to hegemonic displays filled with invitation to sameness, rather than the beautiful equality of oneness.

When I first encountered The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I often heard that the worship experiences would be a melting pot of all theological, cultural, and racial perspectives and that this would show how we valued the diversity and unity in God.  The problem I found was that much like a true melting pot all the ingredients were expected to lose their unique flavor with the taste and texture of the dominant culture prevailing. When there have been nods toward difference they have often been nothing more than cultural appropriation that ignores the lived realities and experiences that have given birth to the traditions. Sanitizing hymnody is nothing more than a sacrifice on the altar of political correctness; it is not unity. At best it is conformity.

To consider culture in our worship experience is more than changing the picture of Jesus or Mary on the front covers of our worship aids or advertisements.  It is not enough to invite a Gospel choir to sing a selection or two and call it unity. Culture is the basis of all ideas, images, and actions. To move culturally is to move by a set of values given to you by your culture.  The basic criteria for culture include mythology, history, social organization, political organization, creative motif, and ethos (Cone 1997). If our unity services are to be truly reflective of the oneness of the Body of Christ, some weighty matters need to be considered.

As we reimagine the potential of our gatherings for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we might consider the task of the church. Fundamentally the Church refers to the communal gathering around washing, texts, and meal, as these are interpreted as having to do with Jesus Christ, and yet it is so much more (Lathrup 1993).  It is the place where people develop their power of reason to understand themselves, their relationship to others, and their position in the universe in light of the teachings of Jesus (Fromm 1978).  This constitutes an invitation to discover and celebrate not just our differences, our unique gifts, but what makes us different and how those differences play a major part in the whole.

What we should vision for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year and beyond is not so much a melting pot, but perhaps a tossed salad. Each ingredient bringing its own unique flavor separate, distinct, and perfect. When these ingredients come together, they make one delicious offering where no one is diminished and no flavor appropriated. Unity in not about sameness, unity is an act of solidarity. We are called to be one with, even when we are not one of. Seeing and acknowledging the difference allows each to be truly known and understood, while being valuable as a contribution to the whole. Perhaps this week rather than focus on Jesus as coming to die on the cross our attention should be focused on Jesus who showed redemption through a perfect ministerial vision of righting relationships (J. Cone 2011).

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Cone, James. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Fromm, Erich. 1978. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven: YAle University Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1993. Holy Things. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Church and Politics

In times of national unrest, it seems to me that people turn their attention to matters of the heart, and churches, mosques, and synagogues become places of refuge from the upheaval of the times.  As the inauguration of a new American president draws near, religious institutions such as churches, seminaries and schools of theology have a unique opportunity to be the voice of comfort, reason, and justice.

Politics is the ancient and honorable endeavor that creates a community in which the weak, as well as the strong, can flourish, love and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy can have their day (Palmer 2011).  Our task, as practitioners of the sacred, is to assist people in plumbing the depths of their own humanity, where transcendence, mystery, being and even love are discovered, and further to bring those qualities found in the center of life into the world (Spong 1998). Our corporate worship is indeed in many ways very political; they are experiences of the community, for the community, by the community.

In the Christian tradition the Eucharist has been a visible sign not only of the union between believers and Christ, but also the unity of believers in Christ. In the early church it gave Christians constant access to communion with Christ and also communion and fellowship with one another. It was a sense of mystical unity that crossed all ethnic and socioeconomic borders—neither slave nor free, neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female—a unity that was not abstract, nor was it made by coercion or force.  No political allegiance before had ever achieved this kind of community, nor has it since (Pecknold 2010). At the heart of Christian gathering is that which transcends political reality and reminds each congregant of the humanness of all.

As we navigate the days ahead we are tasked with helping our congregations adjust to a new normal while still holding hope and a picture of a preferable future. We recognize that we will, on this journey, experience a wide range of emotions: surprise, disbelief, excitement, doubt, joy, and also reassurance.  This is a gift to shake up our thinking, engender new insights, and strengthen our commitments. We will be reminded at many points along our journey that our faith is rooted in a paradox, because the cross is a religious symbol that inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, and that the last shall be first and the first last (Cone 2011).

