Lyrics for songs

I just finished a great weekend at the Montreat College Conference playing with Rea Rea (Clemson) on Bass and Jason Peckman (Athens) on drums.  They put up with a lot of seat-of-the-pants direction from me, and made it a far better weekend than it would have been were I just a guy with his acoustic guitar.  Ellen and Audry (from Emory) were great vocalists, Donnie (Athens) a mad soprano saxophonist, and Jefferson (Northern Alabama) with some sick chops on the piano. We taught a lot of new songs as well as new arrangements I've been working on.  Here are lead sheets for three of those songs.  More to come.  Oh and if you were at the conf and wanna hear some of my singer-songwriter stuff check out the music link to iLike. Wildest Imagination (Bass)

Wildest Imagination (Guitar Capo2)

Oh Blessed God

Bring Forth

BIG small NEAR f a r

Over the last 18 months Neighbors Abbey has involved nearly 100 folks from SW Atlanta, not to mention folks we're connected to from around greater Atlanta.  Next year we're hoping that folks from around the US and beyond will join us in making our mission possible: 200 folks giving $10 a month in 2010...  Would you like to join us in this way, and if so can you also spread the word to other folks whom you think would be interested?

Here's the link to the donate page on Neighbors Abbey's site.

Neighbors Christmas

Help Neighbors Abbey  celebrate the

Hope, Peace, Love & Joy

of this Christmas season.

Every one is invited and welcome.

The Perkerson Park Recreation Center

770 Deckner Avenue SW, Atlanta, GA 30310

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From 6:00pm to 7:00pm

Come meet neighbors, and friends, new and old.

Christmas Carols

Poetry and Prayers,

The Christmas story

Cookies and Cocoa

(click here for fliers to print and hand out)

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!

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.

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!

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...