The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

To receive cohort emails, join our Google group.



I just finished another chapter from Michael Frost's book, Exiles, and I thought the ideas were especially pertinent to our little cohort as we struggle to understand our identity and mission.

Frost begins by talking about the commendable desire for Christian community, how it has become a buzzword, highly in vogue but often unfulfilled. Based upon various anthropological studies and other research, Frost contends that the problem is when we make community our end goal. He relates it to happiness, saying, "aiming for community is a bit like aiming for happiness. It's not a goal in itself. We find happiness as an incedental by-product of pursuing love, justice, hospitality, and generosity. We you aim for happiness, you are bound to miss it. Likewise with community. It's not our goal. It emerges as a by-product of pursuing something else."

So what is the "something else?" That is obviously a bigger question, but it can be described theoretically with the idea of being in a "liminal state." I had never heard of this idea before, but Frost does a great job in the chapter explaining how humans have liminal experiences all the time. A liminal experience is a sort of "supercommunity" which is stimulated by common goals and intense experiences. Several examples he offers are short-term mission trips, war buddies, human rights activists, well-known movies (like Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan) and even Jesus' band of disciples. The idea is that a group of people are drawn together not simply for the sake of being together, but because of their unshakable pursuit of something greater. The goal is something bigger (i.e. justice, peace) but the byproduct is a powerfully cohesive community that because of each individual's commitment to the larger goal, possesses a strong commitment to the group itself.

Alan Hirsch defines communitas as, "a community infused with a grand sense of purpose; a purpose that lies outside of its current internal reality and constitution. It's the kind of community that 'happens' to people in actual pursuit of a common vision of what could be. It involves movement and it describes the experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of peole actualy engaging in a mission outside itself."

Hopefully my attempt at a brief summary of about 15 pgs. has been clear. The connections that I see with our Emergent Cohort are these:
  • We share a committed pursuit of a greater goal, "Emergent Christianity" (I know, we all agree that is ambiguous, but we are also all certain we are striving toward it)
  • We all agree that our current Christian church experience is not providing the challenging community that we desire. Frost's comments here are so right on: "Attending a respectable middle-class church in a respectable middle-class neighborhood isn't a lminal experience....Why do our churches often miss this experience of communitas? For no other reason than they often avoid liminality, opting for safer, more secure environments."
  • Our group will continue to be a success if we make not a goal in and of itself, but rather the breeding ground for ideas and inspirations to take back to each of our unique lives and callings. Frost quotes an anthropologist named Victor Turner: "People or societies in a liminal phase are a kind of institutional capsule or pocket which contains the germ of future social developments, of societal change."
To explain the last point further, and to conclude, the idea of a liminal experience or a communitas, is that it is parallel with the everyday society, but it turns the commonplace social structure upside down. It is a form of "anti-structure." To try to put it in practical terms in relation to our group, we each live and work in commonplace social environments (schools, jobs, etc.), but when we join together in communitas, we are reminded of our greater goals, we are inspired and challenged and encouraged, and we return to our everyday lives with a renewed sense of calling and purpose.

Frost again: "Those who have emerged from a liminal state are able to bring a challenge to normal society about the meandering ordinariness of life. In African tribal societies, when the newly initiated young men return from their ordeal in the wild, they are flushed with the vitality and excitement that come from surviving the rite. Their returning energy and their critique of normal tribal life is an annual shot in the arm to the tribe, reminding them of their core values and pushing them forward as a society. Ideally, this should be the experience of our churches."

And I think it very well could be (and already is) the experience of our little emergent cohort.



As Nick has already mentioned, our next gathering will take place at the Short North Cup O'Joe on Sunday, Jan. 6 from 7-9:00 p.m. Below are some questions we can discuss. (The numbers following the questions are the pages of "How (Not) To Speak Of God" in which each question is referenced. If anyone would like to borrow my copy of the book, please send me a message at tgom23@hotmail.com.)
  1. Does revelation mean that God is unknown? (17)
  2. Can we comfortably call ourselves atheists? (25)
  3. How do we become better affirmers of doubt? (33)
  4. Should we be ashamed that we have nothing to say to others about God? (42)
  5. Is seeking God equatable to finding God? (50)

H(N)TSOG first addresses emergent thought from a theoretical standpoint; then it offers insight into the practical outworking of an emergent community in Ireland. In the same way, perhaps our discussion could also include the following more practically-concerned questions:

  1. What does it look like to be an emergent cohort in Columbus, Ohio?
  2. By what method(s) will we work toward our goal of becoming incarnational, missional, Christ-honoring, evolving, and welcoming?
  3. What will our Celebration Of The Faithful be known for?
  4. Where should we put our money?
  5. How do we integrate the explorations of our Cohort with those of our individual churches?

Please feel free to add additional questions to either category above. Also, know that anyone is encouraged to attend our discussion irrespective of his/her familiarity with the book or its topics. I look forward to seeing everyone again. Happy New Year!


