Saturday, June 24, 2006

The DaChristy Code

What is the secret that links these three men together, and the conspiracy that through them is controlling a major portion of the emergent churches that are being planted in major U.S. cities?

New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis…These three emergent church pastors barely know one another, yet a single influence has surreptiously worked among them to keep them all on a similar path of personal warmth and kindness to strangers.

What clues can be found in this photograph (look closely)…something about Christ….about loving Christ…NO! Wait!...Not Christ – that’s too obvious….Christy…Yes!...loving Christy!!!

But what is the connection between Christ and Christmas and this purported Christy figure???

Hmmm...Merry…a commonly used word around Christmas time…it’s coming together…if I could just understand the connection between the word Merry and this Christy figure…???

Wait, I’m looking at it backwards! If I just take the words….and change their positions…Merry….Christy…now…Christy…Merry…That’s it! Christy Merry!!!

That is what I see buried in the photograph…They are all connected to and love Christy...see, it says We Love Christy, who is one and the same with this Christy Merry!

Mystery solved…one woman, named Christy Merry helped plant each of these emergent churches. That’s right, she lived in Minneapolis and planted Bluer, pastored by John Musick (in the middle), then she moved to Los Angeles and planted Kairos with JR Woodward (on the right side), and then she moved to New York City and planted Communion of the Arts (Cota) with Jeff Kursonis (on the left).

Wow, one woman is really at the center of this whole emerging church conspiracy, she single handedly helped plant three of the most well known emergent churches in the USA. Her name is Christy Merry, and we all thank her for her warmth, and hard work, and especially for her gift of gathering people in, especially, “the other”, the stranger.

We Love You Christy, see, our shirts say so.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Crack

I just read a long series of comments following this post, the main thrust of which was trying to understand the emerging church movement in light of a whole series of criteria, all of them current or modern ways of thinking, and trying to make sense of emergent within those modes of thinking. I was overwhelmed by a sense that they would never get it if they didn’t realize that they couldn’t analyze it from a modern perspective. Such a perspective rigidity would fundamentally lead to misunderstanding…here is my comment:

I really enjoyed reading all your comments, what a wise and charitable group you are.

The one biggest feeling that emerges within me after reading all these is that indeed there is a difficulty in trying to explain or in trying to understand what the emerging church movement is.

I think it is because it is something billowing up from the innards of a wide and diverse group of people that have for the first time been freed from thinking in only a modern milieu, that through the crack that this little postmodernity thing has ripped open in the massive backside of modernity, a new perspective has been achieved; actually for the first time in a really long time, a totally new perspective has been found. It is the one afforded to those who look out the crack.

Some people are peeping out that crack and things are billowing up within them. They are trying to describe it, but even they themselves do not really understand what it is they are seeing, they only know they are drawn to it forcefully, and that they have a new ability to think and feel things they never imagined.

Others are looking at them and what they are saying, and sometimes without also sharing that view out the crack, are unable to process their comments because they simply are not experiencing this totally new perspective offered.

Many are now climbing up to the crack, to take a look, others are just too busy with their good lives and responsibilities to have the time to take a look. Not to say they wouldn't if they had a few minutes respite from their responsibilities.

Truly this crack has afforded a totally original view, a perspective that cannot be understood from prior categories.

I'm trying to actually climb out of the crack and get to the other side (emerge). Many will prefer to stay where they are, and that is fine, and many will be very curious and get up there and peer out the crack and talk to the others who are doing so and who are feeling something billowing up within them. There's a big feeling component to it, you can't necessarily understand it all now, it's more that you have to feel it.

I totally understand the consternation this kind of language might bring to some, and I just smile humbly to myself as I pitch my axe head a few feet higher and continue to climb. I am going to figure out how I have become more socially liberal and yet more deeply pious at the same time. I am going to find out why I am becoming more concerned about loving people in general than I am about converting them.

