Recently, I had the honor of posting two blogs on the FiveTwo.com site. FiveTwo is all about sharpening sacramental entrepreneurs to start new spiritual communities. I've been working with FiveTwo at the local and national level since 2010 and enjoy being a regular contributor to their blog.
My two blogs covered the very important topic of how to work with, and preach in, a multi-ethnic setting. My proposals were to aim for hybridity -- in our understanding, preparation, methods, and delivery.
I offered, "Hybridity doesn’t begin in the pulpit. It starts with deliberate efforts to build “third spaces” where the multiple cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities in your community can come together to mix socially, borrow culturally, and learn from one another spiritually. Hybridity, at its best, should not favor one culture over the other, but instead should emphasize equilateral exchange. This should be evident not only in your pulpit (we will get to this later), but in our staffing, our programming, our discipleship, our outreach, our choir, our altar guild, or our Monday afternoon social sports teams. We have to build hybridity into our churches from the ground up, together."
Here are the links for the two blogs:
There was some significant pushback on this article. In fact, there were three specific critiques. While I hope to address these criticisms in subsequent, unique, blog posts, I want to take a moment to identify and briefly address them here:
- One commenter challenged that the liturgy (as conceived by confessional Lutherans) is universal. To this, I openly wonder -- is the liturgy truly universal? Has it not been adapted? Changed? How does it exclude and create boundaries? Furthermore, is a universal liturgy the goal? Should there not be a certain degree of contextualization? In the end, my discussion of hybridity is about contextualization, not universalization. Thus, the commenter and I are talking cross-purposes and aiming at different ends.
- Another interlocutor accused me of undermining the "office of preaching" and Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. For my non-Lutheran readership, I am sorry; this is particularly pedantic for you. I started to address this challenge on Twitter and intimated that hybrid preaching does not necessarily undermine the "office of preaching" as conceived in AC XIV. Having a creative team to help plan a preaching series, community exegetical work, and multiple preachers can all be guided and directed by an ordained and properly called pastor. Just as we have (LC-MS Lutherans and others) built upon the pastoral office to include commissioned positions (DCE, DCO, Deacon, Deaconess, teacher) so too we can invite multiple people into the process of preaching under the auspices of the regular call of the pastor who leads the process and not undermine that office.
- Finally, another commenter asked me to provide an "ideal hybrid service." Again, in reference to the first point above, I think this is missing my point. Hybrid services are inherently contextual. They are based in interpreting your local community and applying Scripture and confessional theology into the neighborhood you find yourself called to bless and serve. I can't give you a "ideal" hybrid service. That's the work I propose you do. You'll have to be the one to "keep your look in the book and your feet in the street." (Thanks Rev. Greg Seltz for that one!) In my article I put forward particular postures that can aid this process, but that's about as far as I can go. One of the beauties of our synod (again, the LC-MS here) is that we walk together as a synod, holding to central theological postures, but we are locally diverse (at least, at our best). We do not need, and indeed are reticent, to enforce conformity from the top-down. This call for contextualized, hybrid, structures, services, and preaching is an extension of the heart of our synodical, congregation-based, polity. Furthermore, it also underlines our sacramental, tangible, and flesh-and-blood-here-and-now-faith-in-the-streets theology.