Worship experiences provide us an opportunity to intentionally engage in empowering our community. We make community by creating religious, educational, health care, philanthropic, political, and familial institutions and professional organizations that enable people to survive (Mitchem 2002).  As you think about your local assembly I challenge you to look for the opportunities to make community. Ask yourself how are you responding to the realities of the moment? Are your parishioners experiencing life affirmation? Is your liturgy challenging enough to meet the rigorous demands of the present social milieu?  When you answer these questions you will understand what your work will be going forward.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor

 

Works Cited

Cone, James. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Mitchem, Stepahine Y. 2002. Introducing Womanist Theology. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

Palmer, Parker J. 2011. Healing The Heart of Democracy. SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pecknold, C.C. 2010. Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to History. Eugene: Cascade Books.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Worship, Art, and Activism

We make and offer art because we worship; not to lead us into worship (Best 2003).  As a function of ascribing worth to the Divine and communicating that worth to others art brings collective into a shared experience. The making and offering of art is sacred because of its intent, content, and direction; it points fully toward a spiritual principle or communal value. It may show some aspect of Divinity or highlight something of humanity, but either way it is valuable as an instrument of expressing worship.  An artist is tasked in some ways of being a propagandist. They create art to convey an idea they want to impress upon the public (Garvey 1986).  This week as we start a new academic quarter at Seattle University and a New Year we have been blessed by one of our students with their amazing art. As you read about the artist and their work my prayer is that you would consider the ways that art might play a role in the worship and liturgy life of your local congregation or national church body.  Please enjoy the work of Barbara Bauml.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
 

Works Cited

Best, Harold M. 2003. Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.

Garvey, Marcus. 1986. Message to the People; The course of African Philosophy. Dover: The Majority Press.

 

             

 

About the Artist

 

Barbara Bauml has created art in multiple mediums throughout her life. She finds that art “speaks” in ways that words cannot―both as a mode of expression and as a medium of communication. The subject or theme of her work determine the mediums with which she plays―in this case money, food, and Western tableware. She creates art in realistic and abstract forms using pen and ink, acrylics, graphite, and fabric dyes.

It was a new and interesting experience to use money as a medium. It caused me to reflect on risk, trust, and what I value. I hope it will similarly evoke reflection and discussion in those who view this.

Her esthetic senses grant much appreciation for beauty in everyday life. While painting esthetically pleasing art is nice, she finds that art is more meaningful when it engages others. Creating art within community is especially meaningful.  The feelings, thoughts, and conversations that are experienced enrich life and relationships.

Barbara lives in Graham, Washington. She is married to Timothy Bean, is a mother, step-mother, and grandmother. She works part-time as a counselor and is on the board of the Washington Pastoral Counseling Association. She is currently attending Seattle University earning a Master Degree in Pastoral Studies

 

 

Exploring Money, Values, and Justice

 

A new piece of artwork, “Money, You Can’t Eat It,” has been installed on the ground floor of Hunthausen Hall. This mixed-media sculpture uses the lens of art to view the role and purpose of money in our world. Understanding and exploring the relationships of money to our values, assumptions, goals, and faith is overdue. Therein lies a conversation about our values, justice, and moral courage.

The artist, Barbara Bauml, has created art in multiple mediums throughout her life. Early in her life, painting did not satisfy her curiosity. Making art became more meaningful, however, as a reflection of culture and as a form of self-expression. She finds that art “speaks” in ways that words cannot.

This art, was conceived both as commentary on the value of money and as an invitation to become more aware about how it shapes us―individually and collectively. It is meant to evoke discussion about the ways money influences our choices, financial systems, budgets, etc. Regardless of its forms, money is a figment of our imagination. Barbara asserts that money is better used as an expression of our values than the determinant of the values on which we act.

Two thousand years ago Jesus overturned tables in the Temple courtyard to oppose the injustices perpetrated by the money changers (Mt. 21:12; Mk. 11:15). Making a whip of cords, he drove the cheaters out of temple (Jn. 2:15). The matter of what constitutes a just money system today is still very pertinent. “In discussing money in my family growing up, one comment my father made has always stuck with me: ‘Money is like oxygen, it doesn’t matter much unless there isn’t enough of it.’”

