Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Eugene a Swamp

It "just happened" that my randomly assigned roommate at the MJAA international conference was Philip Bean, who is now a traveling architect but a four decades ago was central in the establishment of Messianic Jewish ministry in Eugene.

We've been talking and praying about Eugene.

Before Eugene Skinner began the town, there was swampland between the two rivers. The south end of the valley was a place of growth but disease. And spiritual activity has since then come in waves over the area: dramatic if small-scale revivals washed over the early town, as a revival also happened in the late sixties.

And spiritual activity has been like swamp plant life. Few things endure long. In Eugene's history, God has seldom if ever sent his Spirit to reinforce or re-establish an existing work. Instead, his Spirit establishes something new among the praying people already there. And any ministry which stops growing with God will quickly move to decay.

For P'nei Adonai, this may mean that we should not hope the local rabbinical synagogue community becomes healthier before the many infants in our congregation are old enough to want a Jewish day school. Instead, perhaps we should be praying that God will establish a new, healthy, vibrant, and Spirit-filled Jewish community.

Update: more swampy analogies, after more prayer and discussion:

  • In a swamp there are no petrified plants. Either you are growing or decaying.
  • In a swamp, decay is ever-present in the background but has little power to stop growth.
  • In a swamp, what is young is usually the fastest growing.
  • In a swamp there is no fight over sunlight as in the forest. Plants do not need to compete with more than a few other plants. Energy would be wasted to fight needless battles.
  • In a swamp history loses its distinctness. Decay produces nutrients from what used to be, but this foundation has lost much of its original character and distinctiveness.
  • In a swamp, a high place would be very distinct from the lower, wetter ground, with more permanent growth.