Monday, January 27, 2014

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber in Cedar Falls

Last Wednesday, Brett and I went to see Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber in Cedar Falls, IA. We loved her interview with Krista Tippett, and I have read her autobiography, Pastrix: The Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. I have already admired how untraditionally Lutheran she is. She may not look or act like your average Lutheran pastor, but her theology is solid. Because of her life experience, Pastor Nadia understands God's grace in a way that I may never be able to.

Brett and I ventured in the bitter cold two and a half hours through blowing snow and low visibility to see Nadia Bolz-Weber. Thankfully, we were there early enough to grab some dinner and get seats in the sanctuary. Even though we are not from Northeastern Iowa Synod, we knew a few people there (fellow Wartburg College alums). There were over 650 people there! All of the ticket sales plus another offering went directly to the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Pastor Nadia described her approach to leading her congregation, House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS) in Denver, CO. They do a lot of unique things, like delivering turkey sandwiches to people who have to work on Thanksgiving. They are "anti-excellence and pro-participation,"meaning that doing ministry and worship together is much more important than doing it well. Describing why she needs a bishop, "Somebody should make sure that we are on the yellow brick road, that I am not taking my people into a field of poppies."

A big message that the gathered assembly took away from her talk is that the Christian message is the same as it has always been, but our delivery method needs to change. Just like phone booths and Blockbuster, the church destined to struggle if it doesn't change with the times. Our culture is also very cynical about institutions and trust our lived experience instead. So, people are still desperate to hear the Good News, but many won't go out of their way to get it.

One final story from Nadia Bolz-Weber: Every Good Friday during worship, the people of HFASS lay purple tulips on a crucifix. Not letting the flowers go to waste, after worship, they bring those tulips to the site of a local shooting. One year, they went into a bad neighborhood where all of the dogs were barking. As they laid the flowers down where an innocent person died, they chanted. The dogs stopped barking while they were chanting, and then they began to bark again when they stopped. 

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