Monday, November 24, 2014

Two quizzes, five kinds of people

I was reading Richard Gibala's article, "Drawing Out, Leading Out" in the April-May 2007 edition of Pastoral Music and ran across two quizzes. It made me think of the people I'm most grateful for in my life. Here's the first.
How'd you do (without clicking)? I didn't do well, but I don't mind.
Try this quiz instead.
  1. Name the teachers who helped you most on your journey through school
  2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time
  3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile
  4. Name a few people who have made you feel appreciated or special
  5. Name five people you enjoy spending time with
I'm doing better on this one. Getting every question right. And it's taking a long time, not because I have to wrack my brain for names but because each person I think of is taking me down a path worth walking slowly, and others are joining the journey as I think of each.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. There's so much to be grateful for. High on my list: the marvelous people who've challenged, helped, comforted, taught, appreciated, pushed, pulled, and never let go of me. And the ones who still do.

Grateful to God right now, and glad to share it.

Blessings and Peace.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Words of Institutionalism

I've been praying my way into the tension between the radical, real, challenging table "prepared before me in the presence of my enemies" (Psalm 23) and the temptation to force my enemies to the table on my terms. Which prayer do we pray: Words of Institution or Words of Institutionalism?

I don't know when
the non-conformist
Words of Institution—
spoken revolution
of a poet-prophet-
harbinger of God—

became the lockstep 
magic Words of
the cross a tool of schism, 
Caesar's domination:
"Go and buy a sword." 

Coopted now
the counterculture
vision cataracted, 
purpose counteracted
flimflam shaman shimming 
up esprit de corps,

the whim of him
or her, but rarely
her, still patriarchal
(ugh), the high ideal 
of "freedom from" becomes
the rule of thumb, of war.

The mystery 
of hoc est corpus 
meum*  loses focus,
decays to hocus pocus,
insubstantial banter
pooling on the floor.

I wonder when
my Corporate Christ
will set the sword aside,
becoming Jesus' body:
extending broken bread 
to share and wine to pour.

*"This is my body," a parody of which some linguists suggest to be origin of the old magical phrase, hocus pocus.

(Photo shamelessly acquired from Lauren Shockey's Fork in the Road blog at The Village Voice,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Scrambled sacramental eggs

Some preachers hate preaching on stewardship. But I love it. Wrestling with money and faith is some of the most liberating spiritual work I do. 

So now I'm preparing Sunday's sermon on one of the truly disgusting sayings of Jesus. It's from John's version of the words of institution, just without a last supper scene. It's the moment Jesus says, "Eat me." And I run across something amazing from Andre Dubus. It's a must read:
"Yet still I believe in love's possibility, in its presence on the earth; as I believe I can approach the altar on any morning of any day which may be the last and receive the touch that does not, for me, say: There is no death; but does say: In this instant I recognize, with you, that you must die. And I believe I can do this in an ordinary kitchen with an ordinary woman and five eggs. The woman sets the table. She watches me beat the eggs. I scramble them in a saucepan, as my now-dead friend taught me; they stand deeper and cook softer, he said. I take our plates, spoon eggs on them, we sit and eat. She and I and the kitchen have become extraordinary: we are not simply eating; we are pausing in the march to perform an act together; we are in love; and the meal offered and received is a sacrament which says: I know you will die; I am sharing food with you; it is all I can do, and it is everything." ("On Charon's Wharf") 
I can't help setting this alongside Jesus, saying:
‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. (Jn 6.53-59, NRSV)
And the good folks at the Jesus Seminar in their Scholars Version give a great take on the next verse:
When the disciples heard this, many responded, "This teaching is offensive. Who can take it seriously?" 
Well, I'm working on it. Death, life, eggs, love. Maybe a saucepan. We'll see what's cooking by Sunday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Baptist and a Catholic walk into a ...

No, not a bar. You've heard the joke:
Jews don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Protestants don't recognize the Pope's authority.
Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store. 
But this is no joke. A Baptist and a Catholic ... share what's so great about Disciples. Dr. Elizabeth Flowers and Dr. Darren Middleton teach in the TCU Religion Department, and if you've ever wondered how a denomination can call itself Christian while insisting on intellectual rigor and religious diversity at the same time, read what they have to say about The C in TCU. Go ahead. It's worth the click.

