My Friend Neil Christopher is doing some amazing work. He is doing some innovating work that is reaching out to particular people groups. Here is a bit about him and what he’s up to. Make sure you also check out his website here: Evolitionist Dot Com or catch him on Twitter @evolitionist.
What do you have in your Ipod right now?
I don’t have an iPod. Actually, I don’t have an iPhone or MacBook either. Apple has a horrible track-record in both human rights and environmental issues, and I just can’t give money to companies that I know are so careless about such things. I know that it’s almost impossible this day to buy anything that doesn’t somehow filter into a company that is mistreating people, investing in porn, hurting animals or the planet, but I try my best – that is the least I can do.
One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m a bit of an ascetic at heart. I haven’t had a TV since I was a teenager; I try to own or get along as little as possible, and live as meagerly as I can. Buying a laptop and getting on twitter and facebook was actually quite hard for me, but I did it after a lot of thought because I knew it would help me stay in touch with people and minister to others. I still feel weird about it though. Anyway, it’s a personal thing between God and I so I don’t bring it up much; it actually tends to make most people feel defensive or uncomfortable for some reason.
To answer your question on what I am listening to right now – I have been listening to Pandora on the internet because it’s free and pretty cool. I have one “station” based off The Cure, and another off Gregorian chants – I’m listening to The Cure station right now and it just finished playing The Postal Service and I liked them a lot; now it has switched to New Order… I love New Order.
What books have changed your life?
I tend to always have a copy of The Little Prince around; in fact, there were many years where I got buy with nothing but that and a bible in my backpack. Almost Catholic was amazing for me to journey with and has a lot to do with my spiritual practices today; Centering Prayer In Daily Life and Ministry was pretty good; Siddhartha is a must-read; Hail, Holy Queen was pivotal in my Marian studies, and The Jesus Mysteries blew my faith away for a while when I was in seminary… but was an important thing for me to struggle through and when I came back to my faith in Christ it was stronger than ever.
In the end though, I’d have to say that as long as I have a bible, The Little Prince, and maybe some Emerson or Thoreau on me… I’m content. Right now I’m reading various works of Origen or Alexandria; some Pseudo-Dionysius and I just ordered a bunch of books from Amazon about the Spiritual Disciplines because I feel like God is calling me towards being more deliberate in my spiritual practices and rhythms.
Tell us a bit about your journey toward Christ?
That’s a long and never-ending story… but the journey has been amazing so far. As far back as I can remember I recall having an innate sense of love, awe and wonder towards God and Christ. I was praying before I even knew who I was praying to, and I believed that God loved me unconditionally. I was happy. Unfortunately, I started going to a church when I was a teenager that presented a very different God to me; told me that He didn’t really like or love me that much, and ruined things for me for a very long time. Nowadays it seems that I spend a lot of my time trying to get back to my child-like state and trying my best to not screw up anybody that comes under my care now that it is my turn to be the teacher.
What are you up to now?
Well, I felt God calling me to move to Texas and so I moved here about a year ago. I didn’t have a job or anything lined-up but I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do. At first I was looking into getting my PhD but God had a different plan. I wound up getting hired at an ELCA church as their Jr and Sr High Youth Director. I like working with kids a lot.
On the other hand, I am also finding myself working with more and more young-adults these days as well. I was totally not expecting that to happen. I started going out downtown a lot, hitting the local pubs, art shows, coffee shops and concert venues and started meeting a lot of wonderful young-adults. Most of them actually indentify as Christian, but not all, and most tend to have stories about how they were hurt by or have become disenfranchised with the Church or Christianity.
I started becoming friends with many of them; pastring some, but mainly just loving on them and listening to them. Some of them call me their pastor now; most simply call me their friend.
There was a local bar/club owner in town that recognized this and offered me the use of his blues club on Sunday’s, for free, to start up some kind of church. I asked my friends what they thought of this, if they would even come, and the response was really good so I went ahead and did it. We had our first meeting on May 15th. I decided to call the thing Kyrie.
What is Kyrie?
Kyrie is short for Kyrie Eleison, which means Lord have mercy, and is something that most people from a liturgical church or mass would be familiar with. It doesn’t have to be, but is normally sung, and I find it to be one of my favorite parts of a traditional service.
Kyrie Fort Worth is a monthly (but soon to become weekly) ecumenical gathering that centers highly around music, art and a mixing of tradition with the rather un-traditional. Right now it is a team of 4 different Christian churches, from various denominations, and we are in discussions to expand and open it up to even more churches. One night we may have bands play, another night a Taize service, another a drum circle… but no matter what we do there is always communion, a brief message and some kind of Kryie, Prayers of the People, and sometimes confession and forgiveness.
A pastor from one church may speak while a pastor from another may do communion, etc, etc – it is really beautiful and there is a true sense of Christian community happening here. Many people who would never see themselves darkening the door of a church feel welcome and free to come, and for those who are stronger in their faith it is giving them a chance to lead, use their gifts, fellowship, and get exposed to different ways to “do church” or express their spirituality.
Why Kyrie and not something else?
Well I liked the name and the domain name I wanted was available so it seemed like a win-win to me.
How is Kyrie different from what else is going on?
Kyrie is truly ecumenical, it is not a church and it is not a denomination. We take no offering and have no agenda. We simply want to be the Body of Christ, in all its marvelous, various parts, worshiping together and trying to function as some kind of inclusive family unit. Oh, the bar is open during Kyrie and we have our own church bar-tender… that throws some people for a loop. Funny thing is that to me that is the least interesting thing that is going on in Kyrie and is hardly even worth mentioning.
How has the response been so far?
About 30 people showed up to the first Kyrie and at least 4 different church leaders were involved and represented. The Monday afterwards I was asked to meet with the pastors of two other churches in the area who expressed interest in joining Kyrie as well. They are now on-board and are actually going to do away with their Sunday evening services or young-adult groups and make Kyrie a facet of their normal congregational worship experience.
More importantly, I went to a bar the other day to have a beer and watch the Mav’s game and I had several people there walk up to me or call me over to their tables to talk with them about Kyrie. They had not attended, but knew what it was and were interested in either coming or learning more about it. That says a lot to me!
Anything else we should know?
The website is KyrieFortWorth.com and right now we are meeting on the third Sunday of each month; as I said earlier though, we are probably going to start meeting weekly by August when vacations are over and all the local schools are back in session. I’d be more than happy to talk to anyone about it if they have any more questions, and I have a blog www.evolitionist.com that is updated frequently if anyone is interested in learning more about me and my take on theology, life and religion.