Recently several friends of Emergent Village released the decision to restructure our future around the metaphor of a "Village Green." A week later Christianity Today announced that they have taken that same metaphor to organize some of its publishing into a more conversational format. This, along with the mixed reviews about the ambiguity of EV 2.0 in this honeymoon phase, gives an opportunity to be clearer about what "The Emergent Village Green" is and could be. Remember back in the 90s then the Real Slim Shady walked through the Grammys with hundreds of impostors? I think this is not such a case. Instead, I think that CT and others are hitting the same generative pulse that EV has been discovering through ten years of "conversation." Relational set environments of trust work! For 10 years emergent has been practicing four values: commitment to God in the way of Jesus, commitment to the church in all its forms, commitment to God's world, and commitment to each other. This practice has created a "relational set" kind of communion. People from cohorts in Atlanta to SanFransico to Chicago have met across diverse denominational affiliation and diverse worldviews to practice putting these ideas in a web of connection together. If not every day, then emergents have at least been able to try these shared practices on at their cohort meetings or regional gatherings or conferences or over a web conversations. And Emergent's practioners are no longer just men, we're no longer just ex-evangelicals, and we're no longer just middle-class whites. But we're not "perfect." Some of us have broken these vows and picked on denominations or certain fundamentals. Some of us have missed chances to include Native Americans or second generation immigrants or African Americans. Some of us have not considered God's World when we bought cars or chose plastic bags. Some of us have even given up on the ‘idea' of Jesus at one point or another... But when we're together as the village we try to return to these four practices-we make space to do it again, to return to healthier integrative participation with the coming of God.
As most of you have heard, this spring some of us got together in DC to listen for what God has been up to with the village over its ten years. We noticed that the deep integration of these four practices, as well as a few additional values, were our unique contribution to the emerging church phenomena; not any one spokesperson, not any one project, not any one innovative church or website or theology. No, Emergent Village's contribution has been the intentional embodiment of our values in new ways with more and more people. And we realized that these values only matter in practice. In short, all we can do is make an environment where these can happen. When our church or neighborhood, or denomination, or family are not yet safe for the risky experiment of valuing these four commitments at once, the village has made safe, generative space. And that is why, for example, we say at the Atlanta cohort that each participant is an owner of the village, because a room is only as safe as the shared habits of the people within it. We also know that being generative, or forwardly creative about the outcomes of being together cannot be guaranteed or herded from above by a coordinator or below by an uncoordinated open soured free-for-all. A tree is known by its fruits, you can't will it to bear something different.
And so we decided to leave coordination of projects more open sourced, and to give all our energy to the "village greens" where such projects are born and given room to flourish. We tasked ourselves with hosting cohort open source projects, event inventions, justice opportunities, alternative publishing channels, arts collaborations, web and communication resources, all with the compass of our values setting a "way" to play in the various "greens."
Its flattering that Christianity Today sees a value of shared conversation in a "Village Green". And it has been encouraging that Emergent Village has birthed similar friendships like the various denominational hyphenated groups, and the affinity groups around the missional church movement. And who knows, more and more of what emergent has demonstrated might fit various future media streams, denominations, churches, and co-ops? And, no doubt many groups will discover independently what we have been discovering as they enter similar journeys. But for the forseable future Emergent Village wants to continue to make space for an unfinished kind of conversation that we set out on ten years ago: one that integrates the four values of following God in the way of Jesus, loving the church in all its forms, loving this world where God is active, and committing to our relationship together. This is not a line in the sand but a huge "congratulations" to the many who have taken the Village Green into their own context, and an invitation to continue contributing to the unique green that holds these four values in creative tension. Emergent needs you, because, we are you...
EV knows that folks are setting up greens all over out there without requiring some blessing or oversight from the wider conversation. But if you want to coordinate your efforts in any of these areas, here are the teams and their contact people (link to the details and their emails here).
Arts: Makeesha Fisher or yours truly
Cohorts: Sarah Notton or Mike Clawson
Communications: Tim Snyder
Events: Randy Buist or Anthony Smith
Justice: Kelly Bean or Wendy Johnson
Resources: Mike Stavlund or Brittian Bullock
Will the real village greenies stand up, stand up... we'll have to wait and see.