An appeal: Your opinions are needed!

Dear friends of New Wineskins,

We’ve recently had some new developments, and I need your input to help us navigate our future.

First, if you’ve been attending regularly, I just want to say thank you! We’ve had some great conversations these past few months. If you haven’t been here for awhile, I hope you’ll come back soon. We miss you! If you haven’t yet attended one of our gatherings, I hope you’ll check us out soon. We always need new perspectives and new voices.

When I started New Wineskins back in May of this year, my hope was that we’d start to develop a community of people who could come together, share deep questions & doubts about faith, be open to talking about hard issues, and find ways to look past different doctrinal positions and opinions so that we could learn to love better. Certainly, that is happening, and again, I thank those of you who have been involved.

I also hoped that we could develop a forum for various voices to share their hearts and passions through a variety of ways…not just through speaking, but through art, music, poetry, performance, writing, etc. And while we have indeed had a few remarkable guest presenters, this particular part of the vision for New Wineskins has not materialized to the extent I’d hoped. As a result, I’m beginning to struggle to come up with new topics/presentations for each gathering.

So, we now face a bit of a crossroads. Because I’ve recently accepted a part-time job as a youth director at a local church, my time to develop programs for New Wineskins every other week is a bit more constrained. In addition, our attendance has dropped over the past month or so to about half of what it was in May, June & July.

So here’s where I need your help. If we wish to continue meeting every other week, I’ll need some help coming up with topics/presentations. Even if you’re not comfortable speaking in front of the group, please send me your ideas & suggestions. If you would like to share some kind of art, music, poetry or other kind of performance piece, I think those would all be fantastic expressions to bring to our group.

Another option may be to cut our meeting frequency back to once per month instead of every other week. Certainly there are pros & cons to this approach. I need to hear your thoughts.

Finally, we may just decide that New Wineskins has run its course for the time being. That’s a perfectly legitimate conclusion.

New Wineskins belongs to you. I need to hear your opinions. Please comment below, post your thoughts on our Facebook Events Page, message me privately, send me an email to faithrants@gmail.com, or call or text me at 304.481.5683.

Shalom,
Joe

 

 

Sept. 28 Gathering — You have heard it said, but I tell you…

Matt.5Text

One of the enduring challenges of Christianity over the past two millennia has been how to interpret and reconcile the various writings that make up the canon of scripture. The Bible simply is not as clear and straightforward as we’d often like to believe.

Among the most vexing issues we face is how to make the the picture of God we receive from the ancient Hebrew writings we know as the Old Testament congruent with the gospel accounts and correspondence regarding Jesus that comprise the New Testament. More specifically, how do we square the Law of Moses with the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus?

Biblical scholars remind us that the New Testament is, in its narrative of the Jesus event, first and foremost an interpretation of the Old Testament. Jesus offers himself as a way to make sense of those early Jewish writings. Where we often get into trouble is when we try to impose the OT over the later writings.

Not surprisingly, Jesus himself has much to say on this topic. Join us this Sunday, Sept. 28, at the Marietta Brewing Company, as we take a peek into what Jesus is telling his first followers–and us today–about how we are to view him and his relationship to the law and the prophets.

Invite a friend and join us for great food, drinks & conversation!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

Sept. 14 Gathering — When Community and Grace Collide

istockphoto.com
istockphoto.com

We spend a lot of time critiquing some of the issues and abuses in the church. But what about all of those times when the church gets it right? When communities come together to love and support people in their lowest moments? When something radical and mystical happens among a group of people who see a deep need and are compelled to fill it? When we learn to embrace uncertainty and discover its own healing power? When love becomes a verb, and when reckless love becomes a way of life?

Join us this week at The Marietta Brewing Company for a conversation on what it looks like when the church gets it right and how we can empower our churches to get it more right more often. Our guest speaker will be Rev. Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown, WV. Elizabeth will guide us in a discussion of the importance of grace-filled community and what the church can learn from some specific examples in contemporary contexts.

Here’s some insight into what Elizabeth will be sharing:

Dear Friends, I am going to share with us a few short Scripture passages from Acts and Philippians (Specifically, Acts 2:42-47 and Phil 2:1-13), a mathematical concept (I’ll keep this one a surprise!), and then I’ll be sharing some insights and stories from two of my favorite contemporary authors, Kathleen Norris and Barbara Brown Taylor. I look forward to this time in community!

Invite a friend and join us for great food, drinks & conversation!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

Aug. 31 Gathering – Creation Care and the Kingdom of God

Wildfire recovery area, Yellowstone National Park, July 2011
Wildfire recovery area, Yellowstone National Park, July 2011

More and more we’re seeing the church step up in issues regarding creation care, from climate change to recycling to sustainable living practices.