This art invites a discussion of the forms of money and how it shapes our individual and collective lives, and what we can do to promote and participate in creating a fair, moral, and equitable system. As a starting point of reflection, most of the following words were embroidered on the table runner:

Appreciate; Bail-out; Balance; Benefit; Bills & Coins; Blessing; Build; Cash; CDO; CDX; Charity; Choice; Colonization; Commodities; Contribution; Counterfeit money; Create; Credit; Debt; Derivatives; Digital Money; Domination; control & force; Earn; Enough; Equity; Fair Trade; Fiat money; Flow; Follow the money;  Fractional Reserve Banking System; Futures; Gambling; Gift; Glamour; Honesty; Honor; Hospitality; Insurance; Integrity; Intent; Invest; Jubilee; Just; Labor; Loan; Love; Market; Measure; Medium of Exchange; Monopoly; Options; Partnerships; Payment Inkind; Plastic; Produce; Profit; Prosperity; Redeem; Repay; Resourcefulness; Resources; Return; Risk Assessment; Savings; Service; Slavery; Status; Stewardship; Sufficiency; Symbol; Tangible money; Taxes; The “Federal” Reserve, created 1913; Too big to fail; Treasure; Treasury; Trust; Usury; Value; Wealth; Work; Worth.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Holy Holidays

Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Las Posadas, Eid-al-Adha, and more; for different faith communities these are the celebrations of December. This is a most festive and joyful time throughout the world, and most of our congregations are places where the spiritual vibrancy of the community comes alive with the traditions and cultures of our congregants. If we are honest, this is precisely where many congregants can become disillusioned with the faith community. For many in our cities and towns cultural identities have become a source of violence and exclusion, and people of faith look to the spiritual community to be an agent of healing for the soul violence they have encountered elsewhere. Everyone wants to be seen and known, i.e., to have a voice. And since many of our churches have become home to people of multiple belongings and intersectional realities, it is easy to feel that the worship life of our local church doesn’t hold the depth of meaning for individuals that we and they would like to experience.

While our liturgy is always about the Divine, it is also about humanity and community. In fact, the Christmas story itself holds the very moment when the Divine breaks forth into humanity to be with and among. For the Christian Church, a given culture’s values and patterns—insofar as they are consonant with the values of the gospel—can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship (Wilkey 2014).  In other spiritual communities this is also true, provided cultural patterns are consonant with the core tenants of that particular spiritual practice.  As we consider the needs of our human communities this holiday season, we might consider our awareness and inclusion of cultural elements in liturgical design. Culture is important to people’s sense of belonging as it comprises people’s total social heritage, including language, ideas, habits, beliefs, customs, traditions, arts, artifacts, and symbolism (Douglas 1999). In what ways are our congregations, through liturgies and worship experiences, intentional repositories and celebrants of culture?

Faithful community building behavior suggests that each member of the community concerns themselves with the good of the whole community and how their behavior affects that community (Flunder 2005).  As liturgists our responsibility to our communities is to be mindful of the ways in which the worship design both portrays and betrays the gospel narrative. When cultural realities are left out of the equation we run the risk of missing the mark as it relates to our full responsibility.  What would our worship dare to say about God if as we craft our celebrations we take into consideration the full array of God’s people and their particularities.  How might our congregations come to life as together we explore the nature and character of God through the lens of art produced by those in your congregation who do not make up the majority demographic? Perhaps this year our December celebrations will be marked by the self-conscious awareness that all of us are, or can be, God bearers and life givers and that our deepest religious task is to give ourselves away (Spong 1998).  I invite each of us spend a few moments this week contemplating the impact of culture on our liturgies to see how we can expand to include others’ realities.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Flunder, Yvette A. 2005. Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Wilkey, Gláucia Vasconcelos, ed. 2014. Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Jesus Justice and Advent

Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”) is considered to be the beginning of the Christian Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. This season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30. Advent ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve occurs on a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown. We find ourselves as liturgical theologians and practitioners tasked with the awesome responsibility of countless worship experiences, Christmas concerts, cantatas, and plays. In today’s spiritual and political climate what will our work say this year about Jesus?  For those in the Western Christian tradition Advent is the season that seems to engender the warmest feelings associated with the person and work of Jesus. There is something so full of hope and promise connected to the babe in the manger who would one day be Savior of the world.

