Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Excerpts from an email about new liturgy

SA (not South Africa) was amazing. Buenos Aires is more of a European city and I liked it very much. It was just great to get away for a longer time from NYC and be in a totally different environment. Plus all the pastors I met and befriended was wonderful.

As for your question on new liturgy...that's really the nut to be cracked. I don't think we are going to figure it out very soon. Before we started our faith community I had it all mapped out and thought it was going to be awesome, but either things didn't work, or I didn't have the people to really do them as I imagined. Then other things did work but I didn't want to go in that direction. I am now very humble and non-opinionated about what an emerging church should be.

I think the best thing is to let it bubble up organically from the people you have and the journey you're all taking as a community. I think we need to have a sense that God is doing something new in our midst, experience a sense of liberation and joy in what he is doing and then create new liturgies or modify old ones out of that bubbling over of joy, or deep sense of lament. Of course what makes it emergent is that the pastor is creating an environment where creativity can happen. Many people involved and clear and easy paths for new ideas to be tried in the gathering.

Every congregation may have a different sense of what God is doing in their midst - but then here is the difficult part...actually experiencing something that God is doing new...I'm not sure I know what that is exactly. How is it that the Spirit is breaking out in our midst in a fresh way that we can celebrate?

Is there something new, or is it just the good news that we've always had? I think the very nature of EC is that the good old gospel we've understood doesn't seem to be that good of news to so many people. It has produced what we have and caused everyone to get depressed and leave the church. It hasn't answered the deep questions and yearnings of so many and hasn't made a discernable difference within communities. So obviously the limits of our understanding of the good news are no longer tenable in this day (thus EC attempts to understand it anew with new theology). ie, we can't keep slogging along with our limited understanding and must discover whole realms of the gospel that we never knew before.

I kind of feel like the underlying theology of EC has not developed enough to support an organic bubbling up of liturgy above it - we don't quite know what the good news in our day is. And I'm wondering if the first steps forward while we wait for the theology to form are to be reaching out to those who are different from us and building relationships across broken bridges - because maybe the Lord won't show us until we stop being disobedient little un-unified brats.

My understanding of theology has turned totally towards the relational. God is trying to create communities of love that change the society around them. How can we really understand the gospel of loving communities that heal, when we are an un-unified church? The world will reject our message because it's obvious that we don't practice at home what we preach to them.

I have all sorts of ideas about the church - you know ecclesiological/praxis things about the design of the space, the flow of the gathering, etc., etc., but I don't know how those are communicated to the congregation as something to be joyful about. Maybe they are being imposed artificially upon the group?

So what is a church planter to do in the meantime? Reach out to those that are different than you and experience the healing of God's church in the big way - and then rejoice about it. Then simultaneously in the smaller local way find the deep yearning needs of your people and together ask God to heal you and then rejoice about it. (and make sure you have some creative people on hand who can encapsulate that rejoicing in liturgical forms for ongoing use).

Eras Are Within God's Sovereignty

Here's a thought. Imagine how significant, how pervasive a historical era and it's mindset are - in the modern era, whatever the mindset was, it penetrated every aspect of life - it was the air we breathed and affected everything.

Now, with what we generally believe about the sovereignty of God over the earth and all hummankind - that he has a plan for history and is unfolding it in his way and his timing; can we imagine that modernity happened outside of God's will? Of course not. So the question is, what was the wisdom and purpose of God in bringing all the forces to bear that shaped the era we call modernity?

And then of course, why is it that God has moved on from that era and started a new era? What are God's purposes in this yet to be named era? How should the church respond to what God is doing, and how can we be his wise and purposeful agent in the midst of it?

ie: pomo isn't just some new thing to be tolerated or fought against or toyingly fascinated by - it is the work of God for his as yet undiscovered purposes on this earth. I would like to join with a whole bunch of other people from every walk of life to discover together those purposes from a loving God who will answer those who seek.


How are communities in our day forming? We have much to think of and learn from what is happening around us if we truly want to imagine a way forward.

Look at the LGBTQ community...lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning). They are united in one sense and different in others.

You can imagine the voices..."we're lesbian not just gay...we're not happy, we're queer...queer sounds too queer...I like everyone and don't want to be limited to one camp:)...c'mon let's all just be gay".............

