Monday, September 22, 2008

Mike Stavlund's vectors

For anyone who was at the cohort gathering last week, you know how interesting and helpful, Mike's "vectors" were in describing the emerging church. Here's is his blog post "Emergent Observations" from I was honored by the invitation from my friend Tim to join the crew at the Baltimore Emergent Cohort last night. He asked me to talk about my experiences with and impressions of this thing called 'Emergent', and so I spent a couple of weeks ruminating and jotting down some of those thoughts. Which I shared last night, and which elicited a lively and interesting discussion. A few folks there asked for my notes, so I thought I'd go ahead and post them here: To me, 'Emergent' (ie, 'Emergent Village') is relational, not organizational. In fact, it is not organized (though folks with a different paradigm can't help but see it through their lens, and so expect it to have a certain structure and hierarchy). So I'm not a spokesperson-- in fact there are no spokespeople (not even Tony Jones!). I'll describe what I've resonated with relationally, and I'll invite everyone else to chime in if they're feeling it, too. Or if they're not feeling it. Or if they want to add something. My understanding of Emergent is based in a wider sense of 'emergence' in our culture (check out the wikipedia entry on 'emergence' for more on this)-- in organizations in general, and in science, journalism, information dispersal, and etc.. Like other examples of emergence, it has flat org. structures, is self-organizing, etc.. My understanding of Emergent (ie, the network of Xians) is that it was a group of 'cultural creatives' who were following their instincts theologically, ecclesiologically, creatively, and relationally. They chose the term 'emergent' from the world of forestry: 'emergent' growth is the stuff that comes up on the forest floor, underneath the larger canopy. The health and future of a forest is indicated by this growth (and, to continue the metaphor, if 'Emergent' ever became the canopy, it would cease to be 'emergent'). They employed emerging means of connecting-- blogs, new media, gatherings, simple relationships, and most of all, utter experimentation. So what is emerging is, in some senses, nothing new-- many other Xians and denominations can rightly say, 'We've been doing that forever!' And yet, at the same time, there is a fresh approach, fresh energy, fresh combination and innovation and method and ethos and intent and departure and dispatch and commitment. The sum is greater than the parts. This way of doing church is also no utopia. Many of us would say that it's the only way for us to go forward, but we also recognize that it has many headaches and encumbrances, too. It might be simple, but it is not easy. So here are some observations I've made, which I offer as starting points for discussion, and stated as vectors (my friend Pete has gotten me thinking about vectors, and about how our metrics are often too static-- what's more important is where we're going). This list is obviously incomplete and perspectival. -- from confidence to humility. Epistemology and proper confidence. My friends are not wishy-washy, but learned, determined, and often opinionated. It's just that they simultaneously realize the limitations of their understanding. [last night, one person used the great phrase, "strong ideas, held weakly".] -- from organizational to relational. Not centralized organizations (churches, et al) but scale-free networks. -- from pre-meditated to intentional. The groups I see developing do not know exactly where they are headed, but they are very intentional, nonetheless. The art of community development. -- from observation to engagement. Common Table's 'Worship Services' and 'Service Worship', and Relational Tithe's relational engagement with 'widows and orphans'. -- from mainstream to marginalized. Learning to listen to the marginalized voices in the world, in culture, in our Scriptures, and in theology. -- from holiness to holism. The problem of dualism, and the embrace of holism. Celtic spirtuality. A new emphasis on Jesus' incarnation, and an earthy and honest spirituality. Renewed interest in the 'minor keys' of Scripture. -- from Truth to true. Scripture as beauty to be experienced, rather than a set of truth claims to be mastered. "Inerrancy" as a theoretical and philosophical position. -- from stage to floor. [I had a lot to say here, but nothing more important or interesting than the Arcade Fire concert I listened to on the ride up, where the band started the show by playing 'Wake Up' acoustically, from the middle of the concert hall as the audience sang along.] -- from taskmasters to caretakers. Concern for the planet, and our environmental legacy. Reclaiming the idea that 'the new earth' is the one we're sitting on right now. -- from consumerism to critique. A reconsideration of consumerism, of church consumerism, and of dualism (in politics, denominations, etc.). I'm utterly confounded when I hear critics say that the emerging church is capitulating to culture, when the emerging Xians I know are the ones serving the poor, giving away their possessions, leaving religious hierarchies, and speaking against the Empire. Undomesticating Jesus, and embracing smallness. -- from belief to action. People who are 'religious, but not spiritual'. Non-creedal, non-doctrinal expressions of Xianity. Sara Miles is my hero. (in an email this morning, Tim added another idea for a vector: "from compartmentalization to integration---thinking about holism and seeing God in all aspects of life, not just with Christians or in the church". )

