Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fullness of Life… and Other News

As our little community moves towards a pattern of missional life together, we realize that the busyness that charaterized our lives and ministry has to change. While we are not completely doing away with programs (as I believe that some are swinging to an opposite anti-program extreme), we recognize that we can so quickly fill our days with relatively good things, but ultimately robbing us of the time, energy and resources that could be invested in building genuine relationship with our neighbours.

Mary shared an excellent personal reflection about this at her blog. Her honestly about their uncertainty, yet dedication to forge ahead into the unknown, is inspiring to me. It is well worth the read.

In Other News…

-The Mustard Seed House is looking for some new tenants. This is a great opportunity. See details here.

-Kingdom Grace, as usual, is asking some hard and essential questions about “What now?”. Read it here.

-My friend Duncan shares details about the very brave and inspiration move they are making to follow God’s radical leading. He is asking for input here.

Have a great weekend. Peace and good things to you all!

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 04:53:03 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Learning To Love My Neighbour… With Difficulty

Whenever I heard the Scriptural admonishon to “love you neighbour”, I usually imagined that would be most challenging when my neighbours were “questionable” characters. And while I do struggle with those who deal drugs, exploit innocence and spread racial hatred, I discovered that they are not as hard to love as I thought, especially when I became more aware of the world that contributed to their realities.

Today, however, I was confronted with a neighbour I had a hard time feeling loving towards. Half of our yard backs up against the community centre, separated by a mesh fence, with a path in between. I was standing on our back deck when she walked by. I’ve known her casually since we moved to the neighbourhood, a late middle aged woman with slight accent (German, I think). She walks her dog faithfully every day, so we’ve chatted before.

This morning she asked me how we were coping. Unsure of what she meant, she commented on the “trouble” in the community. Most of what she said is not worth mentioning in detail, except that it was thinly veiled racism and classism. She even mentioned the death of our teenage neighbour, saying that they had “finally” moved away. After talking about how the neighbourhood was “improving”, she closed with:

“I guess this is the way it is meant to be, so it’s about time!”

I honestly didn’t have to time or presence of mind to respond to any of her rant except to say something like, “Thing are sure changing”. Then she was off. I stood there frustrated, in part at my own inability to think of what to say, but mostly that someone felt this was acceptable small talk, let alone beliefs. I found myself genuinely feeling ill will. And so I prayed.

While this example is, perhaps, a more blatant one, I am becoming increasingly aware of how many people share these general convictions, biases and shallow assumptions. Even people who, on the surface, seem progressive often reveal their disdain and superiority. Whether it is about socio-economics, race, politics or culture (though they are rarely separable), the deepest beliefs of many people (Christians included) fall far short of the popular idealism of political correctness.

It is far easier to express popular sentiments than to let truth humble and transform us. I am by no means immune to this, but thank God that He has called me into a community and context that robs me of the illusions that blind me from reality. This is why missional living does not merely offer hope to the world. Rather, in call us into incarnational living we are continually saved from the systemic sinfulness of our hearts.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 05:01:42 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our Father: Reliquishment and Embrace

One of the core teachings that our mission has long championed is the Father-heart of God. I have seen people deeply impacted by coming to a personal revelation and encounter about the true nature of loving Fatherhood as found in God. For me it was further deepened in my reading of Henri Nouwen’s powerful book “Return of the Prodigal Son”. It remains an important aspect of faith that too many fail to grasp.

However, through my exploration of the life of St. Francis, I have been challenged to put feet to this conviction, especially where community is concerned. Early in his conversion experience, Francis was taking before the bishop by his father. Francis had sold material from their family shop and given the money to the poor. His father was bringing him before the bishop for judgment, a process done in the very public forum of the town square. In the face of these charges, Francis publically renounced his birth right, placing his trust and well-being into the hands of his Heavenly Father. Wanting to trust in God alone, he stripped naked right there in the town square, returning the clothes to his father.

Francis demonstrated that to truly embrace God as our Father is more than a sentimental or symbolic gesture of good faith. Rather, he realized that, as we seek to be faithful and fully trust in God, we must be freed from the lies that would limit, compromise or complicate our devotion. It is all the harder to accept, however, because those things we are often called to relinquish are ours by right. The comforts, securities and even common sense decisions that few would ever question often act as barriers to embrace the transformative life Christ calls us to.

