What does emergent church mean to me?
I have only heard and read about the emergent church movement on the Internet. I think there are some folks here in San Francisco, but I haven’t had any luck trying to find or contact them. And if it’s a pub culture, then it’s probably not for me (anymore). I have read a lot of blogs about emergent church, but I don’t believe that can really be an accurate portrayal of the on-the-ground communities.
How does the wider emergent church movement relate to my Meeting’s yearning to be more available/relevant/welcoming to young people? Our meeting for worship is pretty grounded usually and ON FIRE sometimes. Half our Ministry and Oversight Committee is under 45, including the clerk. We’re trying to be more welcoming. How can we, who have our Quaker meetinghouse in this hip, urban, transit-accessible neighborhood, not be attracting young people?
Actually, we have noticed that young people come all the time, but they come once, maybe twice, and not again. Some of this is the transience of young people’s lives today, especially the ones who move to SF right after college. Part of our work may just be to fold new people in and let them go – ready to look for a Quaker meeting wherever they are next. (But we can not help it if the next Meeting they go to is not youth-friendly, not LGBTQ friendly or even centered and spiritually alive.)
Is it true, as I’ve heard, that any project for young people has to involve doing something together to build community before we can sit around and talk about our theology? Is our Quaker unprogrammed worship not enough of a doing something? We can’t ask someone to bring the music and someone else to read the scripture, although they are welcome to do that. But in our tradition, God has to ask them. We can ask them to bring the snack or sit at the letter writing table or edit the newsletter or come to the weekly peace vigil or a study group – do we need some kind of direct earth/poverty related action? Maybe. (Maybe we need the excuse of trying to attract young people to get us off our butts and out doing the work of the Gospel…)
Right now I feel like my calling in my Meeting is and has been to help us be deeper Quakers, in a spiritual sense. I suspect that the next phase will be some service projects.
Here’s my fear: I’m not cool enough. I’m 37 years old. I am the mother of two kids, who frequently interrupt my conversations, and for whom I try to be home most nights at their 7:30 bedtime. I frequently drive a station wagon. I don’t live in the very urban/cool neighborhood where the meetinghouse is anymore. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. I’m a little overweight. I started cutting my hair in a chin length bob as part of my search for balance between my plain clothes, my radical politics and my professional ambitions. I wear plain clothes – not modern fashions and not some cool semi-historical statement either.
I look, to the outside world, really boring.
How can I be an instrument of God’s will to reach out to teens and 20-something people? Why do I feel this nudge to do it? Why don’t I just accept that my job is to reach out to other middle-aged moms? (Which I do, it somehow just isn’t quite enough for me.)
Is this connected to Quakers’ (and Americans’) cult of youthfulness? At PYM this year, I made a reference to a woman 10 years older than me with teenaged children as “middle-aged” and she was offended. She asked, “Who are you calling middle-aged?” I answered, “You and me, baby.” Am I just more acculturated than I thought? Do I just want to be cool?
Or is there something to being a really committed Quaker that is cool? How do we share the amazing, exciting fact that Christ has come to teach His [sic] people Himself? Hey, to quote Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar, “One thing I’ll say for him, Jesus is cool.” How do we reach the young people who will be willing to look past external appearances and see the real me? Who hunger for the chance to be seen for who they are? Who want an authentic and sincere relationship to God and other people?
I hope that any connections to the emergent church movement will connect to my concerns about finding a more authentic way to understand Jesus and to my concerns that my Meeting is not broadly or deeply of service to the Earth or the poor people of the Earth. Actually, I hope that any movement that my Meeting connects with will move us in these directions.
Next up: why I love meeting for worship, and then probably, why I love my Meeting.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]