Written by Winn Collier, Director of the Eugene Peterson Center and Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Christian Imagination.
Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it.
At the Peterson Center, we’re prayerfully asking God to help us nurture a way of being that is faithful, contemplative, joyful, holy, and deeply human. And goodness, do we have our work cut out for us. There are powerful, entrenched cultural forces arrayed against these simple hopes. Our frantically paced, ego-driven world insists we should clamor to be recognized; we should move lightning fast, and we should always be on the cutting edge. It’s assumed we must always have a quick, witty response in our back pocket—and a bullhorn at the ready. However, we believe that faithfulness means resisting these oppressive assumptions. We long for a better way.
What if, rather than increasing effectiveness, building a platform, or maximizing efficiency, our churches and neighborhoods really need friendship, humility, and wisdom? What if we are starved by our lack of curiosity? What if we need fewer words and more silence? What if our moment begs for courageous voices emerging out of a lifetime of fidelity rather than a reactionary impulse? What if we long to be people whose gifts emerge out of a posture of prayer and lament and hope?
Eugene insisted that the American church thought too little about the way we go about doing our work, the way we live together and offer God’s wisdom to the world (as if the end result—like increasing members and offerings or “winning” a culture war—justified whatever the cost to get there). If we want to pursue a God-saturated life interwoven with relationships that ennoble human dignity and pursue the sacredness of God’s world and our place in it, then we need a way of going about this that doesn’t destroy our noble hopes in the process. We have to actually live the kind of life we want to nurture. We can’t create a beautiful world in ugly ways.
“The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal,” Eugene insisted. “[N]othing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular, local.”
This is why, in our desire to be relational, to foster beauty and goodness and truth, the Peterson Center (at least for now) won’t be on social media. This isn’t a brittle rule from which we’ll never waver, but we long to be as human and slow and thoughtful as possible. You can, however, find us on our webpage (petersoncenter.org) and our email list—and we always welcome old-fashioned letters.
Our hope is to encourage faithful presence: tending to our gardens, opening conversations, paying attention to God, and bearing witness to all that is human and holy. And we’re convinced that this will mean less noise, less promotion, more listening, and more grace.