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Dear SPECTRUM Website Friends,
We’ve been surprised (even if we should have known) by hard times. So the approaching holidays are just what we need. Thanksgiving reminds of us of what we (still!) have to be thankful for. And Christmas, as the poet said, tells “the merriest tale.”
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The wider church is under assault, with popular culture either ignoring it, attacking it or propagating deceptive stereotypes about it. Adventism is in the line of fire, too. And it’s not enough just to be indignant. The best response is for people of faith to find new strength through imagination and tenacity.
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President, Adventist Forum
On Saturday night, November 15, between 100 and 150 people visited the CREDO Art Show, held at the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. The CREDO Art show was an artistic exploration of The Apostles’ Creed and the culmination of nearly a year of thinking and planning and nearly three months of worship services and sermons.
The evening began at 7:00 pm when the doors to the church opened. Behind the scenes, a team of about a dozen people were scurrying to put the finishing touches on the main gallery. By 7:30 pm there were 70–80 people in the foyer of the church, eating refreshments that were also artfully created by another team of church members and friends. At 7:30 we gave a very brief introduction and opened the door to the main gallery. For the next two and a half hours people came and went, enjoying some incredible art and having conversation.
For years I have wanted to do a sermon series on The Apostles’ Creed, exploring the ancient statement of faith phrase by phrase. While many Christians repeat the creed weekly in worship it is quite foreign to most Seventh-day Adventists, so I felt it would be an ironically fresh and almost edgy way to approach the subject of “belief” and “beliefs.” Our congregation is also pretty action oriented. It’s unusual for us to spend several months talking about our beliefs, so I felt it would be a good change of pace.
But I wanted more than just a one-way conversation about the Apostles’ Creed, where I stood up front week by week and intoned about orthodoxy. I wanted a real conversation. Most worship services are not set up for this, including our own, but we devised some ways to increase the interactivity.
Each week there were blank sheets of paper in the bulletin with the subject of that week’s sermon, the creedal phrase we were exploring and the question, “What do you believe?” We invited people to write their expressions of faith and conviction or to draw sketches of their beliefs, during the sermon. We collected close to 100 of these pages during the course of our 12-week series. These results were beautiful and thoughtful. You can see a sample of these God, believe about Jesus, and and Jesus’ Nature. A more comprehensive feature will be coming soon.
The CREDO Art Show concept was hatched nearly a year ago in conversation with our leadership. Scott Arany, who is pursuing his M.A. in Worship, Theology and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary, and one of our church elders, wrote to me on December 4, 2007:
Something in my studies tonight prompted this idea that could go along with your idea for a sermon series on the Apostles Creed. Here are my rough thoughts. Let me know what you think.
Credo, “I Believe.” An artistic and musical representation of our faith…. Present as an art gallery with a concert. Music could be composed in advance…. I’ve long wondered what a visual statement of belief would look like, instead of only a printed sheet of bullet-points.
To see this dream fulfilled was inspiring. The goal was conversation; and a broader conversation than just words and the traditional vernacular of modern theological discourse. For centuries, music and the arts have been a central part of theological conversation. We wanted to revive this in our congregation. Our gallery—indeed, all art galleries or concerts—are about listening. One guest said to me, as we were looking a mixed-media piece in the gallery, “I like the fact that you guys are listening.” The comment took me by surprise. Not everyone would ‘get’ what we were doing so quickly, but he had discerned our intentions perfectly.
Among the paintings, photographs, poetry, an architectural model, a listening station, a sculpture and other mixed-media pieces, people’s faith was on display, and not just the faith of our church’s members. There were contributions from a local public high school, from friends of our members, and from friends of friends. Dozens of people visited the gallery that night that I had never seen before. We knew we didn’t want to spend a lot of money and time putting on an art show for our members alone. It just didn’t seem worth it. But the prospect of widening the conversation about faith through art to include our community outside the church was something that really excited us.
Our congregation is blessed with some incredible artists. If I tried to name them all I would certainly miss several, but one example will do. Sean Amlaner is a graduate of Southern Adventist University. He has been in Los Angeles for the past two years working in Hollywood as a special-effects artist on major motion pictures like The Incredible Hulk. Sean was the mastermind behind the transformation our very ordinary Chapel into an art gallery. He marshaled the energies of more than a dozen volunteers who worked tirelessly until the moment the doors opened.
It was a group effort that involved dozens of our members, friends in other churches and in our community, over almost a year.
If you attended the show, we would love to know what you thought. Please leave a comment below about your experience.
Ryan Bell is Pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church where this report was originally posted.
The Watford Observor reports:
The British headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church has been destroyed by fire.
