Living in the Now

Posted in: Science and Nature by bill-o on November 29, 2009

The December 2009 issue of National Geographic magazine includes an excellent article about one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer groups in the world, the Hadza of northern Tanzania. Unlike the vast majority of African tribes in the early 21st century, the Hadza have not switched from hunting and gathering to either of the two dominant forms of land agriculture: grazing herds or planting crops. The Hadza, as hunter-gatherers, simply live off the land without any special preparation or maintenance of the plants or animals.

According to the article, there are several interesting characteristics of the Hadza that I think are worth considering:

I would propose that the Hadza give us a glimpse of the genuine expression of the life of the kingdom of God:

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Thick and Clear

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on November 14, 2009

The writer C.S. Lewis once wrote that a true religion needs to be both thick and clear. (Please see: “Thick and Clear Religions” at dangerous idea.)

“Thick” religion is full of symbols, traditions, ceremonies, and mystery. It touches the human heart as per what is extra-rational and eternal. “Clear” religion provides a straight-forward philosophical and moral arrangement for living that even a child can understand. A religion that is thick but not clear is a cult of great obscurity, where only a small priestly class knows (or is allowed to know) the inner secrets of temple life. A religion that is clear but not thick is a perpetual child’s school, where simple truths are never built upon into adulthood.

I come from a faith tradition that had far more emphasis on “clear” spirituality than on “thick” religion. I am seeking a way of life that maintains my clear religion yet lovingly incorporates mystery, shadows, and symbols (“thick” religion).

Any thoughts?

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Visit to Solomon’s Porch

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on November 08, 2009

In addition to a visit to Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, Shadows and Symbols also had the opportunity recently to visit Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Because Solomon’s Porch is a much smaller faith community than Willow Creek, I’ll be keeping many of the details of the service/meeting at Solomon’s Porch purposefully vague. Since the service at Willow Creek had more than 10,000 attendees, there was really no expectation of privacy for what was said or heard there by anyone present. On the other hand, the meeting at Solomon’s Porch had only 100-120 people present; so, even though their meetings are open to the public, there should be a much greater expectation of privacy for any services that are held there, and I’ll be respecting that here.)

Just walking into Solomon’s Porch is a wonderful experience in itself. Meeting in what used to be a moderately small and traditional church building, Solomon’s Porch has completely redesigned what most of us would expect to see when we enter a church. Instead of pews or rows of stacking chairs, one is greeted by circles of easy chairs and sofas. In the middle is a stool that can be rotated for the speaker to see everyone. The concept is similar to theater in the round. The part of the room that used to be for the choir also has sofas and easy chairs. The only difference with the old choir area from the rest of the room was that it was elevated slightly. Most traces of traditional church building symbols, such as a pulpit or altar, were also not present. A large wooden cross, however, was visible above the old choir area.┬áSolomon’s porch is also an artist’s colony, and several original paintings from that artistic community are visible next to the wooden cross above the former choir stage.

After a period of time, the music band, a group of about four musicians, began to play a set of original songs, each evidently composed by musicians within Solomon’s Porch. The music was great, refreshingly original, and one of the best parts of the service. The lyrics of the songs were definitely original as well and somewhat open-to-interpretation as per exact theological meaning. Periodically, the music stopped and gave way to what I might term “a light touch of liturgy”.

Rather than a sermon from one pastor or preacher, there was a guided discussion time, with readings from Bible on two projection screens on both sides of the church building. This part of the service was led by the leader of Solomon’s Porch Doug Pagitt. The thing that I noticed (and respected) the most about this was that, rather than shying away from controversial subjects, Mr. Pagitt and the congregation took theologically difficult subjects head on.

The pace of the service was leisurely and the exact starting and ending times of the service and the parts within in it didn’t seem to matter or be important. In fact, Solomon’s Porch is really a community experience rather than a church service, as you would commonly think of it. So if you’re ever in Minneapolis on a Sunday night, I’d highly recommend a visit to Solomon’s Porch.

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