So what is that all about? Holy Mischief?
Last week Episcopalians dedicated to the ministry of Christian Formation from Province IV (20 southeastern dioceses) and from across the church gathered at Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina for the annual Christian Formation Conference.
For some the week was an annual pilgrimage to a sacred place where old friends and colleagues meet annually. For some it was a brand new experience of soaking up wisdom, learning new skills, and sharing learning experiences. And for us less frequent participants, it was a little of both.
For all of us it was a conference with a dose of Holy Mischief.
The Kanuga Conference design team, under the coordination of Emily Slichter Given, chose Holy Mischief as the theme for the conference this year. Ana Hernandez and Deanna Witkowski provided new settings and approaches to sacred music for the conference, helping set the tone for two keynoters.
Our first keynoter, Shane Claiborne, shared powerful stories of the Holy Mischief he and his friends have been making in Philadelphia since his college days in solidarity with and advocacy for the urban poor living in north Philly; with and without homes, in a food dessert, largely un-or-under-employed. Shane has authored many books and has traveled widely and was able to help us examine new ways to consider how to be Christians fully interacting with the unjust structures present in our own contexts.
Our second keynoter Matthew Moretz, of “Father Matthew Presents” fame on the Internet, called us to embrace technology, specifically digital movie-making, to harness the power of sequential moving images to tell our story and correct the negative impressions of Christians that abound in our culture. He helped us break down some of the possibilities of using whimsy to get attention, illustrate a point, and create empathy for regular characters in storytelling.
At the closing Eucharistic celebration Tom Brackett, my colleague on the Episcopal Church staff, preached a powerful sermon demonstrating God’s capacity for mischievous interaction with mortals both in the Hebrew midrash and the Jesus story.
He shared his own harrowing adventure of faithful people resisting oppressors through mischievous and risky behavior, taking risks to save fellow humans. Tom also used a quote from Marianne Williamson to challenge conference participants to make Holy Mischief. I offer that passage at the end of this blog post.
I highly recommend interacting with any of these faithful Christians, each offering their own witness to the love of Christ in vastly different and deeply faithful contexts.
I offer prayers of gratitude for Emily and the Kanuga crew for convening us and feeding us physically, professionally, and spiritually.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.