Consider for yourself: Are there things in your life that, while not bad in and of themselves, compromise your allegience to Christ? It could you a job, a possession, your neighbourhood, a relationship- anything that you use to “justify” further devotion to the radical life of following Christ. We cannot simply say that we trust God while investing so deeply into things that divide our loyalty.

What is the Father calling you to relinquish and what will you be able to embrace in it’s place?

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 19:20:15 | Permalink | Comments Off

Monday, June 9, 2008

“New Monasticism” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove – Book Review

In my last post, I shared about some of the books I have reading. A few moments ago I finished “New Monasticism: What It Has To Say To Today’s Church” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. When it arrived I was surprised at how thin it was, at only 147 pages. However, this book did not disappoint. It is one of the more inspiring and helpful books I have read in some time. Let me give you an overview.

The book begins with an honest (though hopeful) assessment of the world we find ourselves in. Though it is primarily focused on the American context, it is still largely applicable to other contexts. In the face of a Christianity that seems to have lost it’s identity, we are introduced to a growing movement of the new monasticism. In a very brief but surprisingly helpful journey through the history of monasticism (including Biblical influences), we see it’s critical role in the history and vitality of the Body of Christ.

From there, we are introducted to the practices of the new monasticism (as opposed to the typical “values” presentation). Through sharing examples and stories from many communities, we are challenged to very tangible ways that we can, as communities, more fully embrace the Gospel we claim and proclaim. The author offers no illusions, refusing to claim the new monasticism as THE answer we’ve all been waiting for, presenting their weaknesses as much as their strengths. It is truly inspiring.

The eighth chapter, “A Culture of Grace and Truth” lived up to it’s name. It was a hopeful call to lives of grace, love and truth. I was moved to tears while reading it. It is summed up best in a shift from seeing community/church as a repair shop to a garden. To tend a garden is a long, dirty process that does not immediately show results. In the same way, we are called to tend “the soil” of our communities (and our world) and trust the Spirit to bring life within it.

My only critique (and it is minor and personal) comes in the last section of the last chapter. The section is called “Parachurch vs. Prochurch”. While I agree with the basic concern that some (so called) “parachurches” can seek follow their vocation as Christian communities apart of the church, it was done in a rushed and underdeveloped manner. Throughout the book the author is very gracious, even to those he critiques. This is lacking in the rushed assessment of the “parachurch”.

This book is one of those rare finds that is incredibly easy and enjoyable to read (even in one easy sitting), while packing a powerful punch in content. It is gracious, hopeful and inspirational. I would highly recommend this to book to anyone- those in urban, suburban or rural settings; pastors, missionaries, lay leaders- everyone.

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 11:11:56 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, June 6, 2008

What I Have Been Reading

Previous Post – Shaped By Regret: Re-examining Evangelism

I am a little slow on the posting today, as this week has been a busy one. Fridays With Francis will have wait until next week. However, I have been reading several great books of late (too many at once, actually). Here is what is on my desk:

The New Conspirators: Creating The Future One Mustard Seed At A Time
by Tom Sine, IVP

New Monasticism: What It Has To Say To Today’s Church
by Jonathn Wilson-Hartgrove, Brazos-Press

Treasures In Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness
by Lois Y. Barrett, D. Guder, et al., Eerdmans

Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbour
by David Augsburger, BrazosPress

I am reading the first two of these books in an attempt to stir the imagination of how we are shape the future of our intentional community here in Winnipeg’s inner city. This part of our journey is most exciting to me as the nature of our shared lived together is the foundation of the Gospel we incarnate and proclaim. I also know that, beyond the romantic notions of true community, this journey will be demanding and hard work.

“Treasures In Clay Jars” is a follow-up volume to “The Missional Church” that explores 8 critical patterns of missionality as expressed in 8 unique missional congregations. As we prepare for the church plant, this book is incredibly helpful in (again) stirring the imagination what missional ecclesiology looks like. This last year has been for me a shift from values to virtues, from programs to patterns. This book is critical to that process.

