Lydia Wylie-Kellermann and Tommy Airey are co-editors of RadicalDiscipleship.Net and are both solid INFJs on the Myers-Briggs personality test. When it comes to the Enneagram, Lydia is a 2 with a 3 wing. Tommy is a 3 with a 2 wing. But the similarities may end there. Lydia grew up in Detroit, is in a traditional same-sex marriage (with partner, Erinn), the mother of two sons, a disciple of the Harry Potter series, an avid gardener and knitter. Tommy grew up in suburban Southern California, is scandalously married to a former student (Lindsay), an avid distance runner and starts every morning sipping on home-roasted coffee, journaling and reading the sports page and academic theology. Below is the transcript of a conversation we recently had eagerly anticipating the three-year anniversary of RadicalDiscipleship.Net. Logo above by Sarah Holst.
LWK: Happy Anniversary, Tommy!
For three years we have been vocationally tangled in this interwebs experiment of radicaldiscipleship.net. We have successfully shared over a thousand posts that come out of circles of communities across North America. We’ve done it without a dollar. We’ve been paid nothing and we have relied on the generosity of writers’ time and work.
I have to say that it has been one of the joys of my life. I have loved working with you, loved creating and visioning the space, and have been so grateful for the ways it has strengthened and made space for my own written voice. Thank you, Tommy, for birthing the idea and inviting me into it. What gave you the idea for the blog? What were your hopes? And how are you feeling three years in?
TA: Feelings are mutual. And that’s the fun part: “working” with somebody I respect and enjoy. I don’t take this for granted—especially in “retirement.” The seed for radicaldiscipleship.net was planted by Ched Myers around the breakfast table at Casa Anna Schultz in the Ventura River Watershed. I’d been blogging since 2007, mostly using it as a journal to work out and chronicle my own changing convictions as I’ve journeyed out of the Evangelicalism of my youth. I pursued Ched and Elaine about posting some of their work frequently online (either a blog or on social media). I envisioned posting daily excerpts from their Ambassadors of Reconciliation (a brilliant two-volume set that is grossly under-read). Richard Rohr’s daily email devotionals were my inspiration for this thinking.
Ched eventually queried about what it might look like to have a blog devoted to all the great writing rooted in the North American Radical Discipleship movement (all of it grossly under-read). I remember bouncing this idea off you in April 2014, when Lindsay and I spent an afternoon with you, Erinn and Isaac at a playground in Dearborn (after a stop at Cedarland, of course). We were really just getting to know each other then, but I had read some of your writing, loved it and you had spoken of your passion to do more of it. I’m not sure what happened after that, but I am grateful for it. Are you surprised this project actually became a reality? Also: what are some highlights that immediately surface? Are there any posts written by folks that really shimmer for you?
LWK: I’m not surprised that it happened. You seemed like the kind of guy that could get shit done and my heart was hungry for that kind of work. But I guess I am surprised that it is still going. Three years later, people are still reading, people are still sending us their writings. In fact, I think it could be read even more if the two of us learned a little more about strategy and social media. But it does seem like this space honors a need for community and connection across distances, for concrete stories of hope and vulnerable shares of repentance, and for good, deep theology that stirs the soul and moves our feet.
In fact, I actually feel like we are just at the beginning. This thing has been birthed and it’s moving and it feels like there is space for us to dream together for what the coming years could bring.
I’ve loved so many pieces of the blog. I think my favorites are when there are series of posts. It feels like there is a conversation going and we are writing and reading together. For example, the prayers written during Advent or the posts on food and discipleship or the communities that talked about the signs they see of empire cracking and I have so much gratitude for all the work you did on the Beyond Vietnam Lenten series. I also can’t believe that we now have lectionary resources for Year A, B and C! Those are tremendous gifts and resources.
How about you? What shimmers for you? Are there things you wish or dreams you hold?
TA: All of these that you name are highlights for me too. The North American radical discipleship network has been truly gifted by some many of these posts.
What I yearn for most is for more posts that arise out of beloved communities on the ground. I’d love to see “quarterly updates” from many of the “communities of discontinuity” that we have linked up on the site. What sorts of radical pranks and practices are these laboratories experimenting with in their respective contexts? What are the hard times and the highlights? Where are we seeing the hand of God in the midst of it all? I think a lot of us radical disciples feel very isolated and alienated. How might we keep one another’s courage up while also sharing vulnerably out of our pain and struggle?
I’d also love to hear from elders and proteges about what is happening with some of our language. I constantly use, hear and read words like “activism,” “the movement,” “community” and everyone’s current favorite “resistance.” I’m not really sure what these mean in real-time. I have a hunch that people would define them differently from each other. I hope this blog can be a space to spell out some of this.
Lastly, I’d love an honest, raw, vibrant conversation about the role of social media in our lives. What are ways that we can covenant to make this form of communication more healing and liberative? Who’s on all the time? Who’s on sometimes? Who’s never on? Are these lifestyles intentional? Are people committing to sabbaths? Boycotts?
Where do you envision the conversation on the site flowing from here?
LWK: Oh you are harsh! I’ve used each of those words at least 4 times today! And I love each of them! But I see your point.
I love all of your ideas and I think we should make them happen. I would love to see more usable resources for people that could be shared among communities whether those are curriculums or liturgical services. I would also love more art, poetry, and photography. And I would love more prayers that derive from our current moment, that give words to cry out in outrage, grief, or hope. Words we can all read together around the world.
Plus, I would really love to figure out how to savor the work that is already here and archived into years of posts. I see the practicality of the internet, but my hands long to hold on paper these words of wisdom and struggle that I can easily return to again and again. So, I would love to compile pieces into short booklets.
We shall see where it all goes. But for now, I am endlessly grateful for you, Tommy. And for all those who send writings and for those who read it every day or occasionally. And of course, we would love to hear from the communities and folks who use this online space about what you have loved or what your dreams for such a space could be. The possibilities feel limitless and I do believe we are just at the beginning.