Category Archives: Future of the church

Weaving the New

When our commencement speaker falls ill, we two deans at Eastern Mennonite Seminary become co-presenters. I prepare based on what I notice enroute to commencement:

Prisoners in Israel-Palestine go on hunger strike to protest prison conditions. Opponents hold a barbecue outside to blow in meat smells. So minor. Yet so cruel an example of ways we’re slicing each other’s souls.

After historic drought come record rainy-season California downpours. Sacramento rivers tear out tents and underbrush, ripping even that home from the homeless while mansion dwellers pursue trillion-dollar tax cuts.

Celebrating her husband Jason in the New York Times, Anne Krause Rosenthal concludes,

I want more time with Jason. . . . with my children. . . . at the Green Mill Jazz Club. . . . But . . . . I probably have only . . . days left. . . . So why I am doing this?

I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.

Days later, Anne dies.

Barbecuing as torture. Climate change, wars, oppressions razing homes of millions, including the flying and swimming and crawling creatures God pronounced good. Death stalking as it always has, the Annes forced to release loved ones, the Jasons required to rebuild.

As sometimes it seemed all things must be made new, I remembered years ago teasingly comparing a seminary student to a biblical character whose name she shares. That stung, she courageously reported: she faced a void which in the biblical story is miraculously filled.

Recently, as she gave permission to share, Sarah Payne completed an EMS capstone on that very void. I told her of being sensitized to it when she confronted my teasing and of now being touched because a loved one feared the same void. She gave me prayer beads to pass on. Without meeting, student and loved one prayed, with tears, for each other.

Another student. A painter. Linking seminary studies and art, gospel and today’s realities. Meanwhile I spend over a year discerning: continue at EMS or try new adventures? After choosing the new, I receive a gift during my final EMS chapel: a painting by that student, Rebekah Nolt. The blacks and grays, whites and purples remind me of hair-rising thunderstorm and beautiful day merging.

Rebekah Nolt painting, “Spill Paint, Not Blood”

The artist note says the painting is from a series reacting to “the many tragedies or injustices of 2016,” each “just that, a reaction of emotional energy, without purpose, without vision.” As Rebekah hurled paint, she “realized how glad I was it was just paint . . . and not angry words or stones, because I was really not happy how this was turning out.” The paint wasn’t fully dry so she “got to work, not certain . . . I could even make something out of the mess. . . .” Yet what she made is a cherished memento.

Teasing linking to a void to prayer beads to a Holy Spirit throbbing through all. Anger yielding a mess transformed. Or this: My father dies. A student tells me of having been in jail. My dad, prison chaplain, had inspired him to enroll at EMS.

As so much unravels, many turn to novels of dystopia more for guidance than escape. And so many, collaborating with unseen hands, weave the new.

Michael A. King is dean, seminary and graduate programs, Eastern Mennonite University. This is posted on his last day in that role as he transitions to running Cascadia Publishing House LLC and to other activities as writer, speaker, and consultant in communications, administration, and pastoral leadership. King writes the column “Unseen Hands” for Mennonite World Review, which first published this post.

New Scarves from Unraveled Yarn: The Centered Church Model

KCMainBlogPostThumb200x200x72As we were working out her Kingsview & Co prose and poetry posts, Barbara Esch Shisler mentioned that “unraveling” as I had used it in a series of posts on the church “seems right. I have a friend who sometimes uses unraveled yarn to make a new scarf.”

As I told Barbara, I loved that image. The unraveled yarn points to all that is coming undone in church and culture and climate. Yet what hope also lurks in the metaphor of making a new sweater or shawl.

This reminded me of a Paul Hiebert image of church as a centered instead of fuzzy or bounded group (“The Category ‘Christian’ in the Mission Task,” International Review of Missions 272, July 1983, pp. 421-427; elaborated on in Michael A. King, Trackless Wastes and Stars to Steer By, Herald Press, 1990, pp. 115-136).  When I first encountered his model in the 1980s as a young pastor, same-sex relationships posed for us a core discernment riddle, as seems perennially the case. Hiebert’s model became a key resource.

