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.

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'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!

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!

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!

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…

red fish or blue fish, we will be known by our...

My friends and I used to sing in college at Liberty, "They will know we are Christians by the fishes on our cars."  Whether we're blue fish in red states or red fish in blue states, may we be known by our love..

I appreciated this post by my friend and fellow Atlatan, Will Hinton:

I pray that tomorrow Christians will not be known for their "righteous indignation" or for their apocalyptic pronouncements. I pray that Christians will be known for their love. Love for our neighbors. Love for our enemies. And love for our elected national leaders."

and I also appreciate this perspective on voting in the interest of the "other" by my friend from Concord, NC, Anthony Smith :

Voting, as it is oftentimes seen by historically marginalized groups, is a precious gift. It is not seen, within the language game of the prophetic black church, as a form of violence. That voting is seen as means of violence can only come from Christians who don’t know what it is like to be without the gift. This is why the loudest voices for political disengagement on Gospel grounds tend to be of lighter hue. It is another form of advantage to eschew voting. I profoundly agree with Christians engaging in anti-imperial practices or pro-kingdom activities that give sign to another world in our midst.

This is bound to be an encouraging or demoralizing day for our minority brothers and sisters.  May we Anglos find the courage to understand what this might mean for so many who are in this with us! So sing it with me,

"They will know we are Christians by our

participation in the new creation,

by our participation in the new creation,

by our participation in the new creation."

Okay, I'll grant you that its not the catchiest rendition...

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.

make something...

So, Why is it that we always think of Pentecost as a glorified church service where everyone consumed a big 'excellent' program? One thing that I'm convinced of after growing up in the church and following Jesus into the World, is that we need better metaphors for what we dream of and what we remember. The story of Pentecost makes my point. How often have you imagined Pentecost (the first Christian experience of it recorded in Acts 2) as a picture of how your church service should be? How often have we assumed that they were building a church service for themselves, or for God, for that matter? Is it possible that Pentecost was more public? More of a cultural phenomena? Something mixing everything up to put everyone back in play instead of commodifying them to build an organization or institution? Imagine the chaos that ensued when, this sect of Jews following 'Yashua' (Jesus, literally the same name as Joshua, meaning Saving One), waited the designated 50 days after Passover and were then interrupted by synchronicity of multiple language, sharing, and neighboring. 'All because the Spirit inspired them. Pentecost was not planned, programmed, or strategic on the part of the community of Jesus... Pentecost is the name we place on the happening that occurred amidst a Jewish holiday of Shavuot- marking the giving of the Torah (10 commandments and the rest of Jewish Law) to Moses, and book-ending the two main harvests of their early agrarian culture (barley after Passover and wheat 50 days later). Pentecost interrupted that community with new Laws and new cycles. And the Spirit of Jesus accomplished this interruption by re-introducing a multi-culturallism (that was already around them, but had grown flat and unacknowledged) and agnecy (shared responsibility in making, crafting, doing, speaking). It put everyone, across their differences, in play.

Kelley showed me this video last week, about Amy Krouse and the community she was joined by, and I was blown away. The DIY/indie craft world is filled with innovators who "make stuff." And this story of Amy is what i imagine the feeling of Pentecost being as opposed to "the greatest church service ever" which is how I traditionally grew up imagining Pentecost. It's a great metaphor to replace the flattened idea of church. Every one was "in play" at the church's first Pentecost. People were around because of their media-socio-cultural practices (Jewish pilgrimages were made to Jerusalem 50 days after passover). They were a heterogeneous mix, not the same subculture. And a new "thing" emerged. The Jesus story became a story of a people at Pentecost- it was a "beckoning of the lovely."

the best incompleteness of love

This weekend I am hosting up marriage covenants between two friends of Kelley and mine. Its at a vineyard in Dahlonega, GA. It should be a blast. So, Kelley and I have been married ten years as of June. And each time I do a wedding it is a chance to remember how much it meant for our friends to participate (grooms men, bride's maids, Ty Saltzgiver- my Young Life trainer who married us, Ryan Long- the singer-songwriters who played for nothing but a hotel room). The premarital counseling, service design, and the prep for whatever homily I offer- they all give me a chance to revisit the compelling thoughts of love shared by everyone in God's World.

