Around Town: World Christianity, Folk Fest: William Prince, House of James . . .

Vince Bantu says Christianity has always been a global religion.

World Christianity is a burgeoning field and it will be well represented in the summer school programs of both Regent College and the Vancouver School of Theology:

Jehu Hanciles’ course is about ‘Global Christianity,’ but the book he edited recently is called World Christianity: History, Methodologies, Horizons (Orbis Books, 2021). The words ‘global’ and ‘world’ are, apparently, used quite interchangeably by scholars.

Vince Bantu teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary. His key theme is reflected in the name of his course, and is central to his book, A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity (IVP, 2020):

Many contemporary missiologists and church historians would have us believe that Christianity came into Africa and Asia from Europe when the reality is quite the opposite in several significant respects. Christianity is not becoming a global religion; it has always been a global religion. . . .

Despite the persisting association of the Christian faith with Western culture/whiteness, Christianity has always been a global religion that spread from Jerusalem in every direction.

Jehu Hanciles believes the field of World Christianity is flourishing.

Hanciles, Director of the World Christianity program at Chandler School of Theology, states in his book, “Based on the most cursory assessment of the last decade or so, the field of world Christianity is flourishing.”

The first contributor to the book, Dana Robert (Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology), writes:

Collaborative conversation among scholars and practitioners, many with firsthand experience in the global South, showed that the depressing tropes of inevitable secularization and Western denominational malaise were not the center of the story.

Western colonialist oppression, while important to face and reject, was not what defined Christian identity worldwide.

Rather than mission history being a tale of expanding empire with outposts run by colonial-era missionaries, it became clear that the margins and the center were always shifting. The local and the global constantly intersected. The seemingly powerless used their faith to create new identities.

The founding of indigenous churches, the spread of liberation theologies, the global flow of Pentecostal worship – all these were signs of vitality, not a death spiral of the Christian faith. World Christianity was not the story of Western denominations and institutions bound by rigid doctrine generated by powerful gatekeepers.

Alexander Chow is Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Christianity, University of Edinburgh.

Rather, as a ‘social organism,’ it included women and children who worshiped under trees in Africa, migrant preachers who traversed urban spaces across the Americas, Catholic sisters who led base Christian communities, Asian religious minorities who pushed for social change, eastern Europeans who brought down the Iron Curtain, and globe-trotting pilgrims from everywhere to everywhere.

There will be several public lectures for those of us who cannot take the courses:

The lectures will also be available online.

Folk Fest: William Prince

The good news is that William Prince still approaches the big questions with humility and curiosity.

Thank God, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival will go ahead again this year! Long-time fans survived a nasty scare earlier this year when board members said the society would be dissolving due to financial problems.

But the community rallied; bands and fans will be spread out above Jericho Beach July 14 – 16.

The Folk Fest is now in its 45th year, and I’ve attended almost every one (and written about quite a few). One attends for the diversity of types of music, and I love hearing most of them – but I do admit to keeping an eye out for Christians in the mix.

Sometimes the Sunday morning workshop at the stage near the entrance is better than most church worship services.

We’ll see about this year. There will be a ‘Let the Spirit Move You’ session on the South Stage Sunday morning. Several of the performers – The Sojourners in particular – are very comfortable with gospel music. William Prince will be there too.

I will be particularly interested to see Prince, whose music I have grown to love through fairly consistent CBC Radio exposure. As the Folk Fest blurb says, “William Prince approaches the big questions with humility and curiosity, and his songwriting is a masterclass in skilful simplicity.”

I have felt sure that he must be a Christian, but while my instincts were onto something, I was, in the end, wrong. An article in The Line of Best Fit from a year ago describes his journey. Prince grew up in the midst of music, performing with his father, “a Christian preacher,” but also exposed to other good music, including Johnny Cash.

In March he was thrilled to open for Willie Nelson. And he told Q’s Tom Power (on CBC Radio) about his Grand Ole Opry debut a month earlier:

Oh jeez, I’m still reeling from it. I love how it’s this pinnacle of all things, but at the same time it felt really casual being there. It felt like a family, felt like the music I grew up playing, you know!

