Clayfire... failed pot?

So, what is Clayfire, and why would anyone care if its gone (here's the closing announcement)  ?

Their tagline, "reshaping worship together" sums up what I think they/we were after.  But they also needed to figure out how the reshapers or users of "pre-shaped" worship were going to access the designs... and in the world of Planning Center Online and various denominational worship resource companies, Clayfire never figured out how to break into the industry.

About two years ago at Christianity21 event in Minneapolis I met Linda Parriot and got reacquainted with Sally Morganthaler, they were beginning a project around worship that would combine resourcing churches as well as catalyzing artists who design worship and art experiences. The project would be both an affiliate of Augsburg Fortress Press' new imprint, Sparkhouse, and a sort of online resource store.

I joined up with the team as they were commissioning original content for the online resources.  Sally and a few others moved on around the same time because they were more committed to the catalyzing and collaboration than to an online resource site. I enjoyed working on a fresh collection called "God's Grand Work of Art" with friends like Tim Omara, Aaron Strumple, Todd Fadel, Josey Stone, Margaret Ellsworth and my brother, designer Jonathan Bronsink.  The collection was one of dozens designed by artist who not only lead worship music, paint, or preach, but who design worship as formational practice of missional life.  Influenced by the work of Mark Pierson, Clayfire coined this practice as "curation."

Then last summer I met up with Jodi-Renee Adams, Eric Heron and Lilly Lewin to plan a worship gathering at the Wild Goose Festival.  Eric had been leading a blog discussion on this for quite some time, and many of us had worked together before. But working at the goose was a chance to welcome other artists into the conversation and introduce this line of worship design thinking to pastors and missional leaders. Here's a picture of an experience curated that included the use of yarn passed between participants as a symbol of shared  prayers.

Then, this fall I had the chance to work with Mark, Jodi, Shawna Bowman (in the pic above) and ephemeral artist and Methodist campus minister, Ted Hatten. We co-facilitated a seminar in Chicago called The Art of Curating Worship (after Mark's book by the same name). In that space I really grew to trust the vision and focus of the Clayfire organization.  While they did need to make the business start up work (and the actual online subscription program had to roll back to beta because of so many quirks) they had carefully connected the success of the business and the online resources to the re-imagining of worship.  Not enough could be said about the courage to try that!

So, this Monday, when I learned that Clayfire would be unplugged I was sad but not surprised.  It was at once a struggling business venture and a burgeoning group of theologically nuanced creatives who could (and still might) reshape the practices of church.  For sure, these theological-artist and others were doing this before Clayfire, but nevertheless this was a rallying point and I met great people because of it.

In the art of throwing pottery, the potter often discovers that the clay just doesn't want to become what she had in mind.  If, in the middle she forces it one way or another the entire vessel collapses and throws slag and bits of unfired clay over the potter, the wheel, and the room. Sometimes potters luck out and an unexpected work of art emerges.  And then sometimes the pot seems to be done but it just doesn't feel right... it ends up sold at a discount because it never fits...  Sometimes its not until they are fired in the kiln that pots fail, because the slip and scoring weren't strong enough for the handle to hold or because the glaze bled.

So the question is what do we make of Clayfire? A failed business idea, or an early iteration in a host of ways forward in congregational formation and worship arts?  I'm sure that there remains more to be seen from the world of worship curation and I hope that Clayfire's legacy will play a significant role in whats to come.

What do you hope for the future of worship shaping, and what organizations, groups or networks have you found most supportive of this kind of work?

Communicating with each other

Last week I attended an event called Red Letter Christians, where I met up with old friends and made new ones. Tony Campolo and his son, Bart, organized the group and I think this was their fourth year to do this thing. We were all Jesus followers with passion about justice in the world around us ranging from beginners to speakers with decades of experience as a communicator. More about them later. Well, anyway, at the gathering some of the folks (Tony and Bruce) got to ribbing me about my lack of presence on the blogosphere and social media in general.  I'm huge on collaboration, I really do enjoy shared ideas and conversation, but I have trouble expressing that online. So I've resolved to spending some time on more regular communication.

I'm gonna start small and just see how it develops. Here are a few things I'm planning for starters:  For December through February I plan on blogging Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'll make a habit of getting a few ahead if necessary so that vacations or weird days don't throw me for too much of a loop. Some of the things I plan on covering include:

  • my music leadership and songwriting experiences
  • select content from conferences I've led on mission, church formation and worship design
  • experiences from the inner-city these past 7 years
  • memories and ah-has from my 3.5 years as the Abbot of Neighbors Abbey
  • books and musicians that I'm enjoying
  • stories of people I've gotten to know that I think you should meet (including Red Letter Christians)
  • ideas and input for my forthcoming book on the integration of creative process and spiritual formation.

