I’m still processing my experience from this week’s KindlingsFest. I admit, even 48 hours before, I was thinking of ways to tell my friends that I had decided not to go. Lame, I know. After I convinced myself that I’d at least give it an overnight, I was ready.
I knew that among what I was to expect, were the likes of C.S. Lewis scholar, Jerry Root and Eric Metaxas, who writes on Bonhoeffer and Wilburforce. Other than that, I wasn’t sure what the vibe would be, what demographics comprised this community, or what I would contribute or take away from this time of retreat.
Though there’s more that I can write [and probably will], I’ll stick with these three strands for now and add what more I can as I decompress.
When we arrived on Thursday, we walked in on a talk already in progress. I can’t remember who was speaking [Michael Card, perhaps], but something he said caught my attention enough that I had to pull out Evernote and jot down what I could remember. It was this idea that we can experience sympathetic reverb or resonance. Wikipedia describes it as
a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.
The classic example, of course is a tuning fork. Here’s one explanation:
Any vibrating object—a wooden reed, a string, a cymbal, a bell—produces sound waves. These waves are capable of causing a second object in close proximity to sound as well, even though the second object is not set in motion directly by physical means.
Here’s a YouTube video for folks who need a visual:
This idea that our hearts reverberate and resonate with truths, ideas and people we encounter is good stuff. And we see it happening in our own lives, don’t we? Among the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves, the news channel we decide to watch, the political party lines that we tow. But when you find that inkling, that person, that view that tunes your heart and reorients and centers you—you know you are not the same and cannot be the same as you once were.
Tethering our desires
20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity. 24There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
I don’t think this needs much more explanation, but maybe an urging that we step back [or in] and examine what [or to whom] it is we have tethered our time, talent and desire. Apart from God, what can we enjoy? Lots, you might say. But I beg to differ. Augustine of Hippo wrote, in Confessions:
You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
When I started seminary last year, I admitted the restlessness I long felt. From one school to the next, one job to the other. I suppose you might throw relationships in that category, too. Though I can’t say that seminary has completely cured this restlessness, I’ve felt a sense of rootedness that I haven’t felt before. That’s a pretty big deal for me. Rather than wondering what the next thing will be, I wait patiently, with eagerness for what it is that God is preparing and maybe even for whom God is preparing me.
The Changing of the Guard
I mentally prepared myself to be on one of the ends of the bell curve. I knew I wouldn’t be the average. As a 30-something single woman of color, I assumed I wasn’t quite going to be represented at the gathering. But that’s ok because I didn’t go there to be with people just like me. But there were a few things I observed that I think are indicative of larger trends, not just in the church but in organizations across the country. I don’t think I’m just talking about the need to add social and digital media to the event, though that’s certainly a start. I’m talking about recognizing the tides turning. Dr. Jeff Keuss writes, in Third Verse Generation: the turning of the tide is pulling the old personalities away:
The Third Wave Generation is more than merely emergent, progressive, liturgical, Eucharistic, charismatically-charged, well-read and artistic, socially minded and spiritually awakened individuals
…The Third Wave Generation is the future and I am not.
It is not the Third Wave Generation that is retreating from the Church that Christ called us to. No, in many ways my generation is the one that is being pulled back in the undertow of the culture we have sold our proverbial souls to.
There was one point at KindlingsFest when I looked up at the stage and felt so disconnected from what was going on. Not referring to the artist’s gifts [because she certainly is talented], but I could not connect with one of the musicians KFest decided to have lead each day. I wondered how many others felt the way I did. I found myself staring at her, wondering what exactly I was watching. Was I supposed to participate in her sighing and moaning? Was I just misunderstanding what my role was in this exercise? To my left, my friend was surfing the web. He had clearly checked out as much as I. I knew it wasn’t just me.
After we were back in Seattle, we did some more reflecting on the event, and particularly on this artist and the experiences she lead. Was our reaction to her style merely a reaction to her musical style or a reaction to something bigger–perhaps questioning the direction the gathering was heading if this artist was the future of musicians that KindlingsFest was going to continue to invite. If in fact KindlingsFest wanted to attract and cultivate a younger crowd, even in their 30s, I don’t know that this particular artist was representative of the under 50something’s musical interests, generally speaking.
So what now?
So all that’s to say…that I wonder what the plan is for Kindlings in the next few years. Not just regarding attendance at KindlingsFest, but in kindling and cultivating a new circle of associates, supporters, donors and bearers of this movement that seeks to push the boundaries of our comfort in liturgy–in our daily practices of art, culture, faith, spirituality and intersecting circles.
Like my friend Jon says, the road is long and they can’t get us there alone. So many organizations [the church included] have panicked when realizing that the guard is changing. In haste they get rid of tradition and other elements that have sustained them for years: staffing, practices, maybe even mission and vision. But I don’t think that’s what is required as this third verse generation finds a place. Instead, I think it can be found in keeping a foot in both worlds and in continuing to create a space where true community and fellowship are experienced.
I look forward to seeing what that looks like in organizations like The Kindlings, as they continue to engage head and heart in the 21st Century.