an emerging, missional Christian community in the Scranton, PA area:
rooted in the Episcopal Church, welcoming all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Gospel and Nation

So, yesterday while attending a traditional parish for morning worship, I had an experience that reminded me why it is so important to imagine and embody new forms of church life for today's world.

Churches in this country (and something similar is probably true in other countries as well, I just can't speak for them) have long thought of themselves as part of the great American project. It has been hard to distinguish the difference between church life and good citizenship. We long believed that being a good Christian and being a good American would never conflict. For many of us the war in Iraq is a powerful instance where the two do conflict, and we have had to make a choice whether to stand with Jesus or support an unjust war in the name of "patriotism." But the truth is, it's not just this war that poses a problem. It is the long history (some would say going all the way back to Constantine in the 4th century!) of the church aligning itself with worldly power (that is, the power to coerce and dominate through violence--which, as Jesus showed on the cross, is not true power at all).

So, back to yesterday. Our "sequence hymn" was "America the Beautiful" -- a nod toward the Memorial Day holiday. For those of you who are not Episcopalian, the sequence hymn takes place just before the Gospel reading. I once heard a priest refer to this as "traveling music" because we sing as the Gospel book is carried down into the congregation. The result of linking this song with this liturgical moment was that just as the congregation was singing, "America, America" I looked up to see the gospel book coming down the aisle raised high by the priest. I couldn't help but think of a passage from Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins. He describes a time in the not so distant future when American Catholics would break away from Rome forming the American Catholic Church and playing the Star Spangled Banner at the elevation. I realized that what was satire for Percy had become reality. One does not have to recall the Christian support for Nazi Germany (though this was an extreme and frightening case) to realize how dangerous it is to confuse national allegiances with our allegiance to Christ. But how tempting it is to think that being a Christian will be easily compatible with all the other claims people may want to make on us.

One of the exciting things about Peacemeal is that we are creating a space where conversations about competing allegiances can happen. This is not to say that we all agree, or that we all have to agree. It's just that starting something new allows us to ask questions about practices that other parishes are unable or unwilling to question precisely because they have become so habitual.

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Peacemeal Kids

Last night we had our first children's worship experience. Our kids, the only children who are a part of Peacemeal so far, have kind of just wandered in and out of our worship experience. They would hang around with the adults for awhile and then get some snacks and go upstairs to watch a movie -- it has been one of the highlights of the "friday night gathering" for them. Since reading Reimagining Spiritual Formation, by Doug Pagitt and the Solomon's Porch community, and learning about the ways they involve their children in the community, we've been wanting to do something more for our children. So Peacemeal has decided to do a special Bible story and craft activity for kids, which will take place simultaneously with the first part of our regular worship. The kids' project will happen at the other end of the long room from where the adults worship. Adults in our group who feel called to plan and lead will take turns. Anyone else who is willing helps with operation keep-the-baby-safe. He still crawls arond trying to put his hand in people's drinks and to eat bits of snacks which have fallen on the floor.

I took the first turn at leadership last night and it was a really special time with my own kids. I told them to imagine that I was their Sunday School teacher (they still go to Sunday School in a traditional parish) -- I figured they would listen better to me if they imagined me to be someone other than their mom. We said a prayer together - like the three headed monster in Whose Line Is It Anyway -- each one of us adding the next word to the prayer. I wish I'd written it down as we did it - because even in its silliness it was actually quite beautiful and poetic. Then we read a Children's Bible version of the Ascension story. We made shrinky dinks of the characters or things in the story (the 11 disciples, Jesus -- complete with jets for getting to heaven -- a cloud, some flowers and a rainbow). As we made the shrinky dinks, we talked about how Jesus might have felt about going home, about how his disciples might have felt watching him go. By the time we baked the shrinky dinks, the adult worship had reached the time for passing of the peace. We passed the peace with the adults and then told our story and showed off our shrinky dinks. Hopefully on most nights the kids will remain with the rest of the group for Eucharist, but last night it was late enough that they needed to get to bed.

Because my guys liked their snacks and movie experience so much I feared they might complain about this new system, but they had a great time! As we sat by the oven watching our colorful pictures curl up and then flatten out, my four year old turned to me and said, "Mom I'm really glad we got to do this tonight!" So Peacemeal children are in the mix now. Many thanks to Solomon's Porch for the inspiration.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Coffee Talk

Our Stammtisch last night at Northern Light was really interesting (missed out on what the heck this Stammtisch thing is? Read this post). Dan, Clare, Jillian, and myself were the people from our little community, and we were joined, some by invitation, but mostly by "coincidence," by several others. I think the group swelled to about 9 people before all was said and done. There were times when 3 or 4 conversations were happening at once. We ran into several people from Marywood, which has rarely happened to me while sipping a cup o' joe at Northern Light.

