Drawn In Release

Its out TODAY!  Check out Amazon or Paraclete Press  to get a copy (it will be out on Kindle later in the month.  If you're in Cincy or want me to mail you a signed copy shoot me at note at troy (at) ChurchAsArt (dot) com.

Here are a few excerpts:

God was so enthralled with a life of loving connectedness that God loved into existence a world with the same potential. Like a painter setting out with an end in mind, God imagines and engineers a world continually unfolding as an expression of God’s own original love. It’s almost as if God were standing at the future, lovingly drawing creation forward. 

Each time God’s Spirit shows up, she is hovering over the unexplored potential. God does not rush the process.  From the very beginning of time as scripture depicts it, we see the Spirit of God, as a patient artist, okay with the “unfinished” potential in the story. God is at home with things as they unfold.

As God’s creative project unfolds, each session’s work seems to speak to God as well about the next day’s work. The kind of listening we are talking about is not the same as acknowledging noise or words. This is at the core of what it means to be an artist: perceiving. The potter, the poet, and the person who prays each have to read between such lines. They have to listen through to what is felt at the core.  Jesus used a quote about this from Isaiah in defense of his use of parables. Some, he said “ seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand” (Mat 13:13 NRSV). 

Art is like life in this way: the raw ingredients, the various materials and mediums that you intentionally engage with affect the art you make... Focusing on process alone would be like describing a painter without talking about the choices in pigment and canvas, without asking about the use of perspective, color, or tone, and with no attention to the place or day and age in which she painted. Its like an actor reading a script cold, no background story, no research, no setting, posture, accent or pathos. Attention to process it enriched by when we pay as much attention to the ingredients.

This is a book for the driven in us all, those activists, creatives, and passionate Jesus people who can develop creative block when we avoid risk or rest.

 

I'm excited for the many pieces yet to come.  Jonathan Stegall, Travis Eckmark and Jason Orme have been working on an updated troybronsink.com website that should roll out soon.  The folks in Cincy meeting weekly for a book creative group are helping develop group materials, and some plans for a video trailer and possibly more are underway.

I'm curently setting tour dates for 2013, to speak as well as share music.  If interested please shoot me a note about that as well.

Thanks!

Announcing Drawn In

I'm thrilled to announce the release of my upcoming spiritual & creative leaders book, Drawn In.  Its designed for artists, activist, and Jesus followers looking for ways beyond the Right-Brain drain and culture wars of modern Christianity. I walk readers through emerging design thought and ancient practices using biblical and pop culture imagery. While utilizing design models its more poetic than didactic in its approach. It is my most exciting work yet toward expressing my passion that beauty and creativity can draw both the church and artists into deeper collaboration with God and God's kingdom!

Here's what folks are saying:

 DI_front_cover

“...A book that combines the passion of the Wild Goose Festival and the creative insights of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, with a dash of “new monastic” spirituality and a pinch of Brueggemannian theological sensibility... Great exercises. Excellent for small group discussion.”

– David O. Taylor, editor of For the Beauty of the Church

“This fresh vision of God and ourselves draws us (rather than drives us) into a new way of being. Drawn In will introduce many to a gifted writer, reflective artist, and practical theologian sure to contribute much to the life of the church for decades to come.”

– Brian D. McLaren, author of New Kind of Christian

“This is one of the finest books on art, creativity, and the nature of God to date. It is no less than a manifesto: a call to co-create life at the grandest and most humble of scales. To make and remake the world with passionate and tangible love. Stunning, from start to finish.”

– Sally Morgenthaler, author or Worship Evangelism

“Troy Bronsink is deeply rooted in a seriousness about Gospel faith. He explores the recognition that faith cannot be held in the familiar categories of concept, proposition, rule or cliché, but is always moving toward new possibilities.”

– Walter Brueggemann, author of Prophetic Imagination

You can "look inside" it at Amazon, Paraclete Press, and soon it will be available on the redesign of my website.  Thanks everyone who helped bring this book to life!!!

looking "at" or looking "along?"

  We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along. One must look both along and at everything. —C.S.Lewis

I'm in my cousins' Eric and Katie Kuiper's house in Grand Rapids preparing to take a trip to the Toronto Film Festival. In a convo with Eric he mentioned a short article by C.S.Lewis entitled Meditation in a Tool Shed, in which Lewis contemplates a ray of light coming through the boards in an otherwise pitch-black shed. He  compares the modern objectivist's approach to seeing the dust particles in the beam from outside to the subjectivist's approach of walking into the beam and staring into it out the shed and seeing the leaves of trees and the distance sun.  A lot like the theological differnce between first order theology (I'm talking with and to God) and second order (I'm talking about God), Lewis points the the significance of both.

Getting drawn into beauty is underplayed by many with church experience, because they/we want to evaluate the experience, we want to compare it objectively.  It is difficult to everything from sermons to community-based-programs without going "objective" with out telling people what to see or do. But if we don't create experiences that offer opportunities to step into the sunbeam and "look along" we are reifying the tendency to gather only as a group who look "at" God or the goodnews of the reign of God.

