Welcome to my web site. My name is Keith Jagger. I am Lead and Teaching Pastor at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay, ON.
About Keith: The Short of It
Pastor, New Testament Scholar, Community Developer
As long as I can remember, I have been drawn to Jesus of Nazareth. The pathway of study, prayer, and devotion to Jesus led me to the University of St Andrews in Scotland where I researched and wrote a dissertation as a doctoral student of N.T. Wright on the topic of Jesus’s baptism. I graduated with a PhD in Early Christian Studies in 2016.
I have also been following a pastoral calling for 20 years, which has steered me through a few different church assignments, seminary, and into the contemplative prayer tradition of our Christian Church tradition. I studied spiritual formation with The Epiphany Association in Pittsburgh, PA and focused my studies there on forming social presence and male spirituality. I completed Epiphany’s three-year certificate in 2011.
Currently, I lead a faith community in mission in Northern Ontario, emphasizing unity and holiness, the formation of faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ authority, and anticipating new creation. We are neither conservative nor liberal, progressive nor traditional. We are working out modern distortions of Christianity in a post-Christian culture as a local church.
About Keith: The Long of It (for those interested)
Thomas Merton, the famous 20th-Century Trappist Monk, struggled for years with needing more solitude. I like Merton. He had this undeniable draw to the life of a lonely monk, finding God among trees and streams in a quiet, well-tended cottage. I escape in my mind regularly to the peaceful hills of some idealized cabin on a ranch somewhere, a scene painted through with shades of burnt orange. And yet, for Merton, as his ministry of writing blossomed, God allowed him to gain influence in the public life of his day. All in one day Merton could be found in manual labour at the Abbey of Gethsemane near Bardstown, KY and hours later he would be writing a letter, condemning the horrors of modern war.
Later in his life Merton found some peace inside this pull between public and rustic. Reflecting on the Virgin Mary’s gift of contemplation, how Jesus’s mother would treasure up for herself all that she had seen and heard, Merton writes of Mary:
“She comes bringing solitude and society, life and death, war and peace, that peace may come out of war and that my solitude may place me somewhere in the history of my society. It is clear to me that solitude is my vocation, not as a flight from the world but as my place in the world.”
Merton discovered that solitude has nothing to do with isolation and everything to do with a sense of his world being right, sensibly engaged in God’s Kingdom, and at peace in whatever his situation. “For me,” writes Merton,
“To find solitude is only to separate myself from all the forces that destroy me and destroy history, in order to be united with the Life and Peace that build the City of God in history and rescue the children of God from hell. Christ is to be born. He is the hermit who is the center of history.”
We all need so much for of this peace, which can only really be generated, I believe, in the wellspring of Christ and in his Spirit-led, 2000 year old community of disciples.
A Bit of My Past
Similar to Merton, I want the simple of life of a homestead in bloom. My memories are dominated with wooded adventures on the bluffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley. I spent summers and winters bush crafting and collecting merit badges. I also have a deep sense of God from Saturday afternoons lost in the woods and Sunday mornings kneeling and standing and sitting and kneeling in the Roman Mass, in that perpetual sacrifice of acrobatic devotion. It was good.
But, after a few chance encounters and a draw to the charisma of evangelical ways of thinking, I stumbled into the fellowship of American Protestants. That’s how I became a scholar (please don’t call me an academic; that’s a different thing). I studied world religions in university with a focus on the beginnings of Christianity and have finished a PhD in Christian Origins. I studied Luke’s version of Jesus’s baptism scene, and Luke’s stress of God’s presence on earth—a dove descending in bodily form—within the research frameworks of my supervisor, N.T. Wright.
At every step of the way, during these last 12 years, God kept me focused in local ministry in one form or another—sometimes a volunteer, other times a short-term missionary, sometimes an administrator-movement-maker within a North American seminary community, other times a writer of church curriculum, sometimes a student of the art of spiritual direction, other times a leader of small groupings of men and women speaking about the formation of faith, hope, and love.
I’m not sure what this all makes me. Easily distracted, maybe. Or spending a few too many years needing to prove myself to the people who have left their indelible questions marks on my heart. I regret some of my false starts and mis-steps, but I don’t believe that life gets wasted like that.
I live on different hills now, and yet am drawn still to some of my old questions that have matured a bit.
- What made Jesus so inspiring?
- What gave early Christianity such traction in the Roman world of the first few centuries after Jesus?
- How did early-Christian worldviews interact, spark, and align with other worldviews in the first few centuries after Jesus?
- What were the features of faith, hope, and love for the first Christians, and how do people grow in faith, hope, and love today?
- What happens (with our faith, hope, and love) when we come really to meet and give ourselves to Jesus in the way that his first followers did?
- Or, to say this differently, how have distortions of the Christian faith affected our growth as children of God, and how can studying early Christianity restore our faith, hope, and love in our post-modern world?
- How do the insights of the Western contemplative tradition nourish our love for Jesus?
- How can we stay devoted to Jesus and on HIS mission in our post-Christian Western world?
My enduring interests, approach to ministry, and research questions all sort of hover around these questions.
In my pastoral role, mentoring programs, and speaking and writing ministries, I am helping people really get to know Jesus and love like he loved.
What You Might Want to Know About Me Today
Currently I get to lead a community who calls me pastor.
Our faith community on mission here in Northern Ontario, emphasizes unity and holiness, the formation of faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ authority, and anticipating new creation. We are neither conservative nor liberal, progressive nor traditional. We stand resolutely against racism and aspire to keep a rigorous personal ethic. We take social evils seriously and submit ourselves the authority of scripture. We are fighting for the awakening of human reverence and justice and want to share Jesus with the world. We emphasize God’s love, seek a rich life of prayer and want to stay on mission. We are working out modern distortions of Christianity in a post-Christian culture.
Summing it Up
With a lean towards the contemplative tradition, I am helping people deal with the constant drift of forgetting Jesus’s mind and our struggle of stalling out with our spiritual practices. I believe that when we really know Jesus’s mind and stay fit in prayer and spiritual practices, we will come to love God and have our hearts shaped into the image of Jesus.
Welcome to the site. I hope the resources here help you, and if you’re ever in Northern Ontario, I’d love to meet fellow sojourners on the path to Jesus and the life of the heart.
My Contact Information
Best way to connect is to email me at email@example.com and tell me a little about yourself. I’d love to hear from you.