I'd like to personally give a shout-out (man, I'm so not hip!) to Bill and Matt. They happened to come in to Northern Light and join us. Matt (and Bill, too, I think) knows Clare and I've met them both on occassion. We had a great time talking, and Clare and I enjoyed the task of answering their question about how we all know each other. This led to some direct talk about Peacemeal, what we're about, how we started, who we are open to (anyone!), etc...Hopefully between Clare and I we made some sense. Of course, I probably rambled on and on. But it was great sharing with some new people a bit about our little community. What is even greater is being ASKED by others what we're all about. It makes it much more like a conversation and much less like an effort to proselytize.

So, here's to Stammtisch! Speaking of which, we're probably going to re-name our weekly hang-out time to something more accessible.

I've offered up "Brews and Beans." What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Meeting Updates

Because of some unavoidable Friday conflicts, we've had to change some of our upcoming meeting nights. Here's a quick update of the changes:

Sunday, May 21, 5:30 (no meeting this Friday the 19th)
Sunday, May 28, 5:30 (no meeting on Friday the 26th)
Friday, June 2, 5:30 (regular meeting time)
Saturday, June 10, 5:30 (no meeting on Friday the 9th)

After this we will go back to our regular Friday night meeting time. We will keep to the same format, potluck dinner at 5:30, worship at 7:00.

If you are interested in joining us some Friday night for our house church gathering contact Josh ( or Scott (

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stammtisch Changes

IMPORTANT CHANGE: Due to a change in their business hours (now closing at 9 instead of 10), we will be moving the just-inaugurated Wednesday night Stammtisch from the Aroma Cafe to Northern Light Espresso Bar, 536 Spruce Street, Scranton. This is still a downtown location, which is where we want to be.

Also, we are thinking that the name "Stammtisch" isn't the most accessible in the world, so keep your eyes peeled for a new moniker for our weekly hang-out/conversation times.

So, to recap:
TUESDAYS, 8:30ish - ??: the Banshee Irish Pub, 320 Penn Avenue, downtown Scranton

WEDNESDAYS, 8:00ish - ??: Northern Light Espresso Bar, 536 Spruce Street, downtown Scranton

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Website Updates

A quick plug for our main website, I've updated our "Events" section to include pages and details for our 3 different weekly gatherings, as well as our monthly, special, and past events. I noted the changes in the "News" section on the home page.

I hope you are all having a wonderful and blessed week.

Peace to you,

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stammtisch - Join Us for Weekly Conversations

In case you are familiar with what a "Stammtisch" is and are a bit confused, no, we are not a group of German speakers who are also interested in the emerging church.

Before I lose readers with shorter attention spans (hey, I know you're out there; I'm one when reading blogs at times, too!), here is the important info:

Stammtisch - a Weekly Time for Informal Conversation and Tomfoolery with Peacemeal

    Tuesday nights, 8:30-??
    The Banshee Irish Pub, 320 Penn Avenue, Scranton

    Wednesday nights, 8:00-??
    **Location Change due to change in business hours**
    Aroma Cafe, 901 Mulberry Street, Scranton
    Northern Light Espresso Bar, 536 Spruce Street, Scranton
So, what is this weird word we're using? For most people, they may read the word "Stammtisch" and say, "Bless you!" But no, we didn't sneeze. From

    "In Germany, a Stammtisch is a table reserved for regular customers at a restaurant or pub ... They go by various names—German Language Circle, Teestunde, German Happy Hour, Die Gruppe, Stammtisch—but they all have one thing in common: practicing and enjoying German in an informal setting. German conversational groups meet in private homes or local restaurants in places as diverse as Seattle, London, Berlin, or Sydney. Such groups may meet once a week, every two weeks, or monthly. (Weekly is best!)"
For Peacemeal, you can replace in the above description of "Stammtisch" the "practicing and enjoying German in an informal setting" part with something like "practicing and enjoying a life modeled after Christ and the early Church." We have been dreaming since almost our inception about how to live together more as a community in ways that bring us together beyond just Friday night meals and worship. With that in mind, and also with a goal of being present in the world and to our larger community of the public in the Scranton area, we're going to try to start these two Stammtisches.