But rather than focus yet again on same-sex considerations, let me leap to my most recent pastorate, where Hiebert again proved invaluable. There the riddle involved our views of peace. Although Mennonites belong to the  historic peace church tradition, many of the participants in my congregation were from backgrounds that made them wary of pacifism. What to do? Should they be required to convert, in effect, to Mennonite pacifist views to become congregational members?

Hiebert provided possible responses. We could answer yes. We could insist that membership include full embrace of the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, which in Article 22 states that “As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service.”

If we went this route, we’d be adopting the bounded model of church. Here, based on clear rules and doctrines, people are in or out. This might be imagined as a clearly drawn circle with dots representing people clearly inside or outside the circle. Persons are in the circle if they agree to the rules and beliefs that say who belongs in the circle. They’re outside if they don’t agree.

Bounded

Yet a stark move toward an either/or bounded model seemed wrong in that congregation. Those not long formed within Article 22 types of understandings had understandable concerns and questions about pacifism.

I still remembered the horror I felt when, during the first weeks I met her at Eastern Mennonite University, my wife Joan, from an American Baptist, non-pacifist background, reported what her classmates were saying to her: Her father, whom she had lost to Hodgkin’s disease when she was ten months old, was in hell.  This was because he had been in the military. The violence of this pacifist rejection seemed to undercut precisely the teachings of Jesus from which it emerges: love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.

So maybe we needed to move toward Hiebert’s “fuzzy” or unbounded model of church. Here there is little clarity or concern about who’s in/out—or whether there is an in or out. We might imagine dots of loosely clumped people together, perhaps, because some like each other, some share similar interests,  some just happen to be there at the time.

Fuzzy

If we went with this approach, we could live and let live. We could free congregational participants to believe whatever they wished to believe or already believed regarding war and peace. Some of us would remain pacifists; some of us would understand love of enemies as applying, say, only to other Christians or to a future era in which God’s ways triumphed over the inevitable imperfections of our current sinful age.

Interestingly and perhaps predictably, many of us preferred the bounded model when our own core beliefs were what we wanted supported and the unbounded model when we didn’t want to be bound by beliefs with which we disagreed. There were in fact congregational participants who wished to adopt a fuzzy approach to peace understandings.

But we were a Mennonite church. I myself was and remain a committed pacifist. Article 22 seems crucial to me. Was there a way to honor the historic peace church commitments yet not revert to violence such as Joan had experienced? Hiebert’s centered model of church seemed our best option.

In this model, people are flexibly in or out of the group based on whether traveling toward or away from the teachings of Jesus the group sees as core.

We might imagine a central circle labeled Jesus (and his teachings) with people as arrows traveling toward or away from Jesus. Here people aren’t so much in or out as moving deeper into or away from the group. They’re going deeper when headed toward the center. They’re moving away when aimed away from the center.

People may start out close to the center and so for a time seem closes to Jesus even while pointed away from Jesus. Over time they’ll end up far from Jesus. Or people may be far from the center yet traveling toward it; ultimately they’ll end up nearer to Jesus than those close to the center yet aiming away from it.

Centered

If we adopted the centered model in relation to peace as core value, we would in fact maintain the way of peace at the center of our understandings of Jesus. But we wouldn’t set up either/or church membership. We wouldn’t say sorry, you and your household are going to hell if you don’t agree with this, get with the program or get out. Instead we’d say, amid whatever questions, concerns, complexities you see here, are you ready to travel toward peace instead of war?

Now centered-model membership in a peace church still wouldn’t fit for a gung-ho we need-to-go-kill-all-the-bad-guys-in-the-name-of-Christ type of Christian.  There comes a point for saying membership doesn’t make sense for those of us actively intending to travel and fight against the core commitments of a given church.

Yet the centered approach can offer a life-giving blend of clarity and flexibility. It allows a congregation to say, Indeed we’re a peace church. You can be a veteran and become a member here. You can still be struggling with that classic painful question, If my loved one were attacked, what would I do? You can show us that the good-faith wrestlings with whether just-war criteria have something to contribute to Christian understandings of war and peace deserve respectful attention.  You can ask hard questions about whether pacifists ride on the coattails of the soldiers who defend our freedoms—even as I may ask you what makes it okay to kill the enemies Jesus told us to love.

