The closest to attending an Emergent thing before the Gathering was a songwriter's conf at Solomon's Porch. So in 20012 when Kelley and I bought plane tickets for Albuquerque it felt like a big leap. I guess that's part of the magic, pilgrimage means going somewhere you haven't before, and it usually takes some extra effort to go on a pilgrimage, and there's that whole mystery thing working for it too.
We had Eve with us and we crammed into a cabin with some great folks who would turn out to be lifetime friends (cue the Toad the Wet Sprockets tune). It took a few years of that before we felt like we needed a trip like this to keep our blood pumping, to have courage, to risk. it was nothing like those camps that we had all run as college kids and youth pastors. It was lo-fi, it was a place to rest. Around pubs in town and around the lake or the gi-mung-us Bible we learned from each other. We invented book ideas, church ideas, community development ideas, monastic habit ideas... We prayed, and sang, and shared Christ's blood and body, and did yoga, and went to spas, and laughed and drank. It was generative, "producing new possibilities."
About three months post-gathering I had started a cohort at the prompting of Tim Conder. It looked a lot like a gathering, good food and drink, and the kind of environment where the first timer could feel as much a part of things as the guy that called the first meeting. And not long after that we tried to get one of my professors, Walter Brueggemann, to speak at the theological conversation.
And not long after that I was out of Seminary and Kelley and I had no idea what we were going to do: I facilitated a house church that disbanded after 2 years, we lived in a shared community house until they disbanded after 3 years, I managed a small local coffee shop and then it was closed, we bought and home hired contractors and fired them, I became a Sr. Pastor of a Presbyterian church- and was resigned (not de-frocked, just resigned), Kelley started her first business and left it...
So a couple ups and downs!
At each point along the way, pilgrimage to the Gathering held us up. By the end we and the folks in that first cabin we shared were running the gathering like the old camps that we all done in earlier days. And folks were attending looking for that same kind of infrastructure, and we were charging registration in return for that same infrastructure. The whole "producing new possibilities" had fallen off the goals of the event replaced by "producing a program".
We decided that since anyone can build this kind of thing, it ought ot go back to the compost pile for a year to actualy see what others will produce. In fact we decided we would do it this year in our own homes and regions, and take a year off for the big project to settle down. And we might do it again next year. and others are already doing it in their regions. So Gathering is still happening.
To cook up your own gathering just mix up:
1 part safe cheap open place
1 part initiative takers
1 part open posture
1 part generative posture
your own seasoning!
Click here to read my post about the Gathering and the discussion to follow on Emergent Village.