Firefigthers battled this afternoon to contain a devastating blaze at the organisation's Stanborough Park offices, in St Albans Road.
The nearby church building was not damaged.
Eyewitness Jo Hart said: “I really can’t believe what I’m seeing, smoke and flames are coming from all over the place. It looks like half the building is missing.
“There are police cars and ambulances everywhere.”
Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said it was called to the blaze at around 2.10pm this afternoon.
Ten crews attended the scene. No casualties were reported.
Witness Paul Day saw part of the building collapse. He said: "We heard a noise like thunder as part of the roof was coming down. It's really bad there - it looks like the whole thing is ready to come down."
h/t Jeff Crocombe
As you know more please share info and links in the comment section.
I was just catching up on some news from the week. While watching this CNN interview with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Wolf Blitzer introduces an "I Reporter" question about a statement then GOP Vice-presidential candidate Gov. Palin made to James Dobson shortly before the election.
If you can make it through the barage of words in the first minute, you see and hear the question.
This really isn't about Gov. Palin (has she jumped the shark yet?), but about the the abuse of communicating with God.
Here's the actual quotes from the Dobson interview from beliefnet:
Dobson says to her, "We're on the same team. I'm just trying to serve the Lord as you are." He notes that he and other ministers have prayed for "God's intervention" and that "God's perfect will will be done in November the fourth."
"Well, it is that intercession that is so needed and so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power or prayer and that strength is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation and I so appreciate it. [Dobson says, " Well, you hear that everywhere you do, don't you?] I do, and that is what allows us to continue to be inspired and strengthened. And it's just a great reminder also when we hear along the rope lines that people are interceding for us and praying for us; it's our reminder to do the same, to put this all in God's hands, to seek his perfect will for this nation and to, of course, seek his wisdom and guidance in putting this nation back on the right track."
Dobson says that he and other pastors have been praying to God for his intervention in the election: "We were just asking for, rather boldly asking, for a miracle with regard to the election this year.."
"it also strengthens my faith because I'm going to know at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done, the end of the day on November 4th. "
. . .
as we seek God's wisdom and His will in this election, we have to have faith that it's all going to be good at the end of the day there on November 4th as this country moves forward."
I'd say the "I Reporter" guy got it right. But did Gov. Palin?
Did God answer only the safety prayers, just not the future of the nation prayers?
Did God send a message that the future of the nation doesn't lie with the GOP or Gov. Palin in executive leadership?
Was evil too powerful in electing Obama?
I could go on, but I hope that when politicians and pastors and the rest of us invoke God's will and the power of prayer in our communities we think through the implications. Why? Because prayer matters.
It seems that those who use prayer for power points or invoke the divine will for results that dissolve into illogic all dishonor this sacrament.
The Lone Star Four aka The King's Heralds c. 20s and 30s.
The King's Heralds - In that great getting-up morning
From: "Volume Five - 1962-1967"
Members: Bob Edwards, John Thurber, Jack Veazey, Jim McClintock Keyboards: Brad Braley.
Medley sung by: John Ramsey (1st tenor), Jerry Patton (2nd tenor), Jack Veazey (Baritone), and Jim McClintock (Bass), from 1971-1977. Both of these songs were recorded originally on the album "It's Spiritual" in 1974.
Thanks to "BlkMuscGent" who identifies the picture.
Bob(?) Seaton (2nd Tenor), J. Mills (Bass), Bob Edwards (1st tenor), and Wayne Hooper (Baritone).
Am I missing something here?
Today, the Adventist Review just sent out their newsletter with a subject line heralding that the North American Division "Membership Tops 1 Million."
Continuing the trend of the past few years, more than 1 million people are baptized members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said G. Alexander Bryant, secretary of the world church division.
Back in 2004 the Adventist Review News reported that:
North American Division membership has passed the one million mark-1,001,872 as of October 21, 2004.
Apparently the news is that we're continuing to top one million. Hmm?
According to the most recent numbers helpfully available for us lay folk through the church's adventiststatistics.org, in 2006 the NAD recorded 1,041,715 members.
I applaud the focus on weeding out the excess on the books, but if, as the secretary states, the NAD grew at a 2% rate over the last five years (including losses) than we should be just hovering around 1,100,000. (The 2003 membership was 992,046.) Four years later, the news is that the NAD tops 1 million?
What's missing from the most recent Annual Council report in the Adventist Review is the actual 2007 number. Why?
Also not included in the report: the amount of money invested by the division, unions, conferences, local churches and individuals in public evangelism during 2007.
Interestingly, in the same news report we are told that the the North American Division has set a goal of adding 100,000 new members in 2009.
an evangelistic outreach called 'Share The Hope' which will launch Jan. 3 with a day of prayer and include 'reaping' meetings in April and September.