So a diverse yet unified community has found a way to live together while maintaining distinctions. The name LGBTQ may be a harbinger of things to come. Maybe we'll be Methodist-baptist-postmoderns, MBP's.....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Speaking to Congress in Washington DC

I'm back in NYC, so my work with the New Sanctuary Movement continues. Yesterday we packed a bus full of families, organizers and clergy and drove to Washington DC.

We had a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court and visited the offices of congresspeople and senators to let them hear in person the stories of these families facing the deportation of a husband and father (they're almost always men). I don't know how much we influenced and changed minds, but all the folks we talked to were very moved to see a family and realize our government was going to destroy that family by sending it's father away.

I missed most of the press conference because I had to run off to an appointment with Senator Charles Schumers office. We talked to an aide, but last month we had an appointment in person with Senator Hillary Clinton (which I missed because I was in Argentina).

After the heart rendering failure of the comprehensive immigration bill, we are hoping to get some smaller ones passed - HR1176 - the Citizen Childs Protection Act is a bill introduced by Congressman Serrano that allows judges to have a discretion they do not currently have to consider that the individual facing deportation has a family with children who are US citizens. Why should US citizen children not have the right to not have their parent deported? The best line I have heard that sums up my passion for this cause is - "family unity is a human right".

Of course, our God made the family and it is at the center of his heart - God has a son. Jesus has a Father. Jesus is our brother. The church is a family. Honor your parents. Love your wife. We must protect these vulnerable families before we hear Christ say to us on that day - "You didn't protect me from deportation and you allowed my family to break apart"...and we'll say, "but Lord, when didn't we protect you from deportation and allow your family to break apart?".....

Everyone at the Table - Events in Argentina

So before I left for Argentina, I contacted some emergent friends to see if anyone had any contacts down there so I could meet a few pastors and try to get a pulse of what was happening down there with the church. Maybe find a good place to worship while there.

So I end up with this contact who is excited about emergent and knows everyone in the church in Argentina and is so excited I'm there and just goes crazy calling everyone and arranging get togethers with me. It was absolutely amazing. It ended up becoming a working vacation - but what lovely work.

In particular, my new lifelong friend Flavio and I spent a ton of time together along with his wife and the beautiful young people of his church - Salta de Alegria (jump for joy). I havn't felt so loved and warmly received in many years. They took me to my first tango and I really fell for it (and them).

Towards the end of my trip after meeting this wide range of people and observing this tremendous hunger for something new in the church, something happened. A momentum from them all hearing about each other meeting with me and combined with some tips from my own experience of coordinating the network of emergent cohorts here in the US, and there was birthed a new progressive network for Argentina. Wow, what a privelge to be right there and see it happen.

Even though I tried to talk them out of using the word emergent, they really like the word and so decided to call themselves "emergente". They will begin to meet together like a cohort and will network with other groups like Red del Camino, another South American group associated with emergent village, but which no one there I talked to had ever heard of.

More evidence that something is happening worldwide in God's church. A new reformation is slowly springing up and God is connecting it in order to make it complete. Amahoro in Africa this May was another bellwether event that says to me - everyone is coming to the table, and when we're all there, we can hear where God wants us to go.


I am back in NYC after a month and a half of travels - a full month in Buenos Aires! They pronounce it something like "bwo-nus eye-eee-des"

What a place. It's like the europe of South America. Heavy on the Italian and looks like Paris at times.

A group of friends talked about going there a number of years ago and it didn't work out but left me always wanting to go there, so when I realized my schedule and housing situation were aligning perfectly to allow me some free time I pulled the trip together quite quickly.

The vacation part of the trip worked perfectly, I found myself in a place far away from New York City and with a world of new sights and sounds and tastes to experience - and there was no rush, I had plenty of time.

Of course, taste was a big highlight. They are known for two things - their many cows and all the beef they provide and their lovely red wine - Malbec. That doesn't get much closer to the center of my culinary inner motivations so I was at home. The only thing missing - sauces. They're not French.

Their two most ubiquitous foods are pizza and empanadas. They are everywhere. Honestly, I don't know how they can not get sick of seeing them everywhere. But they are good. The pizza is different from ours and I like it better. Empanadas are getting a foothold here, but we have much to learn from them, for example making the bread thinner so it's not so doughy. Here is where we could quickly take them over. They only have like five types of empanadas. If someone here were to learn how to make empanadas right, and then to go crazy with all kinds of flavors, we could one up them. Our dollar is doing so bad against other countries, we must find some new place to dominate!