I picked up a new book (at least for me) a few weeks ago. It’s entitled, “Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir,” and it is the memoir of a professor I had at Duke. I have found inspiration in it for two reasons. First, Frederick Buechner has instilled in me a love for well written memoirs. Second, I can hear Stanley Hauerwas’ nasally-Texas accent as I read the book. In reading, though, I have found inspiration to write and articulate part of my journey. As I read I find myself wondering how I would describe various times of my life – or certain aspects of my journey – and find a flood of faces and names come to mind.
Coincidentally, about a week before I picked up the book, I undertook the exercise of writing a statement of faith and also a *brief* testimony. As I wrote I found that I wanted to keep writing, yet I think it was good for me to try to limit them in length. I know that I wanted to expand each paragraph into a page… maybe someday I will. For now, though, I wanted to place here the distilled Statement of Faith and an abbreviated testimony.
Statement of Faith
I affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.
I believe God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is good, loving, faithful, and true.
I believe God desires for all of Creation to know and to live in God’s love. Humanity, however, chose its own way and sinned, causing a rupture in Creation’s perfect relationship with God. The Good News is that God has been working for the restoration of Creation since Eden. God chose Israel to proclaim the hope and prepare the way for the restoration. God fulfilled Israel’s longing and made final provision for this restoration through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. God has commissioned the Church, the Body of Christ in this World, and empowered it by the Holy Spirit to proclaim to the World this message of God’s love, hope, healing, reconciliation, restoration and peace.
I believe God has given the Church everything necessary to live authentically in this World because He has given himself for us in Jesus Christ. Christians, therefore, are to reflect the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ by living in alternative ways to what the World only offers as imitations of God’s love. Christians practice these alternative ways of living in worship as we: gather together; confess our sin; receive forgiveness; reconcile and offer signs of peace; engage Scripture; baptize and reaffirm our faith; pray for one another and for our world; offer our gifts; celebrate communion and share a meal; and remember that we go into the World as God’s people with God’s blessing, strength, and love.
Experiences of God in education, in worship, and in ministry in this world have shaped me on my faith journey. Sharing life together with Christians from various cultures has helped me to see the miracle of the Gospel as it simultaneously transcends all cultures and peoples while remaining specific to each culture and individual.
My parents began taking my brother and me to church in Colorado when I was four years old, which is when they began their relationships with God in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed going to church as a child, and I raised my hand to accept Jesus as savior multiple times between the ages of 5 and 12. In Jr. High I began to notice a dissonance between Sunday life and school life. I was not a bad kid – meaning that I did not smoke, drink or cuss – yet I did not love the neighbor, the stranger, or the outcast very well. My youth pastor and other volunteers challenged and encouraged me to live into the faith that I claimed. I did not want to be a hypocrite. I wanted my relationship with God in Jesus to make a tangible difference in my life. In high school I tried to live perfectly as a Christian. In this striving for perfection, and often falling hard, I began to learn more about God’s love and grace – a journey that continues today. I had some wonderful “mountain top” experiences in high school, yet I came to realize that the Christian life consisted of more than one-time events. Rather, the Christian life is an everyday decision on an everyday journey.
I attended Seattle Pacific University following a general call into ecclesial ministry thinking I would return to Colorado to do youth ministry full-time. At SPU my horizons for vocational ministry possibilities grew as I started getting involved in opportunities to serve on campus and in the community. God used these opportunities and an increasing awareness of the world – in all of its complexities, interconnections, and heartache – to continue to shape and also expand my call in ministry to include an international element.
A growing appreciation of the Christian tradition has also formed my faith in significant ways. I spent the summer after my first year of university volunteering with the church in Ireland, and I had my eyes and heart opened to the long, faithful tradition of Christianity. One day a friend took me to monastery ruins in Glendalough, which I learned once functioned as a significant place of worship and education. While I stood among the ruins of a church that served as the full-time cathedral from the 6th to the 13th Century, I felt part of a story larger and more significant than I had ever imagined. I realized that the Church did not go underground at the end of the book of Acts and reemerge when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Rather, a long line of faithful followers had passed on a faith that transcends all cultures and times.
At Duke I grew in my understanding of the importance of worship, the sacraments, and the Church as the Body of Christ. Duke also helped me to articulate a view of church that held God in Christ at the center of worship, providing a gathering point for the community and a catalyst for the Body of Christ to engage the world.
The story of my journey would not be complete without naming some authors who have helped to shape me and continue as points of encouragement, challenge, and inspiration to me: Frederick Beuchner; Ellen Davis; Stanley Hauerwas; Richard Hays; James Howell; Madelaine L’Engle; Anne LaMott; C.S. Lewis; Richard Lischer; Brennan Manning; Henri Nouwen; Eugene Peterson; Chaim Potok, Barbara Brown Taylor; J.R.R. Tolkien; and Samuel Wells.
Musically I would have to name: Suzanne Brewer, Delirious, Dryve, Fred Gramman, Keith Green, David Nevue, Andrew Peterson, Matt Redman, Ten Shekel Shirt, TenTimesFast, Waterdeep, Charles Wesley, Dar Williams, Samuel Wolcott, U2, and, well, the list could go on and on.
God has provided me with amazing opportunities on my journey to live in cultural and social settings beyond my own. When I started the journey, I did not know that I would serve in churches, war zones, and relief settings across the U.S., Europe, East Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Central Asia. With each place I serve, the desire increases to serve the global Body of Christ and help Christians to live their faith authentically within their culture. In each place, the Holy Spirit unites us and empowers us to proclaim the Kingdom that is both now and not yet, as we live as emissaries for Christ the King now while we wait for His triumphant return in final victory.
To list all of the friends, professors, and other mentors who have allowed me to be a part of their journey would take volumes, and I think, goes beyond the current context of writing.
My life as a Christian only makes sense when located within the larger story of salvation history. Countless friends have joined with me, and have allowed me to join them, in prayer, encouragement, challenge, inspiration, joyfulness, and mourning. Together, we journey in God’s love in Christ. Our lives are not an isolated moment in time, rather our lives fall in line with God’s sweeping trajectory of Creation and redemption which has a history before us and will have a future after us. God knows us intimately – our potential for greatness and our propensity for failure – and God still loves us. And by grace, God invites us to join in His holy work of healing the World.