What felt so refreshing in reading this was remembering my own intellectual and ecumencial awakening in college. Even as the son of a Disciples minister and college religion professor, I hadn't had my presuppositions really challenged until I got away from home and had to start framing my own questions. I couldn't get by just figuring out derivatives or memorizing the names of the cranial nerves. In interdisciplinary study of the sciences, arts, and humanities I came face-to-face with both existential despair and what Viktor Frankl called the "search for meaning."

This became life-giving because I was in a university whose religious heritage didn't demand conformity. Instead it demanded honesty and a willingness to risk my worldview. My professors expected me to read hard stuff I couldn't unread. Not only Augustine, Aquinas, and Hartshorne, but Sartre, Nietzsche, and Camus; Ruether, Daly and Gilligan. And not just to affirm or deny, but to understand. Not to arrive at answers once and for all but to help me get clear about my own questions and learn how to keep asking them better.

It kind of makes me want to go up and down the street knocking on doors. But instead of handing someone a tract with a bunch of questions and answers, I'd hand them a card that asks, "What questions matter most to you?" assure them I'm not there to force my answers on them, but if they want a community that likes exploring such things, we're down the street.

Drs. Flowers and Middleton have captured in a few paragraphs something most American Protestants really do believe and might be surprised to find that lots of church leaders do, too: intellectual rigor and the valuing of human diversity are not the enemy of Christian faith but are instead a vibrant expression of it. The intellectual richness required for religion to become worthy of human striving doesn't fit in a sound byte. It's relational, not propositional.

It feels healthy to be part of a movement that lives into the tensions of faith without minimizing ambiguity or reducing others to caricature (at least not very often, and when we do, we apologize). I'm glad we're the kind of church that supports colleges where someone asks, "What's the C mean?" and discovers that it's a Christian faith that welcomes questions.

In many of our Disciples congregations, the next few weeks we will receive our Thanksgiving Offering. It supports students at 14 member undergraduate colleges or universities and seven seminaries or divinity houses. Which schools? Click here for more. Thanksgiving offerings helped me when I was at TCU and at Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago. To support students in Disciples higher education, click here and designate your gift to the Thanksgiving Offering.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

At Table with Jesus

Matthew 26.26-29

The other night I did something I haven't done yet this election season. I turned on the TV and watched a program in real time. Not prerecorded. So there was no way to forward through the advertisements. And what I saw was distressing. Have you watched TV lately? Have you seen the incessant political ads? I know political advertising has traditionally been some of the most over-the-top, hyperbolic stuff out there. But, wow. I'd forgotten. Just listen to the ominous music, the dramatic voices, and you'd think the end of days was approaching and the candidate on the other side of the ad-maker was personally responsible for ending life as we know it on the planet.

The same thing hits my inbox, of course. Email comes in waves these days. Make a single contribution to a campaign five years ago, and your inbox explodes this time of year with the catastrophe of the day as fundraising deadlines approach. The techniques used involve shaming, fear-mongering, and so much strident, urgent, ALL CAPS GIVE NOW screaming that I just shut down emotionally and delete all of it, trying not to read more than who it's from and the subject line so I don't accidentally delete something unread from one of you!

We've gotten so good at packaging the horror story that it's no wonder so many of us live on-edge. This would be a good time to take a media holiday.

The church isn't immune. We have a story to tell, too, one with the capacity to make sense of life, to remind us of our purpose. But it's hard sometimes to separate the story of faith from the crisis du jour. What I'd like to do this morning, and for the next several weeks, is to help us focus on what's really important. If we are to stay spiritually grounded in a world that is constantly shouting, making earth-ending crises out of every piece of news, escalating everything to a partisan war cry, then we need to be clear about out story.

It's a story that begins at a table.

Why here? Because the table is everything the demons and demonizers cannot stand. 

Demonic powers in scripture are the ones who divide people from each other, and even divide people within themselves. Read the stories in the NT about Jesus and you'll find he is casting out the forces that divide from others and divide us from ourselves. We deny the reality of such powers only to our peril and their delight, because to deny that there are forces at work that divide us from others and divide us within ourselves is to ignore that the divisions are real. That these are demons of our own creation does nothing to minimize their effectiveness. To ignore them is to minimize their reality.