But he has left his childhood faith behind:

I kind of let go of religion, and now I follow The Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings of First Nations people. I believe in being a good person, [in] love, truth and humility. Those are the things we should live our lives by. I’m not a Christian anymore, I just call myself a spiritual universalist.”

Or maybe he hasn’t, not entirely. He recently released a . . . gospel album:

In sitting at home with bountiful spare time [during the pandemic], the only thing that made sense for him to do whilst the whole world was grieving, was to write gospel music. This would in turn form his third full-length record, Gospel First Nation, an amalgamation of his past and present, or “mixtape of fun gospel songs” in Prince’s own words. The album includes covers of songs from Prince’s youth, alongside original compositions – from tracks he wrote as a teenager, to a song Prince wrote the week his father passed away.

“I wrote [‘Love Don’t Ever Say Goodbye’] as a healing exercise, and it ended up being the the final send off to his legacy. Gospel music always reminds me of healing music. It’s a testament to my roots and foundations. I wanted to show a little bit of where my home community is, and the music that I grew up playing.”

If he had time to take the short trek up the hill to Regent or VST to hear from one of the World Christianity speakers, he might find them interesting. The article makes it clear that both he and the interviewer understand Christianity as a Western colonial enterprise:

Christianity and First Nations communities coexisting is something that Prince struggled to navigate as a child, and it’s admirable and a testament to his nature that he transgressed the barriers it posed.

“The two worlds clashed,” he explains. “The Nishnawbe Aski Nation [the political organization that looks after the 49 First Nations communities] says that we coexist and respect each other. Whereas Christianity was the doctrine that’s been imposed on First Nations people in hopes of some ‘active civilisation of the native person’. It was difficult to live in both realms. I was just a kid doing what I was told at the time, and I sorted it out myself [and] my own spirituality.”

But the fact is that Prince has created a gospel album, and it may just be that the “big conversation” he has opened up may not be over:

Although Prince doesn’t identify as Christian anymore, the influence of religion, and the unifying qualities within faith, is something that has continued to live on in his worldview alongside his music.

“I like giving thanks to the universe, and I acknowledge this energy in being in the world [and] something higher than myself, whatever that may be,” he explains. “It was difficult because on the reserve [areas belonging to First Nations people], there’s the clash between the Christians and the traditional people. In reconciling that within myself, I was able to make another beautiful record full of songs.

“I didn’t realize that it was going to open up such a big conversation, but I think it happened at the right time and I’m proud of it. I’m not all the way proud of what [the songs] were used for most of the time on indigenous people, but I stand by that record for what it means to me in my community.”

Go here for the full article.

House of James turns 50

House of James owners Pierre and Cathy Déry. From Facebook page

The Abbotsford News recognized a significant milestone in the life of an increasingly rare animal, a Christian bookstore.

House of James has outlasted almost all such stores in the Metro Vancouver area, proving particularly adaptable and resilient in the face of changing tastes and fashions.

The article noted some of the store’s strengths: 

[In the 1990s] Computerization changed everything, allowing staff to efficiently source and order books for customers.

House of James developed a reputation as the go-to place for hard-to-find items and became known throughout the province and beyond for its wide selection. [Founder] Klassen maintained that a key to good service was to have the best possible team; he became known for a rigorous interview process.

Over 50 years, House of James has had more than 200 staff, many staying between 10 and 30 years.

I posted a story (mostly from The Light magazine) in the fall of 2021, when store changed hands:

The House of James bookstore and coffeehouse in Abbotsford has a new owner. Lando Klassen is retiring and Pierre Déry, assistant manager for over 30 years, is buying the store. . . .

The bookstore first opened in Mission, in 1973. It began as a coffeehouse drop-in centre  birthed in July of 1970 by a group of young people aged 15 – 25, along with a few pastors.

The store began in a small space about 12 ft by 50 ft, with a living area in the back where the 19 year old Klassen lived.

Beginning with $700 in the bank and a donation can out front to help pay the rent, Klassen focused on bringing in current Christian books and the latest in the new genre of music called Christian Rock. As the store grew the residence was turned into a display and office area.