I'll also be changing my Facebook profile to a page so that people can learn more about my life, my music and my writing… I'm interested in my work mixing with your own life and work and it seems that the page will be an easier way to do this. Finally, I'll be tweeting (and hold me to this!). So I'll be sharing more regularly what I'm hearing, learning, creating or wondering. I'm a complete novice when it comes to tweeting so I welcome any encouragements or etiquette critiques as I get going on it. My twitter handle is @troybronsink

If you want to be part of a circle of friends holding my feet the fire on this decision, contact me I'm open to suggestions.  If you have ideas that you would like me to post on leave that in the comments sections as well.  Thanks!

Announcing Church As Art Consulting

Imagine Worship that Changes People Into People Who Change the World

For seven years Church as Art has worked with mainline and emergent congregations to get pastors, lay leaders, and artists onto the same page as they design worship and other church programming.  Designed at first by Rev. Troy Bronsink to bring the emergent-missional conversation to midsized Presbyterian congregations, Church as Art's collaborative process has grown to include small congregations, non-denominational groups, and middle-governing bodies. Now Joshua Case (of The Nick and Josh Podcast) joins Bronsink to bring depth of insight and experience in the fields of outreach project management, social media, non-violent communication, student ministries, and emergence from within the Episcopalian tradition.

Worship Design Webinar:  What is Emerging Worship?

July 27 @ 7PM (EST) hosted the by Center For Progressive Renewal.  Sign up here.

Emerging worship engages communities in the art of everyday life. Whether you are asked to start an alternative worship service, are exploring complimentary elements to deepen your existing worship offerings, or starting worship for a new church plant, you need to start with "How does worship connect to what we believe about church?" Of course, you also need on-ramp methods to get started right away: tips for how to find and train musicians, artists and poets; how to design the time and place; and maybe even some survival strategies for addressing the resistance you may encounter from within your congregation. We'll hit those, too. "Emerging Worship," led by Troy  and Joshua is about communities anticipating the dreams of God together by playfully sharing and trading narratives and rituals as prayer.

About Troy

Troy Bronsink is an artist and a pastor seeking the way of Jesus. He and his wife and daughter, live in the Capitol View area of inner-city Atlanta, he is the Abbot of Neighbor’s Abbey, an holistic monastic community. Their family has been passionate about community development, education, and creativity for years. In integrating these Troy has become a contributor in the emerging church conversation. He is a singer-songwriter with 15 years of experience ranging from youth ministery to worship director to senior pastor, and in both the mainline and para-church field. Troy has an MDiv from of Columbia Theological Seminary, is an ordained Presbyterian minister, serving on the Greater Atlanta Presbytery’s Emerging Church Committee, founder of the Atlanta Emergent Cohort,  and board member of Emergent Village. He is a contributing author to the 2007 Baker Emersion release, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, and author of the forthcoming 2011 Paraclete Press book, Getting Drawn In.

About Josh

Joshua Case is a blogger, podcaster, and activist. Josh and his wife live in Decatur, Georgia where he is in his final year of study at the Candler School of Theology. Josh is an Episcopalian, co-facilitator of the Atlanta Emergent cohort, and has blogged and podcasted on matters related to Christianity in the emerging culture for over 10 years. Before moving to Atlanta, Joshua worked for six years in Geneva Switzerland where he served as the executive director for an international, interfaith youth work and ministry organization.

Village emerging

This weekend I had the incredible privilege of joining 23 old and brand new friends to discern "What Emergent Village has been, who we were becoming, and how we are to cultivate this new form." For back ground about the event you can visit the blog announcement at Emergent Village, and a list of participants here. For the first night we discussed our stories and where we saw our lives meaningful for the dreams/reign/kingdom of God. Then we went into deeper exercise of sharing, dreaming, praying, and listening. Its difficult to report on how this evolved, we shared in small groups, we shared in the whole large group, but from the get-go we really worked like one organism, learning to let go of our group-identity-hangups (It makes one re-imagine Paul's language of the body of Christ, that's for sure)

HUMILITY OF THE WHOLE

For years what has "worked" about Emergent Village has been the pairing of winsome new or newly synthesized ideas with the irenic theological humility of our earliest and most visible idea person, Brian McLaren. Basically Brian's affect has been: you can't slam the door on someone so willing to share his story without requiring you to "buy in" to his ideas. This weekend we moved into an organism with this characteristic. Our group of 24 was given the reigns to "hold" or "control" the future of Emergent Village. We then went through the process of listening to our own ideas, listening to other's ideas, and then letting go of our individual dreams, the dreams of other friends we interviewed leading up the event. We followed that seed in Jesus' parable and let the vision fall into the ground and die. At that place of chaos/surrender/disorienation/loss we began to experience freedom/release/inspiration/reimagination and a sense of the "whole." We began to listen for what God was teaching us. We looked around and it felt heavy/real/unreal all at once. We took off our shoes because we knew it was holy ground. We worshipped. The next morning we went through the difficult place of articulating, with one voice, what we believed we heard to be our visions/shape. When we came out of the other side we struggled to speak out of the same unity from which we had perceived our new call the night before. We left with a sense of "what" we were becoming, and we also left refreshed having already begun to become someone different. There will be a lot more fleshing out of the new "what." And trust me, clearer communication about how folks can stay involved and buy in even deeper to the four values of the Emergent Village. Below are a few additional incites/values that turned up...