If you follow this blog you will already know that I have been reading “Dissident Discipleship”, largely to explore a challenging and embrasive Anabaptist spirituality. While I am only borrowing this book (and need to get it back long before I will have exhausted it’s use), it is an excellent book for both personal and communal spiritual/missional formation. I will have to buy it for myself.

So that is what I am reading. How about you? What’s keeping your brain busy these days?

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 21:09:42 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shaped By Regret: Re-examining Evangelism

Yesterday was a good day, but a good one. This morning I walked down to the COFT where I led a workshop on missional third places. After a brief introduction of the concept of the third place, I explored the three points I covered in my blog some time ago (found here: 1, 2 & 3). The group was very welcoming and engaging. Besides, I got to connect with my friends Peter & Alison Lublink.

As part of my presentation, I showed the following video, a clip from the excellent film “The Big Kahuna”. Let me set up the clip. In this scene we meet three industrial lubricant salesman- Larry (Kevin Spacey), a brash, but honest veteran of sales; Phil (Danny Devito), Larry’s friend and a tired, seasoned salesman; and Bob (Peter Facinelli), a young evangelical Christian, a rookie in sales.

At one stage in the film, Bob is sent to connect with a potentially > major client, while Phil & Larry wait in the Hospitality Suite. When he returns, he reveals that he, indeed, met with the client, but rather than discuss industrial lubricants, shared about Jesus. Before long, Larry and Bob’s argument over this turns physical, with Larry storming out of the room.

I am always moved by this scene. What do you think?

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 06:07:44 | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Saint John’s Bible

Yesterday morning, Brennie & I walked down to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see the soon-to-depart exhibit of the Saint John’s Bible. This beautiful work-in-progress is the first Bible to be completely handwritten and illuminated by the Benedictines since before the printing press. The whole project, made up of seven volumes, is scheduled for completion by 2009.

I cannot express how beautiful these volumes are, with stunning artwork, calligraphy and nuaned symbolism. As I stood reading the pages, I found myself deeply moved, even in the public context of the gallery. A great deal of time and money have been invested into this project, but I can safely say that it is an expense much like the previous perfume used to anoint the feet of Christ.

The following video presents a bit of background:

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 03:18:45 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Learning True Community: Hard Questions That Must Be Answered

The following is from the end of the chapter on community in David Augsburder’s book “Dissident Discipleship”. I challenge you to spend some time in prayerful consideration of these questions:

How can I learn a spirituality that nurtures human wholeness unless I commit myself to do all I can and contribute all I can to building a community where we together are seeking ways to practice imitation of Christ? Or will I have to be content with a spirituality of desirable but finally optional vitures?

How can I find spiritual co-travelers who are willing to invest time, give attention, risk self-disclosing, and jointly covenant for a life of shared responsible discipleship? Or will I have to go it alone and learn that part of spirituality that is possible for a self that is seeking to transcend itself by itself?

How can I learn a spirituality of accountability to God the Other unless I have the opportunity to be accountable to significant others? How can I live a spirituality of accountability unless I participate in a community where my acts and their consequences are visible to all who are affected by them? Or will I have to settle for a spirituality that is answerable ultimately only to itself?

How can I learn a spirituality of humility and equality before God unless I live a community where hierarchy is unnatural, where dominance is not rewarded, and where superiority is neither desirable nor inevitable? Or will I have to claim my place in a spirituality of entitlement if I am privileged, or of unentitlement if I am not?

How can I learn a spirituality of immediate and reflexive concern for the needs of others that seeks to do something about the unjust distribution of resources unless I contribute to a community where sharing is meaningful because we agree to consume less, waste less, do more with less? Or will I have to follow a spirituality that costs me very little?

How can I learn a spirituality of dissident discipleship that takes risks in the imitation of Chris unless I join a community that offers support for maintaining a consistent and sensitive conscience? Or will I have to find a rationale for a spirituality that smoothes the contradictions and offers comfort for my unease before the call of Christ?

How can I learn a spirituality of deep reverence for the preciousness of persons unless I practice such honor of others in a community where we are persons, not roles, to each other? Or is the cost of all of this too high to consider in a world that allows self-realization and self-fulfillment as less demanding paths to a spirituality of personal self-actualization?