I'm excited to take the weekend to see both through and at a number of great films.  What are you looking along today?

 

 

 

 

Block/Brueggemann on Like-mindedness

Neighborhoods, churches, business ventures need not be homogeneous groups of people—in fact, when they are they will necessarily be exclusive. They can also be places where gifts and calling are brought to bear.

Read More

How Music works in Worship?

Recently my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow suggested I blog “How does music touch your soul?” He left it pretty broad so I’ll have some fun with this.  I’m going to unpack the use of music in worship and take it from a systems approach rather than a “everyone should sing because the bible includes songs and faith traditions invite people to sing” approach.  Not that I care to disprove the later, just that the former is more interesting to me.

Here are three thoughts on music/soul/worship:

  1. Beauty saves us
  2. When we sing we vibrate together
  3. Our selves are all we have

So First of all, how does beauty save us?  I know I’ll get some push back on this but before you do I want you to think of times that a favorite movie, a song, a concert, a painting, an elaborate meal, or the sun’s setting took your breath away.  Narrow it down to one example.  Can you recreate that moment?  Think of the time of day, the season of the year, those who were with you, the smells, the colors, the sounds. What comes to mind?  In what ways did your encounter with beauty take your breath away, reorient you, bring you in touch with or help you overcome your fears or anxieties?  Did you or those with you try to describe it in the moment, or just let it ring true?  If you did give it words, did they measure up to the experience?

Elaine Scarry describes beauty as (among many things) a “quickening” encounter, “it is as though one has suddenly been washed up onto a merciful beach: all unease, aggression, indifference suddenly drop back behind one, like a surf that has for a moment lost its capacity to harm.”(On Beauty and Being Just, pg25).  Instead of the mind successfully searching for precedents or names it is too filled with the present, “It is the very way the beautiful thing fills the mind and breaks all frames that gives the ‘never before in the history of the world’ feeling” (OBBJ, 23). Like Isaiah’s response to five chapters of wonder and glory, all of the mind is full and we respond, “Woe is me!” (Is 5.5).  Like the woman healed of hemorrhages who told Jesus her whole story, all our reservations are freed up (Mk 5.33).  Like the audience of new perceivers at the Church’s first Pentecost, when “Awe came upon everyone” because of signs and wonders, old “frames” are broken and new structures are suddenly created for living in the way of Christ (Ac 2.42-47).

I’m not arguing to replace the “Word made flesh, crucified and risen” notion of salvation.  I’m simply suggesting that we see more deeply how God’s accomplishes salvation in the way that beauty does, by drawing us into the new, awakening us to creation’s oldest song.

So music, uniquely pulls us into a place of appreciation, of awe, of love, of health.

 

Second, when we sing we are moving in a unified field. Music (and most notably music that we can feel coming from our own diaphragm sending air though our busy little larynx) is the travelling of waves.  Like we’re learning from quantum physics and theories like string theory, at the subatomic level all material things share properties.  We are less separate than we suppose.  Concerts of people singing together share a harmonic space. And when a bass drum is beating it is obvious, we’re shaken together as one material field through which the rhythm can travel.  Like a rock falling in the pond makes ripples, the music is the rock and the congregation is the pond.

Augustine is credited with saying that “when we sing we pray twice.”  Who knows all that he meant by that.  But in conventional circles, Christians site this quote to emphasize that the whole self—the whole body joins in the prayer.  Similarly to Yoga and other healing arts, song is something that involves more than the recitation of words or the intellectual concept.

When I coach bands and vocalists in leading worship I ask them to imagine an open tuned guitar and an oscillating fan blowing over the strings until they ring in harmony.  The musician’s job, and the leader of corporate prayer, is to bring the members of the gathering into harmony with each other, to ring together.  Like the spirit of God hovering over the waters, musicians have the responsibility to prepare space, to listen, to watch, and then to stir the winds.

 

Third, our material selves are all we have.  My friend Pete Rollins articulates this as well as any when he says “Christianity is nothing less than a material faith i.e. a mode of being that transforms ones material actuality”.  The longer I make music and work with people in community organizing capacities I am coming to believe that the so called “spiritual” world is not somewhere “out there”, but is instead known through the everyday, the here and now, the stuff of life.  Walter Brueggemann has written a prayer in which he invites us to be “rooted to earth, and awed by heaven.”  By this I think he’s pointing to the deeply integrated Hebrew tradition in which the God of the heavens is in our midst.

God is known, tasted, heard, in this world via material things of this world.  At the neurological level, everything ranging from the secret vision of a word from the Lord, to reading a paragraph of scripture, to appreciating a sunrise involves chemicals and electrical impulses travelling through your brain.  ‘Not to mention physical eardrums or retinas.  Just this morning on Morning Edition, I heard an interview with a neuroscientist whose research concluded that “music has some kind of privileged access to the motor system.” Songs uniquely utilize the senses and material world.  And like a familiar smell brings back an old memory, a song is capable of releasing endorphins and serotonins triggering inspiration, grief, or anger, or all these simultaneously.

