Richard Twiss and I only met a couple of times. We never shared coffee or dinner. We never spoke on the phone or emailed each other about our travels. We never had long conversations or even a quick moment of prayer. And yet, none of this is necessary for me to write about the way his words have impacted my life. For two years, I have been listening to Richard Twiss challenge the Church, and I've enjoyed every second.
Richard Twiss has left his mark on my mind and heart, challenging me to think more deeply about Christianity... about Christians. The following lessons he has taught me are in no particular order. They are scattered thoughts and scattered experiences- church services, CCDA, workshops and plenaries, but they are meaningful to me. They are the kind of thoughts I've had to chew slowly or risk choking- the kind that must be digested fully in order to bring their full value to the Body. Here are some of the Words I carry with me:
"In order for there to be unity, there must first be diversity. God is One because He is Three." Even now I have trouble unpacking the beauty, the power of these statements. In an age where there are so many who wish to avoid the muck and mud of race, ethnicity, and culture, who would rather be 'colorblind' and seek assimilation rather than dig for the treasures of our differences, this is so refreshing. He so clearly, so succinctly declares that if we are all the same, if we are not diverse, than we have achieved nothing. But if we are diverse, if there must be an act of coming together, if we are distinct and choose to be one- then we achieved unity. Could there be a more beautiful picture than that of the Trinity? Three in One.
"Behold, all things have passed away and all things are created... white," with this statement Richard Twiss challenged us all to take a closer look at the devastating history of Christianity that told the Tribes there is only one way to be Christian. He recounted his own childhood- a story that represents the lives of millions more- of stolen traditions, stolen language, stolen dress, stolen names, stolen culture. But of course, Richard Twiss wouldn't allow us to simply shake our heads and mourn the actions of history; he challenged us to look around, to ask ourselves how we are still perpetuating the idea that only one culture can define Christianity.
"Can we stop using binary language to talk about Christianity, and enter fully into the messy, ambiguous mystery of Christ among us?" Richard pondered allowed how long we would continue to fight over a singular culture that must represent Christ. He challenged us to expand the possibility of who Jesus among us might be- a black teenager with dreads, a latino girl eating hot-chips, a First Nations man singing his tribal song. He asked us to go beyond fitting people into boxes, judging their level of Christianity against each of our cultural norms. He asked us to imagine a Jesus bigger than us, a Jesus who sits and works and plays among us, who is not bound by our heritage but delights in us all, who doesn't lock His car doors in the hood or ignore the reservations until its time for a missions trip or require Spanish speakers to learn English before coming to Him. Instead He is Christ among us all.
The Power of Narrative. I cannot recount all that Richard would say on this topic, but it is one he proclaimed without fail every time I heard him speak. The power of story. The power of narrative. And the awesome contribution that First Nations communities could contribute to Christianity and the narrative that is the Good News.
There will be many family and friends of Richard's who will speak about his humor, his heart, his life's work. There will be a number of people who can recount phone calls and emails and conversations over dinner. I look forward to these stories being shared, to delight in a man I knew only from afar. But today, I value that I was listener, a listener of Richard Twiss.
Richard Twiss June 1954-Feb 2013 in this life... forever in eternity with Christ.