All y'all in the green, stand up stand up...

Recently several friends of Emergent Village released the decision to restructure our future around the metaphor of a "Village Green."  A week later Christianity Today announced that they have taken that same metaphor to organize some of its publishing into a more conversational format.  This, along with the mixed reviews about the ambiguity of EV 2.0 in this honeymoon phase, gives an opportunity to be clearer about what  "The Emergent Village Green" is and could be. Remember back in the 90s then the Real Slim Shady walked through the Grammys with hundreds of impostors?  I think this is not such a case. Instead, I think that CT and others are hitting the same generative pulse that EV has been discovering through ten years of  "conversation." Relational set environments of trust work! For 10 years emergent has been practicing four values: commitment to God in the way of Jesus, commitment to the church in all its forms, commitment to God's world, and commitment to each other.  This practice has created a "relational set" kind of communion.  People from cohorts in Atlanta to SanFransico to Chicago have met across diverse denominational affiliation and diverse worldviews to practice putting these ideas in a web of connection together.  If not every day, then emergents have at least been able to try these shared practices on at their cohort meetings or regional gatherings or conferences or over a web conversations. And Emergent's practioners are no longer just men, we're no longer just ex-evangelicals, and we're no longer just middle-class whites.  But we're not "perfect."  Some of us have broken these vows and picked on denominations or certain fundamentals.  Some of us have missed chances to include Native Americans or second generation immigrants or African Americans.  Some of us have not considered God's World when we bought cars or chose plastic bags.  Some of us have even given up on the ‘idea' of Jesus at one point or another...  But when we're together as the village we try to return to these four practices-we make space to do it again, to return to healthier integrative participation with the coming of God.

As most of you have heard, this spring some of us got together in DC to listen for what God has been up to with the village over its ten years.  We noticed that the deep integration of these four practices, as well as a few additional values, were our unique contribution to the emerging church phenomena; not any one spokesperson, not any one project, not any one innovative church or website or theology.  No, Emergent Village's contribution has been the intentional embodiment of our values in new ways with more and more people. And we realized that these values only matter in practice. In short, all we can do is make an environment where these can happen.  When our church or neighborhood, or denomination, or family are not yet safe for the risky experiment of valuing these four commitments at once, the village has made safe, generative space.  And that is why, for example, we say at the Atlanta cohort that each participant is an owner of the village, because a room is only as safe as the shared habits of the people within it.  We also know that being generative, or forwardly creative about the outcomes of being together cannot be guaranteed or herded from above by a coordinator or below by an uncoordinated open soured free-for-all.  A tree is known by its fruits, you can't will it to bear something different.

And so we decided to leave coordination of projects more open sourced, and to give all our energy to the "village greens" where such projects are born and given room to flourish.  We tasked ourselves with hosting cohort open source projects, event inventions, justice opportunities, alternative publishing channels, arts collaborations, web and communication resources, all with the compass of our values setting a "way" to play in the various "greens."

Its flattering that Christianity Today sees a value of shared conversation in a "Village Green". And it has been encouraging that Emergent Village has birthed similar friendships like the various denominational hyphenated groups, and the affinity groups around the missional church movement. And who knows,  more and more of what emergent has demonstrated might fit various future media streams, denominations, churches, and co-ops?  And, no doubt many groups will discover independently what we have been discovering as they enter similar journeys.  But for the forseable future Emergent Village wants to continue to make space for an unfinished kind of conversation that we set out on ten years ago: one that integrates the four values of following God in the way of Jesus, loving the church in all its forms, loving this world where God is active, and committing to our relationship together.  This is not a line in the sand but a huge "congratulations" to the many who have taken the Village Green into their own context, and an invitation to continue contributing to the unique green that holds these four values in creative tension.  Emergent needs you, because, we are you...

EV knows that folks are setting up greens all over out there without requiring some blessing or oversight from the wider conversation.  But if you want to coordinate your efforts in any of these areas, here are the teams and their contact people (link to the details and their emails here).

Arts: Makeesha Fisher or yours truly

Cohorts: Sarah Notton or Mike Clawson

Communications: Tim Snyder

Events: Randy Buist or Anthony Smith

Justice: Kelly Bean or Wendy Johnson

Resources: Mike Stavlund or Brittian Bullock

Will the real village greenies stand up, stand up... we'll have to wait and see.

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.

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!

Connecting...

So, Tom Livengood and folks at The Living Room took the initiative to help people connect to their neighbor in Atlanta. They started by listing agencies they knew of in the atlanta area on a google map. Trey Tucker with Roov.com designed artwork for a re:connect page. And then one of the TLR peeps, Amy Anderson, built this site to facilitate the google map and to introduce folks to Roov.com. "Thank you, Tom, Trey, Amy and others."

www.re-connect.us

The Re:CONNECT weekend was an invention of Nate Ledbetter, Melvine Bray, and Leroy Barber and myself. We wanted folks in Atlanta to meet other people doing justice and to learn about justice/social community work. The weekend rocked! We had a panel discussion on Friday night and the panelists included (I'll add more as I have their blogs):

Rusty Prichard : Evangelical Environmental Network

Mark Anthony: Pastor, Jesus for Justice

Carlos: Mentoring and Public Speaking

Daniel Hombrich: INnocence Atlanta

Nate Ledbetter: Charis Housing

Deborah: Mothers and children

Chris Capehard: ROOV.com

They described their work and they answered questions including:

  1. How do others’ passions contribute to the reach and focus of your ministry?
  2. How do you meet Jesus in doing your work?
  3. What has your work taught you about engaging civil government?
  4. How do local neighbors and the contexts of individual neighborhoods play a roll in the kind of ministry you do?
  5. How do church congregations help or hinder the work you feel called to?

J4P crowds

jay and scott

shane’s stump speach, complete with the revolutionary’s bullhorn

The next night we had Shane Claiborn, Chris Haw, and Scott and Jay from The Psalters come and perform "Jesus for President." It was an unbelievable synthesis of narative theology, liberation theology, political imagination, and John Howard Yoder with some deep country Tennessee thrown in. I felt like I was simultaniously at a Tom Wait's show, a Toni Morrison poetry reading, Walter Bruggemann seminary class, and post modern theatre. My friends Ryan and Holly Sharp also known as the Cobalt Season, were the artists behind the book design and the multimedia support- they nailed it!

The whole weekend was a huge success. The AJC wrote about it, we had folks from Auburn and Columbia, SC. And we had a huge crew of volunteers from the Atlanta Emergent Cohort, Marietta Presbyterian Church, and Mission Year.

If you're from the ATL go to Re-CONNECT.us and keep the movement going!

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!