On the Edge of the Inside …

Road trips offer interesting stops along the way. We left Glorieta, NM and would eventually end up in Newport Beach, CA. One of the more intriguing encounters came when we stopped in Albuquerque, NM for a tour of the Center for Action and Contemplation. Father Richard Rohr founded the Center in 1987. (You may take a slideshow tour of the Center here.)

Spencer met Richard a number of years ago and we wanted to stop and say, "Hello." We also intended to talk a bit about Soularize. Fr. Rohr will be one of the plenary speakers. We arrived and Fr. Rohr showed us around and did so with such a winsome spirit. We ended up in Old Town for dinner and a most enjoyable conversation about life and faith.

We were given a couple of Fr. Rohr’s books and the newsletter produced by the Center. I found an article in the April-May-June edition of Radical Grace titled, "On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position." This particular article struck me for both its title and its connection to our dinner conversation. Spencer wrote Making Sense of Church a few years ago. We were discussing the future of the Church. Spencer wonders if the  "Institutional Church" (in all of its forms) has seen its day and we will need to discover new ways to be the Church for the sake of the world. Richard noted the need to look at the "content" and the "container." He suggests no need to alter the content but we may need to "speak" to the "container." The point being the manner in which the "institutational church" (in all its forms) functions, satisfies a vast number of people despite its tendency toward "missing the point."(my words) Reformation, Fr. Rohr suggested, comes from those who live on the "edge of the inside."

When I read the recent developments at Southwestern Seminary (here) and the conversation between Wade and Dr. McKissic (here), I am left wondering where to locate myself. Marty once told me he was certain if things continued to trend the way they appeared at the time he suspected I would look for the door. I cannot say the thought is far from my frontal lobe. However, when I read the following in Fr. Rohr’s article I was reminded of the very thing Paul picked up from the piece. Someone needs to be prophetic, at least on local levels. While I think the entire article should be read, this is what I returned to again and again,

The edge of things is a liminal space – a very sacred place where guardian angles are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, "a thin place" and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of thigns is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security. Not much truth can happen there.
    To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider, a "company man," or a dues paying member. Yes, you ahve learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it, or promote it. It has served its initial and helpful function. YOu have learned the rules well enough to know how to "break the rules" without really breaking them all – "not to abolish the law but to complete it" as Jesus rightly puts it (Matthew 5:17) A doorkeeper must love both the inside and the outside of his or her group, and know how to move between these two loves.

You could say this piece may well have helped articulate where I want to live. Words mean something. The idea of living on the edge of the inside in an honorable way may well incur the distrust of some and dismissal by others. Yet, I am reminded of the described behavior of Ezekiel as he stood on the edge of the inside calling to the center in a way that announced both and end and a new beginning – gloom and glory. We may come across a bit out of touch as did Ezekiel but in the end the longing of the heart rests with the people of God living into the glory of God for the blessing of the world.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

1 comment on “On the Edge of the Inside …

  1. says:

    Hi Todd,
    I was going to go to the “Prophets then and Now”, but I got sick the last day before I could go, was very disapointed. They are a great group of people, and I love Father Rohr’s work.

    btw, can you email me, I seem to have lost yours.

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