NYWC St Louis Sunday 4 November
General Session #5: Ralph Winter, Jeff Johnson, Skit Guys, Zach Hunter, Ayeisha Woods

Seminar #4: Why Talking Helps, What Neuroscience has to tell us about relationships, personal narrative and spiritual formation.
Mark Matlock.

Seminar #5: Conflict..why can’t we just get along?
Jeanne Stevens.

General Session #6: Leeland, Starfield 59, Skit Guys, Greg Stier

I love people that push the boundaries of collective common Christian thought. Mostly because I find that common Christian thought isn’t particularly well-thought out, rather it’s been constructed from assumed knowledge and socially appropriate behaviours then adapted to maintain a set of power structures across generational shifts. So when people start talking about Christian sexuality in a way that gives single people permission to be sexual people too… I start to listen. I also listen when we start to talk about spiritual formation taking into account psychological, sociological, historical as well as contextual data.

When Ralph Winter, preeminent storyteller stands onstage at NYWC and starts talking about effective, powerful storytelling being about embracing the darkness that reveals the humanity of our stories.. I am compelled. Not because I haven’t heard this message before, but because it is so convicting to see a storyteller illuminating spiritual truth (not scripturally evidenced truth, which so often creates a perception problem) using Heroes, X-Men and stories that connect with culture. One of my favourite things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the way her character was actually written as a generation seen onscreen. Similarly, using advertisments that are iconic art and pop-culture references loaded with sub-text.. what I hope is that people stuck in the middle of safe, overly sanitised and saccherine Christian culture came to understand something different about real storytelling.

What I remembered was that there is a difference between content and message. Too often there is an intellectual obligation to content fulfilled beyond the compelling call of the soul. Narrative is a remedy to the human condition because we recognise ourselves, our better humanity and divinity in the stories we hear and see.
Standout Statement: The best storytellers allow the audience enough space to draw their own conclusions, to fill in the blanks, to colour and flavour it themselves, thereby allowing the story to be many things to many people. Uniquely and individually nuanced by the subtext of our own lives interacting and engaging with sometimes multiple subtexts within one piece. We identify with both mother, father, grandfather and daughter in Little Miss Sunshine. We are both Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine in X-Men. And the multiplexes are the temples of worship, the soul sanctuaries we journey to each week. We have such responsibility as storytellers, not only to excellence and to content, but to the darkness. The darkness is a requirement. It’s our humanity, it’s reality. It’s what makes our stories digestable.. and the canvas that creates space for the audience to see light emerging. We need to learn to love the dark.

Jeff Johnson’s Celt influenced contemplative, responsive singing worship experience this morning was beautiful and peaceful to listen to. It was interesting to observe this very trusting and engaged congregation allow themselves to be pushed out to another boundary. I am so envious of the broad stage these wonderful people have to experiment with people for their own good!

Likeminded thinkers are rare and beautiful creatures in my life. I so enjoyed my time with Steve Gerali on Thursday and Friday. Today’s delectable treat was Mark Matlock’s session on how Neuroscience informs a bunch of relevant stuff for working with and developing young people. I was torn between the Gerali/Olson CC and the Matlock one – so I’m glad I chose what I did, but I’m buying a lot of CD’s tomorrow. For starters – the same sense of Scripture infusing Matlock’s wisdom is present as was with Gerali. But here’s what I liked beyond the topic itself..He’s a fast talker, which suits me well as it keeps me really present and engaged with the materials, not just lost in my own application process. He’s smart and practical – realising that understanding the idea is more important that communicating technique alone. The communication around explicit/implicit knowledge systems and how they are formed/shaped/challenged, along with explicit/implicit memory was great. It was an excellent foundation for understanding in another way how some of the similar behaviour/thought patterns are birthed, percieved and reinforced. I found his presentation style great – and the notes, although they had some ‘fill in the blanks’ had a little bit of extra info too.
Standout Statement: We are hardwired to connect. Both nature and nurture have a role to play in the development of our biological and psychological selves. The key to integration between the two knowledge systems (ways of perceiving and understanding the world around us) is invariably relationship with others where we can verbalise, process and come to understanding of both the factual and emotional data. In these places, there are patterns of response and understanding constantly being formed and reformed. The key is working with young people to help them develop integration and understanding. Often this work is done through gently probing questions that cause them to examine the what, who, why, how.

Adjunct…while listening to Mutemath, You Are Mine…

“everyone has their obsession, consuming thoughts consuming time, they hold high their prize possession, it defines the meaning of their life..”