I'm hoping to find some clue as to why these things are billowing up within me like when I sense within myself a total dedication to God’s Kingdom and the drawing of others into it, yet I feel more and more like a universalist because of Jesus. How does my great belief in Jesus the Word, the Word is God exist at the same time that I am losing my inerrant view of scripture and replacing it with a sense of wonder at its humanness; and a feeling that that very humanness and its inherent mistakes and missteps causes me to believe even more in a God who's so interested in me a human, that he not only became a human but spoke forth his Word through human frailty.

How is it that I’m becoming far more interested in my humanness and in the greater community of humans I live with the more I try to walk in the Spirit? How did I, a lover of Keith Green and imbiber of his anti-Catholic views become so fascinated with liturgy and Eucharist and Pope JPII and the complete sense that I have no more need to protest?

I’m not sure I totally understand how a Southern California Republican lover of Reagan like me become a sojourner of the new religious left; partly it’s because I wanted to be in solidarity with my New York City community and because post 9/11 the word fundamentalist viscerally scares me, but I still don’t totally understand how this happened to me.

I'm definitely a new kind of Christian and all my old kind of Christian’s friends’ attempts to understand these changes in me all seem to lack any awareness of, or sense of, my totally new and original perspective out the crack. Somehow looking out the crack has changed me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A New Coordinating Group Emerges

I just returned from the Emergent Coordinating Group meeting in Minneapolis. It was such an amazing gathering of likeminded people of faith set on reforming our tired and broken church so that God's Kingdom can be on earth as it is in heaven. I just watched the movie, The Patriot, at the end of the war, surrounded, Cornwallis realizes that these farmers and commoners had defeated the British Crown, he says, "Everything will change, everything has changed". He realized that right there on that day, the balance of things had been fundamentally altered. It would take a while to be played out and understood, but that this new thing was replacing the old thing.

Some might not like the "tired and broken" language, but I don't think we would need such passionate progressiveness if the church were anything less. A church that is hemorrhaging like ours where, for example, the people of my community utterly despise it, is a church that is is not vibrant, but tired, and not whole, but broken. I cannot apologize for such language (and I stand in pretty good company when the Prophets and Jesus describe the state of Israel or the church), I can only reform with all of God's strength that he pours through me. (don't worry, I don't take myself too seriously, and I do kind of laugh at my hotheadedness, but oh well, what would the world or the arts be without passion?). Things are set in motion, the church will be different from what it was...but how different it will be, and whether it will be actually better, are still to be decided

Now on to some of my reflections of the gathering: One of the people I was looking forward to meeting was Jaime Arpin-Ricci, a fellow YWAM'er and great writer and understander of emergent. So there he was in the driveway of Doug Pagitt's house, when we returned from the weekend at Tony Jones cabin. We had just dropped Tony off at home, and I drove Jaime over to Solomon's Porch in Tony's van. We had a wonderful time chatting as we attempted to get around Lake Harriet which got in the way of our direct route. So we went around it, and when I felt I had gone far enough I tried to carry on towards the Porch, but discovered that I had driven all the way around the lake and was back where we started! Awesome, more time to talk to Jaime! For an excellent overview of the meetings, read the two posts on Jaime's blog, and subscribe to it, it's a good one.

I went early to enjoy the Summer Institute that Solomon's Porch had the week before. I hoped to connect to some great Emergent's and Porcher's, and I was not disappointed. I have never met such a wonderful, warm, hospitable group of people. I really wanted to move there and live among them. Thanks to Matt Henry and Cory Carlson for their hosting of me in their home, and to Luke Hillstead and the wonderful art group that gave me a wonderful evening at the Walker Art Museum. I will never forget the cathedral bells ringing across the street and captured in the bowl of a field where we stood behind the museum...the sound was mezmerizing.

Then my poor tired weary two and a half years of church planting bones were treated to a weekend on the lake at Tony Jones family cabin. What a great group of guys that went up there and just talked and talked and ate and drank and cruised the lake in the pontoon boat. Mark Scandrette is now one of my buddies and hero's. What a man.

