Worship, the arts and transformation

Since its inception more than 2,000 years ago, one of the great promises of a liberal arts education is freedom. Indeed the term itself suggests that knowledge leads to liberation from the darkness and confusion of ignorance. No doubt this is the specific interpretation of ancient Greek and Roman modes of education that informed St. Augustine when he took these inherited pedagogical practices and laid a new foundation for them in the authority of Scripture and the example of Christ. When Augustine melded the ancient liberal arts tradition with Christianity in the fifth century A.D., the wisdom of the ancients became the Truth of the gospel.

In our own day, when the existence of Truth - with a capital "T" - is so much open to debate, the role of the church-related institution of higher education has a new urgency. Rather than bury our heads in the darkness of traditionalism or submit to the contemporary confusion of competing truth claims, institutions like Goshen College must take the lead(1) in distinguishing between the value of tradition and the narrow-mindedness of traditionalism; we must sort out the legitimacy of competing claims with both a clear head and a merciful heart.

Ceramic pieceThe role of the arts in worship has been a topic of sometimes heated debate in recent years. Thus, during the fall semester of 1999, Judy Wenig-Horswell (associate professor of art) and I chose to address the topic in our class The Arts: Visual and Musical. This course, which has its own long and distinguished history, is known to many of you as the Fine Arts course taught for over 30 years by master teacher Mary K. Oyer. Our intention was not to be proscriptive; we sought, rather, to expose students to the excitement of true scholarly debate, to explore the issue - both theoretically and historically - as thoroughly as possible and to equip the students with the tools to make informed decisions, in the future, with both heart and head.

As I reflect upon the experience - the stimulating discussions, the excellent guest speakers who shared with us from their wealth of knowledge and varied faith traditions, the thought-provoking essays of students - it seems we began to approach the Truth about four aspects of the arts in worship: authority, intention, style and transformation.

There are always two sides to the authorization of a work of art presented in worship. The work is created by an individual author and sanctioned by some kind of external authority. When the author and authority are in agreement, all is well, but what happens when this is not the case? One possible way to resolve this conflict is by appealing to the artist's intentions. If an artist means to praise God through his or her creation, then who are we to call that expression into question? Yet if intention alone were an adequate measure, we might end up eliminating some of the great hymn tunes of the protestant tradition, many of which were borrowed from the secular world.

The matter of artistic style has dominated recent discussions about the relationship of the arts to worship. Too often we use visual and musical expressions to lure certain people into the pews (and perhaps to keep others out...) So-called "contemporary" or "blended" worship services differ from "traditional" ones almost exclusively in terms of musical style and the employment of technologically driven presentation. No doubt these kinds of services are attractive to many people, but will they sustain the individual or congregation in times of need? Do they offer substantial food for theological thought and spiritual growth over the course of a lifetime?

The true value of the arts to our experience of worship is that they function in a way that is admittedly inferior to, but nevertheless analogous with, the parables of Christ in the New Testament. In Matthew 13, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables; Jesus responds, "The reason I speak in parables is that seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand." This verse is a direct reference to the prophecy of Isaiah which Jesus then quotes:

"You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn - and I would heal them."

The Hebrew term used for "heart" in Isaiah 6 is "lbb" and refers to both the physical organ that pumps in our chest and also to our most basic commitments and intentions.(2) Isaiah laments the fact that his people have grown dull and unresponsive, the heart is not part of their relationship to Jaweh. He exhorts them to turn their hearts back toward God and the covenant (here the Hebrew for "turn" is "shub" which suggests the physical activity of turning around or changing direction). The Greek term used in Matthew 13 and translated as "understand" is "synosin," which literally refers to "coming together."

Jesus speaks in parables because it is only in this manner that our sense perceptions and our intuitions are united: only in this way do sight and insight correspond, only in this way are we aware both of the vibrations of the outer world and attuned to resonances of the inner world. This eternal truth is eloquently encapsulated in the words of the 17th-century French philosopher and Christian apologist Blaise Pascal when he states in Book IV:277 of Pensees, "Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point" ("The heart has its reasons that reason cannot comprehend.") Thus the point of Jesus' speaking in parables is transformation. The parables move us outside the quotidian logic of ordinary rationality and turn us toward (the Greek used in the Matthew for "turn" is "epistepsosin" which literally means "to turn around") the healing experience of the Logos, the incarnate Truth, the word made flesh.

