Memorial service today for Brian Ollman who passed away unexpectedly last week in California at the age of 40. He was a good friend and I will miss him. I have some photos back home of when he and Heidi came out to stay with us in Scotland.
Brian and his friends in Pomona, California started a spiritual community called Icthus. Alongside it, they launched the Millennia Co-op, a co-operatively structured group of businesses which included a vintage clothing store, web design lab, a jiu-jitsu studio, a club for DJ's and more. We visited them in the late 90's and had a great time.
When Alan Hirsh was doing research for his book The Shaping of Things to Come, he asked me who he should visit in southern California and I strongly suggested Brian's ministry in Pomona. Which might be where some of you have read about it.
One of my craziest memories of Brian was when he came over to Austin, Texas in 2001 as creative director for our multi-media worship installation called Epicenter. Mark Scandrette and Brian found a room full of choir robes at First Baptist Church of Austin and insisted on wearing them. A few weeks later, the photos of white robed worshippers appeared and some people thought it was a pagan event. We had to explain about Brian's crazy idea of robe wearing. He also created the "Senses Lab" with a light room complete with statements that "God is light" and a wind machine so worshippers could think about the Holy Spirit and Acts 2.
That's Brian standing in the center of the play space. Towards the end of the event, everyone came into the main sanctuary where Brian had gathered dirt and trash from around the city. We were invited to take off our shoes, enter the pile and have communion, consisting of bread in a dirty wrapping and a bottle of cheap red wine in a brown bag. When asked about the service and the dirt, Brian was quoted in an article as saying the filth represented God's "coming into our messiness to lift us up and animate us."
The last time I saw Brian and Heidi was 4 years ago in Santa Monica where Brian was lending his talents to the movie industry. Brian was an amazingly creative, spiritual, emotional, crazy guy and he will be missed sorely. He impacted all of us. Prayers for his family.
Read on for an excerpt from 'Shaping' about Brian's ministry in Pomona. We are seeing many sustainable church models these days that include business and social enterprise but Brian was doing this a decade ago.