Saturday, October 23, 2010

Charity for Hipsters

My former classmate and co-conspirator Ben McNutt has written a few pieces for Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership site. Like James K.A. Smith, Ben dislikes McCracken's overly simplistic take on "Christian cool," and favors the increasingly common nuanced distinction between "bohemians" (the real deal) and "posers" (he recently sent me an article from that makes this move far more helpfully then Smith, which is worth reading). His belief in the movement's potential should continue to provide insights into the promise of the former group for the church's future.

In the meantime, I commend his recent portrait of a promising "hipster" community, Trinity Grace Church-Brooklyn, as a glimpse of that promise's potential. Refusing the missional church's current addiction to church growth strategies, evangelistic gimmicks, and shallow appropriations of ancient practices, Pastor Caleb Clardy and his community have pursued a "parish-based" approach, claiming " you don’t get to choose who’s in your parish. You worship with your neighbor, in the community where you live." They've taken a bottom up approach to liturgical worship which hypridizes traditional and contemporary currents to create what the Clardy calls a "homiletical mash-up" and McNutt likens to

a bizarre glimpse into the eschaton -- an apocalyptic vision where Mozart and the Wesley brothers meet Johnny Cash and Coldplay, and they all rock out in some boutique-music venue in the East Village of heaven. It’s a departure from the monotony of the three-chord, two-phrase P&W songs, diluted of musicality and theological richness.

For those who worshipped while I was music pastor at Abundant Life United Methodist Church, you know this is right up my alley.

McNutt concludes the article reflecting on the church's grounding of its identity of "giving ourselves to this story." While on the surface parts of the following description may sound disturbing to liturgical purists, in it I think we catch a glimpse of fresh hope for churches like the ELCA whose future is by no means guaranteed:

On Easter Sunday, Clardy preached about the stories that envelop our lives. “Mostly, we live in small stories that are just about us. But are we willing to give our lives to a greater story, where we’re united with what we were created to be and with the people we were meant to be with? Let’s give ourselves to this story, because other stories are kind of lame. They don’t have the power of this story -- the power to take us to death and then beyond.”

New York flaunts its own story. Unlike the church’s story, it is flashy, filled with false hopes of independent success and fueled by a vapid desire for cool. Compared with the story told through the sacraments, it is hard to imagine that story co-opting such power for some fleeting end.

The opposite is more likely. Perhaps in a small borough in modern Ephesus, a few 20-somethings will stumble into a storefront church. They’ll eat some bread and drink some wine and maybe think they’re pretty cultured crossing themselves. And without knowing it, they will have been gathered up into something more beautiful than their Broadway dreams.

1 comment:

  1. I hate hipsters, but God do I love Ben McNutt. That guy writes like an angel...