In 1976 the store moved to a much larger location, still in Mission, and in 1983 Klassen moved the store to Abbotsford where sales exploded. . . . A move to its current location on Emerson Street took place over an early May weekend, in 1997. . . .

Pierre Déry (left) took over House of James from founder Lando Klassen.

However, the attraction of the online shopping services provided by internet suppliers and the invention of music streaming negatively affected the book, Bible and music industry, especially in the early 2000s.

Undaunted by this, in 2008 the House of James expanded the back of the building, adding two storeys, with approximately 5,400 square feet, to make room for a full-service coffeehouse / entertainment venue and a larger used book department.

After some years of decline, House of James has grown again, especially in the coffeehouse, and in toys, gifts and used books.

The Abbotsford News said the Dérys plan to move to a new location in the new year. Best wishes as you carry on!

Jun 2023

Christian Climate Observers Program at COP28 (2023): Application – June 29, 2023 - July 14, 2023 at All Day
Surroundings by Cara Bain – June 29, 2023 - August 16, 2023 at All Day
Surroundings by Cara Bain: Opening Reception – June 29, 2023 at 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
New Roots 2023 – June 29, 2023 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Jul 2023

Summer Worship update – July 2, 2023 - August 27, 2023 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
FLO Summer Soccer Camp 2023 – July 3, 2023 - July 7, 2023 at 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Vince Bantu: The Global Roots of the Christian Faith – July 3, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Vince Bantu: The Specificity of Church History Around the World – July 5, 2023 at 12:00 pm - 12:45 pm
BC Christian Ashram: On Earth as in Heaven – July 7, 2023 - July 8, 2023 at All Day
Retreat and Launch 2023 – July 7, 2023 - July 8, 2023 at 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
West Coast Gospel Music Summer Caravan – July 7, 2023 - July 8, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
David Ley: Postmodern Urban Spaces – a City Tour – July 8, 2023 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Wine & Soul – July 8, 2023 at 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Soccer Camp – July 10, 2023 - July 14, 2023 at 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Bishop Todd Townsend: Taking the Plunge – Biblical Patterns for Coming to Faith in Christ – July 11, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Joy Marie Clarkson & James Smoker: Art, Spiritual Formation & Community – July 12, 2023 at 12:00 pm - 12:45 pm
John W. Walton: What in the World are We Supposed to do with the Old Testament? – July 12, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Arthur Boers: Peril & Promise in Penning Memoir – Grace-Filled & Faith-Filled Challenges – July 13, 2023 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Servant Partners Training – July 15, 2023 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
David Lyon: Everyday Life in a World of Digital Surveillance – July 17, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Alexander Chow: Chinese Christian Thought – July 19, 2023 at 12:00 pm - 12:45 pm
CMUS 205 Symposium on Variations of Violin Hymns (two evenings) – July 20, 2023 - July 27, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Ruthie Foster: Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival 2023 – July 21, 2023 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Jeffrey Greenman: The Bible's Deep Logic – the Inseparable Connection Between Believing, Belonging & Belonging – July 22, 2023 at 9:30 am - 11:45 am
Fraser Lands Community Day – July 22, 2023 at 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Mary McCampbell: Prophetic 'Deconstruction'? Literary Critiques of Cultural Christianity – July 24, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Brittany Kim: The Every Voice Kingdom Diversity Project – July 26, 2023 at 12:00 pm - 12:45 pm
Jonathan Pennington: What is the 'Good Life' and How Do We Find It? Christianity's Surprising Answer – July 26, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jesus the Great Philosopher: An evening with Dr. Jonathan Pennington – July 27, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Joint Missions Convention: Go into all the World – July 28, 2023 - July 30, 2023 at All Day
Healing Hearts Transforming Nations Retreat – July 30, 2023 - August 3, 2023 at All Day
Jazz Vespers with Joelle Lush – July 30, 2023 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Hans Boersma: Dionysius & Hierarchy – Why Modernity is Oppressive – July 31, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

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