But what if our role is more than just a mandate for stewardship? What if we are called to something more, something deeper, something eternal when it comes to taking care of our planet?

Stop by our Aug. 31 gathering for a discussion on the role people of faith have to play in tending the garden for the kingdom of heaven. To spark your thinking, here’s an article my friend Will Wellman wrote for The EcoTheo Review last fall:

It’s The Church’s Turn

Just as the scientific community has played an integral part in raising awareness of climate change and its many impacts, the Church is called to combat the present deficit of concern.

See you Sunday night at the brewery!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

August 17 Gathering: Sacred vs. Secular — Two worlds in tension or one world in grace?

istockphoto.com
istockphoto.com

We tend to compartmentalize our lives in a number of different ways. Over the past century or so, Christianity seems to have become particularly obsessed with sorting out the sacred from the secular. In our effort to be “in the world but not of the world,” we have learned to isolate spiritual practices and personal piety from the more common routines of everyday life on planet Earth.

But what if we could re-train our senses and re-orient our minds to seeing sacred beauty wherever we look, whether in a sanctuary on Sunday morning or while cleaning a toilet on Monday afternoon? What if we could integrate the grandeur of a mountain sunrise with the workaday experience of mowing our front lawns?

What if we begin to appreciate the idea that love is the creative force of the cosmos, and that holiness is everywhere we look?

Join us this coming Sunday, Aug. 17, as we explore the intersection between the sacred and the secular and discuss how to make our sacred vision all-inclusive. To kick off the dialogue, check out this article from my friends at The EcoTheo Review on the concept of Naturalistic Sacramentalism.

What questions will you bring to our conversation this week? Use the comment section below to help get things started, and we’ll pick it up here on Sunday night!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

August 3 Gathering: Science & Faith: Mutually exclusive or inclusively mutual?

istockphoto.com
istockphoto.com

Does faith in the Bible necessarily mean we must reject the findings of science? Is the Bible meant to be an accurate description of the history of earth and humanity? Do we have to abandon our faith to embrace scientific evidence of origins?

Or, is there a place where faith and science intersect, and reveal something much more wonderful than we ever imagined from either perspective?

Join us this coming Sunday, Aug. 3, as we dive into the depths of the faith vs. science debate and explore ways in which it represents one of the false dichotomies that often limits the church’s ability to engage the world.

To get us started, here’s a video from Rob Bell’s “Everything is Spiritual” presentation that may begin to shed some light on the conversation:

What questions will you bring to our conversation this week? Use the comment section below to help get things started, and we’ll pick it up here on Sunday night!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

 

Q Ideas Tackles Faith vs. Science debate

With our upcoming Aug. 3 gathering set to focus on the science/faith false dichotomy in the church, I thought you might enjoy some of the conversation that’s happening on the topic elsewhere. I’ve been following Q Ideas ever since reading Gabe Lyons’ & David Kinnaman’s 2007 book, unChristian (I also highly recommend Lyons’ 2010 follow-up book, The Next Christians). Q is an amazing resource for all things where faith and culture intersect, and this week’s collection of essays and videos on the question of faith & science brings some interesting perspective to the conversation.

You can check it out here.

We’ll continue the conversation Sunday, Aug. 3…stay tuned for more!

 

July 20 Gathering: Gender Roles–Enslaved or Empowered?

Do our perceptions of gender trap us in rigid boxes, or do they empower us to be more fully human?

This week (July 20), we’ll discuss biblical concepts of gender, misconceptions, and more empowering ways of viewing our unique contributions to the human project. We’ll look at some of the passages that have been traditionally used to create false dichotomies in gender with an eye to some of the contextual situations from which they arise.

We’ll also take a close look at the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery found in John 7:53-8:11. One often-overlooked aspect of this narrative is how Jesus confronts gender discrimination head-on in an unexpected and radical way.

Come and join us for a meal, a beverage, and authentic conversation!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm
Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

Upcoming Conversations…

One of the ongoing challenges of Christianity is dealing with false dichotomies in which we find ourselves as people who exist simultaneously in the world and the Kingdom. Our next few gatherings will address some of these issues and give us a chance to have some meaningful conversations with the goal of greater understanding.

Here’s the tentative schedule of topics (subject to change):

July 20: Gender roles — Are we enslaved or empowered?

August 3: Science & Faith — Mutually exclusive or inclusively mutual?

August 10: Sacred vs. Secular — Two worlds in tension or one world in grace?

What are your thoughts going into these discussions? What other false dichotomies should we discuss? Use the comment section below to share…