There's a reason we talk about coming to the negotiating table. Tables bring us together. Because it's when we sit down together to listen to each other and not just talk past each other that reconciliation is possible. When peace talks happen between nations, much of the work on each side is done seated behind a desk. There is research to do, and histories to study, numbers to crunch. But the actual negotiating happens when the sides come together at table.

Sometimes the table is symbolic. You may recall either because you lived through it or read about it in a history class, that when Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin were negotiating a treaty between Egypt and Israel at Camp David, Jimmy Carter was the one who kept both men at the table. Even when things broke down, and both men walked away from the table, Jimmy Carter kept going back and forth between them becoming a sort of moving table between them. When Sadat was ready to quit, Carter reminded him of their friendship. When Begin was ready to walk away, Carter signed pictures of the three of them and personalized them to each of Begin's grandchildren, whose names he knew. Thie broke the impasse. So when talks resumed, they "returned to the table." And they worked out the longest-lasting treaty for peace in the Middle East.

There is a reason when Jesus met with his disciples for Passover they met in a home around a table. It was in that meal that the sacred story was remembered. The story of God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. The story of oppression and liberation. The story of God's judgment on those who enslave and redemption of those who suffer. The table of Passover in Jewish memory predates the temple sacrifice. Yes, the temple mattered. Yes, there was a lamb to prepare. And this took place in the table. But it was prepared to feed people at home around thir kitchen table who were telling a story of liberation. It was prepared in thankful memory of a people set free who trusted God to set them free once more.

The Romans were a tolerant lot when it came to religion. "Just add our gods to your existing pantheon, and our emperor among them, and make the sacrifices and offerings and all will be well." Judaism lived in tension with this directive because of its unusual insistence on one God and one alone. Jesus' followers were no exception. They were accused of being atheists for not worshiping the emperor. Separate, traitors. Freedom of religion is one thing, but freedom from religion, especially imperial religion, was not allowed.

So in that day when Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, it was a countercultural act of resistance to come around the table. By the time the gospel writers told the story of his last supper, it had become a weekly ritual his followers did in order to remember who they were and to keep them reconciled with each other so their community could do the things Jesus had called them to do in his lifetime (the things people in need need): feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, clothe the naked, heal the sick.

The table each week brought them together as one people to remind them of the new age they were called to live into, a new age where the whole earth was already God's Realm, a kingdom not united by military might but by mutual care and respect, a community united by love. It was not the flower-child love of the idealistic, the "why can't we all just (smoke a bit and) get along" kind of love, but the realistic love that committed each person week in and week out to being there for the other, in the community and outside it, working for a just order in the world, not just an alternative vision of social order but a radical inside-out, upside-down kingdom. Where people were genuinely concerned for each other's needs. This is the kind of community that gathered around the table each week and kept coming back, because by celebrating these memories in bread and wine, they became one people

It's a new covenant they were proclaiming, what Lynda in study hour called "a heart-change," one that reminded them of the original covenant. A covenant of a God who comes to people in trouble and sets them free. The original covenant promise to Moses was that God would liberate. The new covenant was similar: liberation. In Jesus they saw a new Moses. In him they were reminded of the central commandments of Moses' law: when Jesus was asked, he answered, "love God and love neighbor." In him they remembered the stories of Passover, and they believed that God was bringing a new age into being where love would reign, and peace would come not at sword-point but through right relationship.

For us, who still come together around the table and who still find God empowering us to live into a new age, the challenge is clear. Our world is in need of people who are willing to come, despite our differences, to sit down at the table together trusting that Jesus is here among us, so we can find the strength and nourishment to keep loving God and neighbor.

When the world is screaming no, no, no, we are called to find someone in this world to say yes to.

When the world round us is pointing fingers and screaming across the aisle about evil incarnate, we are called to invite people to catch their breath, come to the table, and listen. Tell your story. Listen to your neighbor's story. No judgement. No screaming. Reconciliation.

Then, having discovered the freedom we find in our common humanity, we may go hand in hand from the table into the week to come working on the actual problems we face.

