Tuesday, February 13, 2007

a personal testimony: an introduction to the emerging church conversation

My first exposure to the emerging conversation came in 2001 when I had an initial contact with Karen Ward, Church of the Apostles in Seattle. I was going to attend a conference where she was a speaker and later found out that the event was cancelled. Karen told me of another event, of a different sort, which was scheduled in Boston, MA. So in the fall of '01 I went to Soularize, a conference put on by TheOoze.com. This was an amazing event that thrust me into the ethos of emerging life.

It was mentioned at the conference that 'the best dialogue that happens happens in the hallways. We are bringing the hallways into the heart of the conference itself but having absolutely no agenda other than what people want to talk about.' Among other things I also remember Spencer Burke, planter of theooze online community (read the history) at sharing that he heard God calling him to move from being an 'ad-minister' to a 'sub-minister.' Downsizing with such concerns as administration, property and financing became a massive interest for the sake of re-orienting time to relationships and reflection of God, church, and life in society.

There were around 50 or so other people present from varying denoms. The free flow of our time together in Boston was, at first, extremely unsettling to me. I often found myself criticizing the lack of time management and effeciency for getting things done, 'this conference is sooooooo dis-organzied'I would say to myself. I must say however that in the midst of my critical discent I was wooed by the ooze-booze-cruise...a boat tour around the harbor of Boston, MA for one of our evenings.

It wasn't until after the conference that the idea began to settle deep within me that not only was this a powerful conference, it was a powerful expression of being church. It was more concerned about relationships and the way we spent time in conversation with one another around significant issues (Jesus, church, faith, life) that were a very meaningful part of who we were...(what a concept?). Eventually I was turned on by the appearance of a lack of organization for the sake of real re-organization. The question became 'what was being re-organized?' For me it was the entire attitude of what it means to be church. An attitude that is grounded first in the way we spend time with one another, talking, listening, being, living, eating, praying, worshipping, wondering...what would appear to be a normal, non-anxious and non-forced life in and around Jesus Christ. A community gathered together for the mere joy of being with one another...an amazingly incarnational conference without agenda...the agenda, of course, was discovered in the process of being together, but having to ditch the anxiety of actually 'getting something done.'

This is what began to attract me to a new tone of being church, leading church and loving church.

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