Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Peter Storey

My former professor, hero, mentor, and spiritual giant is coming to speak at Mount Vernon Place on this Thursday, June 25 before continuing the conversation at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church on Friday, June 26. He'll be speaking at both churches from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. on "Being the Body of Christ in a Place of Power and Poverty." The event is open to all; we would love to have you be with us for this two-part conversation.

In preparation for the event, I asked one of our members, Kevin, to share his thoughts on Dr. Storey. This is what Kevin wrote:

How Peter Storey changed my life by Kevin G. Feltz (short version)

Recently, at Mount Vernon Place UMC, I have joyously heard some individuals proclaim that they are interested in having a Christian life that is “authentic.” I surmise that what folks are referring to is the desire to live a life that is truly based upon the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and teachings of Christ; particularly concern for the poor, charity and community. I admire this because in our church lives, it can be easy to get busy and preoccupied with church attendance, committee membership, fitting in, etc. Not that there is inherently anything wrong with those things. But sometimes we can get so busy with playing church that we forget that as servants of the Most High God, we are called to be transformative agents in the world.

In my own personal evolution in these matters, the teachings of Peter Storey, in classes at Duke Divinity School, have been extremely influential. While he would never use this language, I think he might have been the first person to help me see the “BS” in my so-called Christian life, filled with “churchmanship.” A short survey of issues he felt were important for Christians to address reads like a laundry list of social justice topics: racism, homophobia, concern for the poor, changing unjust economic systems, the legitimate and illegitimate uses of power, etc. These are topics I did not encounter in Introduction to Biblical Hebrew or Early Church History. It was largely through these teachings that I decided I wanted the authentic Christian experience more than anything else.

I could write a lot about the specific lessons and topics, but for the sake of brevity, I will elaborate on just one example. One of the most consequential comments of Peter Storey that has stayed with me was the emphasis that in an authentic Christian life, we should strive to serve in a way that involves taking “vulnerable risk.” I can easily think of several situations in my life where I faced decisions and uncertainty with the words “vulnerable risk” echoing in my decision making process. Those words gave me courage to take the riskier route in big ways and small ways, at times putting myself in economic risk and others in physical risk. In the process, I was able to love and serve others and become transformed myself at least as much as they were.

For example, while I was employed as the Administrative Director at Christ House, it was my role to keep the peace among the dozens of homeless persons who came into our building each day. In was in my desire to love and serve, and with the words “vulnerable risk” a conscious part of my thinking, that I was able to place myself physically in between two angry, arguing, broken individuals, not knowing if they would both decide to attack me instead of each other. I did this somewhat regularly and there was one moment when I thought a man was going to slit my throat and that surely I would die, right there on the sidewalk in front of the place. Sure, I might have had these experiences without Peter Storey, but I would not have had the deep understanding of them and the passion for service to vulnerable populations.

So, if you truly desire to have an authentic Christian life, I encourage you to do everything you can to be in attendance the evenings of June 25 and 26. My life has been changed by the teachings of Peter Storey and I think yours will be too.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2


Karl Kroger said...

Cody Schuler just emailed me about you and your church. I'm so bummed that he didn't email me two days ago. I just saw that Peter Storey was speaking and I would have loved to have heard him speak on that topic. I don't suppose any of it was recorded?

Anyway, Cody has been a wonderful friend, pastor, and mentor to me. He was my campus minister in college at DWU. He suggested that I check out your church sometime. I'm in DC about 6 more weeks as part of an internship over on Vermont at Faith in Public Life.

BTW, Cody says hello; I hope to meet you sometime this summer.

Anonymous said...

I met Peter Storey in December 2004 in Berlin, Germany when he was a guest for the Decade to Overcome Violence's focus on USA. I was so immediately enamored and enthralled by his calm, poetic, amazing way of speaking the clear truth about the realities of non-violent conflict resolution. We corresponded per email and then, 'life' caused me to forget him for a while. Thanks for this reminder. I just moved to the DC area in June. If he ever comes around again, I sure would like to know!