Faith Under Construction: The Upside Down Gathering in Chicago

It’s easy to deconstruct faith. It’s a lot harder to reconstruct it.

People today are finding themselves in this season of deconstruction and reconstruction, re-examining Jesus, aching for conversations that integrate the entire arc of scripture with the cultural realities of today. The Upside Down Gathering was born out of women and men longing to traverse this season of question-asking and reexamination with others who are doing the same.

Many of us find ourselves discovering the cracks of Christendom and the fissures within our faith. Once discovered, the weakest points of our thin faith give way easily as we apply pressure to our former assumptions and conclusions. Suddenly, we see how our own faith was like that of the religious leaders Jesus confronted in Matthew 23. Jesus didn’t mince words; first, he called the religious leaders hypocrites. Then, he took it a step further:

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as righteous but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

The realization is at once thrilling and terrifying—we long for the deeper, richer faith offered by Jesus, but the comfort that came with certainty has faded away. We’re left grasping in the dark, feeling our way around crevices. We’ve opened our eyes to the brokenness, but now the light at the end of the tunnel that used to feel so bright and clear now feels dim and dirty. (Or was that light an illusion? Was it ever really there at all?)

As we who grew up within Western Christianity scrape away what we now see is simply faux Christianity, we may be wondering: What’s even left? And how do I discern what I keep and what I leave behind?

4 Essentials As We Move From Deconstruction to Reconstruction

How do we live in this tension between deconstruction and reconstruction? It’s easy to want to smash the scaffolding, to grab a hammer to break-up the pretty, empty buildings brick-by-brick, but what do we do after the walls come down?

Here are four things I’m learning we need as we move from deconstruction into a season of reconstruction—and how we’ve made space for all of them at our Upside Down Gathering this September.

1. Community

We weren’t created to ask our questions in a vacuum. We need each other. And let’s expand the kinds of people we’re willing to learn from—not only academics but artists, pastors, and poets. Let’s welcome not only men from the majority culture to teach us, but women and people of color, too.

At the Upside Down Gathering, we’ll welcome men and women from across the country to learn from each other and experienced leaders, including Dominique Gilliard, pastor and author of “Rethinking Incarceration,” and activist and pastor Sandra Maria Van Opstal, who will lead us in re-imagining worship that embodies solidarity and mutuality.

2. Creativity

We create because we were created in God’s image. In the creation account, we can see God’s creative process unfoldturn on the lights…add a splash of color… bring in some movementand it’s that same creative spirit that moves us from the void of our deconstructed faith toward new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world.

This is why at our Gathering, author and Loyola Press editor Vinita Hampton Wright will take us through a journey in navigating and telling the stories our souls tell.

3. Cultural Engagement

When we read the words of the prophets, the admonishments to sit with the sick, walk with the poor, and stand with the oppressed illuminate the darkness. Too often, cultural narratives have been hijacked and politicized, obscuring the call of Christ and conflating kingdoms. Moving from deconstruction to reconstruction requires a fresh understanding of what engagement means and not shying away from difficult issues like immigration, violence, and racism. Moving from deconstruction to reconstruction requires a fresh understanding of what engagement means and not shying away from difficult issues like immigration, violence, and racism. Click To Tweet

War veteran turned peacemaker Diana Oestreich of Preemptive Love Coalition will share her experiences of unmaking violence. We’ll peel back what God’s word says about immigration and a posture of love toward refugees. Artist Micah Bournes will share how he fights injustice through his music and spoken word poetry, and how we can instigate change through creative cultural involvement.

4. Contemplation

At the most stressful points in his ministry, Jesus found secluded places for times of contemplation. Today, we can find rest in the church’s ancient rhythms: prayers and liturgies that have carried God’s people through the centuries. As we bring our whole selvesphysical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—into the work God has called us to, contemplation offers rejuvenation for weary souls, reminding us that we are not alone in the work, but joined by the Spirit.

Aundi Kolber, a licensed professional counselor, will unpack what it looks like to seek radical self-care in an age of upheaval. We’ll also have ecumenical worship together.

It Won’t Be Slick, but Something Real and Lasting May Emerge

This won’t be a bright and shiny event. We have no slick marketing. We’re well aware of our own propensity to fall into the trap of becoming white-washed tombs, and we’re doing our broken best as creators and neighbors and friends to see the imago dei in our neighbors and ourselves. We’re leaders and neighbors, daughters and sons who have caught glimpses of an invisible Kingdom that is now and not yet.

Let’s dare to have eyes to see beyond the allure of power for something greater—the Kingdom of God. Whether you’re a seasoned ministry leader or a first-year student, we hope you join us as we build a bigger table to break bread and break the walls that divide, so we can rebuild together. There’s room for you at our table. Whether you’re a seasoned ministry leader or a first-year student, we hope you join us at the Upside Down Gathering in Chicago, Sept 21-22. Click To Tweet

Learn more about the Upside Down Gathering speakers and schedule of events for Sept. 21-22 at Wilson Abbey in Chicago, and get your tickets (use the special code “missio” for 15% off already low ticket prices) here. Tickets are on-sale until Sunday, Sept. 9.

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