WRITINGS and RESOURCES by KEITH JAGGER, PhD
Welcome to my web site. My name is Keith Jagger. I am Lead and Teaching Pastor at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay, ON.
This is my personal blog. It focusses on Christians finding a way through post-modernity.
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About Keith: The Short of It
Pastor, New Testament Scholar, Community Developer
I lead a faith community in mission in Northern Ontario, following N.T. Wright’s theological vision for church. I am a student of the early Christians. I emphasize the formation of faith, hope, and love. I help shape contemplative activists. And I guide men and women spiritually, especially those who have been traumatized.
About Keith: The Long of It (for the interested few)
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 streams and trees and in a well-tended cottage. And yet, as his ministry of writing blossomed, God allowed Merton to gain an international fame. A famous monk—I can barely imagine it. All in one day Merton could be found in manual labour at the Abbey of Gethsemane and hours later he would be writing a letter, condemning the horrors of modern war, for a wide audience.
Later in his life he found some peace amidst his solitary influence. 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.” He found out—about solitude—that it has nothing to do with isolation and everything to do with a sense of his world being right, at peace––whatever his situation––for the sake of God’s Kingdom. “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.” Solitude is never ultimately private. It frees us to enter danger zones and rescue the distressed.
Merton’s reflections help me see that my own love of lonely places can also mean being socially present. I can find the peace I often look for in cedar groves and in crowds.
A Bit of My Past
Similar to Merton, the simple life of homesteading inspires me. My childhood memories cluster with adventures in wooded bluffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley. I spent summers and winters bush crafting and collecting enough merit-badges to be called “Eagle Scout”. I also have a deeply-sown sense of God from Saturday afternoons lost in the woods and Sunday after Sunday of devotion in Roman Catholic Mass.
Then society made me a scholar. And God drew me into the fellowship of European Protestants. I studied world religions in University with a focus on the beginnings of Christianity and have now finished a PhD. I studied Luke’s version of Jesus’s baptism scene, and its stress on 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 studying the art of spiritual direction, other times leading small groupings of men and women in the formation of faith, hope, and love.
I’m not sure what this all makes me. Easily distracted, probably. I have been a student, a community developer, a retreat leader, a New Testament scholar, and a pastor. I think what I hope this all amounts to—other than a thousand small moments of hidden ministry in Jesus’s school of carpentry—is helping with some movement forward.
I mean, I want to be among those who are leading the church in the secular West to the other side of post-modernity. Stationed in North America, I want to help guide the people of faith through the deep questions of truth and God and human flourishing. I believe that we have yet to imagine what kind of world we might steward where modern technology meets the living and transforming faith of the ancients.
What You Might Want to Know About Me Today
Currently I get to lead a community who calls me pastor––a pure and sacred privilege! They know that, while I am still figuring out what I am, this role of pastor somehow brings together many conflicting parts of my sense of life-calling.
If you had to put this together in one Mosaic, here’s how it looks: I lead a faith community in mission in Northern Ontario, following N.T. Wright’s theological vision for church. I am a student of the early Christians, learning to see them in living colour—in the original languages of their records and in light of their social-history. Seeing them in this living colour, I think, will help us discover some important guidance from the ancient church. We will need this guidance if we want to stay on track with what inspired them and if we want to succeed in throwing out dead Christian tradition that may have lost track of Jesus in the first place. I emphasize the formation of faith, hope, and love. I help shape contemplative activists. And I guide men and women spiritually, especially those who have been traumatized. Those wanting to make any movement through post-modernity must be profoundly in tune with what inspired the first Christians, courageous enough to measure tradition against scripture, and masterful in drawing secularized men and women into the presence of God. This are my crafts. I find solitude where these three things connect.
So I invite you, if searching for the future of Christianity, to come along. I’d love to hear your thoughts and meet fellow navigators. You might find me these days in the woods of the Boreal Forest. But what better a place to meet. Email me, or come for a visit as we learn how to move forward.
Merton finishes off his reflections about solitude as the heart of our common vocation: “Christ is to be born,” says Merton, “He is the hermit who is the center of history. He has made His solitude the Heart of every society—Cross and Agape. Sacrifice and recovery, death and love. Virginity is therefore both terrible and necessary. Without it I do not live. Without it no fruitfulness. Tomorrow I am born of a virgin in order to die of virginity and draw all things to Christ.”
Ethereal stuff. But pointed. Merton inspires us to be a church who remembers her first love and continues the great work—through her own sacrifice and death and surely in the midst of powerful forces—of bringing all dead and dying things to the throne of the Only Resurrecting One. Now that’s something to get excited about.
My Contact Information
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the cover art:
I found this photo in an old Sierra Club photo book. It was taken by Edward T. Parsons in 1908 on Moraine Lake, in California. The shot captures a moment during a “High Trip” to King’s River Canyon. The text to the right is from a page out of the old Westcott and Hort 1889 Greek New Testament. The penciled inscription in the front of the Bible reads H.E. Fryxell, which means that it belonged to the brother of a geologist at my Alma Mater, Augustana College. The text is Ephesians. I superimposed the dove on top of the scriptures, upon the scene from the High Trip. It has become a deeply layered and symbolic picture, and some would say that it therefore doesn’t belong on the cover of anything. But I’m going to keep it up anyway, because it captures a part of me perfectly. Layered, lover of nature, adventurer, student of the inspired Word, leading men and women in Sierra-club like high trips for retreat and study of the Bible.