INSTRUMENTS and SUBMISSION

It is rare, if ever, that folks in groups like this want to agree to a "polity" or "external method." We're wired existentially to "intuit" or feel our way through a decision. The entire weekend was built around an exercise called the "Theory U," a process of surrendering our individual blind spots in order to perceive in the same way we hope things will emerge. And while seven of us agreed to choose this method, only one of us came with know-how, only one of us had already seen it work in a group like ours. So it was a huge act of faith for the very diverse group of 23 to entrust ourselves to the process. On the other hand, this was a huge "Hail Mary." The primary visionaries of Emergent Village had given it over to us to decide the Village's future, and with no desire to return to the days of a "leader initiated vision", we had to "dig in" to this kind of holistic process. Even the board of directors had resigned or submitted plans to resign when this was complete, and they appointed Tim Hartman as interim chairman of the board as he was instrumental in pulling this weekend together. We all paid for our way there and spend most of the Villages remaining budget on the discounted rate that Church of the Savior asked of us for the use of their building. We had no other forseable option. We had to go for broke. Which meant, we had to let go, pray, watch, listen, and basically trust the whole group and God's hand to sync up. We had to submit for this moment...

My theology proffesor, Shirley Guthrie, liked to describe the interrelationship of the Trinity as a "dance of mutual submission" and leading into this weekend I saw the many Emergent Villagers and stakeholders open ourselves to this ancient dance.

Everyone "let go" in some way or another. Folks with so much to lose, like Brain McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt (and dozens of other high profile leaders who jump started and were then identified as part-and-parcel of this ten year old movement) had courage to give it away. Folks with so much to lose (yeah I'm repeating myself) friends like Rick Bennett, Wendy Eason, Dan Ra, Lisa Domkie, Ryan Sharp, or [put your name here if the Emergent Village has been your home], also had to live with letting go of their love for this family, its ideals, and the sense of belonging that comes with sharing language, art, rituals, meals, and pilgrimages. Folks at this gathering had so much to lose too. It could have dribbled into a power grab, either for people like me who had been around for years, or those new to the table. And we have to note that there was no "perfect mix" of diversity- no people over 55 were present, no openly gay or lesbian people were there, no 2/3rds world citizens, no eastern orthodox, no nurses, no public elected officials... BUT the minority voices who were there also chose to let go of what could have been theirs. None of nine women and two African Americans and the Latino and the Puerto Rican brothers grabbed for "their turn" at power center having only just arrived. It was clearly a Pentecostal act of the spirit that we all were delivered from that temptation! And that strength of personal character, and the huge sacrifice that everyone was making resulted in a "collective" surrendering, a kind of submission. And once we had settled into the place of surrender something happened...

THE HEAVY

The word for glory used by the Hebrews is akin to the word for "heavy." The heaviness of Yahweh landed on Mount Sinai to speak to Moses. The heaviness of Yahweh rolled through Ezekiel's vision of the moving worshippers of God. When that gift was given to us something deep happened for Emergent Village. I think (and here I'm taking editorial liberties) we found our collective voice of "Worship." I need to take a little rabbit trail here to make my point...

I am a novice in the healing arts of Tai Chi and Qugong. But I did it for a while at a church and now and then I run over to the YMCA to join a community in these ancient stretching, breathing, attending practices. Something happens in these disciplines to the connection between my body and my imagination and my spirit. They become more integrated. After a hard Tai Chi work out, when I put my right hand in front of my chest facing the earth and my left below it facing the sky and imagine I'm holding a ball, I begin to feel heat/energy/life between my fingers... The martial artist calls this energy "Chi." And sometimes you can push that energy between each other, you can feel something physical and yet not-concrete happening in the room. When we had surrendered Emergent Village, as we stood in a circle, I felt that energy in the middle of us all, but larger and teaming with greater life. Inside the hallowed out circle that once held our individual ideas and the dreams/ambitions of Emergent's founders had come the Presence of energy/life/wholeness. And we realized that God was near. It felt heavy. And our hands formed around that largeness as if our individual chi/lives had been consumed by Life Eternal. Now, no one else was thinking of Tai Chi but slowly folks hands came out of their pockets, off of their hips, or uncrossed. Some of our hands opened like the liturgist standing at the Lords Table reaching out in invitation, who says "the Lord be with you." And some of our hands raised like the abbot and preacher who sends a benediction to a congregation only we were blessing and being blessed by God. In that moment I (re)discovered worship in front of the glory/heavy of God. We were hushed, like the sound when snow falls. We were humbled like standing in front of Mt Rainer on that rare clear Summer day, or looking over the Grand Canyon, or hearing someone you've wronged say, ‘I know, I forgive you.' We were free like a mass of college graduates throwing their mortar boards into the sky or someone receiving the news that the tumor is benign or the news that grandma's long fight against dementia had ended.