What's this all got to do with stewardship? It's about starting here at the the table. A steward is someone who's been given something to take care of. You and I have been given so much! We've been given each other. We've been given neighbors who are in need. And what reminds us is this most precious story we tell around a table. A story that reminds us who we are and how God envisions all of life to be.

We share ourselves, our memory, our story, our love. And in sharing them here they multiply so we can share them with others. There's nothing eloquent or fancy about it. It's simply who we are. Thanks be to God.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Eight Lessons Learned Riding My Bike to Church

I've been riding by bicycle to church a few times a week this summer. It's not a long ride compared to what I used to do for fun in high school. But it's longer than the commutes to school and work I had early in our marriage. There's time to think. 

So here are a few things I'm gleaning for ministry from the 25 mile round-trip.
  1. Warm up beforehand. Stretch. Visualize. It becomes a habit after a while, so when you get started, your head and heart are both in sync. Pray before you engage in any ministry and it will stretch your sense of possibility and center you spiritually for all you are about to do.
  2. Find an even, steady pace. Find a rhythm that's not too fast, not to slow, and you'll be able to stay with it. Change gears as the terrain changes. This will keep your movement steady no matter what the road is like. Your speed will slow uphill and race going down, but if your pace is constant, your muscles will not fail. A constant spirit is faithful and reliable no matter how steep the climb.
  3. Follow the rules of the road. Not everyone does, but you should. Your good example ensures a safer trip for you and minimal anxiety for everyone around you. In ministry the rules aren't complicated: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
  4. The wind can be your best friend. Riding the way the Spirit blows is exhilarating. Everything happens so easily and you cover so much ground in no time at all that you can be tempted to think it's your own doing. Just be careful which wind is at your back. It could be the Holy Spirit, and if so, woo-hoo! Enjoy the ride! But it could be the prevailing winds of our me-first culture. Which suggests...
  5. The wind can be your worst enemy. You'll notice when you're riding against it. There are times the Spirit blows one way but our culture conspires to blow another. If you've got a strong  headwind of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or any other -ism that fans the flames of injustice, just drop into a lower gear and maintain a faithful, steady pace. You'll get there. The Spirit's still got your back.
  6. You go farther and faster in a group. You are never at your best when riding alone. In a group you feed off each other's energy and mutual encouragement. You draft off the slipstream the group creates, and everyone uses less energy. You share awareness of potholes and other obstacles. You trade leadership out regularly so no one gets too tired. It's hard, discouraging work to be a Christian by yourself. But together... just. Wow.
  7. Don't wait until you're hungry or thirsty to eat or drink. Wait till you're sucking wind and you've already starved your muscles and dehydrated your body. The regular, weekly feast of the Word in scripture, prayer, fellowship, and communion is like a steady source of energy for ministry to keep your muscles from cramping and your head from getting dizzy. Come to worship even if you don't think you need it. This Sunday would be good.
  8. Cool down afterward. Walk. Relax. Reflect. Check for sore spots that need attention, and take care of them. Deliberate, careful, intentional prayer heals your sore spiritual muscles, brings your servant heart back to its normal rhythm, and helps your soul catch its breath while you reflect with satisfaction on ministry accomplished. Just look what ground you covered! You can now look forward to tomorrow's ride.
What have I missed?

Blessings and Peace.

Friday, June 6, 2014

SOJ at Twin Cities Pride

I've got an exciting ministry opportunity to share with you, and if you're at Spirit of Joy or any of our Twin Cities Disciples congregations, I hope you'll be involved in whatever way you feel called to participate.

We're partnering with First Christian Minneapolis and First Christian St. Paul in Mahtomedi, this year to host a booth at Twin Cities Pride. It will be Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29, at Loring Park in Minneapolis, from 10-6 each day. I want to let you know what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how you can help.

What we're doing
  • Sharing communion, hospitality, a listening ear, and opportunities for prayer with anyone who wants it. This means people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning. It means their family members, their allies, and even just the curious. It means anyone who comes to our booth at Twin Cities Pride.

