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).

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