Saturday, March 19, 2011

Listening to Cool People Share their Lives - it's my job!

People live at the very heart of of my work. It's an interesting idea to think about, especially in light of the fact that writing itself is such a solitary activity. But I've been going over my schedule for the past week, and much of it has been built around the stories of the people I invest in.
  • There are 36 men from all over the USA, for example, participating in my on-line GET REAL study. 
  • 12 men were present at my Wednesday evening small group. 
  • 13 people showed up for my Sunday morning class, 
  • 15 more attended the POGs (Parents of Grads) gathering I facilitate on Sunday evenings.
Then there are the interviews. I'll briefly sketch the three stories I worked on over the past few days:

The Rev Andy Bell runs a counseling center in St. Pete. He's also a passionate environmentalist. He argues - quite convincingly - that it's impossible to study theology without ecology infiltrating the process (and vice-versa). It's his belief that faith-based communities should be at the forefront when it comes to "Creation Care". He pointed out that the name Adam means "of the earth", and that a huge element of our systemic disconnect as human beings is related to the fact that we have severed our relationship with the earth.

You'll have to read the entire interview when it comes out. There's some good stuff in there about stewardship, mental health, inter-faith initiatives and our responsibility of faith-based communities speak truth to power.

Then, Tuesday, John Barbian was a good interview. John is a 28-year-old techie who works as director of media and technology at The Crossing Church, a mega-ministry with 5,000 in attendance each weekend. He has a strong grip on faith and loves both his world and his work. We talked about the importance of parsing the Gospel Message in sync with tech savvy, about how technology at church needs the Spirit or it becomes irrelevant from the get-go, and about how a church web-site is the equivalent of the old church lobby - it's the first part of the ministry most people are going to see. I especially noted how much more "at home" and comfortable I felt talking with John (in his hoodie) than many of the stuffed-shirt preachers I meet who are closer to my own age (not Andy, above - he was tres cool). That felt good.

Finally I've got to "give it up" for Cindy Sofarelli a church friend who also heads up four area YMCA branches. She's a mover and a shaker in the Y with a passion for connecting people of all ages with better living. All of my subjects this week integrate faith seamlessly into their work; there was absolutely none of the "part-time Christian" mentality that pervades so much of the North American Culture. For Cindy it's a "duh" thing when we talked about the fact that personal faith is a constant, a "force-multiplier" in every aspect of what it means to be a complete human being.

I was struck, not just in talking with Cindy but with all three subjects, at how taking care of ourselves as a complete package is a "no-brainer" when we're fully engaged as people who understand what it means to live an abundant life.

I'm looking forward to my next interviews, to sharing more powerful stories with the community, and to growing in who I am because I'm privileged to learn so much every time I spend a few minutes listening to someone share their life with me.

Peace - DEREK

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