The effort will involve local church meetings, weekly television and satellite broadcasts, and a broad-based evangelistic effort. The General Conference previously set 2009 as a global 'Year of Evangelism.'
Broad? In the era of narrowcasting and individualized email communications - that sounds like a whole lotta out-of-date public evangelism. But don't take my word for it.
As a supporter of effective Seventh-day Adventist® evangelism, I'm eager to see how the NAD will deploy membership resources to quintuple its growth rate in a year.
But are we really ready to be aggressive enough with our truth in the marketplace of ideas?
Then what does the fact that seven whole people (before I post this) have watched this almost month old It is Written YouTube video tell us?
This message fights every day with exactly the sorts of messages present in every North American's life. If folks don't listen to it from the comfort of their own homes, why for example, is the Southern California Conference spending significant parts of their stated 1 million dollar budget on the hope that these same people will drive to hear it at the Shrine Expo Center?
Do church leaders even pay attention to what each other actually say. Rich DuBose, director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference, writes:
Public evangelism has its place, but it should never be looked to as the primary definition of what evangelism is. I'm saying that when members hear the word, evangelism, instead of thinking of a 4-6 week series of meetings, they should think of the many incredible opportunities that surround them every day to touch people's lives for God.
Okay, I'm ready. Is leadership? Are they putting our money where their mouth is?
A little over a year ago, Ryan Bolger, associate professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, and an observer and writer on the emerging church, asked if I would write a short piece about how, in my experience, emerging forms of church are taking shape within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My essay, “From the Margins: Engaging Missional Life in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is one of eight recently published in the Fall 2008 issue of Theology News & Notes. In the introduction to this issue, guest editors Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs give an excellent overview of what they see across the world when they talk to emerging church leaders. But a question kept coming up in the United States.
“When we wrote [Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culture] in 2005, most of the U.S. communities we interviewed were church plants…. Invariably came the question in the United States…, what about emerging churches within American denominations? What is happening there? From what we observed in 2001-2004, very little. What we did find on emerging denominational life we offered in the book. However, much has changed in the last three to four years. We see emerging initiatives within traditional churches as the next horizon for the spread of emerging church practices in the United States.”
My article, which you can read in its entirety here, will not give you definitions of emerging church, Emergent Village, or missional church. You will have to discern those from the context. But it will explain, from my vantage point (which is the only one I have) how the Adventist Church in the U.S. is emerging in our time and how I’ve been a part of that for the past 8 years.
In order to grasp the larger picture of the emerging church landscape I highly recommend Gibbs and Bolger’s introductory essay in this issue of Theology News & Notes, as well as their well-researched 2005 book, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in a Postmodern Culture.
For more about re-church, click here.
Correction: Footnote 4 in my article, “From the Margins,” incorrectly states the publication date. It should be Spring 2005.
Since we have several articles and reviews up on the new Emergent movement, we'll be turning the comments off here and focusing the Emergent discussion in the book review section, click here to comment.
One of the most interesting parts of Conrad Ostwalt’s book, Secular Steeples, is his comparison of secular and sacred apocalyptic films. One of the characteristics of secular apocalyptic films is that humans must and do overcome the apocalyptic threat before them through world unity, technological advancements, military might, etc. Contrary to this, sacred apocalyptic films wait for God to act decisively while humans must endure the violence around them. Lately, I have observed a string of video games that mirror Ostwalt’s secular apocalyptic criteria. Games like Fallout 3 and Resistance 2 might just seem like re-hashed first person shooters, and while Mirror’s Edge abandons weapons for acrobatics, their worlds beg further analysis.
Amid all the election talk last Monday, NPR aired an interview with film critic/historian David Thomson. During the interview, he suggested that some of America’s best films were made during times of great national crisis, like The Great Depression for example. He claimed that during those times, people were starved for truth regarding and firm answers to the problems they faced. Filmmakers, in search of the same, responded with more honest films. Thomson expressed some measured excitement over and hope for the possibility of great filmmaking to emerge during the tough times that our nation currently faces.
I wonder if the same cannot be said of the video game industry. Will creators, faced with the same crises, respond as effectively and as imaginatively? In recent years, creators have focused more intensely on story, seeking out narratives that catch up to graphics in terms of beauty and intrigue. Are games like Fallout 3, Resistance 2, and Mirror’s Edge, all games with some virtual dystopic element, responses to the threat of real world dystopia.
