Saturday, June 30, 2007

EmMersion Pictures

Click on the above title which links to my pictures from my EmMersion experience and check out my some of my pictures on my flickr account. Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

emerging, incarnational, trinitarian, sacramental, ancient-future worship

I’ve been thinking about worship a lot lately. A week ago Thursday I worshiped alongside of this community, Church of the Beloved in Edmonds, WA a church plant from COTA. Emerging worship can be an interesting beast to navigate for those just learning it's own particular ethos. With the sophisticated images configured, projected and displayed, at least sophisticated for those not familiar with "how to do it", and the amazingly gifted song leaders with voices that could sell, and well, to a relaxed atmosphere of couches and coffee. This veneer can appear to be "the holy grail" we've all been searching for, but in reality and beneath it all, is a profoundly thoughtful, incarnational, sacramental and trinitarian expression of integrated cultures, sacred and secular if you will, that is all reflected through this particular worshiping community. One could easily go away thinking and believing that anything less than cool graphics, hip art, with fantastic lead vocals, in a relaxed environment is the essence of emerging worship. I can understand that, but there's really so much more going on.

So again, I've been thinking a lot about worship lately. This primary function of being church is deeply personal for each of us and with those personal convictions come strong opinions around what is most important and necessary for a TRUE worship experience. In a book entitled “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America” there was an interesting reflection that I thought I’d pass along as we wonder together and live into the centrality and commitment we have as church to our worship life.

A woman "who, after attending worship and disliking the sermon, asked her visiting friend, “Now tell me, what did you get out of that worship service?” The woman was taken aback when the friend replied, “That’s not a question I ask myself. I ask myself, ‘Did this community of God’s people worship God today?” It never occurs to many people to define worship in terms other than meeting individual needs, or to put God rather than personal satisfaction at the center of worship. This situation is the result not just of people’s individual perversity, but of the pervasiveness of the power of individualism that tries to determine not only the answers but also the way one shapes the question.” (MC, p. 112)

What missional activity are we up to during worship? What missional work is God doing as we, being church, gather from Sunday to Sunday? These are the heart of the questions that worship in emerging communities are exploring and experimenting around. How we answer, live and embody this and questions like it, speak volumes about where we are at in our, collective and individual, journey with God and what God is trying to communicate through us. How we answer this question has profound and far reaching implications for our very practice of worship.

Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord...with your heart as well as with your head, and your feet as well as with your mind. Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 25, 2007

I've Quit Going to Church!

Alright, at first this may seem a bit rash, but yeah, there's good reasons for this. Many of these good reasons are just tied into some of my own issues, of which I have many, even some of which I'm even aware of. This issue of which I speak is one of my greatest pet peaves. And so, I'm coming out to the world to say I'm no longer going to be going to church. This way of speaking about church conjurs up in me notions of location, destination, accomplishment and perhaps one less thing "to do" on my long, ongoing lists.

The concept "going to church" is even something I'm trying to engage with my children around, beautiful and formative little souls that they are, even as they are only six and four. "We don't go to church Derek, WE ARE THE CHURCH! Damn it! Come on, can't you get this stuff?" Perhaps a bit harsh, maybe a more gentle approach would be helpful. But seriously this goes on deep down inside of me, this little voice cries out, WE DON'T GO TO CHURCH! One of the functions of being church is to worship and so we worship with the gathering of God's called and sent ones. But even then, do we really "go" to worship or do we rather attend worship with deeper implications for whose "attending" to whom?

And so on some other level too I'm wondering what and how our language forms the ways in which we understand who we are as Christ's Church. What difference would it make if we began referring to ourselves and our function as church differently? Would it mean anything? Would we be dismissed, or perhaps, heard differently by those with whom we speak? How much of what we say, in our language, is even for others, or does it also and even more have something significant to say about our own formation? I'm inclined toward the later on this one while still allowing others to engage in and around us as we are faithful to who we are, as Church.

I mean come on, do we really want to say we 'go to church' when at the same time in and similar ways we 'go for a run', 'go to the grocery store', 'go to a baseball game' or even 'go to the bathroom'? Is this form of "going" implicitly getting in the way or constipating anything God's Spirit is wanting to birth within and through us?