This doesn’t mean anything goes. If you want to give a sermon on why Jesus call us to vaporize that city of “villains” with a nuclear bomb, no, not here. But if you want to be part of a community exploring, amid all the riddles and difficult questions, what it looks like in your life and mine to journey closer toward Jesus as peacemaker, you don’t need to have it all together or be in full agreement to be warmly welcome.

Along with plenty of others, I’ve been exploring resources of the centered model for decades, yet here we still are, amid so much unraveling. The centered model hasn’t and won’t miraculously create a new sweater or shawl. Nevertheless, I hope exploring how it might apply war/peace beliefs suggests the potential for the centered model to use and re-use so many of the threads that might in other approaches primarily weave straitjackets or remain too loose and shapeless to keep us warm.

What if, for instance, across our many divides we were to explore together whether we could conceptualize placing at the center a Jesus large enough to win our allegiance beyond our polarizations? It seems to me we already have something of a template for this: Mennonite World Conference, the global fellowship of Mennonite and Anabaptist-related groups, affirms seven shared convictions. These Jesus-centered convictions in turn become, in effect, the MWC center toward which MWC participants agree to travel.

So when over 7,000 MWC members celebrated a week of worship and fellowship and mutual learning in Harrisburg in 2015, we didn’t replicate the tussling over boundaries so common in other denominational contexts. Instead amid each other’s rich and variegated testimonies and music , we worshiped a God uniting us across countless languages and cultures.

The details of our beliefs still mattered and needed ongoing attention in our local contexts. Yet if we had focused primarily on details, we’d have been back in the bounded model and its tussles. Instead, in what seems to me the MWC centered model, we gathered in love and left refreshed to continue our journeys with Jesus across a world so hungry for more healing and less hate.

Though not speaking here officially on behalf of EMS, Michael A. King is dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. Portions of this material have been tested in such settings as Germantown Mennonite Church, Spring Mount Mennonite Church, Franconia Mennonite Conference, and Salford Mennonite Church.

Hope as Church Unravels? Part 5, Recognizing Jesus When Phone Booths Vanish

KCMainBlogPostThumb200x200x72While I was pondering that riveting story of disciples of Jesus telling a stranger whom they don’t recognize as Jesus how troubled they are by his death, I ran across a blog post on whether seminaries are training students to repair phone booths.

The unrecognized Jesus and the danger that we may not recognize ways church practices are unraveling because they are like phone booths in an era of cell phones came together for me as sources for further reflection: Might fresh ability to recognize Jesus also connect with renewed vision for moving beyond phone booths?

Here then, drawing on a seminary convocation presentation, is part 5 of the six-part series introduced in “Hope as Church Unravels? Part 1, The Unraveling” on a.) ways the church, denominations, concepts and patterns of ministry, theological training are unraveling and b.) how we might work at weaving and reweaving.

Recognizing Jesus When Phone Booths Vanish

Followers of one who inspired love and loyalty trudge to Emmaus, “faces downcast.” They’re bewildered, even “foolish,” as a stranger who joins them puts it (Luke 24:13-32 NIV).

Two ingredients of their story catch my attention.

One is their difficulty recognizing Jesus. He is the stranger, the person they’re discussing. Jesus was their hope. But he’s dead. Oh, some who investigated rumors of angels saying he was alive found an empty tomb. But they didn’t see Jesus. So on the followers walk, discussing with Jesus the absence of Jesus.

While reflecting on their situation, I saw a PBS video posted by Tony Jones under the title “Seminaries: Training People to Repair Phone Booths.” Because I’m old, I remember booths. If you managed to find coins for the call, you’d scrunch behind glass doors until so many were vandalized you had to shout outside over traffic.

Are seminaries repairing phone booths? Partly yes, as some denominational and congregational structures crumble like booths did once cell phones arrived. Cell-phone-like changes are buffeting most denominations. Sexuality is just one area of change but often a straw that breaks a structure’s back.

