July 21st, 2016
A recent episode of Invisibilia, the NPR podcast that likes to tell stories that live beneath the surface–the stories that might otherwise get lost in the boisterous shuffle–took up the question of personality: whether that idea of a fixed and predictable profile of one’s character even exists, and whether, despite all the conventional wisdom alleging an immutability to our makeup, we can in fact experience deep change.
We’ll let you listen to the podcast to hear their analysis, winsomely told. But one of their stories we’ll mention here to begin this Backstory was that of a remarkable event held at a correctional facility in Ohio last year. Prisoners serving lengthy sentences, even those for violent offenses, had been invited by the folks at TEDx to participate in a celebration of their own artistic aptitudes. Men who’d committed some of the most grievous offenses were permitted to compose and perform works of poetry, music, and dance. The hearts of those whom most would assume so hardened as to be incapable of inspiring or trading in beauty were in fact transformed to conceive and embody it. Just by being asked.
In this country, we’ve reached peak bombardment.
One vision for the nation’s future is being dropped on us like a blitzkrieg this week–another vision next week. The political theater, the bloviating, the litany of unverifiable claims and impossible promises have all reached a fevered pitch, the end of which is still a few agonizing months away.
Meanwhile the country continues to reel from another week of revenge upon the innocent. Injustice begets injustice, and each successive outbreak seems more menacing than what came before.
Whatever one’s political leanings, the platforms of either party would seem to have not the slightest chance of diffusing the incendiary climate we’re in. MLK Jr. was surely right that while government may not be able to change hearts it can change laws that restrain the heart. But no code can codify something deep within a body politic whereby that politic chooses a just way in the face of an unjust pattern.
The scope and complexity of what the nation faces naturally creates such a sense of overwhelm that we’re inclined to hope it all just fades away on its own accord (which of course it won’t). But while the church isn’t tasked primarily with ordering society at the civic level, that doesn’t exempt it from contributing to the change so needful in the wider world.
This Backstory promises no solutions, but it does preview here three ways the church–including CtK–can be about the business of seeding its surroundings with the hope that changes.
First, concerning beauty:
Inmates in Ohio demonstrated how their offenses hadn’t diminished their capacity to bring forth beauty. I don’t know if any of us are inmates, but in response to the recent Arts for a Better Future conference to which we sent three from our community, CtK is holding an “Open Arts Night” next month. It will be an inaugural event designed to catalyze the artistry both within and beyond our community. Here’s Rachel Kull with more details (soon to be replicated on our City page):
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsand teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
What if the first verse above read something like, “And he gave the authors, the poets, the photographers, the musicians, the storytellers, the sculptors, the seamstresses, the chefs, etc.…to equip the saints for the work of ministry?”
We believe that God has provided many artistic gifts to the part of Christ’s body that is Christ the King Presbyterian Church. Some of these gifts are on display each week (the back story; the sermon; the liturgy; the music) and are helping us all in our pursuit to attain “knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.” But we think there are more gifts God has given to our community that we don’t yet know about!
To that end, we are holding an “Open Arts Night” event on August 20, 2016, at Bill and Robin Harris’ house. All CtK artists and genres of art that are uplifting and would be useful in helping us build up our body in love are welcome to participate! Here is how it will work:
We’ll gather at the Harris’ home at 6:30. By 6:45, we will begin the event. Each participant will have around five minutes to show us their art. This could be displaying paintings or sculptures, reading poetry, doing an interpretive dance, sharing a graphic arts presentation, singing a song, doing a dramatic reading, sharing culinary treats, playing a musical instrument, displaying quilting or sewing talents; the possibilities are endless!
When all the presentations have been made, we will have a brief time of refreshments (which we need you to bring). =)
We hope you will come as part of the audience, but also we invite you to bring a demonstration of the talent God has blessed you with—so you can bless all of us!
Questions? Contact Glenn Machlan, Jeremy Batts, or Rachel Kull, or ask a question here on The City.
Dostoevsky claimed “beauty will save the world.” Let’s see if our efforts to surface some in our midst might corroborate his claim.
This world will change the more beauty overtakes it.
But it changes also through prayer. You heard Kevin announce last Sunday an effort that begins later next month: an invitation from our children, asking their spiritual aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, to dedicate a year to praying for them. Here’s Kevin with more:
Starting this Fall, CtK will participate in a season of prayer on behalf of our children. We would ask the church to remember our kids in its times of prayer – corporate and individual. But more specifically, a number of you will be receiving requests from our children to pray for them. Each child will ask 3 adults – one person from 3 different generations – for their prayers. When the time comes, CtK will have a prayer “guide” for you that will give you some points and prompts on ways to pray for these kids.Our hope is that we would do this yearly, that we might cover our kids in prayer, continue to be molded into a community that prays “without ceasing,” and build relationships among people of all ages. Some of you may get more than one request. We won’t stop you from praying for more than one child, but don’t feel compelled to do so, and feel free to encourage them to ask someone else.So, be prepared, and begin praying now. And don’t be surprised if a (little) hand reaches out to you this fall to ask for your prayers.
Wanna know more? Watch this brief explanation from the Pray for Me Campaign:
This world needs transformation from a variety of sectors, but both beauty and prayer are no dead-ends in re-routing culture’s present trajectory toward both individual and systemic justice and mercy–which is a third prong to the church’s contribution to the rescue of this world. Listen to a thoughtful exchange between a white pastor and a black lawyer about what really divides us and what may really have a hope of reuniting. (If their respective talks light your fire, you can hear their follow up Q&A here.)
Beauty, prayer, justice: no party is likely to incorporate that three-fold and interdependent priority into their platform. But that multi-dimensional effort at a lower level may serve to supplant the havoc all around with a new and abiding mutual respect among all persons.
Don’t believe me? Sounds too optimistic? We’ll end this dance with the one who brung us: the folks at Invisibilia again. In just the first three minutes of their episode “Flip the Script” they will tell an astonishing story of meeting hatred with warmth. That and the other stories will respectfully push back against our cynicism. And for that matter, the episode has everything to do with the passage we explore this Sunday. Seriously–just give it the first three minutes.