I love throwing parties. I think more than anything else – what I do as a kind of party planning! Whether moveable feasts, or worship, or leading conversations mostly what I do is plan ways for people to gather to build community and grow together in their relationships with God and others. And hopefully have fun or at least experience joy and a sense of belonging.
I read an article a while back that transformed my understanding of my own ministry and calling. In 2010, theologian Phillip Clayton and others hosted a conference called “Theology after Google.” Phillip went on to write an article reflecting on learning from the conference that was published in the Princeton Theological Review. You can read the whole article here on the Homebrewed Christianity site – another great place to “hang out!” Read the article – it’s amazing!
But here is what I took away from it:
1. The world is different and so the only way forward is to experiment. You knew that already!
2. In this new world, there are no experts. No institution, no person has all the answers to the questions we are asking. In fact, whatever knowledge we have comes from humbly listening in community. That community is not found only in “the church.” It is everyone and everywhere. We have to move beyond the safe confines of our existing church buildings and friends to meet people where they are.
So all of this leads to the most important learning that continues to shape the way I understand my own role in this work:
“The new Christian leader is a host, not an authority who dispenses settled truths, wise words, and the sole path to salvation… These new leaders are those who discern; they see, state, and honor the spirituality within those they meet – both inside and outside the church. They are “cultural creatives,” able to hear and interpret the pulse of our age. They are scouts for discovering existing communities and hosts for the emergence of new communities. There are the bridgers of conversations. They are lovers of what the church has been and welcomers of what she is becoming.
Above all else, though, they remind me of a great hostess. She makes the guests comfortable; she anticipates their needs. She matches folks up and gets the conversations started, though she doesn’t need to place herself in the middle of each one. She leads by example, often by establishing an atmosphere or an ethos that fosters deep sharing. And, at her best, she transforms the lives of those whom she hosts.”
This is what I hope I can do and be. And this is what I see other faith leaders beginning to do as well. I am thrilled that we have lots of gatherings where we can do this kind of holy listening together. One of those places is Pub Theology gatherings. There are now pub theologies popping up all over Southern Ohio. Here are a few that might be in a neighborhood near you. If there isn’t one in your community, what if you were to host a conversation like this? Let us know about your experiences with pub theology and share other gatherings with us!