It was thin space.

We were silent.

Michael Toy suggested we take off our shoes. We sang a song of praise...

From the COLLECTIVE IMAGINATION to COLLECTIVE IMAGINEERING

That night we shared dinner together and dribbled to our homes and hotel rooms. It felt like the night after Jesus had breathed on his disciples in the upper room- all we had were our shared experience to verify his words of peace, and his commission. No pentecost, just peace... The next morning we met on the roof again for worship (you can see Paul Soupiset's panoramic picture here), and we listened to reading from Henri Nouwen, from the Divine Hours, from Elizabeth O'Connor and we sang. We looked out at the horizon and remembered the line from Psalm 91- "I set my eyes to the hill, where does our help come from? Our help comes from the one making heaven and earth." And we realized that God's Spirit would be faithful to send heaven's will to us in order that it be accomplished here with earth as well.

The next three hours were difficult, we were resisting overpowering one another, and yet resistant to checking out of the process. We moved into groups around themes of Art, the Way, Justice, Integration, Social Media, and Theology. And we were frustrated at the possible silos that could result. Until we recognized that the "Integration group" was the village's primary role. We began to discover that Emergent Village was changing from a tribe committed to the "brand identity of Emergent" into a village that seeks to integrate the practices of Art, Theology, Way, Justice, and Social Media. Emergent Village then is moveing from emphasizing "emergent" toward emphasizing "village." And then we realized that the other emerging communities that we love were seeing this as well: groups like Origins, and Presbymergent, sites like the Ooze, and the efforts of groups like Love is Concrete, and Calvin Institute for Christian Worship were all sensing the same thing- the need to integrate. And that Emergent could bring our unique combination of these various passions together for the god of the world. Emergent Village, then, has a task ahead of us to consider how everyone/network/family/context in the Village can cooperatively resource and draw upon kingdom Imagineering. In otherwords, what we make is not for a subset of churches but for the good of the world by all sorts of church/para-church participants. The tasks and functions are still being clarified- so if this is not making sense, be patient. And of course the transition into this season of Emergent Village's life will not be complete until more and more join in refining its articulation and new practices- so jump in!

On Saturday, when we were tired and discouraged at the "hairball" emergent had become, I winged an "on the spot song" that has hung with me since then. And I think it sums up the next chapter... its not perfect and its in progress but here's what it says:

What's born in me, does not belong to me it does not belong to you it belongs to the world

What's born in you does not just belong to you does not just belong to me it belongs to the world.

Come spirit come help us see New Creation Remake us all, set us free from ourselves cause what belongs to me what belongs to you is being born for the world.

another great summary is on Sarah Notton's Facebook notes

GENERATE magazine

I'm excited to be collaborating with Paul Soupiset, Tim Snyder, and Makeesha Fisher, among others, on this long awaited project. I will be editor of visual and performing arts.

HERE'S THE SCOOP...

GENERATE Magazine has been an open, collaborative project in the works for more than six years now. And after many casual conversations — and the 2009 convening of an editorial team — we are ready and eager to involve you, the larger community, in helping realize this dream with us.

The seeds for GENERATE Magazine were sown sitting around a fountain in San Diego in 2004 — a few writers, poets, artists and designers explored and dreamed about launching a print publication that would embody the ethos and tell the stories of the growing, generative conversation that some have called the emerging church conversation.

Again at the 2007 Emergent Gathering, another planning group was convened to discuss logistics, bring some leadership to the dream, and get things rolling. GENERATE Magazine is the fruit of many months of their planning.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS?

Art provides resistance and lift to what the Spirit of New Creation is generating. The beauty that artisans fashion, sing, and perform can testify to what is possible and evoke imagination for what is yet to come. We are drawn to paintings and songs that put us "in play." GENERATE aims to fashion a synthesis of such works of art, and to celebrate the lives of their creators, in order to put our readers in play as well.

WHY GENERATE?

GENERATE exists as a forum to retell the stories of the grassroots communities and individuals who are finding emergent and alternative means to follow God in the Way of Jesus. We hope to create an artifact of this historical conversation. These stories will be transmitted through narrative, works of visual art, documented performances, verse, fiction, non-fiction, essays, and interviews.

