Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
ESR Associate Professor of Pastoral Studies and Williamsburg Friends pastor Phil Baisley shares about his travels to attend Soulreaper gatherings in Vienna and Budapest in this recent sermon:
Just for fun, not really expecting anything, I talked to Jay Marshall, dean of Earlham School of Religion. I told him about Soulreaper, about the March gathering, about the upcoming concerts, and I said, “I’d love to go there and ask those people what it is that motivates them to travel great distances, spending hundreds of euros just to be together. Is it the friendship? Is it the music? What holds a group like Soulreaper together, and is there anything the church could learn from a community that is both online and face-to-face? Jay said it reminded him of ESR’s Access program, where students can earn an M.Div. in five years of online classes coupled with on-campus intensive courses. We talked about the kind of community that develops in such a setting. Now getting serious, I asked if I might use my “professional development” allowance from ESR to finance a trip to the Soulreaper gatherings in Vienna and Budapest. He said yes!
So what are the implications for the church? Juliana is a devout Catholic, a true sister in Christ. She said the church “needs a group like Soulreaper. We can trust each other.” She said that in Soulreaper we have the “freedom to say what we want.” That builds trust. That freedom is what the church needs. In her book Christianity After Religion, Diana Butler Bass talks about an informal survey she took among people who attended her lectures. She asked for words they associate with the word religion. People responded with words like institution, organization, rules, dogma, authority, buildings, structure, principles, hierarchy, and boundaries. Add people’s concept of religion as a source of much of the hate and violence in the world and you have a pretty good idea of how the world sees religion and religious people. It’s how the rest of the world views the church.
That’s a far cry from the first century observer who remarked about Christians, “See how they love each other.” It’s a long way from the apostle Paul’s desire for the church as we read in Romans chapter 12:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
I keep thinking about Romin, the Iranian university student. He met a group of strangers at a bus stop. They were going to the same place, but they were going in love and in trust. And he met more of them. He even got to meet one of the ones who called them there. They welcomed him. They accepted him just as he is. Now he’s part of the group. Isn’t that what the church is supposed to be like? People who exemplify love and trust so much that others want to be around them? And then you can have the joy of introducing them to the One who calls us all together.
I truly believe the church should be the ones the world describes as “lovely people.” How? Demonstrate that same level of love, honesty, understanding, and trust that a bunch of metalheads does in Soulreaper. It’s what the world needs. We know that. It’s what the world wants. They know that.
Read more about Phil's trip here: http://esrquaker.blogspot.com/2012/10/lovely-people.html