“Holy Ghosts” with Peter Rollins Pt.1

(A quick update while on the road)

image I’d planned little updates from the Holy Ghosts event but quickly realised that probably wasn’t going to happen. The itinerary was full, the conversations lively…and the Guinness…well…


I arrived in Belfast on Sunday and enjoyed an afternoon of sleep after spending a couple days around London catching up with friends old and new. Although Holy Ghosts didn’t begin until Monday, a pre-event reception was held on Sunday for those who arrived into the city early.

For the last two years. Peter Rollins books and work have had a great influence on myself so it was a real privilege to finally meet him in person. The Irish though are a pretty humble and self deprecating people and Peter is no exception. In a matter of minutes we just became two guys in a pub talking about God, life, and the upcoming 4 day event.

Also got to meet a lot of my fellow “Holy Ghosters” who I would be sharing the next 4 days with. They came from across the globe; the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, and, of course, Great Britain.

Rather than a play by play which I had originally intended here are some musings and highlights I took away from the event:


Most (all) people engaging in Holy Ghosts were people who got to the center (of church life) and found it didn’t hold

Holy Ghosts was populated with pastors, former pastors, worship leaders, former pastor’s wives and even some from outside the Christian tradition. They were the ones who did as they were instructed and slayed the Wicked Witch only to then be told by Oz to come back tomorrow. They thought they were getting their heart’s desire only to discover something completely different when they peeked behind the (church) curtain.


“What you repress by day will haunt you by night”

Pete’s theme for the event, Holy Ghosts, was a jumping off point to examining the issues (ghosts) in our lives that we often like to keep at bay. We pray and sing songs of praise to silence the ghosts and pretend they are gone… but until we engage them honestly they will continue to haunt!


Suspended space that allows us to continue (get by) rather than one that transforms

People religiously attend church and Christian conferences often to just give them the strength needed to get through the week…or till the next conference. They often just create a “suspended space” which allows the individual to tolerate the systems they are surrounded with in regular life. Pete talked on the need to create places that went beyond simply giving us the strength to get by but instead transformed those systems around us.


The steak tastes better in The Matrix

Some of us joked that the number of people who engaged in these types of conversations and communities was small compared with Christianity as a whole. Many people talk about wanting more authenticity, honesty, and reality within church circles…

…but they really don’t.

Like Cypher in The Matrix, once we get a glimpse of “the real” many Christians choose to go back to the artificial. The steak may be fake, but it does taste better.


Keeping it “real” at Holy Ghosts

A lot of the Holy Ghosts event was facilitated by other contributors who are close friends with Peter Rollins and who he admits have been big influences on him. The out working of which was having smart folk like Gladys Ganiel and Katherine Moody asking Pete some very tough questions ( a couple that obviously threw him a little off guard). The effect was very positive for me. I’ve been to so many Christian workshops and conferences where ” the man” we were all there to see just dropped sound bite after sound bite (with the occasional “soft ball” question) for an audience ready to eat it up. Holy Ghosts was full of conversation that was honest about what we know…and don’t know!

Anyhow, I’m doing this on an iPad on the road so I’m not sure how it is going to look. There is so much more to say;  Padraig O’ Tuma, John Caputo, Duke Special…and a whiskey tasting! The list goes on…

Maybe need to do a part 2 when I’m back at home in a couple days




  • This is something I can really relate to Steve. I wish I could have been at this. It sounds refreshing.

  • Bob

    Thanks for the update Steve. Sounds great and I look forward to hearing more. Enjoy a pint for me!

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