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My wife, Sophie, and I had dinner with five delightful people last Saturday — four of whom I had never met before. They were young, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and winsome. I left with my stomach and soul full. All of them inhabit a parallel universe that doesn’t often intersect with ours. I never would have met them without an online connection.
It’s called the Reformed Journal.
Our dinner companions included fellow Twelver, Laura de Jong, and frequent RJ contributor, Nathan Groenewold, along with three other bright young Christian Reformed people who were in town for a wedding. We knew of each other solely because of the Reformed Journal.
In some ways, we don’t have much in common. They are much younger than I am. They inhabit that parallel universe known as the Christian Reformed Church. Yet there we were, enjoying pizza and conversation together. Connected, joined, by the Reformed Journal. It makes me smile.
Most of the time the volunteers here at the Reformed Journal are simply scrambling to get stuff done.Trying to squeeze in some time for a few emails, to post an essay, and maybe a quick Zoom. We don’t often step back to ask “Why?” What are we doing? What are we trying to accomplish?
I wrote here before that I never again want to attend a meeting where we have to put sticky notes on a wall or brainstorm with markers on newsprint. That’s still true. Nonetheless, we do on occasion need to ask ourselves some bigger questions, like “What for?”
It’s no small feat to bring into the world a little beauty, some joy, some wondering, some insight, some provocation — something honest, holy, and life giving. You read the blog with your morning coffee, ruminate over a poem, listen to a podcast with a glass of wine. You invest in reading a longer article or review — and then something you found there comes back to you three or four times in the days ahead. That’s what I envision anyway. That’s what I hope.
Is consistently putting out good content enough? That’s our niche, our calling?
Maybe it’s because we’re Reformed — but that individual experience is never enough. We want to instantiate, to connect, to do. Building community is one of our priorities. That can happen simply by reading, writing, liking, sharing, and commenting. Thanks to the internet we can feel connected. People around the world read RJ every day. There’s some sense of community, even if it is a cyber community. We hope the Reformed Journal helps each one of us to be able to say “I am not alone!’ That’s important.
When I find something beautiful or hopeful or truthful, I often whisper, “Not every knee has bowed to Baal” — parroting God talking to Elijah. All you armchair therapists can now mull just how depraved I must be to say such a thing. I concur. Still, when I lean into Elijah, I’m reminding myself that there is goodness out there and I have found a little bit of it. There are creative, faithful, loving people. And it is so good to bump into them. If RJ helps do that, it’s significant.
Could we do more? Pizza in Pella, Iowa with five wonderful people is a start. I seem to recall several decades ago, the Mennonites put out a guide to people who were willing to host other Mennonites traveling across North America. Wouldn’t you like Jeff Munroe to crash on your couch or maybe the Rienstras could pitch their tent in your backyard on the way to some national park?
“Movement” is a potentially dangerous and arrogant word. The Reformed Journal has no illusions of grandeur. What I don’t want you to hear is another obligation on your overfilled schedule, a committee to join, a bandwagon to jump on. The Kingdom of God consists of mustard seeds, yeast, and lost pennies. Realizing that, how do we build community, even galvanize people? We want to serve and to prod the Church. How can we call people, readers — you — to deeper discipleship? Could we call people to action, even collective action?
We don’t know yet. But we do value your input, ideas, and wisdom. Seriously. And if you have pizza with some other RJ friends, do let us know.
I hope you hear an early and unformed desire to connect people, to make a difference. What might that look like? We await the breath of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit speaking through you to help flesh it out.