Who knows really, maybe it doesn't make a difference how we speak about these things. Maybe I won't bother after a while trying to swim upstream against the linguistic currents. Maybe I won't be able to shape even my own children in an ecclesiastical language that is more constistent with identity than organization or function. All I do know is that going to church for me feels like I'm reducing and limiting the scope of who we are as church and what God is doing in and through us/me, for the sake of the world. So for now, I've quit going to church...although I'm seriously thinking of staying faithful to my calling that came through church to the way of being church with a community that is the body of Christ with particular habits God's Spirit uses to create and sustain faith that reconciles and propels forward and beyond itself into a world in need of hope and light.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Commodified Christ

Never knew Jesus cost so much! Hanging out with Karen yesterday and doing an errand to a local Roman Catholic supply store to buy some wine for worship I couldn't help myself but to snap this photo. You've got to be kidding me! The image, at least for me, is pretty telling regarding how we as church are miscommunicating the nature of who we are as well as the ways we've adopted American values of marketing and selling Jesus to the world. If this doesn't create cynicism for being church and living in Jesus I don't what does.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Moot Community and the More than Right Rev. Ian Mobsby

No doubt one of the true gifts of my time here in Seattle was getting to know and learn from Ian Mobsby, an Anglican priest of the Church of England. Around three years ago he began an emerging community called Moot in Westminster, London UK. If you want to know what 'moot' means look it up, that's the point of the name. On Monday morning, EARLY, we (aaron kennedy, ian mobsby, karen ward and I) headed down to Portland, OR for our first and most important stop of the day at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, as you can tell it helped us to wake up! We traveled down for the second to the last of 18 lecture presentations Ian did throughout US cities regarding his recent Masters in Theology (more like our American D. Min. programs however) about the emerging church. The title of the book is Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church (link to it down below at "Emergent Books" and get one, you'll have to order it from their community as it was self published through Moot).

His presentation at Trinity Cathedral in Portland was an explication around Rublev's icon as the locus to emerging mission and ministry. The communal trinitarian expression gets at the heart of the emerging church conversation and movement in and through culture. There are numerous and great articles on Moot's website as well where you can go to explore more about what this thingy is all about. You can access them by clicking on moot:greyspace.

I greatly appreciated our time together, new friendships and the opportunity to learn alongside the ways in which church is unfolding in fresh ways in the Church of England. Thanks Ian and Aaron! Had a great time with you guys!

I discovered my blog's namesake yesterday on one of my excursions around the city of Seattle, it caught my interest and opened up my imagination for the ways my life in service to God is an unfolding adventure. The shop with which I'm engaging is the world, the location and stage of God's mission and movings. What a blessing and gift to wander around it and be attentive to the ways in which God's Spirit is making God known and trying to just get on board.

zen church

This morning on my run around Greenlake I was intrigued by an asian gentlmen in deep meditation, legs crossed and hands pressed, right alongside and in the midst of pedestrian traffic. It was touching to witness, but even more so when I came around the 2 mile lake and saw him a second time, STILL there and very content and peaceful. I thought to myself for an instant, I'd like to go over when he's done and ask him to teach me what he was doing. But then I thought again, that question says more about my Western linear thinking and probing than his Eastern methods of practice. In reality his response would be to invite me into his way of meditating, inviting me to watch him and imitate him. And in so doing I would learn for myself along the way through experience and reflection as I was beginning to put into practice what I was observing. He would have put it back into my court to learn for myself, to hear, see, taste and feel for myself.

This is the life of a monastic. This is the life of a way that cannot in any way be reduced to formulas, 5 minute descriptions and/or a powerpoint program that, when completed, one completely understands. The only REAL thing one can understand from these approaches is an epistemoloigcal framework without the innards and true substance that comes with embodying spirit through community and the practices that shape and knit together such communities.

As one whose own spirit is inclined toward the contemplative this kind of intentional community, around a vow of life, is both attractive and intriguing. Zen church, or a monastic expression of church is no more than an Eastern expression of communal life that revolves around a particular ethos/habit of faith that allow God's Spirit to penetrate in and through, to bring transformation and awareness of God's life lived for me and beyond me.

thinking outside the what?

What a great work of genius. Certainly God's people are more creatively innovative than a bunch of fleas, wouldn't you think?

