Exploration | Richard Shore


The following is an excerpt from Exploration by Richard Shore. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.

This work is called “Exploration” because it begins the process of seeking and examining many aspects of one theme, one big question. That question is how are we to create and maintain a faithful community in the face of change. Because this manual is about building community, the introduction includes both a glimpse of the content and also guidance on how to do a workshop using this manual, learning about building community by doing community.

One part of the answer offered is looking at examples of the ways we have tried doing community. Another part of it is looking at the method we use to guide our imagining, (a) looking specific examples of doing community (b) inferring a generalization of doing community and (c) imagining yet another specific example of a community that is not yet. We do not do community that way now, but if we did, that might be consistent with the generalization we inferred, thus faithful to the idea of doing community. faithful and renewing.

From the 1930’s, through 50’s there was a theologian writing about a method for understanding scripture, and in particular the apparently inconsistent uses of a word found there. He developed a method for interpretation. He thought that the truth to be found in scripture was couched in terms of culturally and historically specific examples and that seekers for truth need to strip off that coating and find the essential key idea within. His name was Rudolph Bultmann. He insisted he did not invent this method and pointed to places where it appeared to be in use by the writers of scripture. We will look at “Emanuel” (God with us) as one example of this changing use of.a word. He was out of fashion even before he died. A second theologian extended Bultmann’s method, commenting that he could not sit on his idea of a chair. That is, that we will invent new culturally specific examples to convey the essential idea. His name was Paul Tillich. We use this tool to which Bultmann and Tillich pointed It is a way to help guide re- invention so that it has some hope of being faithful to the heritage.

So how shall we change, but also not change? Yes. That is the question. If we get it wrong we may destroy the community. So the stakes are high.

This manual divides the material into three parts.

Part 1 outlines the heritage, the experiences of people recorded in scripture. Part 2 examines major word-symbols, the words naming some major ideas now become doctrines of the church related to doing community. Part 3 lifts up practice, the care and feeding of community. I have made each chapter small enough for one session of a workshop, within one hour: about 20 minutes to read aloud, about 40 to open, reflect, and close.

Many “faith communities” are losing members. Many people have no affiliation with any such community. I think that one important reason for this phenomenon is that the words we use in these communities no longer connect to the experiences with which their people are familiar. I think there is a need to change how we do and what words we use.

Many books speak of what God IS. This one does not. This book looks rather at our experiences of the ultimately important, experiences of which the writers of scripture said, “God”. I hope this helps agnostics, atheists, and the “unchurched” to join the conversation. How we use words, shapes our thinking, guides and limits our results.

Part 1, begins, illustrating the method we will use, with a non-emotional thing, how we have used the word “chair” over the centuries. It then briefly explores liturgy, because this book uses a liturgical teaching approach. It look at some specific words in scripture words changing their use right there on the pages of scripture, “Emanuel/God-With-Us”, “Messiah”, and “Demon”. One
also finds in Part1 a brief narrative line from Moses to Caiaphas providing examples used later, and a description of the world-view of those writing scripture, flat earth, solid dome holding back the waters.

Part 2, looks at some major word-symbols, how we talk about them, how we can connect these word-symbols to the biblical narratives, and to our own experiences. These important words include “sin”, “grace”, and the Trinity: the divine, experienced as Father, experienced as Christ, and experienced as Spirit.

Part 3, looks in detail at this tool we have been using. The whole manual up to this point is the context for fostering community. Here we look at some of the data on the caring, resilient, community including Ostrom’s communities stable for a thousand years ; seeking a pattern. Finally we examine one model in detail. The description of this model is tentatively dogmatic,
tentative, because as Paul put it, “…now we see as in a glass, darkly.” Paul points to the heart of the process, continually finding new ways to say the old truth in a new and renewing community, to put the ancient truth in current local vernacular.

About the Author

Richard ShoreRichard Shore earned a PhD from Duke, and an MBA from U. Toledo. He held a variety of academic, and industrial positions. He also impersonated John Muir, the naturalist, to the delight of thousands. And, since the 1970’s he has been synthesizing important understandings of sociology, theology, and economics to help lay people see ways to be faithful while so much is changing, including even the way we use words, thus to systematically re-invent ourselves.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.