Since music incorporates the material world, it befits congregations who seek to engage, bless, and transform the material world at their doorsteps.  And the breadth of musical tone, genres, and palates your congregation uses, the wider the range of applicability in the missional lives of the congregants.

When Bruce asked me about music and soul, the thought came to mind, “music is a window into soulfulness.”  Like the exiled Hebrews who loathed singing the wrong song in the wrong place, music has the unique ability to expose dissonance in any a context.  When bands play popular covers at bars that don’t sound like soul-felt words or tones, it leaves the experience wanting.  All to often worship music, seeking to “reach out,” to “be relevant” or to “validate” an underrepresented population group can do the same.  I think this has to do with the misunderstanding of the physical and somatic connections made with music.

 

With many of my African American friends, after a great concert someone leaves saying they just "had church."  I think this is due to the deep connections our bodies make between song and participation in worshiping God.

So, what do you think?  When have you "had church"?  And what are some of the best and worst uses of music you’ve seen in faith communities?

 

structure verses interaction, is this a fair dichotomy?

For year I've been having conversations with friend, blogging-preacher-mom MaryAnn McKibben Dana, about worship. We were in seminary together and led many an alternative approach to preaching and liturgy.  But now she is serving in a traditional context. Recently I asked her to hit me up with a question or two for this blog.

 She writes:

My question comes from serving a traditional congregation that has a lot of potential. I have introduced all sorts of things with them, basic stuff like prayer walls, talkbacks in worship, and the like. Thankfully, I have never experienced resistance to any of these funky things. But... I sense that they put up with this so long as I don't do it too often. I'd rather the interactive stuff be more of the norm, not that there's not structure, but it's a skeleton, not an exoskeleton, that limits our growth.
So I wonder what tips you have for congregations that are open to change, but are coming from a very traditional place (I keep using that word). This is a church that until 5 years ago did the Apostles' Creed EVERY Sunday. In other words, we're starting from scratch. What's the beginners' course for interactive, creative worship design?

I totally get where you're coming from, MaryAnn.  Just this Sunday I was curating sung prayer for a young adventurous church plant that loves alternative shaped music but still didn't know what to do when the wrong bulletins were printed.  And later that evening I attended a casual Episcopalian service where the attendees wanted to read their prayers, hear the gospel lesson, share communion, and be out in 45 minutes.  Neither of these congregations are ready for or interested in weekly open sourced interactive stations.  They might each agree that change is necessary to attract new comers, but that doesn't mean their worship incorporates change any more than your traditional Presbyterian church.  Among many ways of approaching this, I find a key starting point is developing an understanding of worship that engages the participant as a learner, facing new questions.  Does worship incorporate opportunity to encounter unsolved problems, or does your congregation expect worship leaders to solve all the problems before they arrive?  This is not the fault of structure but the fault of congregational expectations (or pastoral expectations, or both).  A great Phish concert, Jazz show, or improve theater will tell you that they plan meticulously, and yet they know that open spaces for serendipity are essential to the actual art happening.  In fact, high levels of interaction usually require structure.Most of us already do this in preaching, we set up a story or metaphor that places the listener in an aesthetic posture of "re-thinking" their presumed categories.  In their clever book on marketing, Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath call this "breaking the guessing machine."  One of the challenges in organized worship gatherings, however, is that people grow accustomed to the guessing machine and find comfort in knowing, resting in the familiar.  See if the rhetorical tools you use to engage the listener can be applied to other worship introductions, and to teaching and observation about the shape of worship. When you can break people's guessing machines when it comes to sharing a cup or pulling out your their wallets for an offering, then you're on your way.

I've spent the last 6 months closely reading Edwin Friedman's A Failure of Nerve in which he describes countless stories of the European explorers of the fifteenth and sixteen centuries.  Though their maps were incorrect, the sense of adventure in these explorers led them down mistaken path after mistaken path.  In fact, over that the hundred year period of extensive exploration, generations of European lived with incorrect maps based on false connections between the continents and major bodies of water  until they finally all synched up into a concrete picture of reality.  The break through into new ways of seeing and knowing our world had been forbidden by imagined bounds like geocentricism and the equatorial myth, and even after those myths were gone, it took 100+ years to rebuild what would become the current image of this planet.  He writes:

"The great lesson here for all imaginatively gridlocked systems is that the acceptance and even cherishing of uncertainty is critical to keeping the human mind from voyaging into the delusion of omniscience.  The willingness to encounter serendipity is the best antidote we have for the arrogance of thinking we know.  Exposing oneself to chance is often the only way to provide the kind of mind-jarring experience of novelty that can make us realize that what we thought was reality was only a miror of our minds.  Related here is the neccessity of preserving ambiguity in artistic expression since, if the viewer's imagination is to flower, it is importaint not to solve the problem in advance." (Failure of Nerve p46)

 

I think the church is in an imaginatively gridlocked system.  When worship leaders (pastors, musicians, lay or clergy)  have to prove their omniscience to a congregation then its a tail tell sign that the congregation has begun to form worship and the one they worship in their own image. Worship, like therapy, is about generalization.  While I don't think therapy is always a good metaphor for worship, in this case it works—the couple that uses "I statements" with enough frequency in therapy eventually uses them at home in higher stress situatations.  Similarly, in worship, our minds and imaginations inhabit a story and a practice such that we then recognize that story in the wider world.  So I'd argue that worship without questions or "room for serendipity" actually misshapes the congregants. Congregants need their "imagination to flower" in worship so that they can find God in the unsolved problems they face in life.

