conjectural navel gazing; jesus in lint form

Don't lose any opportunity, however small, of being gentle toward everyone. Don't rely on your own efforts to succeed in your various undertakings, but only on God's help. Then rest in his care of you, confident that he will do what is best for you, provided that you will, for your part, work diligently but gently. I say "gently" because a tense diligence is harmful both to our heart and to our task and is not really diligence, but rather over eagerness and anxiety...I recommend you to God's mercy. I beg him, through that same mercy, to fill you with his love. - Francis de Sales


A Liturgical Imagination #UCCShooting

Posted October 2, 2015 @ 3:51pm | by Tripp

Here we go again. Here is our national liturgy.

A young man walks into a building armed to the teeth. Students die. The police arrive. The young man dies in a shootout with the police. It is a complex and devastating suicide. So many lives are marked. A community is marked. And the media storm begins.

Our liturgy moves from the local to the international at the speed of the internet.

The National Rifle Association contra mundum, Liberals and Conservatives are squaring off, and Pundits are shouting. The beleaguered President Obama predicts that he will have to address the nation again before his term is over when there is another mass shooting. The media is on fire. For now.

The liturgy gradually comes to a close as our shared attentions are drawn elsewhere by the always updating Twitter feed.

Somewhere someone is making plans to kill or injure another score of people as an elaborate suicide.

We choose this liturgy every day. It is a service of our own devising.

We define it as liberty or freedom. We describe it as part and parcel of the American way. We insist that it is good and the virtuous. We insist it is godly and what Jesus wants for us. This is the highest good we can imagine, this life where every person has a handgun. As such, it is an utter failure of imagination.

The failure of the American imagination may be the defining sin of our time.

So often it seems as if we assume our imaginations are disembodied. Instead, the truth is that we pour billions of dollars into the actualizing of our imaginations. Our imaginations stretch across the oceans to other lands as we invest in natural resources. Our imaginations destroy cities in countries far away like Iraq. Our imaginations stretch into outer space and online.

We imagine ourselves as patriots. We imagine ourselves as virtuous heroes. Some of us imagine that the right to carry a concealed weapon is a reflection of the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. We imagine others as insane or monstrous.

We have, in these imaginings, forgotten that we are human beings and not heroes or monsters. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are, all of us, the ubiquitous signs of God on earth, the Imago Dei.

In my Missional Liturgy class we discuss the intersection of liturgy and ethics. We have been asking questions about bodies and what kind of creature it is that worships. We wonder if worship forms us or is it we that form the worship. There is, of course, a very complex dynamic at work as we form and are formed. But in the end, I hope we come away with a definition of what it means to be human; a rich, life-giving definition.

In light of yesterday’s event, I feel I should offer this beginning to a definition: Individually and collectively, as part of Creation itself, we are the very image of God.

Can we imagine this? Can we imagine that we are God’s image and not monsters or heroes?

President Obama asked us to do more than offer our thoughts and prayers. I echo that sentiment. We need to act. We need to show that our imaginations have flesh and that flesh is capable of more than apathy or violence. We know we are capable of those things. We have proven it time and time again. We have invested billions.

Instead, let us see if we are capable of putting new flesh on our imaginations. Imagine that you and your neighbor, the stranger across the road, are the very Image of God.

Then we can begin a new liturgy.

The Lord be with you.

This post was also shared on Missional Liturgy at ABSW.

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We Choose This

Posted October 2, 2015 @ 2:49pm | by Tripp

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Overf*ckingwhelmed But Grateful

Posted September 30, 2015 @ 12:30pm | by Tripp

Here I sit pondering how I can be in both Portland and Atlanta simultaneously. It's been that kind of September. As the month comes to a close, I wonder how I will begin to function anew after E.P.'s six month birthday. October 11th is when I promised myself I would start to work out the rest of my comps and start working on my dissertation proposal.

Today I am keenly aware that the PhD process is designed as a full-time job and not as a process to do along side a full-time job. Keenly.

If I could control All The Things, I would get up in the morning and spend the entire day with the people pictured here. I would do what you see us doing pictured here. We had just enjoyed breakfast. Then, on a nice stroll around the "Gourmet Ghetto" of Berkeley, we stopped into a couple of stores to buy books. I was having a good day. Books for E.P., books for the grownups. I was thinking about race and authenticity and music scenes because that's what I'm thinking about. Dissertations are peculiuar documents and the process of writing one is designed to make us think. A lot. 

And E.P. is also thinking. All the time. You can almost hear his brain grow at night. He loves these little books full of images. Bold colors and deep contrast are totally his jam right now. It's an excellent foil to my need for nuance and fine shaded differences in meaning.