My time here in seattle with the communities of COTA, Freemont, and COTB, Edmonds, has been a time to rise above and beyond the lid recognizing that not merely is it we ourselves who are stretching the boundaries of thought and action, but rather are participating alongside of a God who is already at work in such ways, in ways we have been constraining, controling and commodifying.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

cota worship and other thoughts

Worship is at 5 p.m. every Saturday evening. COTA is gifted with wonderful musicians who understand the liturgy and incorpate the ancient elements of it in fresh, creative and innovative ways. There were around 70 people in attendance many of whom were in their 20's. Although getting to know them last night I have learned that most of them are disenfranchized Christians in the sense that they no longer were able to find a home within the conservative/fundamentalist churches from which they were raised. Last night hanging out at a pub one of them mentioned that there really aren't too many unchurched who are participating. However, following the worship I meet a young 20 something guy who did not grow up in any faith tradition and was open to exploring. He was invited by a friend who is a member at COTA.

It seems to me that there are couple things going on here that are very helpful and beneficial for the church and yet there are also shared challenges very similar to what I see all churches struggling with too. Some helpful things include providing a space where those on the margins of faith and Christianity can stay connected through the openess to question and wonder and at the same time to grow in deep and meaningful ways through rich and ancient practices of faith. It is clear from many with whom I spoke that the ancient practice of liturgy holds an engaging sense of meaningful encounter with God, especially the eucharist.

So simultaneously to providing space for those who are interested in these alternative and yet faithful ways of being church and followers of Jesus there is also the role of shaping a new attitude within the broader culture of what it means to be Christian. That is, the mission of the church is functioning as redefining in positive ways who the church can be for and with the community as an extension and expression of God to the world. The role of course is very important and is a lifelong and continual process that they as many churches will be faced with.

Finally, the challenge is this, where are all those who are unchurched and why are they not coming to participate? My personal answer to this question has to do with the fact that conversion is a process that happens over the course of years and decades. The reality I think is that COTA is still, even after only 4 years, establishing themselves by earning the right to be heard by those who have dismissed the church and in no way view it as a viable option for growing in knowledge of God or engaging in a committed community intentionally around Jesus Christ. These are the challenges that all of us are faced with as we commit ourselves to living the way of Jesus even as we ourselves are caught up in the promises and warnings of God too.

here we go...

Yesterday was the biggest day of the year in the neighborhood of Freemont, WA as they celebrated solstice with a parade, a sustainability fair and the Freemont fair market. All of which I was immersed into this first day of the experience. I was recruited to help out as evey apostle and monastic does around here, they are all workers contributing to the general welfare and promotion of the church community. We got up early to help set up a tea tent, one among many tents, at the sustainability fair that was sponsored by the Freemont Art Council. Karen, a member of this art council (another leadership strength in being connected to and involved in community power players in town) volunteered to host the tea tent having managed a tea bar for a year and for their first store front property here at church of the apostles, more fondly referred to around here as COTA. Even more importantly she was able to do so under the COTA name, great presence and publicity!

COTA is lcated in Freemont, a 20,000 person neighborhood right outside of the Seattle area, and is considered the least churched population in the nation. There are only two churches in this neighborhood Freemont Baptist and COTA. I'm told by some cota members that the baptist church is a dying church that is not adapting in any way to the surrounding neighborhood. Cota houses itself in a property that was formerly a Lutheran Church. They are currently in the process of purchasing this property that they inhabit and are using it for the Freemont Abbey, a neighborhood art center and separate non-profit entity started by Karen. The arts here include audio, visual, literary and culinary. The Freemont Abbey has an executive director who oversees all the events that happen within the center including booking groups and artists, as well as the marketing communications that go along with it. Church of the Apostles then can say that they only meet at the Abbey even as they become a cultural attraction of engaging community around the arts.

So why exactly would I come all this way to learn about the emerging church and get up early in the morning to help set up a tea tent, and hang out the neighborhood's biggest cultural gathering of the year?

This really all leads into an important conversation and consideration about what an emerging church exactly is. Karen shared, during our tea set up what she called the three pillars of the emerging church that include a churches engagement around culture, theology and leadership. This first pillar is quite important especially in those communities that are suspicious, and for good reason, of Christians. There is a great need to recontextualize who we are over against horrible stereotypes that tend to create negative images for who we really want to be as God's people. The following picutre taking at the entrance of the Freemont Market explains what many people believe about who we are.