I was struck this time around by Paul's choice to place the theme of "incompleteness" inside his ode to love in 1 Corinthians 13. Peterson's paraphrase puts it this way:

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled…

We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing God directly just as God knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love

Ten years ago I didn't know half of what I know about love now. Because love requires locating ourselves in the unknown. It requires mystery and unfinished-ness. People are naturally relational- we understand ourselves in relationship to others and our contexts, and have a consciousness about that relationship. Love requires us to leave that consciousness open for edits. We leave ourselves vulnerable, accessible. Love edits our memories (forgiveness) and our dreams for the future (hope).

Love of God, and our beloved-ness as children of God... does a similar thing. True knowledge of God-is-love-ness requires receptiveness, and it "softens" us. True participation in this Love-of-God-ness casts out fear (memories) and makes all things new (future).

So asking having strong enough 'faith' to be featured on CBN, or being the greatest political orator of our time, or making poverty history... without love is nothing, gets us no further along, and starts to sound like a creaky gate or a bent cymbal.

any press is good press?

So in a previous post I mentioned that the AJC described me as a former pastor...  well I mentioned it to the journalist who referred my name to the editor of corrections who called me trying to get his mind around the issue.  It went a bit like this:

 AJC: So when Chris interviewed you were you a minister?

TB: Yes, I was ordained in July of 2006 and have been a minister ever since, serving at large within the presbytery for the past year.

AJC:  So does "at large" mean you were not at a church?  'Because the AJC is committed to being accurate from the perception of a bystander, and not neccessarily the technical terms of a particular denomination.

TB:  Well, I have been doing minister things, like marrying people and leading funerals and  preaching at churches.  But I was doing that before I was ordained.

AJC:  So would someone in your church say you were a pastor?

TB:  Well it depends on what you mean by church.  I am a part of the universal church but I don't belong to a particular church. Reformed churches generally considers an ordained minister a pastor for her/his whole life.  But my denomination did change my "standing" from "At Large" meaning in no presbyterian post, to "organizing pastor"  meaning starting a congregation that is as yet not chartered. So the problem includes one's definition of "church" too.

AJC:  So you mean you do "have" a church?

TB:  I'm not trying to be evasive here.  But all I have is friends who are meeting oneanother on the journey that might end in becoming a formal church.  We plan to meet monthly for the next half year and to seek God's dreams in the city. But thats it- so far. And I guess 2 or 3 meeting for this purpose includes the presence of Christ who is both Word and Body broken... so you could say this is church.  But none of us thinks so, yet.  Not yet, at least.

Well this went on a bit more until I apologized and said, "Sorry for complicating matters.  My primary concern here is that folks in my neighborhood, colleagues in my denomination, and potential benefactors beyond those groups not think I've jumped ship."  To which he said, "Oh, I see.  Well, thank you for your time."

And after that I think we both hung up the phone and went our separate ways to find a stiff drink and this is what resulted in the paper the next day:

A story in Saturday’s Living section about author Phyllis Tickle included incorrect information about Troy Bronsink’s status with the Presbyterian Church. He is a pastor."

Nice, huh?

Presence 1:Of Parts and Wholes

I am reading a book that Doug Pagitt lent me, Presence:Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (2004 Society for Organizational Leranign Inc. : Peter Senge, C.Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Flowers).

It ties together quantum theory, emerging creative systems, and education... so far.

I will make periodic posts as I go on this read.

Parts and Wholes:

everything is related. Since the industrial revolution most of society has thought in terms of machines. We assume a whole is made up of many parts, and wholeness depends on each part working effectively. Living systems do not work the same way. "Unlike machines, living systems, such as your body or a tree, create themselves. They are not a mere assemblage of thier parts but are continually growing and changing along with their elements." (3). The authors site Buckminster Fuller for holding up his hand and asking, what is this?" To which he would respond, a hand is not a static thing, "what you see it not a hand... Its a 'patterned integrity,' the universe's capacity to create hands" (4).

The hand is a concrete demonstration of the possibility of hand-ness. In fact, the cells in your hand replace themselves in less than a year and a half. Meaning: the matter crammed and ordered together that you are your using to scroll up or down your browser did not belong to your body 18 months ago--- ashes to ashes and dust to dust, huh? Dieing and rising is not a one time thing, we are continually being converted as participants in the Way of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is continually sending new information, new circumstances, new relationships, new possibilities for us to step into. And this in not only true about individuals, but also about systems, families, organizations, and... churches.

However, A living system's ability to re-create itself, "depends on our level of awareness, both individually and collectively." The authors of presence suggest that "The basic problem with new species of global institutions is that they have not yet become aware of themselves as living" (7).