 

Here are some tricks to try that don't require unscrewing your pews or painting faces.  And even when they don't go as planned they'll serve their purpose in rewiring folks to make room for serendipity:

  1. Try using a visual image in worship and asking questions about it that you don't already have answers to.
  2. Allow lectio divina to open some space for the "sermon" to crawl into unknown spaces, and then playfully say, "I wonder where that could lead you the rest of the week?"
  3. Regularly confess publicly when you don't know what you're doing
  4. Meet with some of your leadership (such as a worship committee) and identify various places in your worship gatherings (in the usual liturgy) that you can on some unexpected week, either break a guessing machine, or leave open space for serendipity.
  5. Then slowly introduce creative practices (such as those found in The Art of Curating Worship or Sacred Space ) for one element of worship, during session meetings, bible studies, sunday school, etc.
  6. Invoke responsibility: Always note that people are freely invited to opt in, to join the adventure, but that they can also opt into silent contemplation if they would prefer that over one of the exercises.

Let me know if any of these tips work or what other tips you might have.

Two Christmas Poems

This Christmas here are two poems I'm returning to: "The Invisible Seen" —St. Athanasios (c. 298-373, trans by Scott Cairns)

When our dull wits had so declined as to set us mid the squalor of the merely sensible creation, the Very God consented to become a body of His own, that He as one among us might gather our dim senses to Himself, and manifest through such incommensurate occasion that He is not simply man, but also God, the Word and Wisdom of the One.

Thereafter, He remained His body, and thus allowed Himself to be observed. his becoming joined to us performed two appalling works in our behalf: He banished death from these our tender frames, and made of them something new and (take note here) renewing.

“Nativity” —John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman. Even the moon leaves her when she opens Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark, to become flesh and bone.

Someone is coming ashore inside her, A face deciphers itself from water, And she curves around the gathering wave, Opening to offer the life it craves.

In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers, She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears. A red wire of pain feeds through every vein, Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn. Outside each other now, she sees him first, Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on earth.

Inventing Intentionally Transformational Emerging Worship

Check out this online course we will be teaching through the Center for Progressive Renewal.  This course is open for anyone to register. Course is postponed until January,  shoot Troy or Josh an email if you have interest in the shape of the curriculum or other workshops we lead.

Inventing Intentionally Transformational Emerging Worship, a five-week course led by Troy Bronsink, an artist and pastor seeking the way of Jesus, and blogger, podcaster and activist Joshua Case, is designed to help you look at worship from a new perspective and to set the foundations for change. Not all healthy worship gatherings are organized as “emerging churches,” but the emerging design values of intention, transformation and participation are shared across the board. This course in designing worship keeps those values in mind. Whether you are starting a church or a new service, or you are ready to build these missional values into traditional worship gatherings, this course is for you. Students will utilize skills from community organizing and design thinking to articulate their congregation’s hermeneutic and mission, and then design a four-week worship series in teams comprised of other students or artists in their congregation. Weekly written reflections will be based on assigned readings from ecclesiology, aesthetics, liturgical theology and contemplation. To model transformational worship, the course will be structured as a journey of spiritual formation for all participants. Like a mini-study leave, space will be created for participants to re-imagine/deconstruct/construct congregational and personal worship. In other words, it will be an interactive prayer.

The course begins Tuesday, November 16 at 7 p.m. EASTERN time with a conference call for all participants. Tuition is $249. For more information, please contact Rev. Gregg Carlson, CPR’s Director of Online Learning at gregg@progressiverenewal.org.

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.

we are already lit

I posted this back in 2007, while I was still serving a church in North Atlanta as designated pastor.  The poem came to mind recently as I've been working on my first full length book, Getting Drawn In. Its striking how we learn and re-learn things.  The allusions to Moses and Pentecost seem as important a reminder for me today as when I was writing them 4 years ago:

wicks -Church of St. Andrew, Christmas, 2006

1. Until pews are dandelions –sprig leggy levers– catapulting young minds into kingdomcome; sweeping elderminds like dreamseeds of evervision.

Until songs take wing stretching strong like the arrows of migrating Juncos lending lift, everloft, and standard. Tail feathers slicing tomorrow unto tomorrow.