The arts are one path to the heart, and the transformed heart is the only path to the divine. While we should neither deify the artist nor sacralize artistic expression in itself, the arts, when prayerfully employed in worship, offer a metaphor for true conversion - the literal meaning of "conversion" being "to turn with." The inspired work of art or music brings together elements from the material world, things we can see or hear, and transforms them into more than simply sense-objects. The arts in worship should allow us to see and hear in extraordinary ways, ways that invite us to participate in transformation, ways that call us to attention, ways that model true conversion.

(1) After all, the etymological origin "education" is the Latin verb educare that literally means to "lead one."

(2) I am grateful to Prof. Jo-Ann Brant for her assistance with Hebrew and Greek translations from Isaiah and Matthew. Her erudition enhanced my understanding of these passages, nevertheless, the theology is my own ...

— David Mosley, GC associate professor of music and humanities


"The steps we will need to take to make worship meaningful for all will force many members to stretch their way of thinking about worship and possibly deviate from tradition."
— Sara Penner (So., Indianapolis, Ind.)

"The question I have is why music or how we worship is so important and controversial. I think the question to be asked is if we worship."
— Ladda Phommavong (Fr., Springdale, Ark.)

"It is my belief that increased spiritual expression through art and music needs to be encouraged and emphasized in order to remain a strong and vibrant church. ... [Church] members report feeling unmotivated and uninspired despite their will to act appropriately as Christians in society. Our committee believes that one aspect to solving this problem is by introducing art and music as a means by which people will be able to discover their spirituality."
— Eliot Friesen (So., Goshen)


In the company of the congregation - Rebecca Slough

First things: How can a thinking Christian address issues in church music? - Charlotte Kroeker

Proclaiming the presence of the Holy - Rachel Lapp

Heritage, works: A conversation with the artist - with Abner Hershberger


In the company of the congregation

Imagine a town, say Goshen,
where there are no CD or DVD players
no walkman or cassette players
no Internet
no radios
no record players
no television
no videos
no electronic instruments or sound equipment.

the only music you could hear was sung or played
by professional musicians for specific occasions
by groups of friends for fun, work, or worship
by people (like you) caught up in the ecstatic thrill of the moment
improvising on old songs or creating new ones
by yourself as you work, pray, relax, or play ...

How would your experience of music be different from what it is now? Without recording equipment and a whole cadre of music professionals supplying music to your ears, most of you would be far more active music makers. You might experience music in greater proportions than we currently experience now, by people we know: people in our community, our families, our congregations, our schools, our work places, our various social gatherings.

Dancing GirlExploring music and worship in the Old Testament requires a frame of mind different than most of us have in the 21st century. What follows is in the order of a time line used by Carl Kraeling and Lucetta Mowry.

Nomadic period. Genesis 4:21 names Jubal, son of Lamech and Adah, as the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and the pipe. The evidence, if not the assumption, is that music making was part of Hebrew life very early on. Merry-making, singers and noisemakers in battle, victory songs, magical incantations and worship were primary musical functions. In these early days of Hebrew history, song and dance were interwoven and danced by women using small drums or timbrels (as Miriam and Jephthah's daughter). Some musicologists believe the Hebrews were greatly influenced by Egyptian music that they would have heard, if not learned, during their years of captivity.

Early Palestine. Songs related to battle make up a good amount of recorded biblical music of this period, such as the song of Deborah, Judges 5:19-21, I Samuel 18:7 and II Samuel 1:19-27. Women are still very present in the singing, dancing and instrument playing. Two sources of popular song seem to have been widely known in Palestine: "The Wars of the Lord" and the "Book of Yashar." Worship in this period takes place at local shrines like Shechem and Shiloh. While there is little direct evidence of religious songs created in these contexts, it is unimaginable that worship and sacrifices would have been conducted without some type of music.

