Great meeting Monday night! I'm looking forward to meeting again next month, hopefully with a few more "emergers" and a bit more diversity.
Meanwhile, having read a bit further into "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope," and following up on our agreement to keep this blog fresh, I wanted to cite a few passages that -- upon rereading tonight -- strike me as particularly relevant in light of our conversation. For brevity, I'll just focus on one recurring theme in the book: the deep desire among people of faith for a safe place where they can discuss their dreams and hopes -- as well as fears and nightmares -- about church as it's practiced in mainstream denominations in 21st century America.
From Thomas Malcom Olson's chapter, "Jailhouse Faith:"
Every person needs one safe place where he or she is able to stop pretending, a place of ruthless honesty and unconditional love where no one is allowed to fly underneath the radar.
Later, in Tim Conder's "The Existing Church/Emerging Church Matrix:"
...so much of our theological dialogue is in the potentially punitive, high-consequence categories of inclusion and exclusion. ... Encouraging theological dialogue in safe places would reveal the magnitude of theological and lifestyle diversity in our fellowships. Questions, doubts and concerns would be transformed from painful secrets to catalysts for community spiritual formation.
And later still, in Adam Walker Cleaveland's chapter "Presbymergent:"
We strive to seek alternative visions and third ways beyond the polarities that have so dramatically seeped into our culture and our faith. This involves a true openness to the Spirit and a desire to avoid squelching anything that might be from and of the spirit. This openness leads to safe places where friendship thrives, where people can come and be involved in the process of deconstructing ideas and practices, all the while remaining open to the movement and new wave of the Spirit that can bring about renewal and reformation with the church today.
Funny, isn't it, that the one place Christians would think of as safe -- as sanctuary -- would be the church. And yet, so many drawn to the Emergent conversation say the church is the last place where they'd feel comfortable expressing a new, vibrant, bare-knuckled vision for living out their walk with Christ. Samir Selmanovic, in his chapter "The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness," sums up the challenge before us -- and the church universal -- best, I think:
Christianity cannot regain credibilty or recaptivate human imagination until it learns to exist for the sake of something greater than itself.
I'm eager to see how our group will reignite our personal and collective faith and how we might, in turn, find ways to commit our lives more fully to Jesus.