Ash or compost? How to help new things grow

At 6’1”, Nadia Bolz-Weber leaves a soaring impression wherever she goes. From a life of alcohol abuse and drug use, with the strength of Christ, she turned her life around. She is passionate about the saving grace of Jesus and as an ordained Lutheran pastor she shares the good news at all times.

Not just within the world of faith – Nadia is a bit of a sensation around the western world. She is recognized as being a woman who may be able to change the stuffy impression of mainline denominations. With her maverick and unapologetic, liberal attitude, she manages to take Christianity into corners of life where the church is often pretty uncomfortable going. In October, we asked her to bring that attitude to Rupert’s Land to see what we could glean from her at the Faith Horizons conference.

Off the hop, Nadia was very clear that she is working in a particular and unique situation. She has never worked in a “regular” church setting. It was during her seminary training that she started a new church for those who didn’t fit into the mainstream.

Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke about “the gift and the wrapping.” – recognizing that the gift is the gospel and the wrapping is how it is presented; modernizing or changing the wrapping does not change the gift.

As Nadia shared with us how the House for All Sinners and Saints operates in Denver, Colorado, we were able to hear the ways in which she holds on very tightly to the foundational liturgical elements of the Lutheran denomination. She has a strong sense of the depth of the tradition. She also has a keenly aware of the additional trappings that have been gathered over the years. She spoke about “the gift and the wrapping.” – recognizing that the gift is the gospel and the wrapping is how it is presented; modernizing or changing the wrapping does not change the gift.

We need to look at our context and be creative in ways that suit our situation.

In a series of vignette type stories, Nadia invited us to be creative in the way we approach worship. The warning that came with this invitation was not to try and do what she does. We need to look at our context and be creative in ways that suit our situation.

Rev Geoff Woodcroft took that advice back to the folks of St Paul’s and got creative in how All Saint’s Day is marked within the parish. His creativity was well received and welcomed by those who participated. When asked about Nadia and her methods, he astutely said, “she is a conversation starter and not finisher.” Nadia is a good starting point to help us find our own way.

Did a parish want to be compost and help new things grow, or would it decide to be cremated ending up as a pile of ash.

Another question that Nadia posed to parishes was what to do when the inevitable end comes. Did a parish want to be compost and help new things grow, or would it decide to be cremated ending up as a pile of ash. As I recall the conference, Rev Cathy Campbell spoke and agreed wholeheartedly with the call to be compost and allow something new to grow and develop. Rev Campbell is setting a great example of just that with the West End Commons Project.

Nadia has encouraged us all to think about new ways of being church, of being relevant in relationship with our community. She has blessed our Diocese in the richness of her experience and wisdom. She is certainly a lady worth hearing more from.

By Rev Helen Kennedy