Why we're doing it
  • The central sign of Christian welcome and love, Communion has often been denied to people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. This hurts individuals, and it hurts the whole church.
  • As an Open and Affirming congregation, we want to extend an intentional Christian  welcome to anyone who's ever been shut out or shut up. We want everyone to know the liberating love of God that says, "There's a place for you at Jesus' Table."
  • As Disciples of Christ, we always set an open table. Everyone is welcome: the baptized and the unbeliever alike, gay and straight, rich and poor, women and men, children and adults. We put no conditions on communion beyond a willingness to accept Jesus' invitation to break bread together. 
  • Finally, because Disciples of Christ are relatively unknown in this part of the country, we'd like to let the community know who we are. We want everyone to know there are Christian churches nearby where "all means all."
How you can help

  • Pray for those who have been denied hospitality and welcome as well as for those who have denied them, for volunteers working our booth throughout the weekend, and for our churches in ministry together.
  • Give two hours of your time by serving at the booth. Sign up by clicking here. We are asking for 2-4 people to be at the booth throughout the festival. You can sign up for any of the following, and of course you are welcome to sign up for more than one shift:
    • Four people are asked to set up the booth Saturday morning. This means setting out chairs, setting the communion table, putting out brochures, hanging banners, and more. Dan Adolphson from First Christian in Minneapolis will provide guidance. The communion table will come from First Christian Minneapolis. The cloth to cover it is from my office. I'll also provide the bread. Each church will provide a chalice.
    • One person should be comfortable offering communion (scripts will be available; you don't have to be a clergyperson to do this). 
    • Another should be comfortable listening and offering prayer for those who want it (again, written prayers will be available if you need them). 
    • Two others should be comfortable welcoming people and handing out fans and information about our churches.
If this ministry stirs something positive in you, I hope you'll participate. Click here to sign up. You'll be asked for your email, and you'll get a reminder three days beforehand. 

Blessings and Peace,
David Cobb

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Racism is alive and well

Thanks, Rep. Pat Garofalo, for today's apology. I know you represent primarily white south suburbanites, so I don't expect you to be vigilant about racism. Still, like any good American, you don't want anyone to think you're racist. Neither do I.

It was gracious of your black House colleagues to give you the benefit of the doubt. They were willing to say they didn't know if you were racist, but they were equally clear that your tweet was. I want you to hear this from a fellow white south suburban male. They were being polite. Yes, you are racist. 

Also hear me clearly when I say this: so am I. 

Here's what you said.

Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Something Good from DOMA

Can I really be feeling grateful for the Defense of Marriage Act? Surely not. But stay with me... 

When President Clinton signed DOMA into law, I thought it was a terrible injustice. And it was. Denying same-sex couples federal recognition fed our national discrimination. It wasn't just  a cop-out but a betrayal. Over 1,000 rights and responsibilities our society grants to and expects from married couples were institutionally and legally denied.

So of course I am thrilled this week. U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Virginia struck down the ban on a same-sex marriage that voters passed in 2006. A federal judge in Kentucky ordered officials to recognize same-sex marriages (or, as I prefer to think of them, marriages) performed in other states. And even in Texas!, a federal judge heard a challenge to the same-sex marriage ban. What a week!

The wave has been building. Federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma overturned voter-approved restrictions on marriage. And challenges are mounting nation-wide.

These are baby steps toward equality, but still they are steps. And it doesn't take an infant long before she's slopestyling in Sochi.

How did all this happen? In a word, DOMA. Or, more to the point, the Supreme Court case overturning DOMA in United States v. Windsor,  last June.

Justice Kennedy's logic was clear: the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law to everyone. Even Justice Scalia, who dissented from the Court's opinion, could see the writing on the wall separating church and state: if state bans on same-sex marriage violate equal protection, they will fall.

I'm conflicted because I opposed DOMA. It was bad law. It harmed couples. It hurt families. It told tens of thousands of kids their parents weren't legitimately married in the eyes of their country, and it denied them the rights and protections every child should be able to expect from his or her family, from tax credits and insurance benefits to parent-teacher conferences and doctor's visits. It did real and lasting damage.

But if we hadn't had DOMA, it couldn't have been so clearly and forcefully invalidated by the Supreme Court. The striking down of DOMA set in motion what I believe is the inevitable fall of every anti-gay marriage law in the land. 

