Monday, November 23, 2009

The Path of Disciplined Grace

I knew I'd get ya with that blog title... This, essentially, was what Jeff Pratt, our teacher from last week, taught us about. The topic of the Spiritual Disciplines was the official title of the week's teachings. Jeff, himself, has founded a sort of urban monastery in New Haven, Connecticut where he invites people to commit to a three-month monastic internship where one engages in daily rhythms of prayer (a.k.a. a daily office) as well as other disciplines (fasting, confession, celebration, study, etc.) and daily serves a marginalized people-group that he or she feels called to. It's really a new, and yet old (in the ancient sense) way of living out one's faith. I was just speaking with a man named Nick Brotherwood today about this very idea of hearkening back to what Christian antiquity has deemed essential. Basically, it comes down to making (and therefore, first, becoming) disciples. Now, what does that mean, exactly? Aren't all us Christians always trying to "make disciples"? How is that anything new? Nick explained to me today that although we may have always tried to "make disciples", that could mean a lot of things over the years. Nick is an ordained Anglican minister who has witnessed (in the province of Quebec) a drop from 93,000 Anglicans to less than 13,000 over the last sixty years. In other words, he's witnessed a centuries-old church be brought to its knees and, now, to its death bed. Because of this, Nick has been given the unique, exciting, and scary task of exploring new manifestations of church and the Christian-life. The Anglican church (with its very traditional tradition) has been humbled enough by this seemingly irreversible secularization to finally be open to something new, something experimental, something unorthodox. For the last 10 years, Nick has been spear-heading a church called Emerge Montreal, which has provided him and his friends a laboratory to really ask: What are we here for? What the hell is Church, anyway? Where does Jesus' life and how he lived it come into play here? Needless to say, having a discussion with this guy is an edifying experience. If I've received any insight in talking with people like Nick, or Jeff Pratt, or Mark Scandrette, it seems that the future of the church is largely mapped out by the past, the distant past--through Jesus' Way and through those who followed that Way after his bodily departure. By following that Way (roughly a balance of prayer and service), we will inevitably make disciples of ourselves and, therefore, of others. If this sounds vague to you, you're not alone. It's hard to exactly say what this new expression of making disciples (church) looks like; but what's not vague is our Western culture's slow-but-steady denial of anything religious, and, thus, we must respond (somehow) in a way we think Jesus would.
Speaking of "What Would Jesus Do?", check out this relatively short but insightful article on what one Catholic priest thinks Jesus would do, and is doing:

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