We/you are the conversation; our art, our lives, our hopes and failures all meet up with God’s approaching dreams for creation. We converse and in doing so spread the news that we are not alone — that joy is found in our generative friendship.

GENERATE Magazine is a grassroots-organized, independent publication affiliated as a friend of Emergent Village, but not affiliated with any publishing house. We are currently exploring ways to distribute GENERATE Magazine via the Emergent Village Cohorts and wider friendships. More on that in the days to come.

Neighbors Abbey

In August 2008 a group of us met on the back porch and decided to create a church that would serve the good of our neighborhoods of Southwest Atlanta. Now we meet for meals, to help our neighbors, to pray, to discuss scripture, to design public performance art projects, and many other things. Should you join us in any of these capacities you will affect how we us step with courage into God's dreams in Jesus for enlivening our city.

You can click on the following links to learn more about our beginning, our name, or our funding needs.

Our budget for 2009 is $52,000. We have been given a $25,000 matching fund challenge grant. Every dollar you give will be doubled by this matching grant. We already have $14,000 in outside pledges, other gifts, and offerings from Abbey participants. We still need $13,000. If you feel connected to this dream and want to entrust us with some of your money to invest in this entrepreneurial act of faith click here for details on how to give secure donations. All funds are tax deductible with accounting oversight by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.

Our official website is in process. This temporary page was set up to provide more information about the Abbey's vision and fiscal responsibly.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Neighbors Abbey's Email Newsletter

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Advent and families...

So here we are, the first week of advent.  Last year, with the help of two other families, we started a ritual of reading advent scriptures (passages that announce the coming of God's dreams) with our kids.  Here's the kit to getting started, and here's the blog that tracked our month.  I'll post more later. I hope this gets your wheals turning!

the emotional point of signs

So my professor, Darrell Guder, would talk about the church as a community like John the Baptist (the guy in red with the old text, who appears posthumously in this painting), pointing to Jesus.

My new friend, Pete Rollins talks about “communities as Ikons,” living acting dramatizations of the story of God.

So when I saw this post by Daniel Pink about Emotionally intellegent signs I thought, hmm,

“The idea,” says The Globe, “is that seeing a child’s handwriting and drawing will make parents relate to the sign in a way they never would have with an impersonal version.

I wonder what our other pre-fabed IKONS (churches with stated orders of worship, prefabbed worship songs, sterile modern corridors, franchises, or inanimate sanctuaries and buildings) communicate emotionally?  What might it look like if our “pointing” were appealed to emotional intelligence…

emergent... please don't you dare call it "jelley"

So there's been a tone of discussion of late about the goals, origin, boundaries, limits, you-name-it... of the "emerging church." Whether it has just begun (Andrew Jones), presents a new fork in the road (Dan Kimball), or is a piece of a greater whole (Phyllis Tickle), there are healthy generative bi-products as well as our own little culture war about names and brands. It reminds me of the old "all fruit" commercials...

Here are three constructive thoughts in the whirlwind of deconstruction and self-differentiation...

  1. If we do not presume importance, then no one can take it from us. Everything we make/hold is up for sale when we find the kingdom of God buried in that field over there (like the treasure in Matthew 13:44). Its hard to say who looks sillier in the all-fruit commercial, the rude guy who just likes good food or the pretentious ones who care about the name?
  2. Why couldn't emergent church be a subset of emergent world? I know this takes for granted theories of "paradigm shift." Think of episodes in history when society spoke of itself in Roman Imperialistic terms or in Humanistic Rational terms. The church somehow incarnated the good-news of Jesus Christ within those cultural terms (Kingdom of God, Protestant Reformation). Would today's church-incarnation be different? What if the Spirit could enable us to pursue the Way of Jesus today within today's cultural paradigms such as: emerging systems theories, evolutionary quantum physics, conceptual age of open sourced starfish systems? If so, why not call these ecclesiastical innovations the "Way of Jesus today" or "emergent church?" I don't see why those of us in the Emergent Village couldn't keep loving, joining, and supporting folks like the Dan Kimball and Scott McKnight, or the hyphenatedes, or the new monastics, or North Point, or John Piper, or the UUC, or... whomever we meet along the way (Rom 12:18). In fact, I'm not sure that it will matter what jar you get your jelley from, just share it and taste what's out there. Jelley exists to be tasted not canned.
  3. Live well in your home/neighborhood/city, and call that emergent. The ol'e, "they shall be known my their fruit" is helpful when you consider that the real benefit of apples, oranges, or kumquats-whatever-we-are, is tasty nourishment for those around the tree. In this approach "the meaning of the emergent church" will belong to you and be defined by your innovations, prayers, and hopes. So join others in seeking the kingdom today...

