I thoroughly enjoy my role as the Senior Associate for urban mission for The Lausanne Movement. (As I like to tell people, it is one of the few things I do in life that is a true role rather than a function! I get to celebrate what fine urban ministry practitioners are doing around the globe as together we pursue God’s global urban mission.)
But funny things often happen to me in this role.
I was at a conference at Princeton Seminary two weeks ago and was interacting with one speaker who had done a fascinating paper dealing with the new paganism. He was addressing issues of nature and creation. He made a passionate plea for a better view of cities on the part of congregations as part of the solution to the rise of this worldview. I introduced myself to him as an “urban missiologist”. He paused for a few seconds and commented, “I love that title – I have never thought about putting that adjective in front of that noun!” We had a great conversation. This does not always happen with my more secular neighbours. I have a vocation that can be a little of a conversation stopper!
But, this past week also included another funny thing that happens to people with my particular vocation. I am teaching a course at the Presbyterian College at McGill University in my city, Montréal, Canada. This course is entitled, Christian Faith, the City and Jazz! You see every year Montréal is home to the world’s largest jazz festival. Because I love following Jesus into the city and I love jazz, seven years ago I starting offering a course on the three themes. So for the first twelve days of July, I get to teach students about the God of creation and urban places and the place the arts play in the triad – using the jazz festival as context.
We do exegesis in a whole series of biblical texts. Last week we studied Genesis 1-4 (have you ever noticed that Jubal was the father of all jazz and string musicians: 4:21), Exodus 25- 40 (I love looking at this art exposition that the people of Israel made in the wilderness), Job 38-42 (God’s longest discourse in the Holy Scriptures, a commentary on creation as an antidote to the rationalistic idolatry of Job’s four “friends”) and Psalm 150. We explored the history of jazz since its roots in Afro-American slavery in the late 19th century. We explored why jazz is so urban. And then we listen to four-five free outdoor concerts, learning how to listen and appreciate jazz as an artistic expression.
Yes, funny things happen to urban missiologists. Tune in next week to more funny things that happen to people like me.