THE CHRISTIAN STORY:
Creative life-giving resources for Christ followers, congregations, and leaders,
echoing God’s call to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly' at the heart of faith and life
Grounded in the theological work of René Girard and James Alison, centering salvation
in God’s restoration and new creation in Christ rather than retribution, transaction and violence
Resources developed by Rev. Dr. Gordon Wiersma, a parish pastor, for followers of Christ
and all people of good will: offered in a spirit of connection to and appreciation for ecumenical, interfaith, seeker, humanist, spiritual allies - all who seek to join in a story of
"Help - Love - Life"
Welcome to The Christian Story!
I’m Gordon Wiersma - I serve as a co-pastor at Hope Church (Reformed Church in America) in Holland, MI, where I've served since 1999. I've been ordained as a Minister in the RCA since 1989, and have also served congregations in Phoenix and Philadelphia.
I grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, and have a bachelor's degree from Calvin College (1985), a Masters of Divinity degree from Princeton Seminary (1989), and a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Seminary (2019).
In my life, faith, ministry and relationships, I feel deeply drawn to and sustained by justice, Beloved Community, liturgy, poetry, and gratitude.
You can reach me using the contact form below or through www.hopechurchrca.org where you'll also find a sermon archive; and Hope Church is also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hopechurchholland where you'll find videos of worship services.
What follows are a number of resources offered for use in congregations, worship settings, and spiritual communities. In these resources you’ll first find a video and script for “The Christian Story” which gives a narrative presentation of a restorative/creative atonement theology. I'm also pleased to present a 3-year cycle of original Prayers for Worship, offered along with ideas and resources for using the prayers in worship. And then there's a hodgepodge of additional resources – a podcast, my Doctoral Thesis, and a Youth Retreat. And finally I've included a number of Recommended Links to connect further with restorative theology and justice. Please explore and use these materials freely, and I’d be glad to hear from you about how you make use of these resources in your setting.
VIDEO: THE CHRISTIAN STORY
(LINK TO VIDEO BELOW)
This is a story written for children but meant for all ages and really meant for all, whether a person of Christian faith or not. It may sound presumptuous to title something "The Christian Story" but I mean to be bold rather than presumptuous. What I am bold about is sharing the beauty and power of a Christian narrative that creatively reflects God's love for and restoration of the world through Jesus Christ. This story was written as a part of my Doctor of Ministry work which draws on the theology of René Girard and James Alison to express the heart of Christianity: God breaking the chronic cycles of human brokenness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe “The Christian Story” gives voice to a biblical faith storyline spoken by the Spirit to the human heart, hearts created to know that the fabric of God's love is woven with compassion, justice and grace. And I also desire this to be a story that could resonate with people of other faiths and all people of good will - a story in the language of "Help - Love - Life" that all can hear - a Christian story that connects rather than divides. This story is written in the style of "Children in Worship" stories (pioneered by Jerome Berryman and Sonja Stewart) which I have deeply appreciated and used throughout my ministry as a profound children's pedagogy resource. The content of this story is my own writing, and it is open to anyone to reproduce (including the materials) and use in whatever setting is helpful - I simply ask that you credit me as the author. I have told this story to children, youth, college students, parents, and in worship services and I invite you to do the same. I believe it is accessible and relevant for all ages and shares a Christian story which grows with and nurtures at all ages and stages of life and faith. You can access the script to the story here: The Christian Story Script - Rev. Dr. Gordon Wiersma and the link to the video is below.
PRAYERS FOR WORSHIP
These prayers are at the core of how I have wrestled with and integrated restorative/creative atonement theology into weekly liturgy as a parish pastor. You can read more about these prayers using the “Go to Prayers for Worship” link below, but in essence these prayers reflect an atonement theology that receives salvation not as a punitive transaction but as God’s creative restoration of all of life and creation in Jesus Christ.
These prayers that I've written are organized around the Liturgical Year from Advent through the Reign of Christ and around the 3-year Lectionary cycle, Year A, Year B, Year C – but these prayers are not only for those that use the lectionary in their worship and can be adapted for various liturgical styles and worship settings.
And along with the prayers you'll also find ideas for using the Prayers for Worship in your setting.
I invite you to use and adapt these Prayers for Worship freely and creatively – and I simply ask that you reference TheChristianStory.org as your source.
PODCAST CONVERSATION ABOUT MY THEOLOGICAL PARADIGM
This is a conversation hosted by Joshua Vis, a colleague whose work is focused on issues of justice in the Palestinian communities in Israel https://joshvis.com/. Josh was interested in the theological work I was doing on Girard and Alison, and he interviewed me in May of 2019 as part of his ongoing podcast series. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I believe it expresses well much of the substance and implications that I receive from the Girard/Alison theological paradigm for salvation.
DOCTOR OF MINISTRY THESIS: "FAITH MEETS LIFE: THE IRRUPTIVE ATONEMENT THEOLOGY OF RENÉ GIRARD AND JAMES ALISON”
I wrote this thesis for my Doctor of Ministry at McCormick Seminary. I think you'll find it quite readable - really!
The thesis provides a theological paradigm for my work and describes the projects I carried out in my congregation. The link below connects to the thesis - comments and questions are welcomed.
(image above from the Louvre website: Giandomenico Tiepolo, "Christ and the Adulterous Woman", 1750 https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062691)
A weekend retreat centered in restorative and creative atonement. I've led the retreat, and it was very meaningful and fun - including a Lady Gaga song! - give it a try!
RECOMMENDED LINKS & RESOURCES
Please contact me if you have other links & resources to recommend,
and please let me know if you're able to share my website with others - thanks!
GIRARDIAN LECTIONARY COMMENTARY
Understanding the Bible anew through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard
COV&R COLLOQUIUM ON VIOLENCE & RELIGION
An international association of scholars exploring René Girard's mimetic theory
1 CORINTHIANS 13 PROJECT ON RACIAL JUSTICE
Developed by my esteemed colleague Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom-Grier, this superb site offers racial justice resources for both people of color and white allies
EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE
Founded by justice activist Bryan Stephenson, author of "Just Mercy"
JAMES ALISON WEBSITE
Resources from and about this compelling contemporary Girardian theologian