Some weeks we have a single topic that drives our conversation. Some weeks we have no specific topics. And some weeks, like this one, we have several ideas we can spend some time thinking and talking about. So here we go with a set of short conversation prompts. Let’s see how many we get to:
- We are now nearly halfway into the church season of Lent, the time of preparation leading up to Holy Week and Easter. As this article from Mockingbird points out, Lent is also a season when we might want to engage in a personal inventory. The idea here, borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, is “To examine those things done and left undone and peer at the unmentionable parts of life we’d much rather forget.” What do you think of the idea of taking personal inventory? Is this something you would do, or have done? What was that experience like for you? How difficult was it, or how difficult do you imagine it could be?
- By now I expect we are all familiar with the reality of the decline in religious affiliation and church attendance. But as this article from Patheos reveals, “[A]s much as 10% of the population dropped out of church but remained religious, most of whom were women, and mostly Gen Xers or Boomers … The group in question still held broadly orthodox views of God, such as monotheism, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. Further, these people had broadly positive feelings about religion, even if they were somewhat pessimistic concerning the church. This group reported maintaining strong private religious practices and views, but masking their religious identity publicly, compartmentalizing this part of their identity internally.” So what do you make of these so-called “lone Christians,” people who have left the church, but not the faith? We’ve talked before about the idea of faith in community, and the important role of participation in religious life. Can someone still be a Christian if they don’t participate in its practices? Or is exiting religious community while maintaining Christian identity a rational response to the very real problems that plague churches today, across denominational boundaries?
- Step into a church on a Sunday morning, pretty much any church, and a common experience will likely be music, whether traditional hymns and choirs or praise bands and worship leaders. Music is an integral part of many worship traditions, and that music features words that seek to instruct, offer praise, inspire, and so on. As this article from Patheos points out, this is in keeping with the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” The notion here is that while we may live out the Gospel and witness to our faith through our actions, absent words those actions may be misinterpreted or misattributed. The words clarify the meaning of our faith. Is that also true of music as an expression of faith? Can sacred music come without words? What role does music play in your faith life? If music is important to your faith, is it the words that matter? Or is it something else?
We’ll start with these three ideas and see where the conversation takes us from there. Join us for the discussion tomorrow evening, March 14, beginning at 7pm at Casa Real in downtown Oxford.