7 Questions Before C21: Phyllis Tickle

Photo Credit: Teresa Hooper

In just two months, 21 provocative religion thought-leaders will gather in Denver, CO to share their “big ideas” on the future of Christianity as part of the unique conference Christianity 21 (C21). The speakers are diverse: pastors (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Kent Dobson); authors (Tony Jones, Enuma Okoro, Bruce Reyes-Chow); CEOs (David Lee, Noel Castellanos); POTUS spiritual advisors (Joshua DuBois); and religion journalists (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jonathan Merritt), all musing on the future of faith in America.

We’ve invited several of the speakers to respond to seven questions about their life and what they’re most excited about in their work as part of our 7 Questions Before C21 series leading up to the January 9-11, 2014 event. This week we’re hearing from Phyllis Ticklerenowned author, historian and beloved speaker on Emergence Christianity.

“Unless I am reading the signs and signals wrong, there is, as part of Emergence in our times, a slow, but steady melding together into one historic narrative or meta-narrative of Judaism and Christianity in this country and abroad. What I want to do next is tell again the Hebrew Bible stories that Judaism has never lost and that much of inherited Church has cast aside or edited out over the last few centuries.” — Phyllis Tickle

What do you do in the world?

Presently, I stand on the cusp of two ways of both being and doing. For the last two decades, I have been a student of Emergence Christianity, rejoicing in it and in the opportunity to talk and write about this new thing that is a-borning among us. No small part of my joy in all of these years has been that of having a two-pronged audience. That is, I have been allowed to speak with and learn from Emergence Christians as they plot the course of the coming years in latinized Christianity. I have also been allowed to speak about this holy and new thing to Christians in inherited or traditional churches and church structures. In a sense, that is, I have been a transient resident in two countries, back and forth and then back again.

As I begin my retirement from public life, though, I think what I am really doing is moving my “transient resident” role to a different, but related place. That is, unless I am reading the signs and signals wrong, there is, as part of Emergence in our times, a slow, but steady melding together into one historic narrative or meta-narrative of Judaism and Christianity in this country and abroad. What I want to do next is tell again the Hebrew Bible stories that Judaism has never lost and that much of inherited Church has cast aside or edited out over the last few centuries.

What are you most excited about in your work right now?

Every time latinized Christianity has passed through one of the semi-millennial upheavals like our own Great Emergence, not only has a new form or expression of the faith emerged…as clearly is happening with us right now…but also the extant and organized  forms or expressions of the faith that had previous held hegemony or pride of place have had to drop back, re-group, and re-configure. That second part of the semi-millennial process has begun to move forward of late with considerable energy and urgency and fervor. Watching it, studying it, attending it excites my prayers, certainly, but it also excites my interest and curiosity, not to mention my pathological need to ponder and poke and, of course, comment.

What is one word you’d choose to describe the future of Christianity?

Glorious…as in “exhilarating and glory-filled.”

Who are you looking forward to meeting at C21?

Everybody! How is that for a definitive answer!…but it is true. Almost all the presenters are folk I know or know much about, and many of them are dear, dear friends whose company I always covet. But at gatherings like 21, it is the participants whom I also enjoy and whose company I probably covet even more. Gatherings like 21 are like crash-courses for me in learning what’s really going on, where people are “at,” so to speak, and where they think things are going. So, 21, here I come, greedy as always to hear and meet and learn.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

I could easily laugh out loud at this one, believe me. That is, if there is one thing I intend to do after my retirement from public life and the lecture circuit, it is to permanently rent a seat in two or three theatres, which is to say that I am starving for the sheer joy of watching current movies in the company of other people…a kind of secular ritual or praxis, if you will. Presently however, because of travel schedules etc., I am a contemporary film illiterate who is addicted to Netflix re-runs of things like Lost or British shows like Downton Abbey, Midsomer Murders, or some old favorites like The Tudors.

What are you reading right now?

In my youth, I think I read books one at a time, but no more. Now I keep four or five going simultaneously, though I had never thought about the oddity of that until you asked me this question. Maybe it is as simple as no longer having a houseful of children stirring things around and moving whatever is not tied down to someplace else where it can remain in limbo for days on end. Whatever the reason, I actually like moving from one author to another and from one genre to another. So, presently, I am reading: Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition; James Goodman’s But Where Is the Lamb? Imaging the Story of Abraham and Isaac; Paul Harding’s The Anger of God from his “The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan” series; and Leore Batnitzky’s How Judaism Became A Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought.

What’s one of your most meaningful spiritual practices?

Ah, this, too, is a gift of old age. That is, hands down, the most meaningful practice to me…or better put, the dearest practice…is setting my alarm for 4, or on some days 4:30, a.m. in order to observe the Office of the Night Watch and then, the Office having been observed, to lie in prayer and meditation and listening for another hour or so. Such is not possible in one’s younger years…or it certainly would not have been in my own. It is now, however, and my soul rejoices in it as in no other single part of the day.

Hear more from Phyllis Tickle – and 20 other exciting religious thought-leaders – at Christianity 21, January 9-11 in Denver, CO.  Click here for more. 

More 7 Questions Before C21 Interviews:

 

About Deborah Arca

Deborah Arca is the Managing Editor of the Progressive Christian Portal and Book Club at Patheos.com.


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