In times like these, what does it mean to do more than teach phone booth repairs? Here I see a link with the Emmaus disciples: We too often fail to recognize Jesus when phone booths crumble. As we confront denominational, congregational, higher education, or theological arrangements too constricting for God’s wild and wonderful work among us, we’ll sometimes not recognize this risen Jesus, believed dead, even as he joins us.

I’d apply this to our standpoints regarding those issues of the day which become divisive precisely because we reach different conclusions regarding the path forward. We convince ourselves Jesus is in our understandings. I suspect that’s true; almost by definition if a matter requires discernment this is because how to proceed has become a larger matter than any of us alone can fully grasp. Hence our particular understanding may well represent aspects of Jesus others need and vice-versa. If so, this calls for polities, theologies, biblical interpretations humble enough and gentle enough to allow us to be partly right and wrong. That means being ready to welcome even—maybe especially—those we consider wrong.

Now through proposing peacemaking hospitality even for antagonistic stances, I’m offering my own fallible testimony to seeing Jesus. Maybe a better alternative would be to advocate for the one and only right theology of this or that. But might some either/or approaches be phone booths? Might we more easily recognize Jesus by confessing that when most sure we see Jesus we might be wrong? And when we have no idea Jesus walks with us this may be exactly what he’s doing?

I hope for us at Eastern Mennonite University and Eastern Mennonite Seminary and beyond to minimize imposing favorite views of Jesus and maximize opening ourselves to the Jesus we have yet fully to meet. I don’t know the precise policies or curricula this calls us toward. But we can together ask which are phone booths and which will help us live with cell phones until their day passes too.

Truly it can be hard to recognize Jesus. Who knows what fresh arrangements we’d dream toward if we believed that.

But there is that second Emmaus ingredient catching attention. Jesus is there. Those Emmaus travelers may think they’re living a horror movie or at best a foreign film so strange they’ll never grasp its meaning. Yet what’s actually unfolding is wonderful, though it seems to take forever. Emmaus is hours away; this is not just seconds of chit-chat. They walk and walk, until finally they’ve trudged into “the day . . . almost over,” as they tell the stranger they wish to join them for supper when he seems set to go on.

He accepts. And “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened. . . .” Now they get it: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Their story’s first ingredient undoes us. It reminds us we know so much less than we think. But its second ingredient rebuilds. Theirs is not a tale to breed cynicism, to encourage doubt in the divine. We face our difficulties recognizing Jesus to see that Jesus is in fact among us. We accept our need for something from Beyond (which in the Emmaus story even prevents recognition of Jesus until the right moment) to open our eyes.

So we need higher education, congregational, denominational, cultural arrangements that nurture hearts burning. In an article on “Deep Trends Affecting Christian Institutions,” Gregory Jones, (EMS 2015 commencement speaker), and Nathan Jones highlight seven trends shaping how we work at this: the digital revolution; a multinodal world (in which we navigate countless cultural, ethnic, religious diversities out there and in here); reconfiguring denominations and emerging forms of congregating; questioning institutions; economic stress on Christian institutions; shifting vocations of laypeople; and the lure of cities.

I’d add such global challenges as ongoing oppression and injustice; rising inequality; structures from which emerge police of one race shooting people of another race; the yearning to cleanse the world of views we hate even to the point of genocide; and countless canaries in the mine signaling environmental upheavals. For example, Google “Lake Mead Nevada water level” to see photos of the bathtub ring warning cities and farming valleys that drought and Colorado River overuse could wither lifestyles.

Our learning, congregational, and denominational communities need to be in the thick of exploring how we experience hearts burning amid such trends and challenges. This is particularly the case since I see these times, chaotic as they are, as resembling the period of the Reformation or the first century when the gospel exploded across the worlds of its day in fresh forms.

We glimpse examples in a news report by Laura Amstutz on the 2014 EMS graduates and their commencement. Laura tells of final-year student capstones:

The topics ranged from “Jesus Deconstructor: Lord of Parable, God of Madness, King of Graffiti” by Brittany Conley, who is now leading a small church plant . . . to “The Medical Model and Its Creation of Unnecessary Suffering: Pastoral Responses for Chaplaincy and Beyond” by Melanie Lewis, a chaplain. . . .

