Scripture, Poetry, and the “Irrational David”

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Linda Kurtz is curating a series we’re affectionately referring to as our NEXT Church book club, which aims to share insights on a variety of texts – and how they have impacted our bloggers’ ministries. Understanding that reading in and beyond one’s field is important to offering good leadership, we offer this series to get your juices flowing on what books you might read next. What are you reading that’s impacting how you think about and/or do ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jenny Warner

When I get stuck, I call Ken Evers-Hood.

And when you read his new book, you’ll know why he’s on my speed dial of advisers.

Ken and I met as pastors in the same presbytery in Oregon. As a new pastor, serving three hours from the hub of most other churches, I had few true colleagues. Ken invited me to sit in the back row with him, included me in the irreverent commentary of the younger pastors (by which I mean those under 55), all the while sharing with me a great love of the presbytery and its process.

I learned to trust Ken’s perspective, and so when he invited me to join him in a yearlong leadership cohort with the poet David Whyte in 2015, I said yes. The experience changed both of us. We found a community and a construct that took us further in ministry, our lives and our future. Our collective engagement with David’s work taught us to bring our whole selves to bear in our vocation. We learned to trust where vulnerability leads us, which is perhaps the most radical move a leader in contemporary America can make, religious or not.

Ken found another companion in this wholehearted journey in David of the Bible – a shepherd, king, musician, poet, friend, lover, and full-throated human. In this book, you will see David with a lens that opens fresh possibilities of being faithful, not perfect.

In his first book, The Irrational Jesus, Ken offered his doctoral research on decision-making and leadership in the church. In this book, The Irrational David, Ken dives deep and has “a real conversation,” as David Whyte would say. He brings Scripture, philosophy, theology, poetry, literature, and psychology into a conversation that puts us all at ease because of Ken’s profound vulnerability.

For those who are struggling to articulate a faith that is not either/or in the aftermath of the liberal/fundamentalist battles, Ken masterfully articulates a faith that honors the complexity of postmodern understandings in a way that is grounded and undefended. He doesn’t let either side get away with defended polarities and invites us into faithfulness and wholeness instead.

My copy of this book will be full of underlining and coffee stains as I return over and over to see what Ken has to say about the text I’m preaching on. His words often say what I intuit, but am not yet able to articulate. As a gift to preachers, he brings along references from literature, history, and life that will make Scripture come alive week after week. This book is a trusted dance partner in the rhythm of life with God.

Editor’s note: The Irrational David is not available yet, but you can sign up to receive an email from Amazon when it is available there. This post will be updated when the book is available (any day now!).

Jenny Warner is pastor at Valley Presbyterian Church on the western edge of the Silicon Valley. She loves the challenge of pastoring on the West Coast. She and Chris have two teenage daughters and a Bernese Mountain Dog named Holly.

Spacious Christianity

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sarah Dianne Jones is curating a series written by our workshop leaders at the 2017 National Gathering. What excites them about the Gathering? What are they looking forward to sharing and discussing during their workshop? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jenny Warner and Steven Koski

Most days, our mission statement feels like an impossible task: creating spaces of grace to cultivate hope, healing and purpose. We do that in Oregon, a part of the country that is decidedly post-Christian, non-Christian or uber-Christian, if you know what we mean. Is it possible to own the Christian story in a way that is authentic, not born out of reaction, that allows our arms, minds and souls to be open in love to the world while still embracing Jesus?

We call this way of faith Spacious Christianity.

We stumbled into Spacious Christianity because we longed for a place beyond the labels of progressive and conservative. We longed for a place that welcomes people on every place in their journey, for a place that doesn’t set parameters around who is in or out or what you can ask and what you can’t, for a place where we can unapologetically follow Jesus and most importantly, where we can be in a community that is serious about spiritual transformation. A place where there is room to grow, change and develop. A place where you can throw in your whole heart or sit around the edges while your wounds heal.

We’re in there. We’re planning services and sermons every week. We’re negotiating the needs and desires of a large diversity of parishioners and we’re doing the daily business of keeping a church up and running while trying to hold the big picture. Our church isn’t perfect but it’s real. And it’s connecting and growing. We aren’t pastoring perfectly, but we’re giving it our best. We are sharing our journey hoping it will connect with yours.

We believe we’re not alone. We think there are thousands who want to move into a more spacious place in their faith. We know there are church leaders – paid and unpaid – who long for their faith community to be a home for religious refugees. We are sharing our story and hoping you’ll find your journey reflected and taken.

In our workshop, “Spacious Christianity,” we will explore creating a culture of innovation and grace that makes space for bold experimentation. We will look at the journey a mission statement can take into theological and spiritual understanding. We hope our story will spur discussion about what others’ are discovering in their unique contexts.

Spacious Christianity: Church in the None and Done Zone of the Pacific Northwest” will be offered on Monday of the 2017 National Gathering during workshop block 1.

Jenny Warner is the Pastor for Justice, Spirituality and Community at First Presbyterian Church in Bend, Oregon. She provides organizational structure for a church adapting to new growth in the midst of cultural change and cultivated strategic justice partnerships.

Steven Koski is Lead Pastor at First Presbyterian in Bend, Oregon. In 10 years, the church has embarked on initiatives including opening a café, a partnership in Guatemala, forging ecumenical partnerships for youth and developing a Wellness Center.