Sunday, June 17, 2007

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.

4 comments:

isipwater said...

I get what you are saying about culture and can understand the importance of informed theology. But, this other pillar of leadership, why is that important to Karen?

dave said...

good question. i'm going to try explain better the three pillars of which she speaks. the jist is the leveling of leadership that is much less hierarchical in nature and much more shared and involved.

isipwater said...

O.K. good, b/c I was getting a bad taste in my mouth when I learned that one of the pillars was leadership. The first thing I thought was about power hoarding/abuse which seems to happen often in church. The leveling of leadership seems more of a communal process rather than a "few" experts having their say.

dave said...

exactly, each of us has just as much to learn and teach as the other, each of us are round God's table, equi-distant from it. a leader who can facilitate being church rather than through dictate, that's one of the important elements of this emerging ecclesiology.