traverse city

Book signings

Wanting to get that signed copy of Pub Theology?

I’ll be at Schuler’s Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids on Saturday, September 22, 9-11am. Later that day I’ll be at Horizon Books in Traverse City from 2-4pm.

There is also a rumored appearance at Founder’s the Friday before, where you can get a copy of the book, enjoy a good beer, and do some pub theologizing!

Want to have me come out your way?  Let your local pub or bookstore know, or send me a suggestion!

Pairings and Places

Photos are coming in from readers of the book and the beer they are enjoying while reading.

What about you?  Reading the book?  Enjoying a favorite brew?  Tell us about it below, or ‘like’ my author page on Facebook and upload your pic!

With a New Holland Dragon’s Milk in Chicago

With an Abita Jockamo IPA in Mobile, Alabama

With Bell’s Oberon at Big Star Lake, Michigan

With an Allagash Tripel Ale near Chicago.

With a Troegs Nugget Nectar in Pittsburgh

With a Perseus Porter at Elysian’s Capitol Hill Pub on Pike Street in Seattle

What about you?  Share your favorite pairing!  Let us know where you are reading the book, and what you are washing it down with.

A Spoonful of Sugar

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, helps the medicine go down…”

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Tonight we watched Mary Poppins with the kids.

Hadn’t seen it in ages – it’s still a classic.

The storyline is that Mary shows up, dropping out of the sky, as a nanny for two sad and unruly British children, and she is simply magical.

They have adventures you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seem them (I recommend another viewing if you haven’t seen it lately).

Great things happen in their lives, and things change for the better.

But the wind changes, too soon it seems, and Mary must go.

The children, sad as they are, realize her time with them is up.

It’s a delightful story, with a hint of sadness at the end because their magical times together are at an end.

Yet the real magic is that she can leave, and that those she touched are now different, and she, too, is different for having been touched in return.

This morning I announced to our community that the wind has changed.

We are being blown east.  Heading from TC to DC.  (more on this later)

It was not an easy thing to share, as the times we’ve had have been magical, and if I hadn’t been here, I’m not sure I would believe it.

I had never expected to compare myself to Mary Poppins, and so I won’t.  The truth is, we were the unruly children, and those in our community were as Poppins to us.  They touched us, and we have been changed.  We hope that in some small way, the touch was returned.

The winds are blowing…  Soon enough we shall head off in another direction.

But the real magic is that we can leave, and, in leaving, know that we all are different for having had the time together, even as new adventures await.

Anyone have some sugar?

The Monastery Experience

Recently at Watershed we attempted to cultivate a unique worship experience, specifically for Lent.

We called it ‘The Monastery  Experience’, making use of the old, late-1800’s space recently restored in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons – our collective home as a faith community.  In the brick-lined hallways and arches, it was easy to imagine ourselves in a monastery in ancient times.

Various stations were set up at which one was able to stop and have a contemplative worship experience.  A nice group of people attended, from our own community and beyond.  Young, old, and in-between walked the halls and spent time worshiping, reflecting, absorbing.  In the background we had chant playing from Benedictine and Gregorian monks.  As it echoed through the halls we were truly transported to another place.

There will be a page for each station on this site, and you are invited to experience this powerful event for yourself.

LENT:  the monastery experience

Enter here

Lent is about making space for God.  This morning, we have created a monastery-like setting in which you are invited to consider the ways you can empty yourself, and create more space for God.

There are eight stations setup in the lower mercato area.  Imagine you are entering a monastery.  Act with the reverence you would have on such an occasion.

Some stations will work best by yourself, others will work better in a group.

Instructions will be provided at each station.  You may want to experience each station, or a few, or some more than once.  Don’t worry about rushing from one to the next – be present in each space.  You may start at the end, and work forward, or the front and move back, or in any order you choose.  When you are finished with a station, quietly move to the next.

Here is an overview, with links to each station:

STATION:  WATER — seeking release
Works best individually

STATION:  FIRE — illumination, heat, warmth
Works best individually

STATION:  TREE — seeking fruit and life
Works best individually

STATION:  VOX — voices that bring life
Works best in groups of four or more

STATION: TABLE — take, eat, remember, believe
Individual or groups

STATION:  GROOVE — breaking out of ruts
Works best individually

STATION:  STILL — quiet, empty, silent
Individual or groups

STATION:  LECTIO — sacred reading
Works best in groups of four or more

» First Station: WATER

Thanks to Angela Josephine for collaboration on this great event, and to the Minervini Group for providing use of the space!

If you had a chance to participate in this – would love to hear what you thought of it!  Or if you missed it and have some thoughts —

Please post your comments below!

Pub Theology Recap January 5


Great night at the pub last night.  Nine of us grabbed a pint and settled in for a good discussion, huddled around the table as if seeking respite from the snow drifts just outside.

