My first emergent experience didn't set me free

Here is a link to some pictures of the Emmaus Road emergent cohort meeting that I went to last night. In the second picture, you can just see my knees behind the guy raising his hand. [Ed: this is a new blog that was set up for this group]

There were about 25 people, more than they usually have, from a lot of different places. Mostly youngish, 20- and 30-somethings. Some are deeply involved in a church, some are looking for a new religious community, some are paid staff in churches, some are students. The hosts were the Scandrettes, a couple who are in their second or third wave of starting a new religious community.

So everyone was very nice and interesting people, and the food was good, and the room was crowded in a friendly way. But I didn't quite connect. I don't know quite what I expected. But I left mildly disappointed.

In the smaller group discussion that I was in, the topic was "What are your secret dreams for church? What are the ideas you have had that seemed too far out to talk about, but you hold onto?" The idea was to move past talking about all the things that are wrong with churches and into describing what we want. I have a lot of dreams like this, but I picked the wrong one to talk about, for this audience, and I talked badly about it. Babbled is more like it. And they had no idea what I was talking about when I said First Day School - Note to self: jargon is not helpful.

On another note about language, I realized that I am still mildly uncomfortable with too much Jesus talk. At least the kind that sounds glib and taken for granted. Part of this is my problem, and I hope to get over it, because really people were just being honest and not trying to impose on anyone else. But I still felt my hackles go up.

I realized that for me, not drinking alcohol feels like a countercultural and God-led activity and for some folks who grew up in fundamentalist families, drinking wine IS a countercultural activity, a demonstration of their freedom and independence, not to mention a Jesus sanctioned activity. It's still not right for me.

The two questions for discussion that I proposed that didn't get taken up:
1) how do we balance needing to settle, to set up community, set down roots and to be accountable versus being free to look for something new, to move to where we might be happier, to follow the leadings of the Spirit wherever they may blow.

2) Where do words come from? How do people write prayers like the one that was read before dinner that was written by one of the ReImagine folks? How do we recognize the words that are given us from the Spirit?

What I really left with was the feeling that I want to have these conversations with other Quakers. I don't want to have to explain all the time what a Quaker meeting for worship is. I want to talk about new forms, "new wineskins" as they would put it, for Quaker meetings, not generic church. I felt an unhealthy kind of pride at being a Quaker. Some people had never heard of Quakers, one guy went to Haverford, one had been part of an evangelical Friends church in San Diego before, others were in the Quakers are cool camp. One person asked me if there were other unprogrammed Christian Quakers like me. He asked when our meeting for worship is.

And I felt old. Settled. Not seeking. I realized more clearly than ever that I am not looking for a new religious organization to join. I don't want to start something new, I want to reform the organization I already belong to because I believe that there is something precious and powerful about the organization I already belong to.

Here is a link to one of the posts on the ReImagine blog, Thoughts on a Regional Community and a quote:
"One thing we learned with ReIMAGINE in the early days when 6 of us were giving our time to creating kingdom-based neighborhood communities is that there are always people who want to look but aren't ready to commit to a way of life. If we paid too much attention to those people, they end up clogging the process and bringing a lot of needs."

So I don't want to clog things up. I mean, I know this isn't their main attitude towards new people, and one of the leaders was specifically welcoming of people who are not negative about their church. But I realize that I also don't want to waste a lot of time with people who don't want to commit to the same way of life as me.

On the other hand, one of the things Lisa Scandrette and I talked about briefly as I was leaving was that maybe this gathering shows that there is a demand, a pent-up demand for the chance to talk to other people who share some of the same concerns, dreams, to find others who want to live an authentic kingdom life here and now.

I just know that I had more 'fun' at Berkeley Friends Church. I was more jazzed by that encounter. More on that later.

Finally, something that I really liked was that at the beginning of the discussion time after dinner, one of the ReImagine guys read aloud a chapter from the Bible, which they said is part of their community practice. He said that he and his wife actually take turns reading to each other from the Bible. Chris and I tried it last night before we went to sleep. I hope that this will become a part of our practice as well. Marital bonding and spiritual formation in one short activity requiring no babysitters or new equipment. What more could I want?

Labels: ,

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]


Blogger Gregg Koskela said...

I love it when you post....

It's like you went through the whole angst-laden journey of the emergent church in one night, while most of the American emergent movement is still stuck in phase one or two. Yes, we need to dream and critique and want something different.

But you are so right. SO right. We need a sense of settledness, of true community, community that will stick it out in our differences and not just go and start yet another new thing.

Your post also makes me more grateful for your first words on my blog, months ago, when you said that you felt a connection with the way I outlined my dreams. I really do think God is doing something among Friends (well, and other groups too, but I'm talking about us). God is creating a longing in us for true community, for a real connection with Jesus, not glib Jesus talk, for the give and take and struggle of community that "covenants" with each other.

Thank you again.

1/18/2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

You'll have to scroll down in the link page to find the pictures from 1/16/06.

Thanks guys! I realize I already have a community beyond my monthly meeting in which to discuss the shortcomings of my local faith community - and yet I feel like this is a constructive conversation - one that in fact builds the wider Religious Society of Friends. And that has made all the difference.

Joe - I hope you will come to Pacific Yearly Meeting this year!!!!

Hey, why not you too, Gregg? Save the first week in August for expanding YOUR Quaker horizons. Or really branch out and come up to Tacoma for Friends General Conference the week of the Fourth of July! Yeah!

1/19/2006 12:32 AM  
Blogger Gregg Koskela said...

That sounds intriguing, Robin!

I'll think about it. It would really torque some people off in our meeting...might be fun! :)

1/19/2006 7:38 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Gregg, why? Why would that be such a big deal? Which would cause more of a stink? PYM or FGC?

Would it help if we said there would be a Convergent Quaker blogger meeting in Tacoma that just happened to meet at Pacific Lutheran University in the first week of July? Perhaps this option would lack a certain level of integrity.

Here's the link to the Gathering website - I've never been before either, but I'm sure there will be some workshops that would fit the theological criteria you (or others) think would be appropriate for an evangelical Friends pastor. At any rate, registration won't start until some time in March, I think.

Side note to AJ, if you read this, a dear Friend of mine is co-clerking the children's program at FGC, and it's bound to be wonderful... Think about it.

1/20/2006 3:09 PM  
Blogger Aj Schwanz said...

Thanks for the note! I just got back from a vacation, and oh the pile of blogs I have to read! I'll pester Gregg . . . or he'll pester me . . . we'll work out something. :)

Really resonated with your post. But I also wonder: if I read a whole bunch about Quakerism, and then went to a meeting, would it meet my expectations? Would they be in the same area of my journey, or would we be on different stretches? I think God draws us to a specific community - doesn't mean that other communities are "wrong" or "right" - just not for us at this time. I'm going with Gregg to a national emerging theological conference - now *that* should be interesting: hope I don't get too mouthy (I tend to belittle the "theologian speak"-types). :)

1/23/2006 4:34 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Aj, I think you get my point about not quite connecting. It's not that they did something wrong, it just wasn't what I need right now. I think the meeting I went to was very important for some of the people and I want to say clearly that I am glad I went - I wanted to meet some emergent type people live and in person and I did. And I liked them as people. It helped me clarify what community God is pointing me towards. Perhaps I will be able to find other ways to relate to them, as a peer, a member (dare I say a leader? yes, I dare) of another local religious community, not as someone seeking to join theirs.

And by the way, Chris and I have enjoyed taking the time to read a chapter of the Bible aloud to each other in the evening. I think that might stick as a practice. Thank you very much to Nate of ReImagine for modeling it for us.

1/24/2006 11:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home