I am feeling so challenged in a positive way being present here. I am so much more comfortable in my identity both as a person, but also as a youthworker. I feel confident now, in ways I never would have. I’m ok living as a youthworker in a context different to how I would have perceived it before. It’s strange not thinking about taking it home and applying it to a specific group, but I’m sure that time of ministry will come again. In the meantime – it’s really informing some of my thinking and planning for Eastercamp.. I’ll come back to this.

Seminar #4 with Jeanne Stevens was interesting. I think I was expecting a deeper soul excursion. After Ralph Winter and Mark Matlock, I was ready to delve into the depths of my soul darkness and examine myself. The presentation itself was fine – she’s easy to listen to. I will admit there was a sense of fascination to hear her present as well. The content was fine, but nothing that truly pushed or challenged me, the only piece of seminar content so far that hasn’t won me over either way. The most interesting part for me was the initial scripture reading. Jeanne was looking for a volunteer and there’d been that awkward pause for a moment too long. So I read, and was halfway through before I realised with a sense of guilt that my accent was probably distracting and confusing, to the overall detriment of the purpose. So I shut my mouth for the rest of it.

General Session #6 kicked off with a great bang, namely Marko and Tic leaping around in costume in tribute to the Athletic Cheer competition that was sharing the building with us this weekend. At some point, I’ll share a profound reflection on that little idiom of American culture, but not now. Suffice it to say, it was the most inspiring cheering I have ever seen. I really liked what Leeland did, and didn’t mind Starfield either. I notice interesting ne

w patterns in the lyrical content of the songs that have been brought into worship. Lots of references to daughters and sons, the familial connection with Abba Father is really strong. There is more narrative appearing in the content as well.. which both intrigues and frustrates me as a worshipper.. because I don’t always want the song to go a forgone conclusion. Sometimes my story doesn’t end the same way as the song and I want permission to not finish it. But there must have been something in the water as a couple of ideas for Eastercamp that have been on slow cook, just came together in sheer moments. Brilliant.

Good thing I had something to think about though. I’ve never had much time for people who preach from anecdoctal evidences, particularly when the subject of the anecdote is themselves and gay and/or lesbians. I just have a deep sense of the injustice that the gay community suffers in many ways, and that we as followers of Jesus, need to learn to embrace the justice cause for everyone, including the gay community, not just the poor. It’s not only the poor that suffer injustice. They are separate causes. Anyway, Greg Stier from Dare 2 Share is one of those evangelist types that has stories about their conversations with gay people.

The important thing to point out and I’ll stand by it.. is that Greg Stier is obviously a really good-hearted genuine guy. His love for Jesus and people came rolling off stage. I personally struggled with his message of preached Christ Crucified and bringing everything we do back to the foot of the Cross.

Here’s why.

Firstly, words are important. Listen to Lucinda Williams sing ‘Words’ from her latest album, West. Words are really important. Language is just carelessly strung together. So when you use words like “Christ crucified”.. don’t let that language become null and void by not connecting it to EXACTLY what you mean.

Secondly, if you reduce the Christ through whom all things were created, the Christ who is presently interceding for us in Heaven, the Christ who was from the very beginning, Wisdom.. just to the Christ on the Cross, there is far too much of his character, personality and life cast aside. Yes, the cross is key and pivotal, but the cross is not the sum. So it’s an imperfect model to base all our youth ministry on. Because Christ is grace, risen redemption, creation, sabbath breaker etc etc. It is almost to suggest that a Christ before the cross is powerless if everything has to go to the cross.

Stier’s passion comes at you off the stage like a wave, both pleasant and overwhelming. It’s just a little too big for the break and the salt water sprays up your nose just enough that you have to feel uncomfortable in a way that isn’t challenging, it’s just uncomfortable cos you’re not meant to breathe salt water. Still, whilst not for everyone.. we live in a world where there are some for whom tonight was probably grand. Very possibly they own bullhorns.

Late night conversations: I have so loved hanging out with the boys from Heartland Vineyard, Cedar Falls, Iowa. They have been generous with their time, hearts and enthusiasm. I hope very much to stay in touch with them. I also really enjoyed a conversation with Mark Matlock today.. sharing a combined loathing for fill in the blanks notes and nasty assumptions about how people require groupwork and blank notes in order to learn anything. It was a bunch of fun. The conversation also ran into the desolate barren woman analogy again. I’m just stating for the record that it’s a concept from Wok Henton and I’ve been developing it.. and maybe one day I will write the book, the mass marketing plan & campaign, the book tour and speaking schedule. Mark “Mo-mo” Matlock, despite your threats, you’re not allowed to steal it.

What do you think?