Breathless...at 30,000 Feet!

Oh, to be a painter or a poet! Moments filled with exquisite sights that take the breath away and stir the heart! Imagine... flying thirty thousand feet looking out the tiny window of a Delta Express Jet onto an infinite expanse of unbelievable colors, shapes, and textures of the California coastline. And God said, " Let there be Beauty." It seemed as though I had never seen such a sight. As the sun was setting I was transfixed. Before the magnificence of the sky's display there lay the humble, and eloquent cities offering their own visual splendor - strings of glistening, golden-blue pearls lovingly laid across a darkened earthly body. Above her -an adoring sky covered with shifting gray-black phantom clouds hiding slim streaks of the palist blue. And in the center and farthest side of it all, everything came together in a blazing artistic horizon of every possible hue of intense fire and flame where boundaries of land and sea and sky are joyously blurred. On and on , for mile after mile, I gazed absorbed, lost in Divinity's Dance.
Finally, I looked away ... and breathed.

Deo Gratias,
Stefan Andre



Have you seen the latest film called, " Once" ? Do....

A story about two ordinary/extraordinary people, creativity, some beautiful songs, courage, contemporary Irish society, and much more.
It is a startlingly refreshing film created with a low budget, camcorder, and shot in lovely Dublin.
In addition , this is one movie with special features that are worth viewing.

Did I say that this film is brilliant? It is. More please...

Astonished and Delighted,
Stefan Andre


Playing the Game of Faith with Passion...

" Go, Go, Go!" " C'mon, Get 'em" " Yes!" " No!" "Yeeeeeeessssss!!!" "Nooooooo!!! " These are only a few of the passionate cries coming from an enthusiastic family here in Memphis as we watched the basketball game on television between the Memphis Tigers and the University of Tennessee Vols. It was INTENSE! Did I say INTENSE? I mean INTENSE!!! The intensity was magnified intensely by the fact that some members of the family were cheering for Memphis while others were cheering for Tennessee. Delightful...
Besides being intense it was also beautiful. Beautiful in that a wide range of free, spontaneous, raw emotion was being felt, expressed, released, and enjoyed together. A deeply human experience...a shared community of passionate agreement and disagreement.
Flash forward or backward to your local neighborhood church, synagogue, temple and anticipate or remember your own church, synagogue, temple experience. Compare... How would you describe it? Intense? Passionate? Beautiful?
Spontaneous? Free? Deeply human? Delightful? Enthusiastic? Can it be? In our religious communities can we bounce the ball of faith with such fierce intensity back and forth , playfully, seriously,and remain committed to remaining together in the game? Maybe if we could " play" like this, our communities would be filled with passionate participants and our church , synagogue, temple experience would rise to the level of YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!!

Just wondering...
Stefan Andre


An Ecumenical Celtic Celebration in Song!

Little by little, a growing group of people, both singers and instrumentalists, is forming to record a new CD of music that is both ecumenical and Celtic in sound. Based on traditional Irish melodies this new music will consist of a Celtic Mass, songs and chants. Singers will be accompanied by flute, harp, fiddle, pipes, drums, guitar and more. Representaives from various Protestant and Catholic Churches will come together on March 16 , Palm Sunday and on March 17 , St. Patrick's Day at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, TN.. With one voice this emerging group of Christians will fill the glorious space at St. Mary's with the sound of many voices and many instruments singing and playing in praise of God and in love of neighbor!

The invitation is open to all. Come... sing... pray... bless and be blessed!

Stefan Andre


Deep Shift - From Civilization to Humanity...

Think about it...Jesus did not call himself the Civilized One. He referred to himself again and again( as if we were not really listening) as the Human One. The " Son of Man" had many connotations not the least of which was - the one who is deeply and essentially human - the model human being. As I receive the news about more and more violence in America and around the world I can't help but wonder. Is this civilization we have created? Listen to this: " U.S. Hispanics under attack Amid Immigration Crackdown"; "Clinton Obama Rachet Up Attacks on One Another"; Clinton Obama Closed Debates Spark Texan's Anger"; Israel Braces for Hezbollah Revenge Attacks"; " Five Students Killed in North Illinois University Attack". This was just a slice of the media pie offered up for us today. There is an author, Derrick Jenson, who writes in his book entitled " Endgame; the Problem of Civilization" , that civilization as we call it needs to be dismantled because it is in reality a social construct rooted in the horrible violence we claim to abhor. Check it out... We seem to have created a so called civilization in which everything from our language , our politics, our social and religious structures ( consider the origins of the religious term - diocese. It reflects the language of Imperial Rome), right on down to the toys that our children play with , is infused with the " attack" mentality.
Perhaps our grief over this , and our collective awareness of the reality beneath the reality, will lead us forward to a deep and compassionate listening to one another. Isn't that a key question in all of this? " How do we respond when violence is committed toward us?" Do we attack in return? Do we flee out of fear? How can we respond like the " Human One"? How can we make the deep shift from " Civilization" to truer Humanity?

Seeking Peace,
Stefan Andre


Another Shooting in Another American School...

