Buried at the Keyboard

You haven’t seen any new postings from me for the past month because my fingers have been busy typing up two books that I probably mentioned sometime earlier. This is, thankfully, a progress report.

The first book is an effort to set forth in very small compass the theological rationale for the roundtable worship that you have read about here for many years. In fact, I have been gathering with a steady flow of people for this kind of worship for almost 21 years. At the same time I wanted to describe this worship practice so that anyone interested in in gathering for this kind of worship would have a kind of manual to follow. The description took only one chapter, but the theological grounding led me to rehearse themes going back to the late 1980s as well as more recent changes in how I, along with many others, have been reconstructing the central Christian image of Trinity. So that added another hundred pages.

In addition to lifting up the importance of my perennial concerns for the rich concepts of covenant and public life, I took on the transformation of the image of Trinity from being “two men and a bird” (theologian Sandra Schneiders) to a social view of Trinity as genuinely equal partners in a dynamic “conversation.” You can visualize it as a circle of electromagnetic fields rather than as a static pyramid of power. The groundwork for this view has been laid down by feminist theologians, by Jürgen Moltmann and Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz in Germany, and American process theologians over the past half century.

Why the strange and baffling notion of Trinity? For the whole period of “imperial Christianity” (325-1945?) the Trinity was seen as a kind of patriarchal monarchy, with the Spirit as a kind of glue holding the Father and Son together. In short, it was a condensation of the pattern of male inheritance and power legitimating monarchy in the West. In moving to a genuinely “social” image of Trinity, we open up the way to an image that might legitimate in some way the activity of conversation, persuasion, and dynamic interchange at the heart of real democratic-republican governance. That’s the short form of the argument.

The reason this seemingly arcane intellectual work is important right now is that we face a clear choice in our political life between forms of rule that would take us back to models of patriarchal monarchism and those that would lead us more deeply into genuinely democratic consensus-building under a rule of constitutional law. One could argue that the churches’ retention of so much kingship language in its worship, especially at Christmas and Easter, has simply fueled an image of governance that undergirds monarchical rule. Moreover, we are besieged by one-way patterns of speech from pulpit and screen in a world desperate for genuine conversation. Roundtable worship, at its core, is an effort to live into core values underlying a vision of a post-monarchical, democratic/republican world. My little book is an effort to spell this vision out in a concise way.

The other book is a compendium of the liturgical materials I have composed for these gatherings over the past twenty years. In their imagery they seek to draw on visions beyond the limited range of kingdom metaphors that have dominated Christian worship for most of its life. As I noted in an earlier post, these calls, invocations, remembrances, thanksgivings, and blessings seek to be more poetic than didactic, fit for the tongue more than for the rationality of the brain. I want to bring this collection out in a form that will make it easy for people planning worship to simply cut and paste elements for that purpose. Selecting, editing, assembling, and indexing this extensive collection is taking more time than I expected.

So that’s my update. I hope to let you know in a few months about the forms of publication for these two pieces. Meanwhile, I hope you all are finding your own way to stay centered and loving in these challenging times. I conclude with an illustration by my daughter Aneliese Parker that has hung on my wall for many years. You can see more of her work on her Etsy site. Enjoy.

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2 Responses to Buried at the Keyboard

  1. Kenneth Carder says:

    I look forward to reading the books! Thank you for continuing to inform, inspire, and guide us into deeper experiences of ourselves, one another, creation, and the Mystery some of us call GOD.

  2. Steve says:

    Bill- have you read Bart Ehrman’s ‘How Jesus became God?’… if so did it intrigue, infuriate, caution, or puzzle you? I found it very thought-provoking. You (if unread) might be entertained/annoyed/challenged….

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