I myself noted that precisely as one capstone highlighted deconstruction gifts, others reclaimed worship practices that form us as Christians when cultural trends unglue us.

Laura observes that

In these projects students have already begun the work that Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, the seminary commencement speaker, encouraged. . . .

“You are asking how to be church differently,” Soto Albrecht said. . . . Sometimes the church becomes a holy bubble that no one can touch. Sometimes we need to burst that bubble.” . . .

“We are not individuals doing our own thing. . . . The church is in the middle of major changes. Lift up your prophetic voices, but always stay within the church, because once you are outside you can’t change it. Be the change you wish to see.”

 We have worked in EMU and EMS settings to provide holy space for those with sharply divergent views to study, teach, learn together.  This can seem problematic when we find ourselves at times united in affirming Jesus yet, as one seasoned church leader puts it,  thinking that at the very center of Jesus’ way and words is welcome—or alternatively that at the very center is purity. We don’t know how to reconcile opposing convictions of which stories Jesus meets us in.

Yet maybe it’s exactly in looking for Jesus within what challenges our understandings that we find him. Because those first disciples didn’t know how to reconcile what they thought had happened to Jesus with what did, they couldn’t identify him. Yet finally they recognized a Jesus bigger than their preconceptions. Maybe we can too, in relation to any of our confusions as phone booths vanish.

On we walk with Jesus, telling him how profoundly his absence bewilders us. Until, at last, our hearts within us burn.

Though not speaking here officially on behalf of EMS, Michael A. King is dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. This post has roots in an August 2014 EMS convocation presentation.

Hope as Church Unravels? Part 4: Grandparents Dreaming, Grandchildren Seeing

KCMainBlogPostThumb200x200x72During his first year, a dream about my grandson suggested to me that key to reweaving those aspects of church that are unraveling is working together across generations and experiences of church. We need both the fresh perspectives of those increasingly giving up on the church and the seasoned wisdoms of those who can articulate anew treasures of the faith going back millennia.

Here then, drawing on a seminary convocation presentation, is part 4 of the six-part series introduced in “Hope as Church Unravels? Part 1, The Unraveling” on a.) ways the church, denominations, concepts and patterns of ministry, theological training are unraveling and b.) how we might work at weaving and reweaving.

Grandparents Dreaming, Grandchildren Seeing

I had a dream just before leaving for coastal Maine, where our daughters, sons-in-law, and first grandchild Kadyn, soon to turn one, were to join our first-ever three-generation gathering. In the dream, Kadyn cradled in my right arm, I was walking across a towering ocean dune. The sky was bluer, sand sandier, and sea grander than the waking world provides. I recognized that dreamscape; I’d walked it before; I knew that there the Spirit and transformation hovered near.

As Kadyn and I walked, the dune turned into a mountain. Its snowy slope was almost one Kadyn and I could laughingly slide down. But I was responsible to care for him; I realized it was too steep to risk.

The dream haunted and blessed me. I remembered it as Kadyn and I walked actual beaches, dodged waves, explored breakwaters. I thought of it as Kadyn aimed an index finger at lights, fans, wind, people he wanted to learn more about—and as after learning their names he pointed at them when asked, “Kadyn, where’s the light? Fan? Wind? Grandma?” I thought of it as with fingers pulling in he asked to nap with fan on or signaled feeling the wind outdoors.

Watching Kadyn reminded me how wonderfully the young reach out to life. Yet I’m the graying elder charged to know that when he reaches down from boulders on the Camp Ellis jetty I can’t let him tumble into the cracks where the rats run or beyond the rocks into the Saco River where it joins the Atlantic swells.

Somewhere in such images may lurk insights for seminary and faith-based education communities—or any faith communities—as today so many people bypass the church.

Kadyn might too. He’s being raised within passion for grace and truth yet with church viewed as sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful. To watch Kadyn is to see him grasping the miracle of something like the psalmist’s vision of the earth as the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof in ways my aging self struggles to glimpse anymore. But I can also imagine him experiencing, like I sometimes have, the church as taming all the wilder fullnesses.

