When we first began to dream about what the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination might be, the last thing I thought we’d do was organize something that smelled like a conference. Though there are happy exceptions, I often feel claustrophobic in such spaces, and Eugene was wary, avoiding them as much as he possibly could, typically going to speak only when his agent or publisher or a friend twisted his arm. And yet, in our first Peterson Center retreat, a desire kept emerging.
A number of folks expressed an ache for a space where we could name our longing for the holy, the beautiful, the good. To blow on the soul’s embers and awaken our longing for God. Might it be possible to have sacred space where (without falling prey to yet another scheme we’re certain will fix our troubles, always a disaster), we might carry in our weary-but-steadfast hearts our lament over (to borrow from Heschel) our “embarrassment at our pettiness, prejudices, envy, and conceit…embarrassment at the profanation of life”?
So, I carried a lot of hope, but more than a little trepidation too, when we decided to create and host Doxology. Is it possible to do something like this and resist the machine, the celebrity nonsense, the way we seem to always find a way to bludgeon the simplicity and wonder out of all good things? Is it possible for a few days like this to be about prayer and presence rather than production? Could we together practice that often lost art of being truly holy and wondrously human (two words that, because of the Incarnation, belong together)?
Last year, I feared the always lurking temptation to be overly scripted, to cave to our anxieties for things to go well and assuage that anxiety with the typical salves: too many words, too much polish, too little comfort with gaffe. Then Cherith Fee Nordling fell ill the night before we began, and Paul Zach missed a flight due to weather. And I thought, “Well, God saved us from clutching to any script.” When the days concluded, my overwhelming sense was gratitude. Beauty will do that to you.
This is still very much a work in progress, and I’d love to invite you to come be part of making Doxology whatever it is supposed to be. There will be laughter and spaciousness and rich words and art. And God. Whatever else succeeds or fails, we will turn our hearts homeward, in Doxology.
“We crave radiance in an austere world,” writes the poet Elizabeth Alexander. This puts words to my hope, my need, as good as anything.
Get a glimpse of last year in the video.
To guard the spirit of Doxology, space is limited. Details are available here, with early bird discounts for just a bit. And if you can’t afford it but really want to be with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your need.