The One Project: You Can’t Stop the Dawn

With 1,000 faces turned toward the ballroom screen, the video narrator said her last words: “He died…he rose…let that unite us.”

On Sunday in Seattle, the One Project’s twenty-third gathering (worldwide) had begun. The theme was “The Final Week,” the last days of Jesus’ troubling and irresistible life on earth. Singing followed, and for next first few minutes in the Westin Hotel, “Hosannas” were sounding forth like bells and vows to “follow Jesus” rising up like prayers.

Then Paul Dybdahl, from the faculty of Walla Walla University, strode to the podium to consider “Why It Matters,” why this man’s life, thinly documented (but for that final week) even in the Gospels, should deserve attention. The answer was the resurrection. If we don’t know everything about Jesus, said Dybdahl, “we know enough.”

These pastor-led “gatherings”—by now, for regular attendees, a kind of “campmeeting”—involve worship music, short talks and opportunities for table-seated participants to discuss what they have heard. Over day one this year, speakers read the Gospel stories as expressions of hope for the suffering, especially for those who suffer from exclusion and from misuse of power.

Raewyn Hankins, pastor of the Victorville Church in southern California, addressed Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Inspired by the prophet Zechariah, Jesus rode on a colt, and a crowd alongside began calling him King. Nervous Pharisees, worried about how Roman authorities would respond, told Jesus to “rebuke” his followers, but he replied that “stones would cry out” if they remained silent. Then, moments later, he was weeping over Jerusalem, and at this Hankins recalled her own weeping on July 8, 2015, when at the General Conference session Adventism’s powerful repudiated the calling of women to ordained ministry. But in the story Jesus would not stop the celebration, and Hankins took this to mean that you “can’t stop the dawn.” But neither would Jesus look past the pain that others suffer. There is a time to celebrate, said Hankins, and there is a time to sob.

Iki Taimi, a pastor in Gardena, California, turned attention to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, and his provocative quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah: The temple was meant to be a “house of prayer for all the nations,” not a “den of thieves.” It was to be, as one scholar declares, “especially accessible” to outsiders. Jesus saw the incompatibility between temple reality and the “divine will.” That perspective remains pertinent today, and challenges our own community to change and grow. Taimi said we are meant, after all, to embody God’s will in the world.

Brandy Kirstein, a nurse from Tennessee, interpreted Jesus’ woes against the scribes and Pharisees as a matter of “spiritual inattentional blindness.” Psychological research demonstrates that the human mind misses much of what lies within its field of vision. It is especially given to overlooking its own spiritual inconsistencies, as religious leaders of that time regularly did, according to Jesus. But their problem, Kirstein suggested, is our problem: we, too, miss the truth about ourselves. And only Jesus can “clarify what we’re missing.” She closed by inviting participants to join her in singing “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.”

Emily Poole, a fundraising officer at Walla Walla University, took up the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. From God’s point of view, she suggested, the key thing is whether we embrace “Christ-like love as a way of life.” Is faith most important, or is works? That, she said invoking C. S. Lewis, is like asking which scissors blade matters most.

Karl Haffner, a pastor in Kettering, OH, reflected on the one day of the Final Week of which the Gospels appear to say nothing. Reaching for a theme, he made this a metaphor for the silence of God, and for the pain we suffer when our prayers go unanswered. What to remember, he said, is that Jesus himself underwent similar pain. His Gethsemane request that God take away his cup of suffering went unanswered. Still, from “that awful cauldron of silence,” Haffner said, was born the hope of the world. The silence is not permanent; the pain does not last forever.

With time out for two brief table discussions and a walking-around break, the morning had been busy, or perhaps over-busy. But now a lunch time of nearly two hours ensued, providing time to talk as well as eat.

After 2:30 in the afternoon, Ofa Langi, a pastor from Burlington, Washington, looked at the footwashing story. While the disciples quarreled over who would be greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus took a role reserved for slaves, and washed the disciple’s feet. The opportunity they missed we miss too when pride stops us from serving “the Jesus in our midst.”

Matthew Gamble, from the church near St. Helena Hospital in northern California, suggested that Judas the betrayer of Jesus failed for lapsing into avarice and for “putting God in a box.” By this latter he meant Judas thought too well of his concept of God, and didn’t allow revelation to be “progressive” in his own life. You have to let God “blow the lid off the box,” he said.

Following table talk, Tara VinCross, a pastor from Philadelphia, explored Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane. He wanted escape from darkness and pain, but it was not to be. So he held on to his trust and “leaned into” his pain. In such circumstances the “only way,” VinCross remarked several times,” is through.” And like Raewyn Hankins earlier, she mentioned July 8, 2015, as a day of disappointment. For the church powerful that day became, she said, a time of “drawing lines, building walls, waging war on the other.” But we who suffer as a result must “drink the cup,” she went on. We must not “run,” must not “abandon” what we hope for, any more than Jesus did.