Apocalyptic themes in video games are not unique to the twenty-first century. They can be found throughout the history of video games from the controversial Doom series to the various Terminator film video game remakes. So, in a way, the video games about which I write here are nothing revolutionary. Wikipedia offers a category of post-apocalyptic video games that includes well over 50 titles (and is in need of updating). In fact, the numbers attached to the end of the first two games discussed here should tell us something. Fallout 3 is the third installment in a series of popular apocalyptic video games on the PC. Resistance 2 is a follow up to the surprise success of Resistance: Fall of Man, a first-person shooter exclusively for the PS3.
Fallout 3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., and, as the main character, you are one of the survivors. Born in a large, sophisticated bomb shelter, you have never seen the outside world until now. As a young adult, you manage to escape and find the outside world ravaged by what was surely an atomic bomb. Survivors have huddled together in shanty towns (villages). The monuments of D.C. off in the horizon are ashen husks of their former glory. You are in search of your father and can find him by interacting with other survivors, helping them with various tasks in return for information. All the while, you have to battle fearsome mutants and gigantic cockroaches (they really do survive nuclear holocaust). Oh, and along the way, you will decide the fate of more than one city through your actions. In the vein of the Grand Theft Auto series, the world is very much open for exploration. You are free to explore as you please, although acquiring certain items, weapons, and skills will make further exploration much more manageable. (I paid dearly for crossing the river to check out the monuments straight out of the bomb shelter). The ways in which you interact with others affects your character’s attributes and just how trusting of you future acquaintances will be. Virtual karma.
In Resistance 2, the alien Chimera virus that plagued Europe in Resistance: Fall of Man has now spread to the United States. As the main character, Nathan Hale, you find yourself in the midst of the apocalyptic battle with the mutant invaders across the country. Far from waiting on some divine assistance, you arm yourself to the teeth with massively over-sized weapons, a la Gears of War, and meet the enemy head on. Apparently the game’s only shortcoming, according to critics, is its weak story line. The creators have downplayed narrative and clearly emphasized non-stop action with everything larger than life. This too is an apparent short-coming of it’s XBOX 360 counterpart, Gears of War. One of Resistance 2’s many strengths, however, is its massive online functionality which boasts competitive and cooperative modes that will keep players engaged well beyond the completion of the campaign mode.
Mirror’s Edge is simply unlike any other game out there. It takes place in a world that is much more beautiful and attractive, and much less explicitly violent, than Fallout 3 or Resistance 2. Set in the not-too-distant future, the game’s glossy, pristine city is a veneer for a much more disturbing reality. The government watches everyone and everything. Behave, and you are fine…step out of line, and you are finished. As the main character, Faith, you operate as a runner transmitting packages and information for your clients. With the police mildly interested in your work, at least enough to shoot at you or pursue you, you get the sense that you are not only serving criminals, but revolutionaries that would seek to overthrow a pseudo-fascist government. The game encourages non-lethal combat to disarm the police as the focus is on the completion of missions as fast as possible. (There will be online competitions and rankings to see who is the fastest at completing each level). Mirror’s Edge draws on the growing popularity of parkour and free running which see cities as giant playgrounds with limitless potential for injury (death?)-defying stunts and movement.
There is no one explanation for the release of these films and their use of (post) apocalyptic, dystopic worlds. Certainly money is an issue, especially where sequels are involved. In the case of Mirror’s Edge, we have a fresh idea and gameplay on our hands. But what of the audience reaction to these films? Their financial viability signals an enthusiastic, eager audience. Perhaps these games simply allow us the ability to literally play out these critical scenarios. Like watching horror films, we can live out, or play out, our fears, or at least these scenarios. Terror does play a crucial role in Fallout 3 and Resistance 2, while the adrenaline from being pursued or shot at in Mirror’s Edge boosts your character’s performance.
These games are violent to varying degrees, with Resistance 2’s blood-and-guts-shoot-em-up the most over-the-top of the three. You can minimize violent contact in Fallout 3, but if you do engage enemies, you can target heads and limbs for gruesomely explosive shots. In fact, the new combat system and visuals in the game heighten your actions and their consequences. So these games, despite their varying compelling story lines and settings, will still find themselves in the on-going discussion of video game violence and gamers’ obsession with violent product.
Yet these settings and their story lines are no doubt responsible for the overwhelmingly positive reviews that they have garnered thus far. Perhaps these stories and settings provide a welcome break from the World War II re-hashes that have made the Call of Duty war video game series so popular. In fact, this series has quickly and virtually responded to changes in real life warfare and how we fight terrorism. One of the most recent installments, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, has you playing as a team up of British and American special forces in a hunt from Baghdad to Russia for a terrorist mastermind. Perhaps the games discussed here are an extension of that transition and an expression not of how we fight, but of our fears of war and the results of it.
Ryan Parker is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate Theological Union and blogs at Pop Theology.