What a journey from when I called Tony last year to see if he or Brian McLaren could come speak at our summer TALK About Church preliminary meetings, and he said, "Well, Brian's sitting here in the car next to me"...and they were driving home from the Emergent Coordinating Group meeting that they had held in the cabin. One year later, and I'm at the cabin. Wow, what a thrill and significant part of the history of our young COTA.

I went to this meeting determined to find a role and carry some of the weight of the work of coordinating this conversation, and being ready to hear and sense when the Lord would transition it to a full blown movment. I sense that transition will take place at different times in different places, and that it will be soon. I did accept a new responsibility within Emergent Village that I will discuss later after I actually begin to do it, and that will coincide with the launch of the new EV website.

Wisely, one of the big decisions was to fully embrace the name Emergent Village instead of just "emergent". It has been so confusing to explain emergent (the organization) is different from the emerging church, and sometimes churches or individuals or the whole thing are described as emergent. So now it will be simpler to just say Emergent Village when refering to the organization.

Thanks to everyone who came and touched my heart, and gave me hope for a future whole and vibrant church where NYC artists and other regions post-Christians can look to the church as the place where they can come to find Jesus. Where the church will be an innovator in the arts and true community will introduce real love to many for the first time.

Friday, June 02, 2006

My First Wedding and Big Announcement

Well, that's it, I'm a marrying man.

I had a wonderful time this weekend presiding at the nuptials of a wonderful young couple that comes from a couple of wonderful families. In particular, I was adopted by the Bride's family. I spent the weekend with them and they treated me with such love and hospitality that I'm probably good for another year of singleness.

I was refered to this lovefest by a person I respect very much and was able to get to know a lot of people that he has known for years, including sitting next to one of his mentors at the reception. The result is that I feel closer to him and was glad to have his trust in refering me and to be able to perform the wedding that he couldn't.

Interestingly, the first half of the wedding was a Hindu ceremony, which was very earthy with sprinkinling of spices and lots of flowers and fruit. The whole thing takes place up front with the couple, and their parents at times, and has little interaction with the audience. I would like to see how some of the growing theology of our forgotten humanity could express itself in Christian ceremonies that could be less about talking and assenting to facts and more about physical earthiness and touch and movement. We are seeing this in our liturgies, it will be interesting to see it in our marriage ceremonies.

Here's the big announcement...I was asked a few weeks ago to join Emergents Coordinating Group, and I'm going next week to the yearly gathering. I was shocked and deeply touched and amazingly encouraged to be asked. Emergent is my people, and so I am thrilled to be able to join hands and help do the work of coordinating this amazing and fruitful conversation.

Also, the NYC Emergent Cohort has its first meeting on June 23rd here in Manhattan. We already have a good group of people from all over the map on the list and expect quite a time together. Email me to be on the list, or comment below and I'll get it.

I feel like a rock band that is struggling locally, but is huge in Belgium. My little church is entering a tough summer lull, but so many exciting emergent things are happening. I'm always emailing people from all over the globe. I have meetings with amazing people that either live here or are passing through NYC...the friendship and the conversation is very warm and stimulating (unfortunately, my poor team members don't get to experience this side of things and are quite discouraged with the summer lull, see post below).

So, we are full with the good and the deeply challenging. Lord be with us, help us.

The Agony of NYC Summers

Arrrgggghhhhh. After nine hard months of church planting, the summer comes and 2/3rds of our people are uprooted, leaving our plant very shaky.

Of my eight core team members, only two are here. Another one will be here some this summer, and the other not sure. Four key people gone for the whole freakin' summer. Arrrggghhhh.

This is what happens when you have very cool artists - they do cool things in the summer.

Dear Lord, send help and some new people to carry the load for the hot summer in the city, and encourage my remaining few who see little results for all their hard work.

I am not as discouraged because I see so many amazing things happening behind the scenes, and I see awesome growth and community in the fall...but they don't have the benefit of my perspective, from where I stand. I hurt for them.