I am better for the friends and dreams I have met through the Emergent Village, and I have found a deeper awareness of Jesus' love and the Spirit's work of righteous/just/beautiful life within this epoch of history becasue of the emergent church conversation. But if the labeling machine broke in the the assembly line of these great experiences I would still recognize a generic or label-less jar as worth while.

So please pass the jelly all-fruit.

presbymergence?

So Adam Walker Cleaveland and Karen Sloan and I met at the Mainline Emergent/s event at Columbia Theological Seminary two winters ago and the two of them had a great idea to build an environment for emergent conversation within the PC(USA). At first I was a distant skeptic, then a related skeptic, and now a skeptical contributor to this growing discussion. I won't look to define Presbymergent here, but to note the synchronicity that as Presbymergent is looking to define herself Phyllis Tickle, in her book, The Great Emergence is providing some overarching theories for how such hyphen-mergents and Emergent Village are relitivised within a larger phenomena. Along the way I have even met Emergent Jewish Rabis, so who knows where all this will lead. Well, Ryan Bolger, co-author of Emerging Churches:Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures was asked by his seminary to devote an issue of their quarterly journal to Mainline Emergents, and I agreed to write a piece that needed to be longer than their publishing space. So it is split into two places:

The first installment can be found in Fuller Seminary's Theology, News and Note, Fall 2008 Issue.

The second is forthcoming on the Presbymergent blog. I will post more on this later and sometime in the next month will have a blog conversation with Ryan about the whole journal issue including the following other articles:

Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger wrote The Morphing of the Church; Walt Kallestad, Lutheran pastor, Community Church of Joy, wrote Redefining Success, Moving from Entertainment to Worship; Ryan Bell, pastor, Hollywood Seventh Day Adventist, wrote From the Margins: Engaging Missional LIfe in the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church; Nadia Bolz-Weber, mission developer of a Lutheran church plant in Denver, “House for all Sinners and Saints”, wrote Confessions of a Sarcastic Lutheran; Troy Bronsink, PCUSA pastor and community organizer in inner-city Atlanta, wrote Of Dying Breeds and Swelling Hopes: A Mainline Emergent in the Reformed Tradition; Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest, Seattle, wrote Quest and Its Relationship with the Evangelical Covenant Church; Phil Jackson, pastor of The House in Chicago, wrote A Reciprocal Connection: The Surprising Convergence of Hip-Hop and the ECC; David Fitch, pastor of “Life on the Vine”, in outlying Chicago, wrote On Being an Emerging Christian in the Christian and Missionary Alliance; Liz Rios, founder for Center for Emerging Female Leaership, and Luis Alvarez, pastor in the AG, wrote Will a New Church Emerge? Las Raices in the Assemblies of God.

Gen x, Culture wars and the hyphenated movements

I read an incredible article today on the culture wars between "knowledge management" (km) and "social media" (sm) and I'm seeing signs of it everywhere. Venkatesh G. Rao writes a killer article, , Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War

arguing that gen-xers (those born between 68 and 79) are choosing between ideological promotion (Boomers who invented km) and creative exploration (mellinials inventing sm).

This weekend in Atlanta will be the catalyst conference, run by Gen-Xers who are looking to get the baby boomer principles of the seeker church into the hands of open source, new media Millennials. There will also be a smaller conference of Progressive Christian Cooperative, geared, in part, at getting the wisdom and momentum of the Baby Boomer liberals to cooperate socially while maintaining their ideological distinctives. I'm going to be at both conferences for a bit because, as a good Xer, I like to synthesize these complex differences. But I'm struck that neither of these are yet led by Mellinnials and that they may not need to exist for Mellinnials... unless the church convences them of their need for it, and then they quit being Mellinialls. Let me say this a different way: Gen-x driven faith groups who are partnering with Boomer Knowledge Management underwriters face a challenge in that they will work to un-Melliniallize the Mellinials. Both Catalyst and PCC face the hard challenge of building a future market share by pulling folks out of incarnational living.

Let me add to that my own gen-x home in "the hyphens" that is the presby-mergent affiliation I have within Emergent Village. It seems that with the help of Phyllis Tickel's Great Emergence, that groups like sub-mergent, presby-mergent, and anglo-mergent will meet up to discuss our similarities. It could be that we discover that we are trying to please Knowledge Management Religious Culture while exploring the benefits of social media. Hm.

To explore my point I'll lift two quotes from Rao's article:

"The Boomers liked the idea of world views, and tried to frame both what they were for, as well as what they were against (think Star Wars) in monolithic ways. Mental models of the world that a single person could get. James Michener’s The Drifters represents one articulation of such a world view. Here’s the thing: Millenials fundamentally cannot think this way because of the deeply collaborative nature of their cultural DNA. They seem happy understanding and working with their piece of the puzzle, trusting that the larger body politic will be manifesting and working according to a reasonable understanding of the world. Gen X, in this sense, manages a curious compromise. We like world-views, but as anti-visionaries, we don’t like to just make them up arbitrarily (and definitely not in the form of a novel or the lyrics to a song). Our world view is a pragmatic one that accommodates complexity by trying to make it a very rich, data-driven one. Wikipedia (founded by Gen X’ers, Jimmy Wales, b. 1966, and Larry Sanger, b. 1968) is a classic Gen X-led attempt to understand the world. It has none of the incomprehensible complexity of Facebook-as-implicit-model-of-the-world, but neither does it have the doctrinaire vacuity of typical Boomer manifestos that try to dictate how the world should be, with no real attempt to figure out how it is."

