Author Archive: IsaacV

About IsaacV

Mennonite pastor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Book Review: Simple Spirituality by Christopher Heuertz

Christopher L. Heuertz, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World. InterVarsity Press, 2008. Pp. 159. $15.00, US.

I wish I read this book more slowly. It’s a very accessible read, but that doesn’t mean it should be read quickly. Heuertz wrote a vulnerable book, one that puts his heart on display, and I couldn’t help but want to let his words do work on my soul–but that takes more time. Heuertz doesn’t claim to offer any secrets to spiritual success. Instead, he shares what God is teaching him through his friends, who happen to be the poorest of the poor. Through the ministry of Word Made Flesh, Christopher and his wife Phileena have discovered God’s love poured out in the poor, God’s presence in brokenness. Heuertz is on a wandering journey, learning to see God among the hungry in Brazilian favelas and the children sex slaves in Thailand. Can we see what he sees? As Jesus asks, Do you have eyes to see?

The book is organized around 5 virtues, each of which are chapter titles: Humility, Community, Simplicity, Submission, and Brokenness. The threads that bind these together are Heuertz’s engrossing stories about his friends. They are the context. His spirituality isn’t a call to close your eyes and think about God; instead, friendships with the poor make friendship with God possible. Solidarity is primary: “We literally live among the dying as an act of solidarity with our neighbors and our God” (20).

But Heuertz doesn’t start there. His beginnings are steeped in American evangelicalism. (more…)

Jesus for President: Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

I know it’s old hat for many of you radical anabaptists to talk about how Jesus is political. But, none the less, I thought I’d invite ya’ll to an event we’re having down here in North Carolina. A couple of my friends will be making a stop in Raleigh for an event. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw are touring the country for their new book and holding rallies along the way. I know the Triangle (i.e., Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) is far away from Menno country. But if you go through the hassle to get down here, I’ll find somewhere for you to stay. The campaign stop is sponsored by our Mennonite district churches (ECD) and the North Carolina Council of Churches. Here’s an edgy blurb for the event:

On Tuesday evening, July 22nd, we will celebrate the political campaign that has lasted 2,000 years. But this movement of the people is quite different from what the current American democratic parties are up to. It all started in a Palestinian village: a woman from the wrong side of the tracks birthed someone who would change the world. This boy grew up and started a campaign that ignited a revolutionary fire of love across the land. Sure, the empire killed him, like they do all revolutionaries. But the rumor is that his followers are still at it; they have kept the memory alive. Come hear the good news; and maybe pledge allegiance to a very different king. It’s free, so show up early if you want a seat.

Jesus for President: 7pm, July 22nd, Raleigh, First Baptist Church (101 S. Wilmington Street)

Spread the word.

Here’s their website: Jesus for President

** Update **

CNN just did a piece on the Jesus for President campaign. Look here


Tim asked me to introduce myself before contributing to this blog. So here goes…

I guess I’m young–although my wife has discovered a recent influx of white hairs on my head. And I guess I’m Anabaptist–although my parents had me baptized as an infant. But I don’t think anyone wants to include me among the “radicals” since I’m a pastor. Everyone knows that pastors aren’t radical. They are (we are) just pastors.

My name is Isaac Villegas and I pastor a Mennonite congregation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As I’ve discovered from wearing name tags at Mennonite conferences, my last name is a giveaway: my family tree isn’t rooted in Europe. My blood flows from south of the border. I’m the child of Catholic immigrants from Latin America who settled in Los Angeles, California. My ecclesial story meanders through various traditions. But my first memory of church is set in a modern cathedral, with lavishly adorned priests walking down the center aisle, incense wafting through the rows, and Christ’s transubstantiated presence beckoning from the altar of eucharistic mysteries.

But my family was pentecostal Catholic at heart, and that kind of hybrid Catholicism didn’t happen in our LA neighborhoods. So we turned to the anarchic pentecostal and storefront charismatic movements. Then evangelicals took hold of me during college. But they left me high and dry when I wrestled with the need for a faithful response to 9/11. The Mennonites saved my faith; they offered a communal witness of peace that took seriously the bible and the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit.

I moved to North Carolina to help start a house of hospitality called the Rutba House. When we discovered that lots of other folks were doing the same things, we invited everyone we could think of to Durham for a conversation on “a new monasticism.” (If you want more information, we put together a book of essays: Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism.)

While I experimented with what we were calling “neo-monasticism,” I worshiped with the good people at Chapel Hill Mennonite. They taught me how to do church Mennonite-style–granted, a grass roots (i.e., radical?) variety of Mennonite that makes most sense to me. And for some crazy reason they thought it was a good idea to call me as their pastor. Only the Holy Spirit does stuff that crazy.