Monarchical period. As the Israelites settled in the land, music professionals emerged. David was a well known kinnor (lyre) player and composer. The "royal" psalms in the psalter (such as Psalms 2, 45, 72 and 110) give some indication that religious texts were composed specifically for kingly activities or events. After defeating the Philistines, David brought the ark to Jerusalem, giving us a picture of a man still capable of religious ecstasy; the procession announces the presence and glory of Israel's God.

First temple period. Solomon's temple was not intended to be a large building with extensive grounds; it needed only to be large enough for sacrifices and to house the ark of the covenant. The temple structure theologically undergirds the "praise and worship" style of worship in which the pattern of music moved worshipers from "the outer courts" to the "inner courts" to the "Holy of Holies" where the ark was located.

The temple priests offered the sacrifices; the musicians accompanied the ritual action. The community of Israel observed the sacrifice, sang when required and bowed prostrate at the sound of the ram's horn. At special celebrations, more sacrifices and grander music were required. The belief was that the religious songs - psalms - were another form of offering to God and that music affected emotional and moral states of the worshipers (David's playing for Saul is a biblical example of this). All psalms sung in this period, and probably more prominently in the second temple period, were set to melodies that were joyous or somber, depending on the text.

This musical tradition is entirely oral. It is reasonable to assume a cross-fertilization among musicians from Israel and Egypt (Solomon married a pharaoh's daughter who brought 1,000 musicians); a visit from the Queen of Sheba or Solomon yielded a large gift of harps and lyres.

The Exile. Some historians believe that, during the exile, Jews would gather in small groups to pray, study Scriptures and sing psalms (exactly how and when organized synagogue life began cannot be documented; the word "synagogue" means "a gathering"). While the Scriptures continued as chants in some form, they were unaccompanied by instruments; instrumental music was shunned and women were banned from studying and singing.

Following the return of the Jews and second temple construction, various musical families were appointed for duty in the temple; five years of training were required in order to sing with the temple choir. Twelve singers were accompanied routinely by players of the nebal (large, low-toned harp) and kinnon (smaller, high-pitched harp) and a cymbalist. On special occasions, the temple "orchestra" expanded to include string players, flute, reed instruments and other percussion including shakers, tambourines and drums. Musicians sang the majority of psalms; the congregation responded with set refrains like "Amen," "Hallelujah" (e.g., Psalm 113), "Hoshiana" ("help us") or "Anenu" ("answer us").

Though the music of the last temple period likely influenced singing in early Christian worship, particularly around Jerusalem, music and worship patterns of the synagogue were much more influential in shaping early Christian worship. David and Harp

Several points emerge from this brief look at music and worship in the Old Testament that have relevance for our time:

Much of Israel's practice of music and worship is shrouded in mystery, before which we need to be cautious and often silent. That is probably just as well; if we tried to replicate what our ancestors did we might miss the opportunity to experience God's Spirit doing new things now.

— Rebecca Slough, from her lecture to The Arts class

"Where should the balance be between order and freedom? We can't have total order because we would not be letting the Spirit move as it wishes. At the same time, we need some order so that our worship doesn't become mere chaos. ... I find it difficult to contain myself when I begin to feel God touch me. I feel like dancing like David and casting all of my worries aside so that God can work through me. Where was it that we lost this passion for God?"
— Lalo Rolon (Jr., Goshen)


First things: How can a thinking Christian address issues in church music?

Ernest Boyer, influenced by Anabaptist thinking through his grandfather, a minister of the Brethren in Christ to the poor in Dayton, Ohio, said:

"There remains deeply buried in the bosom of the human spirit experiences that cannot be captured by the verbal utterances we call words. Words cannot portray sufficiently the joy of a spring morning, or the fruits of a fall harvest, or the grief and loneliness that mark the ending of a love relationship. They cannot adequately convey the babbling of the brook or the setting of an evening sun. The full range of human experiences, physical, emotional and spiritual, cannot be captured by words alone. For the most intimate, the most profoundly moving experiences, we need more subtle symbols. And so it is that men and women have throughout history turned to music, dance, the visual arts, theater, poetry and literary narrative which enrich language, and together allow us to begin to convey to others the feelings deeply carried within our mind and within the human spirit."
— from "Lifelong Learning in the Arts," a speech to the National Endowment for the Arts, Chicago, April 16, 1994, in Ernest Boyer: Selected Speeches, 1979-1995 (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, N.J., 1997)

Music is a way of knowing about the world, human experience and a God that transcends intellectual knowing - incorporating the cognitive but moving beyond it. Music can be a way of knowing God much as we learn to know God by understanding and appreciating the beauty and wonder of the physical world around us. Simone Weil, a 20th-century philosopher, said, "The beautiful is the real presence of God in matter, and contact with it is a sacrament in the full sense of the word."

