We often refer to Gather as a “faith community,” a euphemism most likely coined in hopes of moving away from trigger words like “church” and “religion” or “congregation” that suggest imposed conformity and dogma. I’ve always liked “faith community.” It’s warmer, more inclusive sounding. But it still draws a circle of sorts, creating borders, soft and porous though they may be.
As we’ve been working our way through Brian McLaren’s Faith After Doubt, I find myself leaning into project, a term pinched from music—particularly hip-hop. In that context a “project” is a collection of songs an artist works on to forge a cohesive artwork, often released as an “album,” but nonetheless understood as a project. (This week Kendrick Lamar released his new album, “Mr. Morale & The Big Stepper,” coming several months after rumors he was working on a new project.) The project is a work in progress; the album is the result.
The more I’ve thought about it, the more convinced I am that Gather is a faith project—a work in progress, a collaboration of many artists pulling their hearts and minds together to make something original while also showing no reluctance to bring in older works and ideas that get transformed into something new. What will the final product, the album, be? How will it be received? Will it ever be finished? It’s not clear. We keep going by faith, believing in one another and what we’re discovering as we combine our gifts and questions and convictions into a collaborative work.
The faith project. I think this also what McLaren is getting at when he writes about Harmony as the fourth stage of faith, where the dualisms of simplicity, the layers of complexity, the stops and starts of perplexity point toward equilibrium where doubt and belief coexist in constant flux. McLaren says this kind of faith is expressed in love that understands uncertainty and will not judge or reject doubt and doubters as faithless. I think this is what the apostles keep pointing toward in their reminders that we are a work in progress.
“What we will be has not yet been revealed” (1 John 3:2). “I am confident of this, the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it” (Philippians 1:6). “We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus, for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
If we have enough confidence to envision ourselves, one another, and our community as works in progress, then Gather is, in every way, a faith project. That awareness creates harmony, because it makes room and liberates all of us to be exactly who we are, where we are, knowing that God is doing something in each of us. This Thursday, we’ll do some serious thinking about harmony and transformation, evolution and the faith project. Join us at 7:30 CDT for an invigorating and reassuring conversation!