I've been back now from clergy conference two days. I'm finally unpacked, the laundry is at least sorted, if undone, the suitcase is stashed, and I am starting to feel settled in at home again. Phyllis Tickle was truly amazing! She did brilliantly for emergence what I so longed to do for psychology in my ill-fated History and Systems class and contextualized this "church thing" as a part of something not only bigger in this time in our development but as a part of a larger arc that sweeps and repeats through all of human history. She told us these cycles repeat about every 500 years....the last one being the Reformation. And, according to PT, here we are in a new one! Or as she refers to it, the church's garage sale.
She herself is very impressive. I who cannot do a twelve minute sermon without a manuscript, sat in awe as this woman, whom I don't think would mind my noting is more than a couple years my senior, went for six hours with no notes rapidly firing names and dates and history, events and people and places, linking and connecting....this leading to that...that bringing us here. And it was more than head stuff. For me at least, it made me think about how emergence either is already occurring or could happen in the places my ministry touches. M and I found ourselves asking one of the big city deacons how he does his Theology and a Pint programs. We have tossed this around before half in jest. We are after all across the street from one of the locals. It's a landmark for finding us...."Oh, St. J's? Right there on Main. By the big Catholic church...No? Can't place that? How about right across from the Nickel Bar?" And they always know! We are thinking this might be just the place for outreach!
It also got me thinking about the "WhY Church" that R and I attend as our second worship on Sundays. It is clearly in the emergent category. And it is on a cusp right now as the founder and designated leader is moving away. He is a charismatic person who has much passion for this ministry. In fact his move comes as he goes away to plant a church in another place. What will become of WhY is on the table. Will the members take ownership and claim this young church as their own and will it continue to emerge...or will it wither and die? One of the things PT said that is key to emergent churches is covenant....that those who come together to form these emergent communities really have the sense that they are covenanting together to "be church" with one another, almost in the monastic sense, even to the point of some self-sacrifice. She also talked about authority in emergents....from where does it come, both in the sort of the "big A" sense as in theology and doctrine, but also in "who decides," or at least that was where my head took it (practical theologian that I am!) These are all things that are clearly front and center for WhY at this point. I see hopeful signs. Some good decisions have been made changing the meeting place to make better use of resources. From what I've heard about the discussion that took place last Sunday, leadership is happening.
In my own place, I'm not sure how this translates yet, either. Perhaps we will go to the pub. I also had thoughts about an "alt service" at the campus at some point, or taking church to the park some lovely summer evening. Phyllis told stories that made me tear up about some things that people did...but they seemed organic to time and place. I think this will have to germinate for a while. But the grace of this was that I feel a stirring in my soul of some new life and energy that has not been present for a while in the "church" part of my life.
The rest of CC went quickly. There is never enough time to talk with everyone I want to connect with, to walk the lovely grounds, to just be. I had lunch with my Bishop on the last day, as one of our canonical requirements is that priests must request his permission to marry. I was able to tell him how wonderful R is and how happy I am. The Bishop was truly delighted for me and for us and we had a lovely chat. Though he can be publicly somewhat formidable, one-on-one, he is a very pastoral man, and I always come away from talks with him feeling cared for and blessed.
So now it is on to the home front. I spent real time in the yard for the first time last night, pulling up dead things, pruning and clipping and tending. It looks better already. This weekend, R and I are putting in the garden, doing the first mowing of the season and some other assorted outdoor chores. I emptied and cleaned and refilled the hot tub last night, too, so hopefully it will be warmed and ready for our garden-weary selves to get a glass of something refreshing and have a soak or two. We are finding the doing of projects together to be a fun and wonderful thing. We seem to have a compatible work style (a good sign!) and have a good time working on things. We have a "big one" in the planning....the building of a deck this summer. That did not happen previously because I learned that XDO and I could not do projects together so well. SO the ability to this is yet another gift I am grateful for.
At this moment however, it is time to get to work. There is still a Friday to complete before the weekend begins. So off to it!