Considering our singing tradition, is it not imperative that we take seriously the nature of our music in worship and educate new generations of Mennonites to understand, appreciate and further develop this way of knowing God?

Practicing private faith in community
How do we begin discussion of a topic that, for many, has become difficult? Perhaps by examining our commonalties. Our faith commitment, and the exploration of what that means in our lives and worship, is where we start - and the point to which we return. It is our commitment to God and to each other, in a larger sphere than the space we individually occupy, that gives our lives meaning beyond our individual needs and desires. Our private faith enhances a communal faith; a strong communal faith undergirds our private faith. Our song becomes a vehicle for expression and exploration of our faith. And that song, when transmitted to successive generations of the faithful, becomes a visceral way of knowing God.

Reflecting on "Singing with the Lutherans," Garrison Keillor's words may resound with Mennonites and others with strong singing traditions:

"Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It's a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person's rib cage. It's natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We're too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. And when you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment."

Models for worthy worship
What is an appropriate role for music in worship? How should we think about church music? Granted, sacred art music can create religious experience; can we listen to a Bach cantata or Handel's "Messiah" without being spiritually moved? Music for worship has different goals than religious art music. Worship music can, and hopefully does, have artistic merit. But artistic merit is not its only goal; its ability to serve the function of worship is the primary goal - worthy music that becomes part of worthy worship.

Calvin Johansson, in his book Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint, gives two commonly used models for music in worship and suggests a third. An aesthetic model proposes that if a piece of sacred music has artistic merit, it is a candidate for inclusion in a worship service. A pragmatic model ignores aesthetic criteria and focuses on function, as in "If it works, it is good." Johansson suggests that neither model is sufficient for authentic worship; he maintains music for worship must adhere to sound biblical principles and be practical for the given situation. These criteria, when combined with artistic merit, produce a biblical counterpoint.

Why is church music such a controversial topic today? What is it that keeps us from working together to choose music that will enable us to offer authentic worship to God? One possible way to answer these questions is to acknowledge the interdisciplinary nature of church music, and the different perspectives that must be considered in order for musical decisions to be made. Note the persons involved in the decision-making: 1) ministers who are trained in theology and ministry but infrequently in music; 2) church musicians who may or may not be trained in music but infrequently trained in theology and ministry; 3) performers who enjoy the practice and production of music; 4) academic musicians who train musicians, few of whom have training in theology or ministry, and may not have a faith commitment themselves; and 5) the congregation who comes to worship bringing their personal needs and expectations.

Perhaps many of us would echo the feelings of English poet laureate Robert Bridges who, in 1911, wrote in a letter subsequently published as an article titled "About Hymns," "All I can urge is that they [the clergy] should have at least one service a week where people like myself can attend without being offended or moved to laughter."

How do we find a way forward?
How can we move beyond arguments about style of music and preference to more authentic music making? I directed a conference in June 1999 titled "Church Music: Looking Back into the Future" at Messiah College regarding these questions. Philosophers, theologians, pastors, church musicians and academic musicians from Christian colleges gathered to consider how we might forge a future for church music that builds from the needs and strengths of all the perspectives that must feed wise decisions about music in the church. Here are some of the outcomes of that conference:

There is much work to be done. We have a rich heritage of hymnody gathered from all parts of the world. We have a commitment to community and understand what it means to work with those who are different from ourselves. We know the power and importance of singing together. We embrace a faith that moves to action. So the question becomes, can we positively participate in the future of the music of the church, giving leadership where we have strengths and reflecting soberly where our own traditions need honing?

— Charlotte Kroeker, GC visiting professor of piano


Proclaiming the presence of the Holy

A church friend calls it her "ministry of the cloth." Barbara Peterson's creative journey has led her to incorporating visual elements into worship environments and liturgy through striking textile art.