Until prayers shovelset us into the red Georgia clay sinking our toes like the magnolia’s roots breaking open bone-earth’s chapped tongue making our hope particular and rooty tangling us here, now, to daily bread

2. Until our aviary, a loose canopy tabernacling for us, meets the winds of intrastators and price-per-acre and towers catch-and-releasing invisible information; until the long carving frenchdrains spoon away at its stature (walk humbly with your God) until the pieces of our umbrella –the very stones and mortar of this sanctuary– must join their sister elements that groan and clap to the song that sang  us all into

existence.

3. Until then, inhale; receive Spirit here. Spirit who practices this all like Moshe’s bush on Horeb who sings that song to which our ears belong. Take the cup, raise her, exhale the gratitude of carbon dioxide and moisturedrip for the forest, lick your lips and dig your teeth in to heaven’s sweet ‘what-is-it.’

4. Today is a Tuesday, December’s light is late as usual. Slipping past the commute into this morning’s eye, I sit in my study, a place of words, walls, and a solid oak desk that all precede me and I watch this candle devour the cold room and flicker hotter than any coal placed on my lips. And I remember,

we are already lit. Burning but not consumed. Set to flight. Racing but not exhausted. And this building already sings and breathes and joins creation. And the dead are raised in Christ, worship already working,

and the old and the future are part of today’s firelight.

Keep Singing!

I know I've been MIA, here's the latest and some of what is brewing in me... We're preparing our house and family life for our second kid, due September 28. I'm cultivating the early years of Neighbors Abbey's work in SW Atlanta and the emerging church planting that is a part of it.  Joshua Case and I have been teaming up on some Church as Art emerging worship coaching projects for this fall. I'm still working with the Village Counsel of Emergent Village as we live into our being a Village green. And I'm in the middle of curating worship for Clayfire, writing a chapter for an upcoming festschrift by Ryan Bolger about hyphenated emerging projects, curating music for City Church Eastside, and writing my first full length book for Paraclete Press about the intersection the Aesthetics and God's Mission. This book (provisionally titled, "Getting Drawn In") is about the creative nature of God's mission, and our own awakening to God's calling as we step into creative and intentional lives. In researching all this I came across an old book of poems called The Singer by Calvin Miller referred or given to me by my friend Ty Saltsgiver in the 90s. In it I found this chapter XII entitled"In hell there is no music—an agonizing night that never ends as songless as a shattered violin":

"Sing the Hillside Song" they cried. There were so many of them. He wasn't even sure he could be heard above the din of all their voices. He walked among them and looked them over. In his mind he knew that the Father's Spirit wanted each of them to learn his song.

Someone in the sprawling crowd stood and handed him a lyre. "Sing for us please Singer—the Hillside Song!"

"Yes, yes," they called, "the Hillside Song"

He looked down at the lyre and held it close. He turned each thumb-set till the string knew how to sound, then he began:

"Blessed are the musical," he said, "for their's shall be never-ending song."

"Blessed are those who know the difference between their loving and their lusting, for they shall be pure in heart and understand the reason."

"Blessed are those who die for reasons that are real, for they themselves are real."

"Blessed are all those who yet can sing when all the theater is empty annd the orchestra is gone."

"Blessed is the man who stands before the cruelest king and only fears his God."

"Blessed is the mighty king who sits behind the weakest man and thinks of all their similarities."

"Earthmaker is love. He has send his only Troubadour to close the Canyon of the Damned."

Then they broke his song and cried one with one voice, "Tell us Singer, have you any hope for us? can we be saved?"

"You may if you will sing Earth- makers's Song!"

"Is there another way to cheat the Canyon of the Damned?"

"None but the Song!"

The beauty of Miller's language here, to me, is that there is a song that wants to be played. There is a way out of loneliness and despair, that comes with willfully listening to the song within...  And that you can't short cut that listening pathway with some kind of formula or group membership.  We have to keep listening, and singing.

Hermeneutics

My friend Josh Case asked me to write what I think about "Hermeneutics" for this age

My operating hermeneutic is to encounter texts through communal practices that break our guessing machines and place us in postures of listening.”- me

Here are the four cats who've blown up this idea for me:

  1. Daniel Pink suggests that we are in a conceptual age where pattern recognition, play, story, and empathy are the new sought after leadership skills.  He admonished us to cultivate "high touch" "high concept" aptitudes. I think that churches can be overflowing with these skills if they trade out old “stand and deliver” practices for real life rehearsals, practices, drills, postures, that ask us to interpret with these emerging skills.
  2. Walter Bruggemann writes in Text Under negotiation:

"Our task is not to construct a full alternative world, but rather to fund-to provide the pieces, materials, and resources out of which a new world (from origin to completion) can be imagined. The place of liturgy and proclamation is "a place where people come to receive new materials, or old materials freshly voiced, which will fund, feed, nurture, nourish, legitimate, and authorize a counter imagination of the world."

