Monday, June 22

Spiritual Jazz

I'm attending a conference on spiritual formation this week. It is sponsored by Renovare', an organization founded by Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and others to teach and provide resources to churches, ministries, and individuals regarding spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation. I've chosen to be here as a part of my sabbatical - finding ways to enhance my personal spiritual formation and my ability to lead others in their development.

The main sessions feature some of the best contemporary writers in the area of spiritual formation: Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, John Ortberg, and others. Some are more dynamic speakers than others, but all have great content and the ability to help you think about issues from new perspectives.

Maybe my favorite session so far was a workshop called "Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith." It was led by Robert Gelinas, a pastor from Denver who recently wrote a book called Finding the Groove. I've not read the book, but the content of the workshop really resonated with me for a couple of reasons.

The is that I'm a jazz fan. I love listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Count Basie, WyntonMarsalis, and others. I love the improvisation of jazz, how jazz musicians can take a basic melody and make it their own while staying in the framework of the key and ensemble. I love the way members of a good jazz band respond to one another and take turns passing the lead from person to person. There is structure, there is freedom, there is community, and there is individuality within jazz.

The other reason I resonated with the workshop is that I feel those things are often missing in the pre-packaged, program-oriented life of the church. We are often more like a marching band - straight lines, matching uniforms, and whole sections playing the identical notes while marching to make prescribed formations. We try to fit everyone into that framework, specifying how a Christian looks, thinks, acts, etc. There is often no room for improvisation or individuality. No freedom to express ones own creativity or the unique strengths we bring to the table.

These ideas are going to be bouncing around in my brain for a while and you'll be reading more about them, I'm sure. But I like the image of spiritual jazz.


Jake T said...

You get to hear Richard Foster speak?

Ok, now I'm jealous.

Kenneth said...

Hi greaat reading your post