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 07:53:04 | Permalink | Comments Off

What Is Our Missional Community Becoming? Exciting Imaginations

Over the last few weeks I have been spending a great deal of time pondering the future of our minsitry. As we move towards the church plant, we are realizing that it is just one part of the great shift in our little missional community. I have talked a great deal about the values and ideals that we embrace, but it often lack concrete examples to flesh it out.

For the past 6 years, we have been a small group of YWAM missionaries living and serving in Winnipeg’s inner city. For the past four of those years, we have all lived together in a duplex my wife & I bought- a former gang house that was restored by Lazarus Housing and sold to us by our friend and neighbour, the late Harry Lehotsky. While we were primarily program-centered for the first few years, we differentiated many YWAM centres with a strong theology of place alongside our theology of going.

As we have shared life and ministry together over the years, we have begun to see the importance of being more intentional as a community. To that end, we have slowly been adopting a pattern or rhythme of life together. We take time every week together for prayer, worship and spiritual/missional formation. Our single staff have begun leading out in sharing meals together regularly. We all love extending hospitality (despite our predominance in introverts), so have been more disciplined to reach out and invite in.

Interestingly, though it was never an explicit goal, we are realizing that what we are moving towards reflects many of the marks of the “New Monasticism” (though, as missionaries relying on charity for our livelihood, we have dubbed ourselves “Missional Mendicants”). While none of us are primarily called or gifted to activism, we have felt a deep calling to be an open, vulnerable and missional community within our wonderful, but wounded inner city neighbourhood.

As we look to the future, we are realizing that we need to redefine our identity to extend our welcome to others. Up until this point, our community has been made up of (primarily) YWAM staff, students and volunteers. While all of us feel called to remain as YWAM missionaries, we are working to create an expression of our identity that is more inclusive, hoping it will make space for others to come alongside us.

One of the ways we want to do this is open our home. Our house (which we are in the process of naming), is a large duplex. Kim & I live on the one side (currently preparing to add a child to the mix), with out three single staff living on the other side. However, at this time, much of the other side of the duplex remains largely unused- or rather only used on occassion. Therefore, our hope is to see other singles, whether they are working, going to school, etc. join us by living in the house.

We are also hoping that others in the community (and, yes, some outside of our immediate community) participate as well. We want to form an intimate community of people who are committed to God, to each other and to our neighbours, joining together in an intentional way of life. We believe that this means consistant weekly meals together (at least once a week, if not more), regular times of community prayer, worship, formation and service. It could range from creating alternative options for young sex trade workers to weeding our little community garden.

We are being shaped by many examples and tradition, but two stand out to us: Anabaptist and Franciscan. I have jokingly called myself a Franabapist, but it does give a clear touchstone of who we hope to be. Some of the core values we embrace (which must in turn be expressed as tangible and incarnational virtues) are as follows:

-Justice & Mercy: Again, while we are not primarily activist, we do believe that we are called to “Do (make, form, inspire, provoke, etc.) Justice” through our lives and community. Inseparable to this is living lives of compassionate mercy, tempered by the humility of mutuality, not paternalism (Micah 6:8). This includes responsible economics, ecologics, etc., as well as advocacy and training to help others better embrace these virtues.

-Simplicity & Generosity: As we live among the urban poor (and work with the global poor), especially in the midst of a rampantly consumeristic and selfish culture, we want to live lives of simplicity and generosity, both within our immediate community and to those outside of it (even to the ends of the earth).

-Peace & Reconciliation: This is our biggest challenge. While I love the sense of community and the diversity of our neighbourhood, it is also torn with violence (gang related, domestic, random, etc.). As white expression in a very multiracial community, we have learned that racial and cultural reconciliation is a desperate need, but one that will not be solved with programs (though they have their rightful and necessary place).

This new direction will mean many changes. It means that the dynamic of the YWAM ministry will have the addition of both the church plant and the intentional community expression- all inter-related and connected, but somewhat distinct and unique. It means the YWAM programs will have to make room for these other expressions, but we are VERY strong that these programs are a part of who we are and will be an expression of the larger whole. Again, while I talk about three expressions, they will all be integrated into a whole.

Now we are praying for God to bring the people who will share life with us. Interested? Questions?

Posted by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in 03:23:48 | Permalink | Comments (7)