Last Thursday I was lucky enough to be one of about a hundred people crammed into the upper room (how biblical) of Trace pub here in Chicago for an evening of poetry, song, dj-ism, philosophy, and some of the most courageous and dis-lodging theology I have recently encountered. The evening, promoted as a “provocative cocktail of incendiary theology, haunting soundscapes and musical lament”, did not disappoint. Poet/singer songwriter Pádraig Ô Tuama held court with his arresting verbal imagery and “sad stories and sadder songs but with funny stories in between” while artist/DJ Jonny McEwen provided a musical backdrop that held the evening together like a liturgy.
The real draw for me, and most of us there I suppose, was the esteemed and inspiring Peter Rollins. Peter has any number of things going for him. First off, Peter is a master story teller. He weaves narrative a parables (like those in his most recent book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales) that are effortlessly compelling and, more importantly, impel the listener to paradigm shifts that lead to action.
The second thing Peter has going for him is that he is much smarter than you or and I. He has a wide and deep understanding of the philosophical and theological conversations that have been going on for centuries and well as a willingness to infuse our current context into the discussion. Pair this with a wicked adeptness for communication complex ideas with ease and you end up with a situation not unlike someone accurately explaining to you in 30 seconds a ten minute conversation you’ve overheard in a foreign language you don’t speak (like this scene from Lost in Translation). Long-winded analogies aside: you will like what you hear from Peter, you will be challenged by what you hear from Peter, you will be changed by what you hear from Peter.
The last thing Peter has going for him is that he speaks with the most intriguing and beautiful Irish brogue. It is so pleasant to the ear that I’d probably listen to a recording of him snoring just so long as the accent came through.
There isn’t enough space here to give this Insurrection experience its fair dues. Primarily, this is because the evening itself was fashioned like a communal parable. It provoked, inspired, confused, empowered, and moved those of us in that room precisely with its undefined edges and opaque core. In a way that church seldom even approaches these three liturgical rabble-rousers allowed the mystery of the divine and the resurrection the breathe into the room instead of merely stopping short at trying to explain or classify. It really was an upper room experience.
Instead of trying to force this mystery into words, allow me to post a few audio moments from the evening so you can experience it yourself.
Audio from the abbreviated NYC Insurrection here.
Insurrection review article: ‘In an Upper Room’ by Devin Bustin