6.27.2007

More Possibilities Are Emerging

One of the very first posts I ever read in the Quaker blogosphere was Martin Kelley’s post on the Emergent Church Movement: The Younger Evangelicals and Quaker Renewal. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to articulate much more clearly my own understanding of the intersection between the emerging church trend and the Religious Society of Friends. I would call this convergent Friends; you may have your own words for this.

Last week, I met way more emerging church folks than ever before. (Here I should say that I am not an expert on the fine points of distinction between the terms emerging or emergent, nor do I know much of the history or who’s who in the internecine squabbles. I am not inclined to debate them either. Let’s say that to me they all refer to postmodern religion. Whatever that means to you, so be it. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it.)

I went to lunch with the presbymergent crowd – Karen Sloan invited me to tag along, and I’m really glad I did. It was very, very interesting to me to hear another denomination talk about the emergent trends among them. They sounded a lot like the conversations I have had with folks about convergent Friends – the internet/non-geographically based conversations, the cooperation across various divides within the denomination, the concerns that maybe the denomination is dying, all sound familiar. Are we trying to reform the whole thing? to renew a particular concern? just the last gasp of a dying beast? I recognized the concern that this be just seen as a conversation that is happening – a series of parties in conjunction with a bunch of other conferences. And especially Karen’s own description of how this ministry of connections is what is exciting to her and so she’s just doing it, even though it’s not a paid position. Gee, that really sounds familiar.

After lunch, Karen talked to me a little more about getting more involved with the emerging church conversation – how that is possible and helpful and difficult all at the same time, possibly especially for me as a Quaker and as a mother.

The whole thing made me think more seriously about being more organized about convergent Friends. About taking it more seriously. About being more explicit about what it might mean to be an emergent Quaker. I realized I have not really focused on the emergent part of convergent lately – this year I have really been focusing on the Conservative (in the Quaker sense) part of convergent. But this turn in the conversation was good for me. Each emergent church person struggles with something a little different, and finds different necessary resources in the movement. For some of them, it is looking for a less hierarchical form of leadership and more equality in ministry. For some, it is looking for more relevant, maybe ancient but now uncommon, forms of worship. For me, it is looking for examples of a different way of being Christian. Both different from the historically-minded folks of the Christian Friends Conference in northern California and different from the exclusive/elitist, just-war-justifying, culturally conformist folks of many mainstream and evangelical traditions. I’m interested in how to be a follower of the Way of Jesus, in simplicity and integrity, with harmony and equality, and forcefully pacifist.

When I look at the emergent folks, some of the things they are searching for are elements we Quakers take for granted. And some of the things they take for granted are hard for us to articulate and agree on. We have so much to learn from each other.

Am I called to do something about this? Yes. What will that look like? I’m praying hard about this. And I’m not that skilled at anything called prayer. Mostly I have a sense of opening my heart to the universal breath of life and love and hoping that something will come to make sense. Maybe the reason for all this housework this summer is to give me the physical, repetitive work that is often conducive to more open-ended thinking. I’m trying to keep my little notebook handy to write down insights as they come to me. The zoo has also been quite a productive place to think.

I’m also entering a period of discernment about employment. I sense (from some external markers) that I have about another year to be free to pursue unpaid ministry. Or shall we say another year for homemaking to be my sole economic contribution to our family. I’m thinking a lot about how my gifts and calling to religious teaching and evangelizing ministry could become paid work. There are a number of crazy possibilities that occur to me and Chris, but most of them involve a lot of other people changing to make them possible. One of the things I learned in Weight Watchers was about the benefits of writing down a Winning Outcome (a vivid and concrete description of what you want to see happen) – but one of the criteria is that it must be based on changes I can make, not dependent on other people to change. So this is going to be a long process.

I’m off to the FGC Gathering in a few days. (All those other posts I was hoping to write? Probably not going to happen before I leave.) I’m really hoping and expecting to have more conversations about convergent Friends with folks from a wide range of places and perspectives. If you’re going to be there, you can leave a note for me on the message board – my last name is actually Mohr – and we can arrange something. Look for me around the Junior Gathering in the mornings and at my Tuesday night interest group with Liz Opp: On Fire! From Small Nudges to Faithful Obedience.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Lovin' Life Liz said...

Can't wait to meet you! I will be there Friday evening! As a JG staff member I know I will get to meet you sometime, correct?

6/27/2007 6:20 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

That's correct! I'm looking forward to it too. I'm leading a discussion on worship with preschoolers on Saturday afternoon, and I'll be at JG Staff worship every morning.

6/27/2007 10:04 PM  
Blogger joshua said...

wow - i just got back from the gathering of conservative friends in lancaster, PA - something's in the air. i really resonated with your post. thank you.

6/27/2007 10:24 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Joshua - Can you tell me more about the gathering in Lancaster? I would have really liked to go, but it seemed like one thing too many this summer. I am hoping to go to the one in Barnesville next summer.

6/28/2007 1:13 PM  
Blogger MartinK said...

Hi Robin,
All so interesting. I started a reply but it went past the three paragraph mark and I posted it up on the Ranter instead.
Your Friend,
Martin @ QuakerRanter

6/28/2007 6:49 PM  
Anonymous wess said...

Robin,
awesome to hear about this stuff.

quick word:

"emergent" is the official organized network, nonprofit group that a number of "emerging" churches are apart of.

So you have the Emergent Network filled with emerging churches, and not all emerging churches are members of emergent.

6/30/2007 4:39 AM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

Well actually Emergent is not a network of churches but of "leaders" and anyone else interested. It is one vehicle for the emerging conversation.

I also desire to be part of the interchange between emerging folks and Quakers, coming from a long background in Quakerism (and still attending a mid-week meeting fairly often) into active membership in the church founded by the best known public figure in the emerging movement (the church also has several other refugees from Quakerism in it).

I find emerging folks generally quite interested in what Quakers have to offer, and generally quite ignorant of Quakerism. There are some strong parallels as well as points of difference.

I'm also interested in creative understandings of how we can follow Jesus in the context of where we are today. -Bill Samuel

7/01/2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous wess said...

Bill,
thanks for the clarification, what you said was assumed in what I said but wasn't stated clearly enough.

7/02/2007 7:00 AM  

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