The Bristol, Ind., resident began studying art 20 years ago at GC, where she first took a class from the late Alta Hertzler, assistant professor of art from 1969 to 1984. Peterson went on to complete a master's degree in art at the University of Notre Dame (Ind.), where she focused on textiles and women artists, and subsequently taught fibers/textile design at Notre Dame for nine years. She also served as a docent at the Midwest Museum of American Art, South Bend Regional Museum of Art and Snite Museum of Art.

Peterson has introduced numerous banners, hangings, vestments and other works to her congregation, Trinity United Methodist Church, Elkhart, Ind. In doing both commissioned pieces and leading workshops on the arts in worship, she has interacted with Methodist and Mennonite churches or organizations and other denominations.

Peterson says worshipers today, part of society at large, are visually sophisticated and understand the complexity and transcendental nature of visual elements. "The abstract can speak far more eloquently about unseen realities than representational imagery. To me, text and representational imagery limit interpretations and limit meanings," said Peterson.

In 1985, Peterson was invited by an area Methodist bishop to create banners for the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. The text on which she was to base the piece was John 4:35, "The fields are ripe for the harvest."

This was an opportunity for Peterson to share her vision for art in a liturgical setting with Methodist Church leaders. Her goal for this piece was to "communicate and proclaim the presence of the Holy" not through literal illustration in text and images but by transcending the obvious with an abstract landscape.

The long panels hung behind a platform at the front of a large auditorium in Fort Wayne, Ind.; the warm colors, flowing lengths of fabric and physical presence of the banners combined to set a tone for the conference. It is the largest work she has created for sheer size and is also among the most satisfying.

Said Peterson, "I know that we are co-creators with God. I feel that the best banners simply say, 'Something very important is happening here, let's pay attention. God is in this place.' We are a very visual society; we don't need words and obvious images to explain everything to us, to express a message. I want banners to help us realize who we are worshipping, and that God is here."

She has focused her work in ecumenical settings - from vestments for Methodist Church pastors to banners for her church to commissions for Notre Dame to hangings at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, where she has also studied, to a prayer shawl featuring actual words of prayer, for current AMBS president Nelson Kraybill's commissioning. She uses a wide variety of techniques representing many world cultures, from dyeing to stitching, assemblage to nontraditional quilting.

— Rachel Lapp


Heritage, works: A conversation with the artist

Abner Hershberger '60 became an art student at GC soon after a major in applied arts was established a year after the appointment of Ezra Hershberger, Abner's uncle, to the art department faculty. After graduate studies at Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame, he joined the GC art faculty in the late 1960s; he engaged in further study at the University of Michigan, earning a master of fine arts degree in 1970. Hershberger's tenure at GC did not end with retirement in 1999; he is artist-in-residence this year. His latest exhibition, "Heritage Works," opened in 1997 in the GC art gallery and is touring throughout the United States, most recently shown at Manatee Community College, Sarasota, Fla. During January and February, Hershberger taught classes on watercolor and exploring area galleries to adult students at GC-Sarasota.

The following interview was initiated after Hershberger gave a presentation to The Arts class, titled "Art as Creative Religious Expression."

Q: You said you often hear artists "expressing doubt that a serious understanding of the visual artist by our [Mennonite] faith community can occur." Why do you say this?

A: When I entered the study of art I was rather oblivious to concerns I encountered later. I wanted to learn how to make art and leave the big questions to others. I soon discovered, however, that any serious effort in making art begs answers to questions like, 'What medium should I work in? What images shall I include in my paintings?' and 'Who am I making art for?' I believe the liturgical role art served in the spiritual development and practice of the early Christian church was misunderstood by Anabaptist reformers. While some may feel this sounds unappreciative, it isn't; the insights and innovative spirit of these early Anabaptists left us a rich legacy of new perspectives and understandings of Christ's life. Today, building on their teachings, the challenge for believers is to continue to discern God's word in our time.

Q: If this is true, does this have an impact on artists in the church today?