"The tragedy of Gen X is that we will not be remembered as a big-idea generation. We will likely be remembered, via a footnote (much like the Silents), as the generation which made the fateful decision to trust the creativity of the generation following it over the values of the generation that came before."

In the recent epic contemplating the death of emergent, I am struck by the need to ask if it follows the values of x,y,or z. I have a hunch, thought, that the future of emergent is not in selecting who's values it carries forward but that future of emergent and so many church experiments is the creative way of learning and discovering meaning in what lies ahead.

presbymeme II

So my new friend Bruce, who moderates an assemblage of 'self-identified Jesus followers who trace their ideological origins back to the reformation and utilize the language and infrastructures of political representative polity to make their decisions' used his power to requisition a meme from those of us in the blogosphere....

The Rules // Presbymeme II

  • in about 25 words each, answer the following five questions;
  • tag five presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged;
  • be sure to link to this original post, leave a comment or send a trackback to this post so others can find you;

The Questions // Presbymeme II /

1. What is your favorite faith-based hymn, song or chorus.

Currently tied between Lori Chaffer's "Please Don't Make me Sing this Song" and "Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain" (hymn 14 blue hymnal- though I mess with 1870s melody) by John of Damascus (c. 675-749).

2. What was the context, content and/or topic of the last sermon that truly touched, convicted, inspired, challenged, comforted and/or otherwise moved you?Mark Lomax at Church Unbound as he spoke about the reign-dom of God.3. If you could have all Presbyterians read just one of your previous posts, what would it be and why?

I think the discussion around the future of presbymergent several months back was a good one to have my presbyterian colleagues weigh in on.

4. What are three PC(USA) flavored blogs you read on a regular basis?

5. If the PC(USA) were a movie, what would it be and why?

"Stranger Than Fiction" the pop-pomo film where Will Farrell meets the voice of his narrator and strives to control his poetic destiny. Why?: Because we continue to hear the voice of our Narrator, but in our fear of our imminent death we run the other way or try to form committees of experts to avoid our very vocation. And because I'm pleasantly surprised at the courage of folks I meet who do take the risk of stepping into the script, and laying down our tribe's future for something larger than our own story, only to find that this is the very act that makes our story and tribe what it is.

Everyday Liturgy interview about city, emergence, and Wendel Berry

I was interviewed by Thomas Turner of Everyday Liturgy, an quarterly journal, about the impact of Wendell Berry on my work as a pastor, community organizer, and artist. I can't believe he used as much of the interview as he did. I'm by no means a literurature critic or expert on Berry. Thanks Thomas for the chance to share my story!

The interview is entitled: The Art of Being in Atlanta

This issue includes other book reviews, several more articles about Berry and great reflection for folks looking to see the beautiful and divine in the everyday. And the previous isue includes interviews with Brian McLaren and a beautiful artful piece by Paul Soupiset.

Montreat

So, I'm excited to be speaking at a few events at Montreat, NC over the next year. In July of 08 I'll be presenting with Karen Sloan on Emerging Church at the Church Unbound Conference.

And in June 8-11 of 2009 I'll be a keynote at the Alt7 event, as well as presenting there with Adam Walker Cleaveland.

troy2_2.jpg

I look forward to meeting many of you along the way!

"the other" and the big risk of defining what is inside or outside the system

My friend Mark had a great comment on testimony/ counter-testimony and the "double blind" of a Marxist informed hermeneutic.  I was writing earlier that "utterance" as "world making" does not sufficiently account for the pre-verbal or the elaboration practice of "world making."  Here are Mark's thoughts...

According to John McClure, Brueggemann’s goal of forming a particularidentity for a community of exiles is already a surrender to the oppressive center that sustains itself through the corruption of all language into self-serving searches for security. The resistance language of Brueggemann’s testimony becomes a necessary part of the “double-bind” in which the center needs the margins to exist...

If we changed the subject, turned our focus from a language created reality and instead turned to the other, do we begin to escape that double bind? I think this is where Anna’s understanding of testimony undergirded by Chopp’s “open sign” points us forward. Instead of countertestimony that in the end props up the hegemony, the Word creates a new space of openness that refuses to be caught within the double bind. In this openness that refuses reduction, there is no longer the center and the margins, just the other. In this space, all our labels that locate “us” are dropped and a new language that transcends the bind is engaged, what McClure calls a language of love.