Jesus and Mohammed

A. showed up, who promptly styled himself ‘kinda the local guru.’ Then quickly thought better of it and shifted to ‘kinda the local guy.’ He’d been reading up on the history of Islam and noted to us that “Mohammed had to work hard.  He fought with people, he had enemies, he bled.  He worked to establish a religion.  Unlike Jesus.  Jesus didn’t have much opposition.  He had it easy, just healing people and floating on the water.  Mohammed though, man… that guy…”

I asked him if he had converted to Islam, with this newfound admiration of the prophet (PBUH).  He said no.

After that little soliloquy we hit the sheet. First question, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”  Most people admitted that they did not.  R. said that she often takes the New Year as a time to take stock of where things are in her life and seek to continue to grow both personally and professionally.  I noted that I sort of do the same.  N. (who brought the pretzels) noted that her son always resolves to give up crack cocaine.  That way he never fails to live up to his resolution.

We spent some time discussing why resolutions tend to be individual (we can’t make anyone else do something), but also noted the benefits of making resolutions with someone else or with a community of some sort (accountability, mutuality).  We wondered about a couple in a relationship making resolutions.  S. noted that she sort of does that with her husband, but that then they tend to pursue the resolutions individually, or each in their own way.  Yet there is something about a communal effort that can create energy and certainly can hold one to what one has said.  The other S. noted that companies and organizations often do the same thing but call them ‘goals’ or ‘plans.’

Then the question (contributed by C., who was down in Kzoo doing PT South) was: “Should Pub Theology have a 2012 resolution?”  At this point the question of location came up, with RBB’s upcoming move to 16th Street.  We had heard that the pub portion of the new location was not going to be as big a priority, so it is unclear whether there will be adequate space.  There is talk of something new coming into the Warehouse district to take RB’s place, perhaps Short’s or someone else.  It would be tempting to stay.  Another possibility is the new Filling Station brewery coming in by the library.  In any case, Pub Theology resolves to keep meeting (wherever we end up) and being the place in Northern Michigan for beer, conversation, and God.

Topic 2: “Individualism is a poor container for the Gospel.”

This was generally agreed, as S. (with the glasses) noted that “We can’t all play a solo at the same time.”  The other S. (reading glasses) noted that individualism tends to cause people to apprehend what they believe is true about the world and why, rather than take someone else’s word for it, or simply buying into the community’s agreed upon take, and tends to cause people to move away from faith, so yes, it is a poor container for the gospel.  B. highlighted the fact that Christianity is not meant to be an individualistic faith.  It is not simply ‘my spirituality’ or ‘me and Jesus.’  Rather, it is meant to be experienced in community, lived out in community, and that when a group of people together take following Jesus seriously, and live into the Gospel, and live out the Gospel, that it is a powerful statement to those looking on.  R. worried that such a focus on community would drown out people’s ability to be individuals.  That there would be space for the ‘other’, whether that is someone divorced, or gay, or recovering, or whatever.  B. noted that ideally the Gospel is inclusive and calls for a community that is open. Such a community ought to reflect the diversity of individuals who all come together because of who God is and because he has made and called each of them.  It was concluded that there is such a thing as good individualism, and good communalism, but that both can go awry if we are not careful.

Topic 3: “In light of the 2012 end of time idea, do you think the redemption of Christ will come in this world — or does it require a new world?”

S. noted that there were 3 billion people on the planet when he was born, and there are now over 7 billion.  R. (who refuses resolutions) noted that “The world will end.”  B. asked, “Who here thinks they will live to see the end?”  Most people said no.   But then N. (who was back at long last! and brought the chips) blurted out, “What are y’all talking about?”

As the rest of the table continued to debate the end of the world, I got up to get another pint.  This time a Dark Squirrel Lager.

The last three questions all sort of related:

4. What would have to happen for the believer not to believe?

5. What would have to happen for the unbeliever to believe?

6. Is theology (or what kind of theology is) compatible with belief in the constancy of nature?

I don’t have time (or the recall) to give you the rest of the conversation.

But a few highlights:

R. asked, “Why does it say unbeliever?  Shouldn’t it be nonbeliever?  What does unbeliever mean?”

N. (chips) pleaded, “Damn it!  Call it Spirit, energy, essence, whatever!  We all believe in it.”

N. (pretzels) noted, “It’s time to start preaching the stuff we’ve known for 200 years.” (referring to biblical scholarship that is often known about by seminaries and preachers but kept from the congregation because ‘they’re not ready for it’.)

And a couple more from the ‘local guru’:

“I think about time differently than most people.”

“Are any of you communists?” (This out of nowhere, in the middle of a completely unrelated discussion)

“Do you think it’s better to show weakness, or to hide weakness?”

And that’s a wrap!  If you were there and care to fill us in on more of what happened, feel free.  If you weren’t there, but have any thoughts on the above topics – post them below!

Is Discrimination OK?

When is it legitimate to discriminate, if ever?  Consider the following two issues, the first via the Grand Rapids Press, the second via the Traverse City Record-Eagle.  Post your comments below.

GRAND RAPIDS, Sept 15, 2011 — Cathy and Jefferson Seaver are atheists, and they said they liked the Christian preschool in Allendale Township, where they sent their son.