Immediate Needs to Help Houston and Galveston

an important update to pass along:

Immediate Needs to Help Houston and Galveston

By Chris Seay, re-posted from Facebook:

My Brothers and Sisters,

I am not sure how clearly the national media is telling the story of the devastation in Houston and Galveston, but I can tell you that the rare combination of a massive storm that filled the Gulf of Mexico and the fact that it struck Houston and Galveston ( a combined population of close to 5 million people) has created a disaster of immense proportions. The majority of the city is still without power and clean water and almost everyone has some kind of damage to their residence or business. Houston, which became known as a city of generosity and hospitality after Katrina, is now experiencing what it is like to be on the other end of that kind of generosity.

Ecclesia is thrilled to be able to represent the broader church as a source for light and love to so many hurting in the devastation of this storm. We will continue to need teams skilled in debris removal, demolition, and construction for much of the coming year. If you are willing to send a team, we will work to provide lodging and logistical support for your teams. We are longing to have brothers and sisters that will demonstrate the love of the Liberating King as they help families in a time of dire need. In addition to those that will come and labor alongside of us, there are some immediate financial needs that would help us to serve the region and share the hope of the gospel. There are three areas of immediate needs:

1) Relief Support — any donations to relief support will go to purchase chainsaws, tools, food, van rentals, water, generators, temporary employment for relief coordinators, and necessary items to support relief teams. We are estimating the immediate need for relief support to be more than 25,000 dollars. If you are able to purchase any of these items in your area and have them delivered to Houston, this would be preferred over local purchasing. However both can be accommodated.

2) Financial Relief — for those suffering financially because of loss of property and income, we would like to offer a short term assistance package. For countless families and individuals struggling to make it financially before the storm (hourly wage employees, immigrants, and single mothers), the last week has often been devastating. We hope that the federal government will improve in their response time, but the church is able and willing to fill this gap. If you would like to give specifically to this package we will distribute the following on your behalf. In the case of single mothers we intend to double the assistance. $150 Mortgage/Rental Assistance $100 Grocery Card $50 Gas Card $20 Basic Toiletries Gospel of John (VOX) We will attempt to continue or begin a long-term relationship with all assisted families and will offer this assistance to as many as possible.

3) Taft Street Coffee as a House of Hospitality — You may know that Taft Street Coffee (the coffee shop owned and run by Ecclesia) is rated each year as one of the top 3 coffee shops in the entire city. This morning we had our power restored and would like to re-open the shop as a site for those still without power. We estimate that over the next three weeks many would benefit from a centrally located house of hospitality that offers air conditioning, a free lunch, coffee drinks, Wi-Fi, phone service, children’s play space, and spiritual support. If you would like to sponsor the food and operational costs to run Taft Street Coffee as a gift to the community, we estimate that cost to be $850 per day.

If you have any questions you can contact me ( or our Mission Pastor John Starr ( I am grateful for the love and support of the entire church to my beloved City.

Previously: Ecclesia Relief Efforts After Hurricane Ike

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gathering tomorrow night with Mike Stavlund! then 10/21

Come at 8pm at Kiss Cafe (2400 Boston St., Baltimore, 21224) to join in conversation with Mike Stavlund. Mike is a husband and father who lives outside Washington, DC. He is a part of the innovative and experimental church Common Table, and is also a member of Relational Tithe and enjoys the friendship that is Emergent Village. He writes, he builds stuff, he runs, and he keeps a blog called The Awakening. In short we will have an evening full of depth, wit, and insight on life, faith, the church, and the world. I wouldn't miss it. Also, check out the info. on the cohort blog for the Reclaiming Paul conference in October in Kansas City plus Nov. 8th with Pete Rollins in Philly. Our October gathering will be on Tuesday the 21st (again at 8pm at Kiss Cafe), and we will discuss Pete Rollins' book: The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief. The book is described as: "What if one of the core elements of a radical Christianity lay in a demand that we betray it, while the ultimate act of affirming God required the forsaking of God? And what if fidelity to the Judeo-Christian scriptures demanded their renunciation? In short, what if the only way of finding real faith involved betraying that faith with a kiss, like Judas did to Christ?" Hope to see you tomorrow, Tim