We gathered around the dinner table tonight , about 12 -15 people in a little place called the Village, here in Binghampton in Memphis TN. The topic of conversation: young people and violence. The sorrow of another young person killed in another American school just reported, it seems as if there is a palpable increase in the level of violence in this American city over the past few months and the mood in the room is a mix of veiled grief, and light-hearted southern humor. We begin by sharing stories and asking questions. What are the causes? Why? What might we do? How to understand a society founded and sustained by violence and bloodshed? Are we really that different from the violent gangs and individuals we hear about? Are they not a startling reflection of our own fearful and angry lives?
Out of the conversation we offer a possibility: what if we go to the schools in Memphis - not trying to fix anything - but to offer regular listening sessions with the students? What if we bring the local media with us to offer the students an opportunity to be heard and understood? Rather than simply reacting to the next outbreak of violence why not begin an ongoing time of listening and building relationships with the young people in Memphis? " Could take a long time", one perceptive person commented. Do we dare?

In the Struggle...In Hope...Together...
Stefan Andre


The Emergent Church

Dear Friends,

Recently I had the pleasure to hear Phyllis Tickle and Tony Jones speak in Memphis , TN on the the subject of the Emergent Church. Their speaking marked the beginning of a Lenten Series at Calvary Episcopal Church. Emerging Christianity, the Emergent Church, Emergents... all this may be new language for some, but according to the speakers the reality of this new kind of Christianity is part and parcel of our postmodern age. According to Tickle, the Emergent Church is part of a new beginning of Christianity similar to the beginning that the Protestant Reformation created about 500 years ago. No little thing. So, what is it? In a nutshell it consists of " the new communities of faith, the innovative forms of monasticism, the adventurous theology"( Tony Jones) and more. It is more interested in conversation than creed. It is the new growth of forms , ideas, and structures on the forest floor of American Christianity.
Along with Jones and Tickle I am reading Brian Mclaren's writings on this new kind of Christianity. A Generous Orthodoxy is a very good read.
Lest anyone think that Emerging Christianity is simply an armchair reading assignment let me suggest that this emerging faith can be a positive way forward out of the mire of violence in our American society. " Conversation, not Creed" is one motto we would do well to practice in our conversations be they religious or not. I connect the violence of our society to our obsessive attachments to our own egoic ideas and beliefs. We cling and defend our creeds, religious or not, and commit violence on those who disagree. We avoid conversation with those who are different. We refuse to listen to a contradictory point of view. We exclude those who are not like us. In subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways we draw our circles of acceptability.
Perhaps the Emerging Church can help us by drawing new social circles and giving us living demonstrations of letting go and letting in.

Stefan Andre


In the Path of a Destroying Wind...

Last night millions of people throughout the southern United States faced what could only be described as a living nightmare of nature - a fierce, and deadly series of tornados moving at rapid speeds threatening everything and everyone in their path. When it was over at least 50 people were dead, many more were injured, and untold numbers of homes, and buildings were damaged or destroyed. Last night we were - all of us - together - caught in a common life threatening peril. At any moment one of several death-dealing winds could, and in many cases did, bring an abrupt end to our life on earth. In that moment, fear was our common bond and hope was the thread that held us together.
As I looked out the window and saw the ominous clouds and shifting sky I offered a simple song playing on a keyboard and praying... feeling fear...feeling hope... realizing one more time the illusion of control...and singing a prayer of trust- whatever happens.

To those families and friends whose loved ones died or were injuried we offer our heartfelt love and sincere prayers.
For those of us who live to tell about it perhaps we can remember what it was like to be... in that moment ...together.

Your little brother,
Stefan Andre


A Very Modest Proposal...

Listening to the President deliver the State of the Union address last week I was moved. I felt inspired to suggest, in the tradition of Jonathan Swift a very modest proposal. Keeping in mind that we are about to enter the sacred time of Lent - traditionally a time of fasting and letting go, I would like to suggest a few things that might help our President . Because President Bush is so committed to freedom I would like to propose that in the spirit of freedom and free-choice he ask the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if they would like to come home . Now, since the President has made it clear that freedom requires their long-term presence this modest proposal would allow for troop return only during Lent. Think of it as a time of military letting go and fasting from violence and bloodshed. Truly, a very modest proposal. And to fill in the gap I propose that all the members of the current administration who believe deeply in this war and who voted to continue this war freely volunteer to replace the troops who decide to return home during Lent. Voila! I have no doubt that President Bush would be the first to sign up and go to the front lines! Further, this would be a great opportunity for all the presidential candidates , members of Congress, and all who also want to support the war to demonstrate their patriotism by following Mr. Bush into battle.
The more I think about this the more appeal this proposal has. If the Republican party wants to secure their hold on the Roman Catholic vote and for that matter all religious groups that take lent seriously, here is the chance. In one simple act of personal courage and conviction the current administration would observe Lent, bring families together, restore participatory democracy, and stand up for the cause of freedom in the world. Does it get any better?

In the Spirit of Jonathan Swift,
Your smiling friend,
Stefan Andre