This year I would like to invite us to share in the rich liturgical opportunity that Advent offers us as we consider the facts surrounding the birth of this Jesus who is the Christ. Luke’s gospel does an amazing job of situating Jesus’ birth within the historical world of the Roman Empire (Hartin 2011).  Born under the rule of Augustus Caesar it is clear that Jesus is born on the underside of power.  Luke’s narrative also explains the sacrifice offered at the time of Jesus temple dedication; it indicates that Jesus was born a poor Palestinian Jew living under Roman authority. His parents were forced to use doves and pigeons for an offering because they could not afford the sacrifice of the lamb. Not only was Jesus born experiencing poverty, but that poverty was public (Thurman 1996 (original 1949)).  Perhaps the circumstances of Jesus’ birth informed much of the resistance work he would engage throughout His life?

I wonder if this year in our Advent celebrations we might consider those among us who are experiencing the effects of poverty and how we might hold space for lamenting the ways in which our churches may have been complicit in creating poverty for others? What if we took seriously the opportunity to be in solidarity with those people in our global community who for whatever reason live in an occupied land, struggling to maintain their cultural identity?  How could our worship experiences treasure differences and yet find commonalities by pointing to the central figure of our faith to understand how he experienced embodiment (Wilkey 2014)?

My prayer for each of you this Advent is that the gathering, shared meal, shared story, and all that makes your liturgy rich may come alive with the historical Jesus; that we may together find the truth in our tradition and have the courage to be true to the truth. Happy Advent!

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor

Works Cited

Hartin, Patrick J. 2011. Exploring the Spirituality of the Gospels. Collegeville: Liturgical Press.

Thurman, Howard. 1996 (original 1949). Jesus and the Disinherited . Boston: Beacon Press.

Wilkey, Glaucia Vasconcelos. 2014. Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland? Grand Rapids : William B Eerdmans Publishing.

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

I would like to introduce you to an amazing student here at The School of Theology and Ministry. Sarah Turner is in her last year of study toward her Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership and is currently a student worker for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialog.  Known on campus as a hymnologist she is often tapped as a resource in liturgical preparation.  I trust that you will be inspired and provoked by her passion and prose.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

 

I was about five years old when I declared my first favorite hymn: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”  While the reasons for my choice are beyond me now, I guess that it had a lot to do with the repetition of the word “holy,” a word I could easily and quickly read each time it occurred in the hymn, and the relatively simple tune.  Nearly three decades later, my favorite hymns number in the dozens.  Even though “Holy, Holy, Holy” is currently not among them, I still smile for the five-year-old who was excited to sing it on a Sunday morning and who found her way into singing the community’s song.

In recent years, encouraging and enabling congregational/group singing in and outside of the context of liturgy has become one of my passions.  This passion arose from enjoying singing with others, starting as a young girl to singing hymns in the car with my mother as a teenager.  As an adult, I discovered gifts of profound connection with people with whom I sang, spiritual experiences that surprised me, and hymns and other songs that travel with me like good friends.  I love to perform as a soloist and in choirs, but my deepest joy comes when I help others find their voices in the literal and metaphorical song and enable and empower singing in community.

As our communities respond to injustice throughout in the days to come, I believe that it is essential that we make group singing part of our work.  Miriam and Moses led the Israelites in song after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15) and the disciples sang the night before Jesus’ death (Matthew 26:30).  The participants of the American Civil Rights Movement and the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement sang throughout their struggles for justice.  Group singing proves to be community-building, liberative, and ultimately dangerous to present-day Empire and abusive systems of power.

I believe group singing, both within and outside of the context of worship and liturgy, needs to be one of our essential tools in our work for justice that we currently and will continue to face in coming years because:

  1. Singing together allows the community’s story to be held collectively rather than by a single leader.  It helps us name and jointly proclaim our shared values and create shared experiences.  Justice work is enabled by community building, joint shaping of values, and shared expression of emotion and creativity.  Group singing is one way to make this happen.
  2. Group singing reinforces a participatory music culture rather than a performance music culture.  When we face dominant cultural norms of consumerism, consumption, passive receptivity, and individualism, group singing reinforces countercultural norms of participation and engagement.
  3. Group singing pushes against Empire and abusive power does not only with the words of a song.  Mark Lewis Taylor, in The Executed God, argues that all of the arts have the ability to create the world for which we work and to taste it now (p. 117).
  4. Singing together is fun!