So in light of this, how ought we to missionally convey an alternative way of being church that is embedded in a deeply theological understanding? First is the idea of how we engage and immerse ourselves as God's people within culture not by demonizing it but allowing ourselves to be in it without judgment, and in many ways in fact, celebrate along with it. Because God has redeemed all of culture and is continuing to redeem it, including ourselves, drawing it to Godself through Jesus Christ for the sake of reconciliation in God AND for the sake of our neighbors in need, we need to be radically open to the ways in which we engage with it. We can affirm the goodness of and shared experience in culture and the common humanity that is shared within it. God is working in and through others creatively to establish the joy of community engagement that brings with it new life. It is alongside of this incarnational recognition that we stand and participate in culture without judgment. This is an important conversation we need to be having within church that, in many ways, the emerging communities are taking the lead on.

Friday, June 15, 2007

transitions, training and tastings

Well, here we a new space soon to become place, at least for me. This new space not defined merely or simply geographically but spiritually, emotionally, pastorally and even familially. Kacey, my wife, was ordained Sunday June 3rd after 8 long years of preparation for a call that had been deep seeded in her for years! Thank God! She has been ordained to serve Lutheran Campus Ministry full time as pastor. For me, I transition into some new roles, one of the biggest, as primary parent. This last week was pure gift to be with our children Derek and Grace! Here's my dear Grace poolside, what a beauty, huh?! I know, I've heard it before, she looks a lot like her mother, that's where all the beauty comes from! Amazingly enough I was also able, as newly installed domestic manager, to clean the house, to the surprise of some I'm sure, I am able to do these things.

The other transition, professionally, is being demoted, in some way, to learn what it means to pastor on the streets, in and through culture, living, being, breathing and tasting life and church in fresh ways. And so I find myself in Seattle with Karen Ward at COTA for twelve days. After a great lunch with my dear friend and colleague Laurie I headed off to the Abbey to set up my space. The openness and willingness to engage in the Spirit's work in and through others at the Freeont abbey is something I anticipate as a cross culture experience...many things will be new and many will not. On the way we realize, I suppose, differences but even more and profoundly so, similarities.

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as this journey begins. We're never really alone, that's the promise. If we can actually believe that life can be lived so much more fully and non-anxiously. Peace friends.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

more than information but "in-forming"

On Friday June 1 from 9:30 to 2:30 I shared in conversation through the invitation of the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona Kirk Smith. I joined 11 other priests in a conversation in and around the emerging church. I thought the discussion went well as we all wondered together what this is about, what God is up to here and what God might be calling us to do. I've got to say, the more and more I'm involved in trying to describe what this thingy is all about the best I can do is to speak about it as a relationship that needs to be engaged in rather than merely and/or only understood. The heart of the emerging conversation is what happens and is happening to those gathered in and through the engagement. Unfortunately we have cornered ourselves to some degree within the life of Western church with an epistomological emphasis that wants to comprehend and compartmentalize everything completely. The 'understanding' for emergents happens by engaging the things of the Holy, ('imago dei=relationships') through conversation, prayer, listening to God and each other, reading and reflection around Scripture and frankly, just living out the way of Jesus...TOGETHER.

I think the challenge comes when we are so results, rather than process, oriented. Living the way of Jesus among different contexts and cultures needs to be given the freedom to organically and incarnationally emerge. The epistomological persuasion of the Western church in some ways has already predetermined what that will look like. This is, for me, why my first principle of the emerging church "holding-being held" is so important. This paradigm shift actually lived out helps us to hold Truth, God, Scripture, etc., much more gently, carefully and even playfully while yielding to the more theologically profound faith of being held by God who is shaping and molding us as his people, in his image, in and through us for the sake of the world.

The bishop asked us at the end of our time together 'what emerged for you today?' It was clear to me that this engagement was an invitation to new relationship with new voices creating space and becoming place where God's people could learn and be hospitable to one another. I am encouraged and hopeful by what God's Spirit is doing down here in the Southwest. There appears to be an openness to trying "new things" even as this emergent thingy isn't as new as we would like to think. Where do go from here? What happens next? Well I hope conversation continues because its not simply the new information generated from new voices around the table that merely makes us SMARTER, its rather the power in relationship this is being 'formed-in' each of us through our listening and sharing. And it is there that the Trinity is made known and comes alive, by how God is forming me through community engagement.