If you've been interested in who we are, what we're like, what we're doing ... please meet up with us on one of these two nights. We think this will be a great, informal, non-threatening, comfortable way for anyone who is intrigued by us to get to know us a bit better on their own terms. And for those that already feel like they are connecting with what we're doing, reading, and talking about but don't feel like they can make a huge commitment right now, please come and hang out and talk with us on these nights whenever you feel like you can.

I'm not sure if we'll have a metal Stammtisch sign for our table, but look at our Flickr photo page and I'm sure you'll recognize one of us. See you there!

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Fridays at Our House

My first post! Finally...It's Friday. Since Peacemeal was born last fall, Fridays have a rhythm at our house. It's 10 a.m. now and the house is a bit of a wreck, but already our little boys have asked if people are coming over. They love Friday nights. Maybe it's just that they love the sweet snacks, and going up to our room to watch movies during the meeting. But I think it's more than that. They love the Friday night people... Jillian, who always has a hug for our cuddly middle son ... Dan, whose job it seems to be now to help our 6 yr. old honey bear pour out a glass of caffeine free Pepsi... Josh, who patiently pulls the baby off of the stairs when the gate is left off. I have memories of Eric oohing and ahhing over a makeshift birthday card created for him by one of the boys, and of Pat coming early to help when the baby was small, holding him while I bustled around, bustling around for me when I needed to hold him. I've seen Clare cuddled up on the couch singing to our four year old and Christina being goofy with them in response to their corny jokes. Kelli always speaks directly to the baby in big people words, but with a friendly-to-little-people-voice -- she's expanding his vocabulary weekly, I think.

Bit by bit through the day -- or sometimes all at once in the last half hour before people arrive (and then often there is hollering involved) -- the house gets picked up. Some nights it's even clean. Some nights there is time to light candles and put on a CD with interesting music. Once in awhile I wonder where I will get the energy to carry me through until the gathering is over and I can rest. But every night, every single week, when our sisters and brothers walk through the door, the Spirit blows in too. At least once each night - without fail -- I find myself thinking how blessed we are that God has given us Peacemeal, that we are surrounded by such amazing people in a common life of faith.Since our community meal I've noticed a new energy, a new buzz in the midst of the collective "us" on friday nights. This is the joy that comes in looking for and finding Jesus among the poor. I wrote a bit about our first community meal in a sermon I delivered at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem a few weeks ago. Here is a link to that sermon:

Peace to all from Peacemeal!

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Quick Update

Hello, everyone! I thought I'd write a quick line to let people know that we are still here, but since most of us have a connection to some sort of University setting (be it professor, student, or spouse of one or the other), we have been swamped with end of the semester stuff. Add to that a sick infant and a Diocesan youth retreat to lead, and you'll see why there hasn't been much activity on the blog.

SarahBelle asked how our first big event turned out. Stations went really well. I'd like to write a decent review of it (or someone else could do it, or once it's written we could all make comments on the post's comments page). So I'll simply say we worked really hard, met some great people, learned from those we ate and worshipped with, and came away inspired to continue our effort to reach out to the poor and homeless of the Scranton area. We're working on the idea of a monthly offering and will post more about that as it comes into place.

Stammtisch. Some of you may say "bless you" after reading that word. It is a German term that expresses the idea of a regular weekly gathering for conversation in a public place, usually in a setting like a cafe, pub, or restaurant. We are planning to adopt two nights of the week to be out in the city with no exact agenda other than to be there and hang out. We may decide to do an informal Bible study, or talk about emerging church stuff, but more importantly we simply want to be. To be out there, to be together, to be available, to be overheard. If you've been interested in what we're doing and who we are, this would be a great time for you to drop in and just hang out with us. More details on night/time/location to come (we're tentatively looking at later in the evening, 8:30ish, to allow parents to help each other get kids to bed before one of them leaves for the Stammtisch; we're considering one night for those over 21 and comfortable in the setting to be at a pub, more than likely the Banshee; and we're considering one night for those under 21 and comfortable with non-smoking/non-alcoholic settings to be at a cafe, more than likely either Northern Light or Cafe Aroma).

Also, we are shifting our gathering time and activities on Friday nights so that any that can will meet at 5:30 for a potluck/community meal where we'll try to get any planning/administrative stuff out of the way. Then we'll all pitch in to clean-up and transition into worship around 7, which should have us finishing up by 8. This will allow people to get home earlier, or feel more free to stay and hang out afterward, or watch a movie, or take the party elsewhere. If you're interested in joining us, let us know and we'll talk. We hope to continue to be flexible and welcome people to come to any or all of a Friday night gathering as their schedule permits.

Finally, we have some ideas for our next alt.worship offering to the community. More on that as it develops.

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