3. And Jonny Baker writes:

“The goal of ritualilization is the creation of a ritualized agent, an actor with a form of ritual mastery, who embodies flexible sets of cultural schemes and can deploy them effectively in multiple situations so as to restructure those situations in practical ways”

These three thoughts make me want, not to write better sermons, but rather, to create ritualizing situations that feed fund and nourish a person’s participation in the new creation…  Such a church places textual authority ahead of herself, in the “yet to be determined” space of a promised future. Churches that design themselves for something shorter-sited than that have become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy– clanging cymbals, lost symbols, siloed on hills or under bushels. Leslie Newbigin wrote,

“The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel.”

I think he nailed it.  And since first reading that I’ve found this to be true in encouraging and discouraging ways:

  1. A congregation’s method (its polis) is the “news” it spreads: Have you ever tried to explain Google or Wordpress without referencing internet or open sourcing…  These companies organize differently because the world in which they live acts differently.  When we believe that gospel is physical and relational, in a “conceptual age,” in its affect and its MO, then we too start to organize differently.  Recently a good friend came to a worship gathering of Neighbors Abbey and she was not allowed to be a spectator, not allowed to “church shop.” She was placed in a position of reflecting through prayer and discussion.  This moved her in an incredible way.  Moved her past what she expected for a church visit.  This was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ penetrating her defenses for the first time in years.  A speech, no matter how well prepared, would have never made it past her guard.
  2. A congregation’s way of being with its neighbors determines the most about its being “good or bad news” to its neighboring host culture.  An innercity church in determined that building a large elder-care complex would be best for their ministry to the poor and best for their community.  They did not, however, listen for the community’s desires.  They came into community meetings demanding to be heard, and demanding quick action.  This posture hurt their ability to show/share/be gospel with their neighbors.  It’s unfortunate, but they were the hermeneutic of the gospel- few, if any, voiced arguments against “what” this church proclaimed, or how this community views scripture or revelation.  Their actions speak loudest at alienating themselves from the good news that is breaking into their neighborhood.
  3. A congregation that engages its local issues makes room, again, in people’s imaginations for the possibility of a God that has something good in store for the world. Recently at a party a person pointed to a local church leader and said, “he’ll makes you believe there is a God.”  Now this leader is not an apologist. As best we could tell, he’s never tried to convince her or others “about” anything.  Instead this Jesus follower lives real life with the others in the community.  This person is not a “seeker” for the church leader to attract. This person is already receptive and listening for the revelation of God, ears ready for goodnews.  It just takes people being that good news around her. The Post-Denominational Willow-Burberry hermeneutic is not a faith statement or a preaching style, it is the the courage to practice in real time, out there.

For a few centuries, at least, hermeneutics questions have allowed people to stand on their shoulders and argue “about” revelation.  I say, lets spend a few centuries joining creation as humble incarnation people, open and listening together for God’s revelation.

Def: Actualization Space

I just got off the phone with Sally Morganthaler learning a ton about the journey from her book Worship Evangelism (a book critiquing the performance based worship of seeker churches in the 80s) through leadership coaching, and back again to worship as the ritualized space of mission.  While talking we coined a phrase "actualization space."  And I thought I'd throw it out there. Here's the idea: Its defining worship as the intersection combination of living deliberately and designing creative environments.

Deliberation involves encountering an "other" as something to learn from or admire, say for example the difference between seeing a picture in an advertisement and seeing painting above a mantle or in a museam.  When the picture is placed in an intentional space the viewer often makes a choice to lean in, to figure it out, to enter it.  Art has made its way back into advertising space in ways that cloud this, but imagine the quailtative difference between having eyes to see something with intent, and just glancing past something.  This is how art "puts you in play."  It works the same way with music, think of the difference between Muzak working to "numb" the buyer and Radio Head's "Fake Plastic Trees" written to awaken the listener.

Now, our lives are meant to be read in the same way.  If you develop ears to hear who you are and who others are around you, you lean in, you give qualitative value to the person's place in the world.  Actualization is simply about making an idea real. "Personal Actualization" in some sense, is the process of "listening to your life speak" (to borrow from Parker Palmer) and then acting on it.    And so to go back to our art analogy, a painting in a museum may cultivate desire, compassion, rage, all sorts of things.  And when you feel those things the art is "working" on you (to borrow an idea from Nicholas Woltersdorff).

Now, imagine that creation is designed with an appetite for re-creation, that we all "long for the revelation of God's dreams as enacted by people who know and join those dreams" (my very rough paraphrase of Romans 8).  Then the responsibility of the church, of those looking toward the coming of God with all our resources, is to create environments for people to "wake up." To create venues where not only art is hung, concerts are performed, or theater is displayed, but where people are listened to, and persons enact their calling.  Church is not space to memorize something "about" following God, in so much as it is a place to learn how to follow Jesus by being with others (when two are three are gathered in my name...).

So then the question that worship seeks to answer, is "is there a plausibility structure in which the kingdom of God is real?" This is not to say that the only or best place for God's dreams to be made reality is in a church or in a worship gathering.  But it just might redefine the way Jesus followers approach those things...

"Actualization spac,"  is an environment in which we lean into the possibility that all of life has meaning, and increasingly so as God comes near.

Thanks Sally for a thought provoking conversation!

