by John Tyson
American philosopher Calvin O. Schrag in his book The Self After Postmodernity describes the emerging “self” as “a praxis-oriented self, defined by its communicative practices, oriented toward understanding itself in its discourse, its action, its being with others.” In less philosophical terms, our understanding of who we are as people is given meaning and direction by our daily conversations with others and the opportunities for action that are created. As humans, we are always making conversation, sometimes even without words. We are always communicating, we are always moving, going somewhere.
The joy of my work this summer has been the privilege to create new webs of conversations and simultaneously jump in the middle of webs that have long been woven. Within these webs of conversation and communication, I’ve been able to further discern God’s speaking in my interconnected spiritual, social, and political life, but more importantly, I’ve witnessed the movement of God’s reign in the midst of communities of women and men striving to follow the ways of Christ in today’s ever-evolving, ever-expanding world. The questions are unending and the challenges never cease, but if in nothing else, the continued conversation leads to hope. As more webs of conversation flower and build hope, the old weeds of pessimism wither and can be forgotten.
The conversations I’ve taken part in are hopeful but they don’t ignore the intense reality of confusion and struggle that is evident in all congregations and their respective local communities. A church willing to jump into the webs of conversation circulating in the communities of the world will no doubt encounter vast struggle and loss. Yet a church that takes this challenge on will recognize the exciting possibilities for creative, transformative ministry. For when conversations lead to redemption in Christ, hope lives on.
My conversations this summer have been all across the spectrum, from discussions about frakturs to globalization to opening the door of hospitality to kids who like vampires. These webs of continued conversation, however bizarre or practical, sustain hope. They give meaning and direction to us as Christian individuals and communities seeking to shed light onto the healing reign of God in our beautifully tragic world awaiting its redemption.
I’ve been in conversation with other young leaders finding their niche in the midst of their immersion into church ministry. I’ve worshiped while in conversation with sisters and brothers translating sermons and songs in a diversity of languages. I’ve been in conversations with subversive Christians seeking to rescue people from our politically numb society. I’ve been in conversations with our elderly folk, learning to reciprocate Anabaptist Christianity in the 21st century, finding that we have much commonality.
As I have learned personally this summer, conversations are hopeful because they breed interconnectedness, solidarity, and communication. They make webs, between those of us who are Christian and our neighbors whom we seek to embrace. These webs of conversation are endlessly loaded with potential and ensure that, if treated with care, the church has a future, a bright one.