Boy clarifies my thinking all the time. But then the exegencies of life offer a contrasting and stark response. I'm torn between two spaces at once and in the process I am experiencing a single space warped by tension.

How the hell do people do this?


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We're on The Storify. #ABSWLiturgy

Posted September 29, 2015 @ 12:47pm | by Tripp

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What we listen for varies.

Posted September 28, 2015 @ 9:12am | by Tripp

At times it seems as if the noise will never stop. Life is a never-ending cacophony of sonic data. Sounds overlap, inundate the environment, resonate through every creature and thing while my poor ears try to make sense of it all, while my soul tries to make meaning of it all.

This is one of those mornings when I cannot let go and let the sounds make their own meanings or simply resound meaninglessly. My ego is insistent today, desperate to make sense of everything that enters in.

Unlike your eyes, you cannot shut your ears. You can only offer greater and lesser degrees of attentiveness. Over a lifetime we learn to prioritize sounds subconsciously. We privilege some sounds above others. The demands of our social environments play their part as do other variables.

We hear everything that our physiology affords. What we listen for varies.

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This Is Happening #ABSWLiturgy

Posted September 11, 2015 @ 4:50pm | by Tripp

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@ABSWBerkeley Faculty

Posted August 27, 2015 @ 11:34am | by Tripp

Yesterday was a good day.




Faculty retreat #chairmanselfie

Posted by American Baptist Seminary of the West on Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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Millennial Creep

Posted August 24, 2015 @ 11:56am | by Tripp

"Marketing firm Sundog Interactive, in Fargo, ND, also encourages its 90 employees -- about half of whom are Millennials -- to do what they love." 

I have been a fairly consistent voice in my clerical circles to say that membership, as many of our institutional structure outline it, is done. The issue at hand is not so much a cultural attitude about institutions, but how people employ institutions in the first place. I say "employ" because institutions are tools and not communities. We need to get that distinction clear.

Your institution is not your community. Your community employs a tool called "institution" in order to accomplish certain goals. One of those goals may be the strenthening of communitarian bonds, but this still does not mean one is synonymous with the other.

This is the prevailing attitude of the day no matter what one's generation is, though we see it most clearly in the younger generational cohorts.

"The idea of membership has been just an accepted concept in relationship to church all of my life and it never dawned on me to challenge the concept, but their resistance has made me want to explore the underlying reasons for their concerns.  It begs for a larger conversation about this issue of the importance of membership into a congregation rather than providing a place for people to belong."


This is the thing, though...We are an institution-rich culture. We are drowning in them. There's nothing magical about this. There's nothing miraculous. Many of us live with the privilege of more institutions than we can possibly manage. Others of us need more instutional support and cannot find help. Privilege is at work in this, a kind of institutional wealth that influences how we engage institutional life and understand the notion of membership.

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Finding Myself in the Sound of Peacemaking #wgfest15

Posted July 22, 2015 @ 11:45pm | by Tripp

Yara AllenThis summer I was asked to pitch in as the Liturgical Coordinator at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC, a little town located just outside of Asheville on the Appalachian Trail. I'm ready to pack my bags and live there if I can figure out how to do so. But that's another post for another day.

I had what you would call a typical Goose experience. I was challenged and edified. I was with people who struggle with faith and justice and work as pastors, artists, activists, and scholars. It's a good group. I left invigorated and ready to take on the world.

I also left heartbroken. 

Meet Yara Allen. A self-proclaimed "Theo-Musicologist," Yara is a brilliant scholar and musician who provided not just musical leadership, but a strong liturgical lense through which she helps craft the Moral Monday events in North Carolina with Dr. William Barber. I listened to her speak of collective effervescence and other such notions I am familiar with through my ritual theory work. She spoke of communitas and liminal space, though she never used those specific terms. Collective effervescense, however, was a term she did use and she clung to. It was...inspiring. Truly. Follow her on Twitter. 

I learned a couple of things from her. First, I saw how one employs scholarship in a very tangible way to help edify a community. That's incredibly important and was great to see done well. Second, I was reminded that it helps to have a reason to sing. 

An intention. A motivation to the musicking. 

So simple, but there I was squirming in my seat with the realization that I have forgotten why I sing. I am left wondering what my reason was in the first place. I'm going to be spending some time reminding myself, I think. 

I got a little maudlin after the festival and scribbled down theses words, too. Ah well. Melodrama prevails. 

Singing was/is something I love(d) and would like to love more deeply. Also, I made myself a promise that music would be the cornerstone of my life in some way. Song has been that way for so long. I don't know if it will remain such, but making music...why? I just don't have an answer to that question right now. I used to be able to tell you. But lately it has been very, very hard to sing at all. 