Church Target Practice

Neighbors aren't targets, or are they? Many churches have "started" or "grown" in the past 30 years by carefully studying marketers and doing demographic research determining their "target." And yet targeting is a pretty scary notion in our neck of the 'hood.

In Georgia, it is estimated that 200-300 children are targeted for sexual exploitation a month, and our neighborhood includes two of the city's primary hot-spots. 66% of the houses in our zip code were in foreclosure before the crash because elderly homeowners were targeted by mortgage fraud schemes. Some wayward kids in our area who have learned how to hotwire GM cars are targeting GM and Chryslers to break into. And then one of our neighbors, a friend of our family and our lawn-guy, was entrapped in a GBI drug sting, because of he was "such an easy target."

Last week members of the Georgia House of Representatives heard a bill (HB 582) that would amend the current law to exempt minors paid for sex from being targeted by prosecutors as adults. As Georgia law currently stands, a girl or boy who is pimped out to a "customer" (aka a "John") by their drug dealer is the easiest target for law enforcement. They are afraid, they will not seek legal counsel, and they are cheap to prosecute. The customers, men driving past our house to pick up girls in cars with plates from places miles away like Cobb or Gwinnett county, are difficult to prosecute. Its easiest to "target supply", even while demand increases. Pimps are deft at hiding behind legal loop holes. The typical pimp befriends a runaway and builds a romance that introduces hard drugs to the child. Within a few months that kid is "owned" by their addiction, and the dealer can then bring her or him to a brothel or street where they can earn money for drugs.

One of the participants in Neighbors Abbey, Anne Chance, has taken leadership in a citywide coalition called StreetGRACE built to organize churches to combat this cycle of enslavement. She has invented a prayer practice called "C U @ 2" (look it up on facebook) where members around the world stop, wherever they are, at 2pm to pray about this issue. Last Tuesday, when the Georgia House of Reps was hosting a hearing on HB 582, she organized a prayer vigil in our neighborhood. Now a notion of "Prayer Vigil" is not the best "marketing" for those of us hoping to "attract" people to Neighbors Abbey. But this was not your everyday vigil. This was a chance for folks to bring the tension of our everyday urban activist experience into a quiet, reflective place of transformation.

There was ambient music. Stations were set up to guide prayer. There was a projector in one corner juxtaposing images of the city with the beatitudes. There were candles and bibles and prayer books. There was a station for body prayer, where attendees were guided through a series of postures that would "embody" our hope for courage for the victims, advocates and law enforcement. There was a map where pray-ers would place a sticker indicating where they lived and note "who is my neighbor" by reflecting on the story of the Good Samaritan and their proximity to the struggle of these children and advocates addressing this struggle. And there was a station for the contemplative person to choose five beads representing five distinct groups to remember in prayer (this is the CU@2 prayer): the victims, the coalition of advocates, the perpetrators, law enforcement, and our immediate neighborhood. Stringing these five beads next to each other to make a bracelet I've taken that prayer with me, and I am struck that God is targeting all of these groups- seeking all of us, weaving us together, and sending healing, hope and renewal for any and all.

So I guess Neighbors Abbey does have a target. We want to join God's dreams of healing and restoration for all; and week-to-week we are targeted again by God's love, and our own dreams are re-formed toward God's larger purpose in Jesus Christ.

---

'Thank you to the churches, individuals, and foundatoins who are helping get this off the ground by joining us in this effort to join God's mission in the city!

We are at $47,125 in gifts, grants and pledges for our annual budget of $55,500. That only leaves $8,375 for the remainder of our fiscal year ending in October.

Click here to make a tax deductable donation via Pay Pal to the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, note "Neighbors Abbey." Or email troy@neighborsabbey.org for more details.

Or mail a check to

Neighbors Abbey c/o Presbytery of Greater Atlanta 1024 Ponce de Leon Ave Atlanta, GA 30306-4216

Thankyou!

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.

You can't stay inside our church...

The Abbey has been reading from Luke as a group for several months now. We have just now gotten to chapter 6, the readers-digest version of the Sermon on the Mount. And we were challenged by the vision of a community in our neighborhood who might forgive every enemy, not charge interest on loans, and when someone steels from us- we would give them more in return. It shaped us. We want to be those people and yet we're scared of trusting the "other" that much. We know we can't afford to be that open, that under-secured, that loose handed about our safety and possessions. When we faced that fear we also realized that, somehow (and I know this feels far fetched) being known and beloved by Jesus has shaped some yoda-like people of faith to live in such a way: open, under-secured, and loose handed. We risked wondering if personal transformation might bring this kind of living (I know, but I told you it seemed far fetched). Anyway, when I mentioned this to my friend David, last night, he said I should read the intro to Eugen Peterson's translation of Luke. It made me laugh at the coincidence of choosing this gospel book to read first as a group. We at the Abbey have been outsiders to church and religion so long that we are very reluctant to start any kind of church that would put others on the outside.  We resist talking about personal transformation (knee-jerk-ed-ly so, perhaps) because we want transformation to be not about us, but for the good of everyone around us.  Peterson's intro hits this spot on...