There's no way of knowing how quickly our marriage laws will change. We see pushback in Missouri where the House just passed a bill to legalize discrimination in the name of religious freedom. I doubt the Show-Me State will be the only one. There's no way of knowing how quickly our collective national heart will change. But it's clearly opening up. And there's no way of knowing if DOMA and its demise have hastened or postponed the human rights progress we are currently seeing. 

What's clear to me is  that we have a long way to go to achieve true equality and justice. But the DOMA decision and others based on it clearly show we're on the right path. Now more than ever we need churches, people of good faith, friends, neighbors, relatives, employers, investors—in short, everyone, because we all have a stake where matters of justice and equality are concerned—to stand up and speak out. 

Our nation has struggled with forms of discrimination from the beginning. We've made great strides overcoming our institutional and personal prejudices of religion, economics, race, and gender. I'm not clueless about the distance we still have to travel. But I'm proud to part of a generation of Christians, old and young, who understand the Kin-dom of God is not some abstract future fantasy but something we help to realize here and now. It co-creates with justice. It celebrates the power of love.

So, here's to Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas, and the eventual dismantling of discrimination in these places my family has called home. Here's to Oklahoma, Utah, and Nevada! where state laws areIgv held to the high standards of the 14th Amendment. And yes, here's to Missouri and every other state that wants to discriminate—say it loud enough so we can all hear what our own prejudices sound like, and we will see the way clear to change our ways. Thanks, DOMA, not for the damage you did but for reflecting so clearly our own prejudices that we couldn't help but overturn you. 

Finally, and most importantly, here's to those whose long-suffering love has endured the hellfire of discrimination and the brimstone of oppression, for they will know the in-breaking Kin-dom of God. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I just got back from a three day shared decision-making workshop in Boulder, Colorado. It should have been called a consensus immersion, a baptism by every voice in the room. Never mind that the workshop was run by a school district for its principals, teachers, staff, and administrators. 

For me, it was all about church.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on consensus decision-making before I went. After all, I serve a church that's never voted on anything. Spirit of Joy Christian Church makes all its decisions by consensus, seeking full agreement before acting. It means we don't always act quickly, but we do act together. This is how it's been since the church was founded 14 years ago. 

Still, I learned a lot. We put every voice in the room, named our fears and hopes, found not just common ground but new ground, and learned to move from deliberation to action.

One thing I learned, although our facilitators didn't use this image, is that when we make decisions by consensus we're much like a jazz orchestra. Every voice matters. Get input from everyone and we'll find common chords and rhythms, underlying beliefs and goals, and we'll all express them in our own, unique way. 

Unless every voice speaks, something is missing. 

When every voice speaks, we can speak and act as one.

Patterns emerge when everyone gets their say. Fears and hopes alike are shared, anxieties and possibilities. And when each instrument takes its turn, with the rhythms of a common cause that support and feature every instrument, every voice, the decision at the end is good. Not mob rule, not the chaos of an orchestra warm up of scales and arpeggios each in their own independent key. But music you want to keep time with.

I began to imagine our church like an orchestra. Each person has their own voice with its own range, timbre, volume, and color. Every voice matters. Each person is a gift without which the whole just doesn’t feel complete. Sure, if we all speak at once about everything, it’s chaos. But together, we're good.

Symphoneo in Greek means to match, agree, harmonize, or fit together. It’s from roots that mean “together” and “to sound” or “to speak.” Spirit of Joy decided at the beginning that all decisions would be made by consensus. So, how can the symphony of our life together make beautiful music and not just noise?

The theological roots of consensus, especially as we have decisions we need to make, are worth exploring. With decisions facing us about the building, our purpose, future ministries, and the funding and support of current ones, it’s a great opportunity for us to make sure all voices are in the room, and to talk explicitly about how we come to consensus.

What’s more, our way of making decision matters to our character. Does our decision-making honor each person’s full faith and integrity? Does it acknowledge our deepest fears as well as our highest hopes? Does it lead all of us to new ground that is fully shared? Does it teach us new ways to think and open new windows through which we all see God? If so, we will be highly motivated to carry out the actions we agree will approach our goals.

I'm excited to lean in and listen, keep time, offer what I can, and become together a symphony of hospitality, spiritual exploration, intellectual integrity, justice, advocacy, and peace.