Becoming Conscious

Presbyterian Sanctuary

Photo courtesy of Michael Schwartzentruber

By Michael Schwartzentruber

It’s a bit of a shock when you first walk in. An entire church, most incredibly the sanctuary, done completely in an Egyptian motif, from floor to ceiling, to stained glass, to pulpit and table. One can’t help but wonder what was going through the heads of the church planners who designed, in 1880, the interior of what is now known as Downtown Presbyterian Church, in Nashville. As Brian McLaren asked out loud in his opening comments, were they at all conscious of the message they might be communicating? What would it have been like to encounter such a space in the American south in that era, as a white person, or more pointedly, as a person of colour, if such a thing even occurred?

Egypt, of course, plays a huge role in biblical history, and in the story of faith. It was THE empire back then, the super power, no question; it was the land that enslaved the Hebrew people and from which Moses led a great escape, a rebellion and revolution of sorts, that ultimately led to the Exodus and the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery.

But perhaps as the setting for Faith Forward 2014, the irony is beautiful – and perfect. Faith Forward (the conference) is after all a conversation about how to nurture children and youth in a new kind of Christianity – a Christianity that no longer bows to the power of today’s empires, a Christianity that is about justice-seeking for all peoples, all life, all creation; a Christianity that is no longer willing to stay, let alone just think, “inside the box.”

This requires hard work, make no mistake. We carry a lot of theological and church baggage. Baggage that is so familiar and comfortable to many that it is almost entirely unconscious, like perhaps the symbols and messages of empire and subjugation were unconsciously laid out by the designers of the sanctuary we are meeting in.

So there is much work to do, not the least of which involves becoming fully conscious of the messages our current faith practices convey, especially as they pertain to children and youth. Then we must dream and be carriers of a new vision, which perhaps won’t really be all that new if we remain true to the model of Jesus, who showed us a way to live a different kind of life. As Ivy Beckwith said, “It’s about imagining what could be, rather than perpetuating what is.”

So stay tuned. The conference is just getting started – a sign of hope and a source of inspiration for faith communities across the nation and around the globe who want to begin, or move further into, their own revolution and evolution.

Michael is an editor for Wood Lake Publishing. He was the compiler/editor of The Emerging Christian Way: Thoughts, Stories, and Wisdom for a Faith of Transformation  and co-author of  The Spirituality of Sex. He has spent much of his adult life reflecting on the connection between sex and spirituality, and has edited several books on sexual health and childhood sexual health education. He lives in Okanagan Centre, British Columbia, with his wife, Margaret.

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Categories: Christian Life, Featured, Mike Schwartzentruber, People, Prayer, Spiritual Growth

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at


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2 Comments on “Becoming Conscious”

  1. Letitia Sherman
    July 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm #


    I have recently stumbled across your blog and saw that you often blog about confirmation and spirituality. I find topics like this to be completely enlightening. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Kirk Nugent, he is an incredible Light Worker. He writes and lives the same spiritual lifestyle that you write about. I think you may find him interesting. Take a look at the video I have attached and you will understand how life changing he can be. Thank you for your time I hope you find Kirk Nugent as inspirational and life changing as I do. I’d love to know what you think about him.

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