Still emerging after all these years…

June 6th, 2009 by James Mills

Seems like there is a lot of angst these days in the blogosphere and rss-universe I inhabit about the the perceived current status of Emergent Village, and various related types of organizations and communities. While some are just learning about these groups others are “leaving” them in various states of disillusion. This latter group seems to think that the Emergent Village conversation has reached the last word, forgetting that there is always a word after that.

Somewhat local (at least we are in the same state) ecclesial dreamer, Makeesha Fisher is part of the group that recently met in Washington D.C. to share dreams for the next steps of Emergent Village and a contributor to the upcoming event, Christianity 21. I have been finding her thoughts spread around in various places I read and find that she is doing a good job of really listening to many of the concerns and fears and refuting that the days of the conversation among friends are coming to an end. She reminds us that often our disillusion and disappointment is misdirected and encourages us to take a look at our own (unrealistic) expectations.

I would be dishonest if I said that I have not experienced my own level of emotional turmoil with Emergent Village. I have weaved in and out of the “conversation” and attempted to contribute in ways that I thought were faithful and within realistic expectations of what I could give. I probably could have given more of my financial, time, and talent resources than I did, but I tried not to just tag along for a free ride. There is no doubt that I received more from the conversation than I gave to it and I suppose I will always feel a little disappointed with myself about that. But this generative friendship is not like American democracy. It’s not like just because you voted you have a right to bitch and moan about things. Emergent Village has always been open enough to let anyone get out of it what they were willing to put in.

I have made some deep and long lasting friendships with some people in this conversation. These people have challenged and shaped me and helped me to become a more faithful carrier of The Name. This conversation sustained me through a very difficult displacement from the church I used to be a part of. And like so many other people have said, this conversation became something more. It became a place. A community. A network. a web of relationships. And while I don’t know many of the 24 people who met in Washington to dream new ecclesial dreams together have a hard time understanding what they hope their efforts will produce I am not concerned about the outcome.

I do fear that without the regular events that I will miss out on opportunities to connect with people from other states that I have come to value and appreciate. I am concerned that loss of focus and structure and communication channels will make it more difficult to connect with people, especially at the local level. There are a lot of displaced ecclesial dreamers out there who feel alone and the Emergent Village infrastructure created (even if poorly at times) venues and opportunities for these people to find each other. As someone who values Open Source initiatives I recognize the importance of that infrastructure (particularly the online and social networking aspects of it) and I do believe that the Emergent Village corner of the conversation never really gained as much ground as it could have in this area. But I am fully aware of how hard it is to get traditional church structures to fully embrace and understand Open Source philosophy and I appreciate how far Emergent Village was willing to go down that road. As much as I would love to see Emergent Village become something of a theological version of the Creative Commons I am under no illusion that today’s theological education and ecclesial structures — no matter how progressive they are — are willing to explore that route.

It seems to me that contemporary American Christianities are still to tied to consumer pragmatism and addicted to a corrupted nature of rule to see the revolution some people were hoping for. We still want people to do the heavy lifting for us and give us a simple, user-friendly end product that makes us look hip. Some want Emergent Village to be like Apple, giving us cool churches, books and celebraties instead of Macbook pros, iPhones, and iPod touches. Then when we realize those things don’t give us the satisfaction we want we either complain or become overzealous advocates waiting impatiently for the next version, hoping somehow that it will fix everything.

Categories: Emergent Cohort

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