The lesson my five-year-old self has to teach is that the music we sing together should be accessible so that everyone’s voice finds a welcome.  Inspired by a workshop I attended last year by Music that Makes Community, a personal project I decided to take on in recent weeks is to compile a list of songs with lyrics and helpful recordings that can be taught without paper in order to serve in our movements against oppression and abusive systems of power.  Given the deep desire for connection with others in the enormity of this work I feel, my instinctive response is to find someone to sing with me.  Will you join me?

 

Works Cited
Taylor, Mark Lewis.  The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Liturgical Theology as Public Theology

The best of religion calls us, as humans,  to develop our power of reason in order to understand ourselves, our relationship to others, and our position in the universe (Fromm 1978). The best of theistic religion also calls upon humanity to be in right relationship with the Divine. It is from that relationship we are to engage the world around us. Christianity at its best is tasked with engaging the world by living out the principles embodied in the person and work of Jesus.  As a prophetic religion, Christianity seeks to transform the world in God’s name (Volf 2011). From the gathering to the sending of our corporate worship experiences the Church seeks to be the place where justice is elucidated, while injustice is interrogated so that upon leaving worship we are agents of the Divine in bringing Light where there is darkness.  The Church in its liturgy, and praxis, is where religion and culture come together.  Religion is never incidental to a culture, and every theological formulation, no matter how primitive, no matter how sophisticated, must ultimately be seen against it in conversation with the culture that produced it (Lincoln 1974). The Gospel message makes Christianity and the Church different from the culture and yet essential to the culture at the same time.

With this in mind we consider that liturgical theology is in some ways always public theology. Liturgical theology inquires into the meaning of the liturgy and asks whether our signs and words say something authentic and reliable about God (Lathrup 1993). Public theology engages the broader society in gospel values, much the way the public intellectual embraces the opportunity to participate in public affairs to make academic ideas accessible to a broader public audience (West 2006).   A common problem with prophetic messages and messengers is that they sometimes overwhelm their audiences with the magnitude of injustice in the world, leaving individuals feeling that nothing can be done to make a difference (J. A. Jr. 2006). The project then of the church, in our corporate worship, must be to make accessible to the faithful worshipper, and the welcomed guest, the truth about the character and nature of God. Those tasked with leading worship within the Christian tradition, must lean into the responsibility to be reliable communicators of the principles of the gospel as revealed in the person and work of Jesus. Those outside the Christian tradition, who may lead liturgical moments, must also lean into the responsibility to be reliable communicators of the best of that particular religious heritage. Public worship experiences are neither the project of individual enterprise nor of collective enterprise, but rather a synthesis that regards both.

This week let us be invigorated by the prophetic call to engage gathering worshippers in the prophetic call and witness of the church through the life of the liturgy of our congregations. One of the gifts that liturgy brings is the opportunity to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and let social misery be put on the agenda of those in power. As Dr. King once pointed out we may have been prone to judge our success by the index of our salaries or by the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationships to humanity, but we can offer a picture of a preferable future through the beauty of worship (Jr. 2015). We design our worship experiences knowing that moral action is based on a broad, robust prophetism that highlights systemic social analysis of circumstances under which tragic persons struggle (Buschendorf 2014).

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor

Works Cited

Buschendorf, Cornel West with Christa. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston: Beacon Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1978. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven: YAle University Press.

Jr., J. Alfred Smith. 2006. Speak Until Justice Wakes. Edited by Jini M. Kilgore. Valley Forge: Judson Press.

Jr., Martin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1993. Holy Things. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Lincoln, C. Eric. 1974. The Black Church Since Franklin. New York: Shocken Books.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Pulic Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good . Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

West, Traci C. 2006. Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Woman’s Lives Matter. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press.

 

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