Another reason is this:


I understand that musicking is like any other complext set of human behaviors. It can be employed to virtually any end imaginable. Music doesn't bring peace all on it's own. You have to want to bring peace with music and employ music to that end. If you doubt my claim, I refer you to the music of Nazi Germany or any of the present day Skinhead groups.

But there was this guy, Matt Morris, and he awoke to something and his awakening is pulling at me as well. Then there was Traci Blackmon. Here's a shot of the two of them talking...making plans.


So. Yeah. 

Then there was Emmanuel Jal. I'm still working on that. God god...And Bree Newsome. Yes, the woman who climbed to the top of the flag pole in South Carolina and took down the old stars and bars. She blew me away. She also posed for a selfie. 

All of this is, of course, about more than singing. 

Singing can be about more than singing. Singing can also be about the why of singing. With all that breathing and bodies resonating and sounding in space, it can be ornamental or it can be about something. I'm looking at this mess and wondering what the hell I've been singing about all this time. I want to be about something with my music again. 

So it is back to the beginning in a way. Charles Seeger was the "first" ethnomusicologist in the United States. He was also Pete Seeger's daddy. I'm going to have to take this thing all the way back. Likely further than this. 


But there it is. 

Praise be to the Wild Goose and all the good music. I'm grateful.

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What Is Wild Goose Liturgy? #wgfest15

Posted July 10, 2015 @ 4:22pm | by Tripp

What is going on here?

You have stepped through the veil
into a temple without walls jet-lagged,
road weary, burned out, intrigued, hopeful,
enthusiastic, and just a little confused.

You have entered a basilica
where the dome of heaven itself is the ceiling.
Shrines and altars line the route on our pilgrimage together;
a holy time;
a thin place crafted by your hands
and kissed by the Holy Spirit
inviting you to join in The rhythms of our time together.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

This is the three great days of Holy Week,
a continuous liturgy that begins on Thursday night
and concludes on Sunday morning.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

This is a tent revival
where we will testify to the movement of The Divine
in our streets, classrooms, courthouses, homes,
and even our churches urging one another
to wake up to the truth that the holy is in each of us.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

This is a festival of art and music where we are reminded
that we are bodies-good creatures-blessed icons of heaven on earth
and we can move and sing and be engulfed
in landscapes and soundscapes of hope.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are you, the peacemakers.

Blessed are we, the peacemakers.

This is the liturgy of Wild Goose. Welcome.

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Show Me Your #Selfie

Posted June 24, 2015 @ 10:48am | by Tripp

There are a great many articles about the digital terror we call the "selfie." Narcissistic, they say. Shallow, they say. A sign of the end of civilization, they say. Hyperbole aside, I want it known that I love your selfie.

It's true. I do. And I want to see more of them.

This is the thing about social media; it is a great way to see someone. We see what they want to show us, of course, but that's a familiar enough human habit. We get to see who their friends are, what they like and dislike about their day, what they had to eat, or their favorite book. And when they turn the camera upon themselves, we get to see their faces.

I love your face. This is why I am on FACEbook. Subtle, no?

I love that weary "resting face" you posted yesterday. I love that you have a selfie stick and take pictures of yourself with your friends every time you get the chance. I want to see these people you talk about. I want to see you with them.

Of course, those new glasses make you look smarter. The new lipstick isn't really your shade. And, yes, I wish I were with you at the festival.

I cobble together all these selfies you post. Somewhere in the aggregate or between them all is you.

After all, you are the reason I am online in the first place.

So, keep posting selfies. I want to know you better. Pay no attention to the naysayers. It is always good to see your face.

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A Change In The Music

Posted June 16, 2015 @ 10:36am | by Tripp

Once I imagined God or the spirit of the universe as a conductor of sorts. You know, standing there in front of all creation waving her arms frantically in the attempt to get us all to play nicely together. Or, at the very least, to play some semblance of what was on the page. This is, of course, to no avail.

You see the brass is out of tune and the reeds are all broken and somebody is playing the timpani too loudly.The noise that is made is chaos. I have come to love it.

No one seems to care that their instruments are out of tune. There is some grace in the score and certainly grace in the hearing of the conductor.

The trouble is that everyone keeps playing as if they were the only one who knew how to play.

One oboist insists that their A is the correct A. This proves problematic for the folks playing the gamelan. Once again, the timpanist doesn't hear anybody else.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The percussion of war drowns out all other music for the one playing the drum.

But this is all beside the point. I wake up now each morning and there is so much new noise. There is so much around me and in my head. I cannot silence it. I have lost the oboist. Even the tuba has gone silent. Or is lost amidst the chaos. I am blind to the direction of the conductor.

Each morning I insist on rising. The light streams in my window and I get up again. My newborn son is playing a new music.

It is all I hear.

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