Generous Orthodoxy  




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Syria dancing: alternative cultures

Andy Crouch is coming to visit us on January 7-8 when he will speak at Christ Church Greenwich (CT). Here is a brief bio:

Author of the award-winning book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative alling, Andy Crouch is special assistant to the president at Christianity Today International, where he is also executive producer of This Is Our City, a multi-year project featuring video, reporting, and essays about Christians seeking the flourishing of their cities. He serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and Equitas Group, is a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission’s IJM Institute, and on the Board of Advisors for the John Templeton Foundation.

Andy's a Harvard graduate and one of the brightest and most sane voices of evangelical Christianity today. I am very interested in his book about "culture making," even though I have not had time to read it yet, because I saw this video that he made (open this link and scroll down):

http://www.courageandfaith.org/

At this very moment, a remarkable example of "culture making" is appearing in Syria. It has been widely covered; here is one link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/middleeast/in-uprising-syrians-find-spark-of-creativity.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=syria%20dancing&st=cse

The making of cultures that present alternatives to the overwhelming and pernicious influence of the one that we live and breathe every day is truly a Christian imperative, and when we see it happening in a Muslim country we can only rejoice at the works of God among the nations. For our own part, the way that the Lord has ordained for us to do this work is through the church. It is not and cannot be done by individuals who praise Jesus privately. It is accomplished by the Spirit through Christians working together.

A dear friend of ours has been in the forefront of such an alternative culture in the Massachusetts Berkshires. She and her church (St. James, Great Barrington), partnering with a local farm, have established a large garden which is maintained by local young people in tandem with the farm family and their workers. The fresh produce is harvested and taken to local food pantries, but even more important is the little community of mentoring and fellowship that has grown up around the project. Young people, some of whom have difficult situations at home, have found new directions at Gideon's Garden. They have learned to speak in public by testifying at St James' services. One young girl is even going to Ghana on a mission trip this spring, led by an Episcopal rector from a neighboring church (Christ Church-Trinity Lutheran in Sheffield). Most people involved with Gideon's Garden have not been to church in years, or have never been to a church at all. The project is therefore a remarkable example of evangelistic outreach, and it is likely that in decades to come, the young people will look back on it as their introduction to the love of Jesus Christ.

It is noteworthy that the St. James congregation has been without its building for three years. Their landmark building was declared unfit for use after stones began falling from it. They worship in a rented commercial space. And yet their "alternative culture" has grown stronger and is making a real impact in the local community. How often have we heard it: "It's not the building, it's the people!" but we don't necessarily believe it till we see it.