In the spring of 2010, a group of Christian artists, speakers, communicators, worship leaders, and ministers found themselves in need of a space where they didn’t need to be experts and could just be. This group of people, who routinely were keynote speakers for other conferences, formed the “Luminous Project,” a retreat dedicated to contemplative practices and spiritual formation. Over the years, the annual retreat expanded into multiple retreats a year and eventually into meetings around the living room table of Father Chad Jarnagin.
In February of 2016, Luminous Parish was born out of these weekly gatherings. We recently sat down with Father Chad to learn more about the origins of Luminous, what his day-to-day looks like now, and a recent Luminous milestone: the celebration of their first baptisms.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in the Ohio Valley and spent most of my life touring as a musician. After touring, I found myself on church staffs, mostly in nondenominational mega-church world. I didn’t really grow up around the church but have always been fond of sacred spaces. From my first eucharist, my affection for liturgical rhythms and the sacraments has deepened. I have often joked that I have been a closet Anglican for over 18 years.
What is your daily rhythm? What motivates you? What does your own spiritual formation look like?
I have become ritual and rhythm oriented over the years. After getting the kids out to school, I have morning prayer and meditation, mostly in silence, before looking at any screen. Peace and a sense of balance motivate me. Reading Nouwen, Merton, Berry, and Keating are standards in our home, along with Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Cahill, and countless others. The more I read, the less and more I know. I feel as though my view of God expands each day. His vastness, holiness, and love know no bounds.
My continued formation can be attributed to the work of the Spirit, firstly. Many resources encourage and continue to educate me. From podcasts to TEDx tools, I enjoy experiencing new ideas, solutions, and forward-thinking philosophies.
How did Luminous Parish come about? What has excited and encouraged you most since it’s inception?
Luminous Parish began as Luminous Project, a conference retreat setting focused on contemplative prayer and spiritual formation. The original participants were artists, speakers, communicators, and ministers who themselves were typically the experts at other Christian conferences. Many of them were fatigued from the conference work of being “ministries selling ministry to ministries.” We needed a space to come and be and focus on our own discipleship. From the beginning, I felt a call to shepherd these dear friends and colleagues.
After a while, a desire grew to host these conferences more than once a year. We started doing retreats between the main gatherings. Four years in, we started sensing that God was stirring something more. My wife and I were apprehensive at first. We were used to supporting others but never envisioned being a part of a church plant.
We started gathering around our table every other week. It was such a beautiful time of sharing bread and wine and eucharistic fellowship together. Around this time I began pursuing ordination, and am thankful for the grace and guidance I received from men like Allen Hughes, Bob Grant, Dan Scott, and Austin Cagle. When we officially launched Luminous Parish in 2016, we were really just acknowledging what the Lord had already brought about.
Tell us about the experience of the first baptisms in the church, specifically the experience of baptizing your sons.
We were going to have our first baptisms last spring, but rescheduled for family and friends to celebrate with us. Our first baptisms happened to be my three sons. Our 16-month-old, 6-year-old, and 8-year-old. I was a joyful emoting mess. Oddly enough, it felt similar to the way I felt when each of them was born. What a wonderful new season for them and us as a parish. God be praised.
What are your hopes for Luminous Parish going forward?
From the beginning, our hope was simple. Learning to be still, live fully, and reflect the Great Light of the world. Easier said than done most days. There are 2 million people in the Great Metro Nashville area and another million moving here daily. We have gathered weekly for a year now, and we have found it difficult to meet at 5PM in our culture of Sunday morning church goers. That in itself has allowed space for more of a disenfranchised, wounded, and currently healing groups of people. Our prayerful hope going forward may be that we remain faithful to the compelling call and love of our Great God to be the liturgy we practice. And to continue the patient work of the people in a rapidly growing culture of Nashville and Franklin.
Written by: Ana Glass