Alex Bryan, a One Project co-chair and the pastor of the Walla Walla University Church, made explicit what seemed to have been implicit through much of day one. “Don’t give up,” he said, alluding to the perplexity many Adventists are feeling with respect to the powerful in their ommunity. “As we follow Jesus, he will lead the church into a glorious future.” Then he offered reflections on the meaning on the Last Supper. It is meant to subvert abuses and create inclusive common life. To eat and drink with Jesus is to take a stand against “generational brokenness,” and “polarizing power”; against “arrogant self-righteousness” and “endangered conversation.” “Self-worship” and “other suspicion” can no longer fit. To Jesus it is important, Bryan declared, “to invite to the banquet anyone you find.” He had learned this not only from reflection on the Final Week, but also from a childhood in which he had heard, again and again, that Adventists practice “open” communion.

The afternoon closed with the sharing of communion wine and bread. Later at a nearby, acoustically remarkable church, Walla Walla University’s select choir, I Cantori, sang the story of the Final Week. The performance, with Kraig Scott conducting, was at once elegant and inspiring.

Charles Scriven is Board Chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Googke the One Project, . one will find a lengthy critical commentary. A very interesting take on the entire approach to Church and change. TZ

When Christ is lifted up, the Enemy becomes more brazen. We should expect critics to be crawling out of the woodwork.

But when He is lifted up, He will draw men and women to Himself, His graciousness, His Sacrifice, His gift of eternal life. Thanks for this amazing report. Would love to hear Kraig Scott’s I Cantori concert. Talk about uplifting.


Sad to note that the critics of this particular effort to lift Christ up are almost all within the SDA Church…angry people looking for fault wherever they think they can find it.


Not very angery, just amused that they don’t believe a word of the fall out of 1844. Just pay check doubters with a subversive agenda. TZ

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I addressed this on another place, but it bears repeating at this time since we are including “complainers” in the topic of conversation.

Passive Membership creates not just passive dependency but also far too often Passive-Aggressive Behavior. This happens when such stalwart members do not get what they have become accustomed to.
THAT is the predictable passive-aggressive behavior you can expect when there has been no actual Spiritual Awakening.
They hear additional truth, or maybe even a new truth, and want to call it Heresy. Because it is NOT what they are accustomed to hearing. And dont have the Spiritual Energy to investigate it for themselves.

Professor Kent!
It’s The Guitars!! At least there are no Drums! :innocent:

Mentioning Guitars. I dont know how much you know about Graysville Training School, the forerunner of Southern Missionary College before it moved from Graysville, TN.
One of the early pictures of students and staff together shows this one student on the front row with her GUITAR. Apparently back then it was OK to play guitars [1905 to 1910]

Tom. Mentioning Pentecostals.
Last Sabbath our pastor said this coming Sabbath evening the SDA church would be showing the DVD, “War Room”. He did not elaborate on what it was about, just said it was inspirational. I thought it was an SDA Production.
Out and about town today on a main road, I passed the Nazarene Church [pentecostal-type]. On its announcement board out front it announced “War Room” as being shown this week.
Apparently, soon, many churches will be showing it to congregations and visitors. Not just SDA.

Regarding Instruments in Church.
When any instrument is played well it sounds good. Whether a guitar [acoustic or electric], drums, piano, organ [electronic or pipe or digital], horns, strings, accordion, harmonica, etc.
A fellow I know since early 60’s at college came by Sabbath with his genuine electric Hawiian guitar and played a duet with a blind member playing his electronic keyboard. Was very nice.
One of the problems with “church musicians” is that they are allowed to stay stuck in their amateurish ways of playing. They are NOT encouraged to improve their performance and music abilities.
Same way with song leaders. They are NOT encouraged before hand on how “to do”.
Persons who get up and read Scripture are NOT practiced with so they have a good voice presentation so those listening can hear and be blessed.
The Church Community allows and reinforces amateurish presentations.

Ronin – liked your comment. Yes. learning to play the piano, one has to begin with playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with one finger. Learn to play easy hymns and the congregation willing to sing them, until more difficult ones are mastered. One has to do a lot of beating on drums to perfect the coordination with the sticks. A lot of squeeks and squaks on wind instruments.


We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. We are so respectful of perfection we chronically sell ourselves short. Here’s what I like about God: Trees are crooked, mountains are lumpy, his creatures are funny looking, and he made it all anyway. Mistakes are necessary; stumbles are normal. The Creator of the universe gives himself permission to be a beginner given a chance to be an artist, over time, a very good one. Progress, not perfection, is what God asking of us.


Chuck’s report of Alex Bryan’s encouragement to Project One participants to hang on, and not give up on the SDA church, brought to mind a line in the 1950s rock 'n roll classic “I Put a Spell on You.” The lyrics seem oddly apropos at a time when many are wondering whether or not it would be good and helpful to continue to ally themselves with the church. The line that remained in my memory is:

" …and I don’t care if you don’t want me. I’m yours right now."

(If you want to give it a listen, I recommend the version by Nina Simone. You can easily access it and hear it performed on line.)