But when they tried to send their daughter there a couple of years later, they hit a snag.

A Center for Inquiry discussion in GR

The school required them to sign a statement of faith in God. Feeling it would be a lie, Cathy asked if she could opt out. The administrators said if they didn’t sign, the school would not enroll their daughter.

“That was clear discrimination, and it was very disappointing,” she told an audience Wednesday at the Center for Inquiry Michigan gathering at the Women’s City Club.

The nonreligious group caused a stir last month by buying space on a billboard along northbound U.S. 131 near Hall Street SW with the message: “You don’t need God — to hope, to care, to live, to love.”

TC approves anti-discrimination ordinance

October 5, 2010 

TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Van Valin grew emotional as she stood at a podium to address the Traverse City Commission.

Van Valin, a Peninsula Township resident who’s building a house on Webster Street in the city, urged commissioners to pass an ordinance that would outlaw discrimination against gays. Van Valin’s comments lasted less than a minute, but her voice brimmed with passion.

“I have a dream that this community will stand on the side of love, not fear,” she said Monday night.

Van Valin got her wish when the commission unanimously approved the ordinance. The packed commission chambers erupted in applause, tears and hugs when Mayor Chris Bzdok conducted the vote after more than an hour of public comment.

The ordinance, among other things, bans employers from discriminating against or firing employees because of their sexual orientation. It also prohibits landlords and housing facilities from turning away renters based on their sexuality alone.

Religious organizations are exempt from the ordinance, as are residents who rent out rooms in their single-family homes.

The vote brings a measure of closure to an issue that’s been debated for more than a decade in the city, though it’s likely not the final chapter. Opponents of the ordinance plan to circulate petitions and force a special election on the matter.

“We’ve already started; we knew this was going to happen,” city resident and opponent Paul Nepote said of the vote.

The city’s Human Rights Commission drafted the ordinance to “close the gap” in existing civil-rights laws. Federal and state laws provide protection based on religion, race and host of other criteria, but sexuality is left out.

Cities across the state and nation are beginning to introduce local ordinances that address the issue. Traverse City’s new ordinance was patterned after a similar measure adopted last year in Kalamazoo.

A huge crowd gathered Sept. 7 when commissioners introduced the ordinance, and many of the same faces arrived Monday. Proponents said the ordinance will make the city more welcoming and provide necessary protection for gays, but opponents charged that such measure is immoral and isn’t needed.

City resident and business owner Jeff Judway said he was harassed by co-workers and eventually fired from a city business not long after they discovered he’s gay. He warned commissioners against believing the ordinance isn’t needed.

“This ordinance, I need it, we need it … nobody should be fired because of their sexual orientation.”

Gay city resident Jacob Hines, 19, suggested the measure is especially important to young gay people.

“I want to be able to grow up knowing my future is protected,” he said.

Opponent Mike Mulcahy previously told commissioners the measure could create headaches for employers, but seemed to focus his comments on religion this time around.

“There’s a lot of people who are opposed to this ordinance who have a good reason to be opposed to it, they’ve got a view of the planet that includes a higher power,” he said.

Bzdok addressed the complaints he’d heard about the ordinance in recent months, including a charge that it would hurt business owners.

“If there’s evidence out there about a negative impact on business in any of the other Michigan cities that have passed these, I would like to see that … the opponents of this ordinance have brought us no evidence that there’s an actual negative impact on business anywhere that’s done this, and I would argue the places that have done this are thriving,” he said before the vote.

Bzdok also said the city won’t be going on a “witch hunt” to ensure compliance with the ordinance and that the measure does nothing more than assure gay individuals the same rights as everyone else.

Commissioner Jim Carruthers, who is gay, spoke strongly in support of the measure and admonished those who sent the commission “violent, angry, ugly” e-mails on the matter. Such a negative response proves that protection for gay individuals is necessary, he said.

“These to me are all reasons why we need to do this,” he said. “There is so much hate and ignorance out there.”

Commissioner Mike Gillman said he remains “unconvinced” of the need for the ordinance, though he cast his vote in support.

“In the face of a unanimous or near-unanimous vote, I sincerely hope that opponents will drop any plans to initiate a petition drive, an act that would be extremely destructive to the reputation of this community as an open and welcoming town,” he said.

The issue spawned a long-running battle about 10 years ago, and that fight ultimately went before city voters.

Commissioners then passed a watered-down and legally nonbinding anti-discrimination resolution after months of discussion.

Opponents later secured a measure on a city election ballot that sought to prevent the city from passing an anti-discrimination ordinance, but voters soundly defeated that measure in November 2001.

After years of talk and the relatively meaningless anti-discrimination resolution, commissioners were ready for real action.

“It’s time,” commissioner Barbara Budros said.

UPDATE:  Opponents to the Traverse City non-discrimination ordinance succeeded in gaining enough signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot this November to the city.  A vote of ‘yes’ would keep the ordinance in the books, a vote of ‘no’ would remove it.  Read the entire ordinance here.

Post your thoughts on the above issues of discrimination below, and please be respectful in your comments.