A: I believe theology does evolve, and I would like to see the church work at the "big issues" as the informed, creative and truly privileged Christians we are today. We are fortunate to have the collective wisdom of many thoughtful poets, musicians, playwrights, artists and theologians easily available to us in many forms, and this array of evidence - examples of "the Creation story continuing in our own time" - is almost staggering, and very affirming. I feel privileged to be a small part of that tradition, and my mission in life as a Christian artist is to stay honest in my work.

Q: Matthew Fox stated, "Every experience of beauty is an expression of God, and all artistic expression is a sharing in the image and the likeness of the Creator." You said, "God as creator expects us to continue the creative act in our own era." What has led you to thinking about the necessity for us to continue the creation act?

A: I constantly reflect on what the art itself and the process of making art tells me; insights gained through the experiential dimension are invaluable - requisite to the creative process. In this way, the spirit and the material (flesh) become one and the "creation story" is once again renewed.

Q: Can you describe how you have come to experience what Madeleine L'Engle says, "All art is religious in its transcendent nature."

A: The arts have the capacity to move life's meaning and human experience to a profoundly spiritual level where we commune with God through a variety of symbols, be they in music, visual art, creative writing or theater. The important thing is for the artist to do the artwork as honestly as possible, and to stay faithful in the creative process of one's chosen discipline.

Q: What has been difficult about being a Mennonite in your chosen discipline?

A: I believe that artists are sometimes asking the impossible of a church (Mennonite Church) that defines itself as having a "practical theology." This definition may fit well with conventional "service" vocations and "helping professions," but I don't believe it serves the fine arts very well.

Q: What symbols have you used in the "Heritage Project," and why?

A: I was not eager to do this group of related works I call the "Heritage Project." Back in graduate school, my painting professor, who happened to be Jewish - and I suspect knew something about growing up in a community with strong religious ties - sounded an early warning. He said, "Sooner or later you will need to deal with your roots." Well, for over 30 years I opted for the landscape aspect of my youth - I saw no good way to deal with the church aspect, nor did I seriously consider it. "Heritage Works" resulted in a rather surprising way, due in part to a collaborative project where I saw my work juxtaposed with my uncle Ezra's paintings and my nephew Kevin's large prints. I liked the dramatic way three disparate images came together in a single unit. The resulting visual image led me to entertain a different approach to how I did paintings and provided a format that seemed right for portraying contrasting images simultaneously. This format accommodated the concept of the separation of Church and the world - which was central in the theology of my youth. I looked for a way to symbolize this concept in a convincing way and hoped it would "work" aesthetically.

Q: Were any religious symbols used in this series of paintings?

Hershberger's "The Lot"A: Well, I'll mention just one work titled "The Lot" (at right), a small watercolor that references a method of selecting ministers in my youth: Several names were suggested by the congregation, then a selection service was held and the candidate who selected a specially marked songbook or Bible would be elected minister. The composition of "The Lot" includes three songbooks, supported by a chalice and a cross design. It represents appropriately designed symbols, which express what words cannot - an important aspect in the liturgical life of the church. Contrasted with these artful symbols are the Life Song books designed for another purpose but served, and almost by default, this important ritual in Mennonite life a few years ago. Perhaps this is how symbolism works in a church adhering to a "practical theology." When it came to visual symbols in the church, I longed for more, even in my youth.

Q: What has changed in the church throughout your life painting and teaching?

A: I observe we seem to be very active exploring new symbols and rituals in worship, and we seem eager to be supportive of the arts, particularly if it can in some way "serve" the church. My view is that by being seriously committed to writing, composing, performing and making art, that in itself is already a great service.

Q: What is hopeful? What are the challenges to come for the faith community, and for artists in this community?

A: We need to redefine the concept of the church community. Certainly, the integration of two large Mennonite groups is a good beginning; now I hope we can develop stronger ties with the many wonderful persons in the broader Christian community in ways we've not done before. Encouraging persons of our particular faith community to take risks for the sake of inclusiveness would be a constructive way to start this process. We've defined who we are as Christians often by what I'll term "tribal" signifiers. These include all those things that so often define one as Mennonite first, rather than as Christian - the trappings that seem to prevent truly meaningful dialogue and friendship with those outside our faith community is what I'm talking about. This does not mean you surrender values and practices meaningful to you for the sake of connecting. The richness experienced through broadening the parameters of friendship will be its own reward.