By the Rivers of Babylon
Blueprint for a Church in Exile
Publication Year: 2013
The language of exile, focused with theological and biblical narratives and coupled with depictions of real-life exilic communities, can equip church leaders as agents in the creation of new communities.
It is commonplace today to hear Christians say we are a “church in exile” or a church in a “post-Christendom” society. But what does this really mean? In order for the church to make sense of this claim, we need some concrete descriptions of exilic life so that, in our reflections on congregational formation, we can begin to develop a more substantive language for our exilic experience.
In By the Rivers of Babylon, Robert Hoch reads the larger North American tradition of Christian worship and mission through the prism of visibly marginalized communities, communities that know the power of Babylon concretely. That is, they know displacement through some combination of physical dislocation, ethnicity, economic marginality, and political stigma. This readable and practical book is an essential resource for pastors and church leaders in these communities.
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Title Page, Copyright
It is fitting that a book on communities living in exilic conditions would only be possible through frequent and generous expressions of hospitality. Dr. Jeffery Bullock, president; Dr. Bradley Longfield, dean; and the Board of Trustees of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary gave me a...
Exile, as we often hear it in the church, refers to a “spiritual” experience, our sense of being “strangers in a strange land” but not actually strangers in a strange land. In this book, I argue the theological language of exile is inescapably bound up with the fleshy language of being an exile. Theologically, exile is flesh and it...
An Exilic Landscape
In June 2010, on the way home from a denominational meeting in Minneapolis, I decided to make a short detour to Postville, Iowa, about an hour or so north of our home in Dubuque. I wanted a firsthand look at this otherwise unremarkable town that had become the epicenter of a national debate on the issue of illegal immigration....
House of the Butterfly
Casa Mariposa (“Butterfly House”), a purple stuccoed house, was only about a block away from the hostel where I was staying in Tucson. I had been told to visit because this was one of the nerve centers for immigration reform, advocacy, as well as sanctuary, providing beds and table and clean clothing for pilgrims on the way. The house was easy to find: outside someone posted a sign,...
If you were to visit the shrine built by the No More Deaths (NMD) volunteers at the Arivaca Camp in Arizona’s Altar Valley, you would see an upturned tree stump, its root system exposed, almost churning, as if alive, with the things heaped around it. Among these are a half dozen or so white crosses, some...
A Broken Benediction
If you walk down the southern end of Main Street in downtown Dubuque and look above the overhang of the thrift store there, you might see a little neon cross glowing through a window, as we did. Still new to Dubuque in 2003, my spouse and I were out walking, exploring our new home, when we noticed the neon cross gazing down on the street from a third-floor window. We saw....
A Labyrinth of the Streets
My first contact with the Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Missouri, was by phone. I called to see if I could visit the community. Rev. Eric Garbison was the name I had been given, and when I called the house I asked if I could speak to him....
It was late June 2007 and we had driven from my parents’ home in California to a little Nez Perce Presbyterian camp retreat in Idaho, situated between Craigmont and Winchester, atop Mason Butte at about four thousand feet in elevation. Known as Talmaks, which means, “mountain on the prairie,” it was...
Over the course of writing this book, the questions people asked me about my work have changed. When I started, they wanted to know what sorts of communities I would be visiting. As the project progressed, the questions shifted: “Well, what have you learned? What is the church in these places and...