Friday, April 28, 2006

100 years -- or is it 2000? -- of Pentacostalism

As I type, I'm listening to a fascinating discussion of Pentacostalism -- a 100 year old movement that now includes 500,000 of the 2 billion Christians in the world -- with Krista Tippett on Minnesota Public Radio's Mid-morning program. Here's a link that should take you to where you can listen for yourself, and to links to other background information. (I'm not sure how long this link will survive, but MPR keeps an archive of its programs and it would be available somewhere on its site with a little looking.)

If there was one word of the discussion that kept coming back again and again, it was "power." It would be hard for a Quaker to listen to this program and ask, "Why does this all sound so familiar?" It was for this one, anyway.

One of many insights she shared is that she is confident that the growth of Pentacostalism in Latin America is intimately connected with the political turn to the left in many countries in that region. (Not there, alas.) (I liked the joke she repeated: The Catholic Church has a preference for the poor, but the poor preferred Pentacostalism.) She connects it to the Power that Pentacostalism brings to its adherents, most of whom were previously disenfranchised. She also articulates the often misunderstood distinctions between Pentacostals and fundamentalists and evangelicals.

I've been a big fan of Krista Tippett's for as long as her program, Speaking of Faith has been on the air and I highly recommend it to all. (I only wish it didn't overlap with our preparation for going to meeting on Sunday mornings. . . . but I can hear it again on Sunday evenings at 9.)

Added a little later: Simultaneously with this post, and without prior consultation, Kwakersaur posted a very thoughtful essay on Pentacostalism and Quakerism that goes a lot deeper into the subject and points out very important differences.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This is most certainly true

I have been participating with about a dozen other Friends in our meeting in a several-week workshop on vocal ministry. It is being led by a very able Friend who is using Samual Bownas' little book, A Description Of The Qualifications Necessary To A Gospel Minister: Advice To Ministers And Elders Among The People Called Quakers, as our text.

Our exercise for last Sunday's session, "What canst thou say?", was to write a brief (2-3 minute) statement of our "rock bottom core truths" about our spiritual lives of which we are sufficiently sure that we can testify to in vocal ministry.

I'm not sure that everyone did the exercise, but we agreed to share what we wrote with each other. (You can read Liz Opp's statement here.)

With all the usual disclaimers, and with all the trepidation you can imagine I might have, I offer what I can testify to as being true from my own experience (revised, somewhat, from what I read Sunday evening). I wish I could say more, especially about how one establishes an intimate personal relationship with the Living God and receiving instruction and power from that relationship, but that'd be a bit more than I could say in good faith that I know to be true, though I do believe it to be so.

  • I exist as a unique human being created in the image of the Living God who created me and all that is. And so do you.
  • My life has a unique and indispensable purpose in the Living God’s design and plan for creation. And so does yours.
  • The biblical narrative, including and especially the life of Jesus of Nazareth, reveals this design and points to the Living God who created it.
  • It is possible, and the Living God intends, for me to become increasingly conscious of my life’s purpose and to live in accord with it. And so can you.
  • My purpose and place in the design of creation is inextricably connected to every human being. And so is yours.
  • Part of my purpose–and yours–is to help every human being realize his or her purpose in the design of the universe.
  • I cannot do this unless I love my neighbor as myself, and neither can you. Anything you or I do that is not consistent with loving my neighbor is false and in error and inconsistent with the Living God's purpose for us.
  • Though I will die someday, if I am faithful to the purpose God has for me and live in harmony with my fellow human beings, I will have no fear of death and not be in its thrall. And neither will you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Where we are

Here's an interesting set of maps. After finding them, I was surprised to find that the maps were posted by the geography department of my alma mater.

Here's one of particular interest to Friends:

I wonder about who all the Friends are in St. Louis County, Minnesota? I thought I knew both of them . . . . And what's with the Friends' strength in southwestern Idaho?

I am fascinated by the intersection of religion, culture, and politics, and love these kinds of visual comparisons, looking for patterns. One pattern I can faintly see is comparing the religious-adherents map

with the red-blue-purple political map.

