Wess Daniels: What Are You Passionate About?
Who Is Wess Daniels?
That’s hard for me to sum up in just a few words because Wess does a lot of different things, and he does them really well. He’s one of the more eclectic friends (loves technology, but also obsessed with vinyl records as of late) I have, and he’s definitely one of the smartest, and someone I look to for wisdom on many issues. I met Wess a couple of years ago at Fuller Theological Seminary where he is working on his Ph.D., studying under Dr. Ryan Bolger. Let me tell you in his own words a little about him:
I am a PhD student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena CA, and am in the School of Intercultural Studies working in the area of Western culture and peace church issues. My hope is to teach classes in a college or seminary setting on Church and Culture. As a Quaker, my interests lay in free church theology and practice. I am also interested in the growing green movement and how the church might embrace this as a call for the future.
You can also find out a little more about Wess below:
My favorite thing about Wess though is that he is a great father and husband, and we had some fun times walking through Old Town Pasadena pushing our daughters in our baby strollers, sipping coffee and trying to have deep conversation while our daughters were all over the place…but that’s real life and I enjoyed those times.
Check out Wess’ blog Gathering in Light which is one of my favorites. Connect with him on Twitter, as well as check out his writings at Barclay Press. And for all you tech/social media people, Wess is someone I would be listening to.
In His Own Words…
What are you really passionate about?
Currently I am working on research about the future of the church, with a direct emphasis on the Quaker tradition, because that’s who I am and what is closest to me, but really I am most passionate about vibrant, radical and inspiring expressions of Christian faith in our today’s “global information culture.” In my research I am looking for people who are traversing the various boundaries we have set up within our Christian institutions. You’ve already had people on here Rhett who are doing things very much like what I’m talking about, Tony and Mike, are both explorers, looking at new ways to express faith and they are doing this at the crossroads of something old/new. I like to call this hybrid or remix Christianity – take our tradition(s), add a dose of contemporary culture, multiply this by faith and throw in a bit of creativity and see what you’ve got.
In my mind the kingdom of God is the thing we Christians need to strive to live out and apprehend, its not the creation and sustenance of a particular institution, but a community of people committed to following and living like Jesus in their particular contexts. That means in every generation we need to re-submit ourselves to this call and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance find how and where the Kingdom of God is already at work in our world (in and outside the church). I guess you could say what I’m passionate about is being a “kingdom dreamer,” helping others dream, encouraging and resourcing that dream and praying the ecclesia will return to its truly revolutionary Jesus-centric core.
How does what you are doing vocationally or volunteer wise serve that passion?
Right now I am a full-time PhD student at Fuller Seminary (School of Intercultural Studies), so I have a lot of freedom to spread this good news through blogging, meeting and talking with folks, lecturing, leading retreats, etc. I am constantly reading and writing articles that deal with the church in contemporary culture, how we might as Christ-followers dream about a new world, and what community and faith looks like in our “convergence culture,” as media guru Henry Jenkins calls it. Lately I’ve also had some really cool opportunities to speak and lead small workshops on this kind of stuff among “emerging” Quaker (called convergent Friends). I really enjoy doing this because it gets me out of the library and into “kitchens and parlors.” And some exciting news, very soon there is a good chance I will be returning to pastoral ministry and working with others to embody this vision.
How can those around you (friends, online community, etc.) best support you?
We all need support in what we do, grab the person closest to you and tell them you’re on their side, you’re with them (so long as you are of course). I am not sure what I’d do without my communities I am a part of (both physical and virtual). I guess for me I really want to hear people share their stories, the things that get them really excited, their hopes and dreams, and what they feel called to transform this world. That’s where I get energy from. As I get ready to transition out of a seminary atmosphere and into the “real” world after almost six years, one way I can be supported is by ongoing critical dialogue and theological challenge from my friends. And of course prayer is always good and I need that especially as we transition into new ministry opportunities, but I also want to extend the idea that I feel “supported” when those around me, those I am in community with, live out those prayers, and “live the vision” Christ calls us too.
Anything else we should know about this passion?
I am glad you asked Rhett! I guess I should say something about what this “vision” or dream is. Our churches have been formed in a Christendom culture where Christian belief has been an assumed intellectual position but, in my opinion, has grown stagnant, dull and uninspiring. We go through the motions on Sunday, pay lip service to Christ but we often live as though we don’t believe that lives can really be changed. In other words, we can easily intellectualize and spiritualize our faith without embodying it.
I am continually drawn back to the Lord’s Prayer I think it is not simply a spiritual prayer but Christ’s vision statement, if you will, for his disciples. The hope was that if we’d pray this we might also embody that prayer. I have often wondered what a faith community that actually believed in that prayer would look like. What would it look like in our world to sanctify God’s name daily rather than capitalism, the empire, or other things we worship? What would it look like for the church to see itself as those called to help the kingdom come? How might we give daily bread to those who desperately need it? What would it look like for a church to forgive debts, to literally live in a mode of economic jubilee? And how might we be shaped if we confessed that we are so often led away in temptation and that we need to be delivered from the wiles of the evil one?
What kind of practices do we need to embody as a community to live out this vision Jesus packed into this short and powerful prayer? My guess is that all this talk about the kingdom of God, imagination and creativity, community, etc. all need to draw on the New Testament and the life of Christ and what better place then the heart of the sermon on the mount all encapsulated in a prayer we are meant to live out.