“Holy Ghosts” With Peter Rollins Pt. 2

 IMG_1581Well, after a week in Belfast I’m still processing the time there with Pete Rollins and Holy Ghosts.  What was it like you ask?  As I put it in a Facebook update:

Film makers, theologians, artists, philosophers, pastors, musicians, and poets all gathered together in an Irish pub talking about God and life. It was like the Mothership calling me home.

Anyway, here are some more “musings” and highlights from my time while there:


John Caputo: “The Spectral future is replaced with a transformed new life”

We had the privilege of a talk by renowned philosopher John Caputo via Skype. Despite some technical challenges John was able to draw in some of the “ghost” themes of the week.  For many Christians “real life” is to finally be obtained “one day” out there in the future.  Its a phantom notion.  Caputo suggested that when real renewal comes to an individual that spectral (or ghost) future is replaced by a transformed life now.  Applying Caputo’s teaching to my Christian faith I have become much less concerned with getting people to heaven one day as I am in getting heaven into people today!


Gladys Ganiel: The Questions that Haunt Emerging Christianity

Academic Gladys Ganiel’s talk followed by her facilitated discussion with Pete was a highlight for me as it examined some of the practical applications for people involved in, for lack of a better description, “Emerging Christian” groups. A small discussion then was generated by arguing that Emerging Christianity was simply putting a more progressive theology on to traditional church models and whether that was sufficient.  As someone who facilitates a monthly gathering called Bread & Wine  it got me examining the nature of why we meet, what we may want to consider in the future, and what purpose do we wish to achieve.


Singing with Padraig O’ Tuama

We all enjoyed a couple sessions at Holy Ghosts with poet, storyteller, and musician Padraig O’Tuama.  Padraig played a couple songs on Tuesday evening inviting us to sing a chorus in the second song to the tune of Tom Petty’s Free Falling.  For a number of years I’ve struggled through “worship’.  To greater and lesser extents I have fumbled though the songs whose meanings often seem trite and shallow to me.  Maybe its because I was in a pub…maybe it was Padraig leading the song on that cool Irish “guitar” the name of which escapes me…

…perhaps it was even the Guinness.

But most likely it came from a spirit that Padraig had created through his poetry and storytelling that seemed to say despite the poverty, hurt, and injustice that surrounds us…my soul will nevertheless sing a song of praise to God. Whatever it was I haven’t enjoyed singing to the Lord like that in a while.


Holy Ghosts Was About the People!

When I chatted to Peter the first night he mentioned that a strong element I would take away from the week together would be the relationships and new friends I would make during the event.  He was right…  I spent much time during Holy Ghosts in small group discussions with new friends whose lives I got to be part of.  I heard their stories…they heard mine and together we tried to figure out what church, faith, and following God meant in the 21st century.  My new friends came from a number of different religious backgrounds.  Some remarkably similar to my own…

…some not.

But no matter where someone slotted in on the faith “spectrum” there was a lot of grace for someone’s journey at Holy Ghosts.


Jonny McEwen & Ikon

Ikon was the faith / arts collective that ran in Northern Ireland.  Peter facilitated a talk with Jonny McEwen who was the art designer for many of Ikon’s “Transformance Art” events.  We learned about some of their successes…and some of their failures.  It was great inspiration for me and helped clarify what I would like to see more of (and what could be possible) in Hong Kong


Phil Harrison & The Good Man

One evening we got an advanced screening of a new film by Phil Harrison entitled The Good Man.  A morality tale juxtaposing life in the West vis a vis the developing world in South Africa.  As I help teach and make films with students at the high school where I work I made sure to spend a bit of time with Phil.  I picked his brain over a number of questions and he generously indulged me.  Phil was a real inspiration as to what is possible in film making when you have a heart and a dream that go hand in hand.


Duke Special

I couldn’t finish without saying I have become Duke Special fan.  Duke is a well known musician in the U.K. and Ireland and a good friend with Peter Rollins. He performed a private concert for us one evening at the Sunflower pub and I was both entertained by his talent as well as moved by his lyrics.  He can have you laughing one minute and reflecting deeply the next.  I had heard a little of his Christian journey and would have liked the opportunity to talk with him a bit.  Next time.  Until then I have some Duke Special music to download!

In conclusion I want to mention how much I enjoyed sharing the Holy Ghosts experience with my long time friend Mark Cattanach.  Both of our wives were real sports in allowing us this time together in Belfast.  I joked with Mark at one point that I remember taking him to a Rodney Howard-Browne conference in Hong Kong in 1996…

…I finally made it up to him by taking him to meet Peter Rollins and Holy Ghosts in Belfast 2014!



1 comment

  • Mark

    Hey Steve, Holy Ghosts more than made up for Rodney Howard Brown 🙂 BTW the instrument that Padraig played was a Bouzouki.

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