In this space, there is no closure. No moves to consensus, no focus on identity. And it is here where I think your thought about art can really help us. There is something about art that resists closure, resists being identified and systematized. Something about art that defers meaning.

I agree with McClure's critique of Brueggemann's Marxist informed "counter-testimony" project with a few objections.

'You Got Served: being addressed is an artistic and not simply verbal exchange

One, Brueggemann seems to present the community as texted as well, not simply text-ers.  In this sense the the cannon then operates as a more than egalitarian testimony (requiring the polarity you mention) but a new world, one created by Yahweh who refuses the domestication of either or any ideology that would use God as "puppet."  Old orientation - disorientation - new orientation happens the system as a whole.

Second, Brueggemann's later work moves beyond Prophet Imagination (Marxism), cadences from home(exile), toward a sabatarianism of texting (p136-140 Ichabod Toward Home).  For a moment he oppens the door for pre-text when he unpacks holy Saturday as a time when all our texting is paused and either the Father self-gives (a la Von Balthazar) or the community must play and imagine (pre-texting a la Steiner) or both.  In Ichabod Toward Home, Brueggemann presents a place for the apophatic and imagination (incubation-insight-evaluation) that, I suggest, is a departure from his prior socialogially centered criticisms.  He just has not closed the loop to see art's value in witness.

The hard part here is the Barthian move to Word to define the reformed experience of Christ-revealed through the text seems to require we place art within word.  This deeply limits our ability to take seriously our practices in light of the incarnation (here is some of the genius of Newbiging's Congregation as herminuetic of the gospel- it created a way forward incarnationally).  If words are, however, a part of art, then solo-scriptura must make it past Wietgenstien's "word games" another way... I'm not sure how, yet...

Where is the other?: in the text we have and coming from the future

But I am curious about the center-margin debate and have been thinking about that myself...

Is the place of "no margin or center" simply a recreation of an ontological "outside" system.  A re-Cartetianism?  I would love a bit more on Chopp, I'm not familiar with him yet (I'll ask Anna Carter Florence too).  At the core I think the art metaphor unpacks the dichotomy between narrative and practice, regardless of  sociological bent.  "The art of Church" metaphor presses us closer to a Husserl phenomenology where our words do interact within the kingdom as creative parts of a whole, they are a part of the system here.  ie: This blog is not just an idea, but the floating pixels connect to our choices and habits and move space, as it were.  My blogg is an extension of my domain (yikes).

And so, to address the objectivity question I am playing around a with a threefold wholism (I'm sure there's a better word here but i am working my damnedest to avoid "Trinity" by default- since that is not my point, yet) drawn from narrative theology.  From Biblical texts we encounter stories in which the  actor is pressed to narrate, and the narrator is percieved by a certain audience as author, and the tangle is inescapable almost taken for granted (God's redemptive word-game, if you will).  In the counter-testimony sense, Ruth the Moabite retells Israel's story as her own, and the actor becomes a narrator.  Jeremiah's Israel becomes the author of Babylon's city.  The Good Samaritan becomes the narrator of  Israel's story of neighboring... The son of God is send, not only as actor of the messianic texts, but actor of the realized kingdom, narrating the nexus... not only that but he authored new narratives (why do you say I don not have th power to forgive sins?) and authorized the authority of new authors (as the father has sent me so I send you, whatsover you forgive will be forgiven)...

Do we ever address anyone, why?

In this, because of the collapse of narrative and practice plus the missiological view of Jesus' Incarnation as an interruptive re-texting event ( limit experience -Ricoeur), the called community are those called to be:

1. actors sent to fulfill the text of our Author,

2. narrators, retexting ourself as a community organized by the polity of the text (Yoder)

3. and authors, responding to our contextually as makers of peace, forgiveness, and justice as those who, like Abraham, become the Righteousness of God (Pilgrim people with an eschatological end) in our texted world.

I think this gives back to the interpretive community an antidote to margin-center priocupations: the place of "subjectivity and the apophatic".  Of course this includes the "other." And yet does so without setting up an inside-outside system.  Instead with the perspectives of church as artwork, artist, and currator of God's Art, we must now also face our responsibility to "make" new orientations accounting for both margins (of all socialogical sorts) and the Other met in the dis-orientation.

While the "Elijah chair" of otherness brings subjectivity into the room, it appears to me, to create a "non-space" an "ontological outside" that betrays the incarnation.  The incarnation, however, bring practice and narrative together, brings the kingdom of God into the room as a partner to join in and to be addressed by.  To realize and to miss.  My current take on this otherness approach is that it is hard to land missiologically with it (to give shape to our art).

I could have missed Mark's point entirely so come back at me.

pax