Or this one, a historgram controlling for population:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday on the front porch

Well, it happend. Gerry read my previous post and e-mailed me to say he'd like to sing. A few phone calls and we had a quorum, and tonight, seven of us -- a tenor, an alto, two trebles and two basses -- sang the songs suggested for the 14 Stations of the Cross on our front porch. It was one of those lovely Midwestern spring evenings that makes the long winter almost worth it.

We started at about 7:45 and it took us about an hour to go through them. The singing was strong, and as I hoped several passersby stopped to listen to the strangely beautiful sounds coming from the porch. The connection of a few of the songs to the station to which they were assigned eluded us, but most of them fit very nicely. A couple of times someone spoke about the station or a song, but mostly we just sang them. I noticed we sang at a some what slower tempo most of the time, which gave it just the right mood

The only complaint from one singer was that there weren't enough fuguing tunes. When I announced that the song for station 11 -- Jesus is nailed to the cross-- was number 300, the alto said, "What's that, Calvary? Hot diggity!"

Easter Anthem at the end was wonderfully trimphant.

After the prepared program, we sang a little more, and then broke for ginger-lemon sandwich cookies and an hour of conversation. It felt right to do something on Good Friday, and this was the right thing to do. We closed with "Living Hope" #500:

When from the dead He raised His Son
And called Him to the sky,
He gave our souls a living hope
That they should never die.
* * * *

Gerry and I have decided to go to Chicago in two weeks for the 21st Annual Sacred Harp Midwest Convention and are going on an outfit he found called Megabus -- $8 one way, $15 the way back. (Some fares are even cheaper: e.g., $1 from Chicago to St. Louis depending on the schedule.) It's hub is Chicago, and it connects to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. We'll get on the bus in Minneapolis at 11:50 pm on Friday and will arrive in Chicago at 7 am Saturday. On Sunday, we leave Chicago about the same time and arrive home by 8 or so. I don't know how they do it, but we're gonna try it out and are looking forward to an adventure.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Following the Stations of the Cross with the Sacred Harp

Here is a wonderful and ambitious post of a Sacred Harp singing Friend who has chosen a Sacred Harp song for each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. (He turns out to be Mennonite, actually.) My thanks to him. (I also notice that he, too, directed readers to Garry Wills' column cited in my previous post.)

The Stations were not part of my Lutheran upbringing or of my current life as a Friend, so I'm not qualified to know the deeper meanings of each stage or how well the songs he picked matches the traditional mood or lesson of each stage.

But to me the songs each have a quirky kind of appropriateness that I love. Like singing "David's Lamentation" ("Oh my son, oh my son . . .") for the stage "Jesus meets his mother." And "A Cross for Me" for where Simon of Cyrene is made to carry Jesus's cross ("Must Jesus bear the cross alone, And all the world go free? No, there's a cross for ev'ryone, And there's a cross for me").

One of the bad things about Sacred Harp is that it's really hard when you want to sing these songs and you're alone; I want to call up some friends to get together and sing them together on Friday night. Maybe I will.

In any event, I look forward to singing Easter Anthem on Sunday.

Christ among the Partisians

With his characteristic clarity, Garry Wills's piece in Sunday's New York Times "Christ among the Partisians" sheds a lot of light and wisdom that Friends (including this one) could do well to take to heart.

(It's funny: At meeting yesterday, both ministers spoke very near the end of the hour and cited as their texts National Public Radio and the New York Times respectively. My first inclination was to roll my closed eyes, but I resisted the urge and found their calls for commitment to peace in Iraq and justice for immigrants to be genuine and authentic and spoke to my condition of complacency. I wonder whether I'll be able to resist speaking to Wills' NYT piece myself next week?)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bus poetry. Unknowing, I understand.

One of the several delights of becoming a regular bus rider again is the improved quality and interest of the in-bus advertising. In the old days, most of them were garish, dreary ads for bankruptcy lawyers, blood plasma donation centers, earn-thousands-at-home-in-your-spare-time scams, etc.

Now, almost all of the ads are public service announcements, e.g., information about new bus lines, rules for using a cell phone or music players on the bus, phone numbers to report lost-and-found items, etc.

And they've also begun to post bus poetry, which I've seen in other cities, and love.

Here's the one I read and learned this morning. It's by Octovio Paz.

Homage to Claudius Ptolemy
I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up: the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written, and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Monday, April 03, 2006