Most of us, most of the ttime, feel left out––misfits.  We don't belong.  Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, "insiders" who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded.

One of the ways we have of responding to this is to form our own club, or join one that will have us.  Here is as least one place where er are "in" and the others "out."  The clubs range from inflormal to formal in gatherigs that are variously political, social, cultural, and economic.  But the one thins they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savor the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.

Nowhere is this price more terrible thn when it is paid in the cause of religion.  But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human communty to a "membership."  But with God there are no outsiders.

Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider.  An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish case of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by he religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheep herders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor.  He will not countenance religion as a club.  As Luke tells the story, all of use who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn't felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found in the and welcomed by God in Jesus.

I hope that Neighbors Abbey keeps its doors so open that no one can stay "inside" while others are "outside."  And while I do hope that we transform as group (me being the first in need of transformation- fo sho) I pray that we never become more a part of our group than a part of the neighborhood we hope to see transformed!

I dare ya: claim your position as the next Emergent Village National Coordinator!

So, a few weeks ago I was with Naomi Schwenke, Wendy Eason, Mike Stavlund, Micheal Toy, and Laci Scott when we learned that Tony Jones would no longer be the National Coordinator of Emergent Village... I remembered back 3 years earlier hearing that Tony would become the coordinator a few months after hanging with him in Decatur for Brueggemann and the Bible. At that point the buzz from Darrell Guder and others was that we were on the way to becoming a denomination.

Before long, the press finally had someone to "goto" besides Brian to address the question "what is emergent?," and not much later the culture despisers had someone to "blame" for the slippery slope into "postmodern relativism." Then the postmodern bloggers began to blame Tony for being part of an oligarchy. And then people got frustrated at a survey asking, again, for permission to become what we dream the emergent village could be writing "Tony, when will we get the results of the survey?"

So it seems right that we need to be stripped of a "goto" person, someone to deflect responsibility upon, and someone to blame fo the whole mess. Truth be told, we are the mess, and the solution.

So I am taking responsibility. My friend Josh Case and I decided we ought to profess that Emergent could be (and is) Coordinated by any of us.

Sure this is tongue-in-cheek. We need people starting things (like the regional gatherings that have risen up, the podcasts and blogs, the churches, the community organizing, the magazine ideas... people do do stuff around here!) instead of learning to expect EV to start things. This is what we say every month at the Atlanta Cohort, "Emergent belongs to you.  Whatever you bring to the table, mixed with our four practices/values, and that equals emergent.  No more.  No less.  So lets figure out what we want to make of it..."  But why did we get so hung up with needing a coordinator anyway? Tony was (is) great (hats off to you dude!), but why do we need the "figure head?"

If, in fact, the Spirit sends gifts from a promised future to participate in the possibilities of Jesus' kingdom, then we can operate without a named figure head, right? The "Gifts of the Spirit" are open source, they are not given to chairmen/women, elected officials, or transfered through ordination like the fair lady giving boy Arthur the permission to remove the sword from the stone.

EV was becoming what Brafman ad Beckstrom call a "spider organism" that liked having a leader to blame, defer to, or upon which we could place our hopes. But the leadership that Tony and others take are best understood as "a catalysts, a person who initiates a circle and then fades away into the background."

A catalyst is like the architect of a house: he's essential to the long-term structural integrity, but he doesn't move in. In fact, when the catalyst stays around too long and becomes absorbed in his creation, the whole structure becomes more centralized." (Starfish and Spider, pg94)

I congratulate Tony and the Board on this decision, and congratulate the Villagers who expressed this option in the vote. I even wonder if a Board of Directors, and operating as a 501c3 or a LLC or an CSA, or any official entity for that matter, will ever fully serve to facilitate an open-sourced architecture. And as we evolve into a more centralized or increasingly decentralized conversation I think this is a chance for participants of the village, no matter what neighborhood you're in, to lean into agency. Leaning into this is taking the risk of using our gifts:

“When we deny our gifts, we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit whose action is to call forth gifts... And that same Spirit gives us the responsibility of investing [our gifts] with him in the continuing creation of the world. Our gifts are the signs of our commissioning, the conveyors of our human-divine love, the receptacles of our own transforming, creative power” (Elizabeth O’Connor).

"When the church starts to be the church it will constantly be adventuring out into places where there are no tried and tested ways. If the church in our day has few prophetic voices to sound above the noises of the street, perhaps in large part it is because the pioneering spirit has become foreign to it. It shows little willingness to explore new ways. Where it does it has often been called an experiment. We would say that the church of Christ is never an experiment, but wherever that church is true to its mission it will be experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling Word of God to its own age.” (O'Connor)

So, pull the sword out of your stone! Blaze a trail. Start your own Emergent neighborhood-inside-the-village. Your the people you've been waiting for. Get some "Mojo," as Mark Scandrett likes to call it. Elect yourself.

I dare ya, claim your position as the next Emergent Village National Coordinator!