A Call to Action

together

“Religion is at its best when man [sic] is asked to develop his [sic] power of reason in order to understand himself and his position in the Universe” (Fromm 1978).

All religions that have contributed value to the larger society are in some way rooted in the ethic of neighbor Love. This ethic is deeply embedded in the Christian tradition; the New Testament explicitly claims the very essence of God is Love, and that Love is humanity’s highest expression of Godliness (1 John 4:7&8). We cannot claim to be truly religious, Christian or otherwise, if we are not functioning manifestations of Love!  If God is Love then Love is God. Volumes of books have been written in an attempt to define Love, and it is an endeavor for which people have given both their careers and lives. bell hooks, echoing Erich Fromm and M. Scott Peck, gives an interesting working definition. She claims Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s or another’s spiritual growth. Love is an act of will: both an intention and an action (hooks 2000).

Our nation has been plunged into a crisis of Love.  Executive orders that completely fly in the face of the neighbor Love ethic have caused some  to be diametrically opposed to everything good and right about religion. The preference of one religion over another in the public square amounts to nothing less than xenophobia. People of honest religious fervor cannot be so aligned to nationalism that they fail to offer a prophetic critique of its dangers. If internationalism based in the ethic of neighbor Love had become more powerful in the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the twentieth century would have been less barbaric, less fascistic, and less chauvinistic (Buschendorf 2014).  When nationalism gets in the way of the ethic of neighbor Love, it becomes the most insidious form of idolatry.  White supremacist capitalist patriarchy cannot be allowed to become normalized for people of faith. There must be in every congregation, mosque, temple, and synagogue a radical call for resistance to bigotry, dominance, exclusion, and marginalization of any kind.  If we fail to de-center hate, we have failed to engage society in the best that religion has to offer.

Viable religion is one that has a working reciprocity with the culture that produces it, or with which it interacts (Townes 1995). It is the unique task and privilege of our religious communities in this epoch to bring to the attention of the masses, an ethic of neighbor Love that will redefine humanity and how we relate to one another in our shared global realities.  As I think about my own religious tradition, I have to echo the words of Dr. King that if today’s Church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning (Jr. 2015). We can by no means afford to sit silently sequestered in our houses of worship content with pious emotionalism nor austere intellectualism. Love opens the whole creation up to life and calls things into being. Love deepens relationships and simultaneously expands our humanity. The more we Love we discover that life is interdependent, interconnected, and indivisible (Spong 1998).  The time has come for people of faith to by word and deed speak truth to power. Any religion that professes to be concerned about people’s souls and is not concerned about the slums that cripple those souls—the economic conditions that stagnate the soul, and the governments that may damn the soul—is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion that should immediately be abandoned (Warnock 2014).  It is incumbent upon each faith community to live into a radical hospitality and an ethic of neighbor Love that turns the world upside down.

 

 

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

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

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

hooks, bell. 2000. All About Love: New Visions. New York: HarperCollins.

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

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

Townes, Emilie M. 1995. In A Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon.

Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of the Black Church:Theology, Piety, and Public Witness. New York: New York University Press.

 

 

 

Faculty Reflections Worship & Liturgy Announcements

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.

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