This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Inhabit Conference, a gathering for the sake of reimagining church and transforming neighborhoods put on by The Parish Collective and The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. And I was deeply inspired again to live out the gospel in an embodied way that embraces the criticality of my humanity, the gifts of God’s ongoing creative work, and the inescapably communal nature of what life is intended to be. Yes, I was inspired. And so were the eight others that I corralled to see this for themselves. It did not disappoint.
Every presenter was provocative and powerful, Christena Cleveland, Shane Claiborne, Michael Frost, Noel Castellanos, Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Rev. Alexia Salvatierra and many more. And to top it off, my good friends, Paul Sparks, Dwight Friesen and Tim Soerens just came out with their new book, The New Parish.
I believe they are forerunners in a church movement towards presence, practice and place, a way to reengage our faith as a profoundly earthy, bodily and communal experience in the midst of an age of modernity, rationalization, disembodiment, and loneliness. And so many have already devoted their life’s work to this endeavor and have articulated it in brilliant ways.
Last year, I was privileged to participate in the Leadership in the New Parish Cohort and it connected so much for me in regards to our own faith community’s journey to be a practicing church, following in the way of Jesus, and this idea of joining God in the neighborhood. Our pastor, Dr. Rose Madrid Swetman wrote her dissertation on The Practicing Church and yet we continue to wrestle, practice and experiment with how to practice our faith and actually see transformation individually, collectively and in our neighborhoods.
Perhaps the first step is to see the goodness in vibrant, local places where love of humanity is not so much an abstract idea but a loving act for a neighbour; where we don’t attempt to always transcend our embodied creaturely limits but flourish within them; where we don’t always yield our self-reliance (or community reliance) to the State but work together in a community to solve problems; and where we allow life to teem in all its intended diversity by subverting and renovating the encroachments of an industrial monoculture and cosmopolitanism that seek to erode our differences. --Getting Back to Place by Doug Sikkema