This makes me wonder the same thing about the church. Do Presbyterians or non-denominational CCM churches recognize that they are a whole made up of parts that are continually growing. Are we able to suspend our current self understandings long enough to imagine new ways of participating in God's future revealed as the kingdom of God? And so the question of learning becomes significant. How do we change our thoughts and actions to include this kind of awareness? That will be the next post.

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.

love and silence

I've subscribed to Image journal for several years and don't always get to read the whole thing. But I love the work of Image's chief editor, Gregory Wolfe. So I recently picked up the book, Intruding Upon the Timeless, with selections of his contributions to the journal between its beginning in 89 until 2003. So I'll drop snippets of my readings as we go...

I'll be speaking in October at an Atlanta event organized by Progressive Christian Cooperative, called The Beloved Community: From Formation to Action. I met Kimberly, the inventor behind this, through the Emergent Cohort and have begun to learn from her passion to bring innovative practice of spiritual formation into the human right advocacy circles as well as advocacy into spiritual formation circles. So, though the event is in October our conversations this summer and my talk are simmering on one of my back burners along with what I've been reading by Wolfe.

In Wolfe's article "Silence Cunning and Exile" (quoting James Joyce) I was stuck by the fellowship between beauty and suffering. Almost in a vin diagram sense, these two vivid themes, beauty and suffering, overlap in the costs to access them and the effect the evoke. They have an admission and an affect. They both beg a question that is never answered until the spirit/body s t o p s and in silence hears/feels/knows LOVE. Eyes to see and ears to hear...

And so beauty and suffering, the teleological signpost of the artists and the prophet, are met in silence. These are not "the ends" they are the signs. But signs are how we see, they are the things that compel us when we see through glass dimly, when we only have a lamp for our feet and light on our path, while death valley's shadows remain. No activist can afford to stay plugged in at every movement to her iPhone, and the ticker at the bottom of CNN, and the moving messages of injustice and need outside the MARTA window. No artist can afford to stay transfixed as a doer, maker, striver. Artists and activists both require love. Their trades, sans love, will CLANG worse than a bad drum track. The access to an inner rhythm, to beauty that does not tare you away from humanity in endless pursuit of nirvana, to a righteousness that rolls down mountains in liquid inevitability–the access to this ineffability requires us to s t o p and listen to...

It is in silence that we hear our belovedness. And silence, like white space, is also a place, it is the spacial environment where our imaginations are taught/shapes/formed. Silence, though, is not a commodity to be traded. Like manna it will turn to worms should you return to it apart from an open receptive posture (maybe this is why acquisitiveness, self-aggrandizement, or scarcity rarely characterize true artists and activists). Artists and activists are shapers, whether pragmatic or romantic, we move real things into new places and lop off the corner of one thing fastening something to its other side until a new thing emerges. We are shapers, and it is in silence the we let go of our brother's heel, and unbuckle our holster, and lay down our birth-rite as shaper... and we climb up onto the easel, the wheel, into the kiln, and place our necks under the callused fingers to be shaped by...

Love.

Here are a few of Wolfe's lines and citations that have shaped me today...

There is nothing behind [silence] to which it can be related, except the Creator Himself (sic.) -Max Pickard, The World of Silence.

Out of silence emerges the creative act, both in the 'sub-creation' of the artist and in the creation of God. but there is also a sense in which the created artifact itself is something set into silence...

The space that Christ gives us to respond to him is similar to the space the the artist must give to us to respond to his or her work...

The art that emerges out of silence–the art the experiences human life and our fallen world as a place of exile–forces us to ask the question "why." -Gregory Wolfe

There can be no answer to the 'Why?' of the afflicted... The only things the compel us tot ask the question are affliction, and also beauty; for the beautiful gives us such a vivid sence of the presence of something good that we love for purpose there, without even finding one. Like affliction, beauty compels us to ask: Why? Why is this thing beautiful? But rare are those who are capable of asking this question for as long as a few hours at a time...

He who is capable not only of crying out but also of listening will hear the answer. Silence it the answer.

The speech of created beings is with sounds. The word of God is silence. God's secret word of love can be nothing else but silence. Christ is the silence of God." -Simone Weil

The Beloved Community is the nexus of action and formation. We are formed in the silent act love. And we act as ones (in)formed into lovers. This mutuality between God and creation begats mutuality between humanity in our creative ventures, in response to both beauty and suffering.