The Festival of Radical Discipleship

DSCN3827Radical Discipleship is about nothing more and nothing less than laying bare the roots of the personal and socio-political pathologies of our imperial society and its dead-end history, even as we seek to recover the roots of our deep biblical tradition. And what tradition is that? It is the messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “Way out of no way” that has been going on since the dawn of resistance to the dusk of empire.
Ched Myers, Opening Ceremony of The Festival of Radical Discipleship, Feb 16, 2015
Last week, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries hosted their first ever Festival of Radical Discipleship in the Ventura River Watershed of Southern California. The 60th birthday of Ched Myers, one of the godparents of the Radical Discipleship Movement, provided an ample excuse for 170 of us to get together for inspiration, prayer, strategy, celebration and mayhem. Myers asked, “How might our Movement be more healthy and sustainable if we celebrated each other more often?”

This occasion was a reminder that there is “no substitute for face time” and that “not everyone should be doing the same thing, but everyone should be doing something.” It was a week dedicated to Jesus’ depiction of family, a small community gathered together to do the will of God together, listening and trusting each other. Myers boldly claimed that it resembled the early Jesus Movement, before the church councils hijacked it for imperial ends. These love feasts of singing, scripting and meal sharing were dedicated to naming, framing and claiming the Way so that it doesn’t disappear.

Here’s a sample of how some of us experienced the Festival.

From Sue & Hyun Hur of ReconciliAsian in Los Angeles:

This was our first time at the institute. It was exciting to meet different people of diverse background having the same passion to seriously look at what it means to be radical disciples of Jesus and engage in our connection to the land, to the earth. In a way we felt that we found kindred spirits who are forerunners in Christian discipleship. We think the biggest challenge that we are taking home with us is to see how we can bring what we learned at the gathering back to the local church. We think this is especially difficult in immigrant churches where many still struggle to survive in a foreign land. We recognize that we stand in this gap trying to contextualize the macro need in the micro world that we live in.

From Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder:

At The Festival I felt like I was entering into the conversation about what really matters in a new way… alongside those who have invested the majority of their life walking with God, the human family and the earth and I was steadied by their wisdom and joy. And also alongside those who have most of their life ahead of them and are just now setting their course – their fresh eyed and full hearted commitment inspired me. I left The Festival nourished, challenged and energized for the next chapter of my own life – especial for the calls of ministry and motherhood.

From Mary Catherine Johnson of the Open Door Community in Atlanta:

From the first drum beats that signaled our kick-off supper together on Monday night, to the closing song on Friday, it is perhaps the music, and the shared experiences and conversations that it inspired, that I will most fondly remember from the Festival. The performances by Carnival de Resistance, Warren Cooper, Charlie King, Myra Brown and so many others lifted my spirits and reminded me that I am not dancing alone in this movement toward a just society. Right now here in Georgia we are facing the brutal executions of our dear friends on death row at an alarming rate, yet in this quagmire of death I continue to find comfort and redemption in the songs and the joyful dancing that I both witnessed and participated in at the Festival. That music of protest and liberation unites us then, now and always.

From Peter Gallagher of the Seattle Catholic Worker:

As I reflect on what “shimmered” for me at the Kinsler Institute, one of my favorite lines from the Gospel keeps running through my head: “No greater love is there than this, than to lay down one’s life for their friends” (John 15:13). For me, the most miraculous aspect of this festival was the irrefutable sense that this was truly a gathering of people that would lay down their life for each other–and not only each other, but for the movement, for the Earth, indeed for all our brothers and sisters all throughout the world. This precious feeling–of finding the greatest love in self-sacrifice– is the deepest and purest incarnation of the heart of Jesus. I give thanks to Ched and all the organizers at BCM for helping manifest this spirit, and I pray that this Word ground and sustain all of us as we go forth, proclaiming God’s reign of justice and peace.

From Andrew McLeod, the author of Holy Cooperation!: Building Graceful Economies:

This revival is apocalyptic, all right. Each year I’ve attended we have shared a growing urgency as the depth of humanity’s economic and ecological problems become more clear and catastrophic. And healing is on the agenda, although more of a collective healing of systemic problems and a ravaged natural world starting in our own watersheds. Hell can be escaped only together, and it’s not as easy as getting up for an altar call.

Fortunately, Heaven is also close at hand. It’s emerging every day: a fabric that is slowly being stitched together, a community of resistance spreading from watershed to watershed like seeds blown by the wind. (see Andrew’s full review here)

From Margaret Ernst of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild):

I am of a generation of activists (millennials and other young folk) who can communicate across the globe in milliseconds and use our phones to start a revolution. But what we deeply need is schooling in having the patience and foresight to be exactly where we are, when we are: to love each other, celebrate each other, be soaked by the sky, learn from the land, learn from our elders, open our hearts, listen to our spirits. My most precious moments from the Festival were every time I realized what a great feast is present when above all other agendas, one spends one’s life in love with the people and places in front of us. Clearly this is what Ched has made his business – and thanks be to God!

From Susie Henderson, Minister for Community Engagement & Communication, The United Church of Canada:

I felt very enriched by the folks of the earthlier variety. I had my share of ah-ha moments that I want to unravel further in the future. Some of the ideas bouncing around in my head now are about how to take up the Wilderness Way challenge to find the sacred outside and not just take our inside stuff outside and do the same thing. What does wilding and wilderness mean in metropolitan Toronto? As much as I want to deepen my connection to the natural world in this place, I want to deepen my appreciation of what this built environment means as a place to be. I have a project in May to create a watershed discipleship Jane’s Walk where I will work with a few colleagues to go deeper here.

From 11-year-old Bella Henry:

The thing I liked about the Bartimaeus Institute was the people. Everyone was nice to me and talked to me like an equal, not like a two-year old like most people do. I met people that were different and interesting and talked in a way that made you want to know more about them. I hope to come again next year.

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