So Kadyn may become one of the “Nones.” These are the growing millions who say, as Pew Research reports, “none of the above” if asked which church, denomination, tradition they identify with. Nones are often spiritually energized yet view organized religion as maintaining lifeless structures, majoring in doctrinal minors, elevating leaders who love power and polish more than authentic walking with the torn as wounded healers, caring more about who gets kept out than who finds new life.

Partly because so many experience religion as not offering food to nourish the soul, seminaries are struggling. As introduced in “Hope as Church Unravels? Part 1, not so long ago, loyal members, congregations, and denominations built each other up. Resources flowed to denominational schools and institutions. Students would get their degrees then be paid within and feed this virtuous cycle.

But amid None-ish trends, the cycle increasingly breaks down. Students aren’t sure if they believe enough in the church to train themselves to serve it. Or if they do leap, they’re not sure the church will pay enough to live on plus pay down school loans.

If seminaries could easily withstand such headwinds, the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education wouldn’t be reporting that cumulative enrollment at 205 North American seminaries peaked in 2004 and has been declining since. I myself don’t know precisely how those of us passionate about theological education or a flourishing church should address the challenges.

But Kadyn inspires me to offer two guesses.

The first is this: We should plunge into the yearnings and questions giving birth to the Nones.

We should take seriously that Nones include our children or even us. I can’t tell you how often as I roam the church its leaders confess that their own children, longing for more wonder than the church offers, are seeking it elsewhere. We need to listen to such leaders; to our children, siblings, friends; to our own hearts; to the EMS and EMU students asking the hard questions. We need seminaries and faith communities to be a place where it’s safe to say, with Ezekiel, that some of these bones are dead, and to dream of what it would look like for bodies and breath once more to throb with Kadyn-like wonder.

But then a second guess: Courageous exploration of how the church has died should be paired with hope that not all structures, not all traditions, not all sacred scriptures and holy rhythms and rules are ready for the bone heap.

I resonate with the yearnings of the Nones; I feel them. I also was privileged as a young pastor to help a congregation aim toward actually implementing a vision of church as a place to which we could bring our true selves, our dreams of wilder glories, our yearnings to love enemies and those cast out, our doubts and questions, our cravings for assurance that we didn’t have to be perfect to find God waiting at lane’s end to welcome us home. This in turn meant we dared plunge even into that riskiest of adventures, following Jesus.

In hindsight, we were groping toward emerging/emergent before Brian McLaren and others popularized the terms. And the Spirit deeply blessed us. Yet we also learned by trial and at times frighteningly great error that some faith-journey slopes are too dangerous. We needed not only fresh wonders of the Spirit but also the ancient wisdoms that had led the church to form its members in the first place within the boundaries and structures, the rhythms and rituals that had come to seem worn out.

Agree or disagree, Rachel Held Evans believes what millennial-generation Nones want is—

not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Evans is saying that yes, parts of the church are dead bones. But the answer isn’t to replace all the old stuff with flash and glitz. It’s to connect the old treasures with times like these. Thriving denominations, churches, seminaries, Christian universities, and faith-based communities won’t throw out the ancient wisdoms. They’ll become labs within which so boldly to blend time-tested, Jesus-shaped truths and teachings and practices with today’s longings and realities that the horizons of then and now fuse to yield miraculous life.

By framing my comments in the dream of a grandfather and a grandchild, I don’t mean simplistically to image students as grandchildren and faculty or staff as grandparents. Grandparents can be students, grandchildren can be teachers, and in each of us there are grandchild-like and grandparent-like selves.

But across our life stages and trainings and circumstances, we can bless each other. We can cherish the visions of those in awe as they see some things for the first time. We can treasure the dreams and wisdoms of those who having been around the block have mentoring to offer.

We can help each other discern when the slope is too steep or when after too many times around the block we’re preserving dead bones. We can together invite the Spirit to breathe new life into bodies with which to the walk across the holy landscapes, the high dunes and the sand and the snow and the sea, energies of youth and gray hairs of the elders joined.

Though not speaking here officially on behalf of EMS, Michael A. King is dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. This post has roots in an August 2013 EMS convocation presentation.