Nadia Bolz-Weber to Visit St. Ignatius of Antioch
June 07, 2016
On July 16, Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber will visit Chicago to speak at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church. Bolz-Weber, the founder of a Denver congregation called House for all Sinners and Saints, is the author of “Pastrix: The Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint” and “Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People.” Known for her signature tattoos and expert use of swear words, Bolz-Weber’s innovative, inclusive approach to ministry has cultivated a growing and, to her surprise, increasingly “mainstream” following that includes people across the social and political spectrum.
“A few days ago, I was in Fargo, North Dakota--these socially conservative people from rural areas of North Dakota and Minnesota,” Bolz-Weber says. “And I had a standing ovation with 700 people. I have no idea why they liked me. I'm not even really that nice to them, and they're just like, ‘we love you!’ So I don't know. I don't understand it, I just keep showing up for it.”
The idea to ask Bolz-Weber if she might “show up” at St. Ignatius of Antioch resulted from a conversation between the congregation’s rector, the Rev. Timothy Squier, and parishioner Linda Mizwicki. “Linda is an avid fan of Nadia’s books,” Squier says. “And she and I thought, 'Hey wouldn't it be great if we could get her here?’” Squier inquired through Bolz-Weber’s website and was surprised to get a positive response. “Really, it was just a matter of saying, ‘Nadia, would you like to come to our church?’” Squier says. “Sometimes, you just have to ask.”
Hosting Bolz-Weber is a significant undertaking for the parish of 60 families, but the congregation has been thrilled at the response. "I like to say that we are a parish that likes to seek to be subversive in the world,” Squier says. “And I think Nadia Bolz-Weber is that way. She understands the subversive nature of Christ and Christ's call to us, and she definitely gets that in her own brokenness. And we as a parish family understand that with each other: we're all broken human beings and see the grace of God, and live into that.”
On the day Bolz-Weber visits, her morning session will include liturgy in the style of House for All Sinners and Saints.
“One of the main things about our liturgy is that it's in the round,” Bolz-Weber says. "We don't sit in pews and look at the backs of each other's heads. We create intimacy and the accountability of presence to each other by doing that, which totally disrupts what people are used to. It’s absolutely acapella. People just sing in four-part harmony without a band or a guitar or an organ or piano. And then the different parts of the liturgy are led by probably 15 different people, who when they come in choose the booklet that has that job in it. So they're like ‘oh, I'll read the Gospel,’ or ‘I'll read the collect.’ And so it really becomes the work of the people and so the people are making the music and the people are leading the liturgy.”
In the afternoon, Bolz-Weber will speak about making the church relevant in today’s culture and reaching beyond its walls to the community.
“I think any change that happens in any parish is really dependent on that parish's capacity to be honest about themselves,” Bolz-Weber says. “I think churches get really spun up into who they think they are, or who they like to think of themselves as being, and don't have nearly as much of a capacity to admit who they really are. And I think behind each of our practices in the church are an underlying set of values. And I feel like the first thing we have to do is to look at our practices and to be as honest as we can about what values are underneath these practices. Because if all you do is change the practices, nothing really will change systemically or in terms of the DNA of the congregation. So I think the capacity to be truly honest about what you value as a church -- that's your biggest hope for any kind of change.”
Tickets for both morning and afternoon sessions are available on the St. Ignatius of Antioch website.