The Faith: Ancient and Mystical

Over the last few months, one of my favorite authors has been Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk from the 1900's. I loved reading his autobiography (The Seven Storey Mountain), and now as I read some of his contemplative writings, the mystical aspects of the Christian faith are being highlighted for me. I've tried to find a few books about the modern monastic movement, and even read some (which were disappointing), and so I thought I would open this line of discussion with the group.
  • What mystical expressions of the Christian faith have you experienced that have been particularly meaningful to you?
  • How are the ancient and mystical aspects of Christianity powerful in the Emergent movement?
  • Are there any books, movies, church services, etc. that you would recommend to the group?
I also think it would be helpful to try to stay away from "I like..." or "I don't like..." but instead try to focus on what practices are meaningful to us, or are helpful in becoming more like Christ and incarnating his kingdom here on earth, today.

Have a blessed Christmas everyone!

p.s. - These pictures are from "La Sacrada Familia" which is an "in-the-works" cathedral in Barcelona - a marvelous example of the ancient and the modern coming together in a beautifully mystical expression of the Christian faith.


Wrap-up from Saturday's meeting

I thought I would post the notes I took from last Saturday's meeting for everyone. I think because of space I will just make them a comment to this post. There are a few highlights such as the schedule for January. We are done with meetings regarding planning and things will return to normal with two additional meetings per month for those interested. For now, all gatherings will be on Sunday night from 7-9unless that ends up being a big problem. Our next discussion will by on the 6th at the Cup O' Joe on the Cap in the Short North. Greg is working on a topic and it will likely come from Peter Rollins's book, How (Not) to Speak of God. He will be scanning a section for everyone to read and will post it here somewhere.

The week after that we will have a "celebration of the faithful." This name comes from the earliest sources of the mass. For our purposes it will consist of a shared meal, some liturgical elements such as scripture and/or church father readings, possibly worship, and communion. I am planning the first one, which will be on Jan. 13th at 1270 Courtland Ave., but after that anyone can lead one and design it however they wish. I am basing mine off of Justin Martyr's writings of the second century. I'll post more about that in the future. Anyone is welcome to this meal.

The next week we are having another discussion. Someone needs to volunteer to pick a topic and location. Anyone can lead one of these and it can be based on whatever they like. This can be from a book, a work of art, a tv show, really anything. You do not have to be someone who regularly attends cohort gatherings, nor do you have to be a believer. This format is set up to discuss anything and everything. If you are interested in designing the next discussion (Jan. 20th) you can make a comment here and claim it. I'm trying to figure out a good way to have a sign-up sheet so everyone who wants gets to lead, so if you have good ideas how to do that, post that as well.


Another question...or two...

So I'm wondering what this means for those of us who like the idea of the emergent cohort (I promise we really would go more if it fit into our schedules!), but aren't interested in making it our church. Corey and I are very happy with our church and do not feel called away from it, but we also like the idea of getting together with others to talk specifically about the whole emergent thing. I know that two times a month you're still thinking about having the regular discussion, but I'm wondering if that would look or seem different if some in the group are 'in' the 'nick's super fantastic church' (or whatever name you decide on), and some are 'out' of it? Also, if we know that we're not planning on joining the church, what role do we play in the next few meetings that are all about planning and setting this thing up? (ie. we're still not sure about coming today, since it seems to be pretty much just about setting up the church idea)


Let's set up a time to talk

Okay, it seems that at least a couple people are interested in talking about this whole thing, so let's pick a time and I'll email the whole group and maybe a couple other people will come. How about Saturday afternoon? Since this conversation might be kind of a big deal, how about we meet at a residence? Maybe we could meet here (then we would have to clean...) and then we can head down to the Short North for some Jeni's ice cream?

So, I purpose we meet at our place (1270 Courtland Ave.) Saturday at 2:00.


Hey, It's About Us!

Hey Emergent People,

I have spent the last few hours wandering among the links people have posted on blogs that in some way deal with the movement, and I stumbled upon this video of a 10 min. segment about the Emergent movement on PBS. Since I generally try not to know about things and have done a pretty good job of this when it comes to my faith, I learned a lot from it. Someone else might as well, so here it is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzZ14Sk9u9Y. There are the usual demonizers and staunch proponents (Brian!) but besides all of that the segment really made me think. For some reason it reminded me to love all of those Christians out there that for whatever reason totally disagree with me (now that I think about it, that was probably actually God).


Show of Hands

First of all, let us apologize for the length of this post. The amount of things to say perhaps pushes us over blogging etiquette, but so be it.

The purpose of this post is to determine if there is interest in forming a more committed and serious Columbus cohort that could potentially, for those that so desired, serve the function of a church. Just to keep things in order, we’re going to post why we think this might be needed and how it might look.

Why do this? – There are a few reasons that we see, resting primarily on a lack of this type of institution in the Columbus area. We feel that there is a portion of the population that the Emergent movement could speak to particularly well and demonstrate the love of Jesus. There are many, many churches in the area that serve other slices of this city’s population, contain a congregation that is experiencing spiritual growth, and are reaching out to some sort of local “mission field.” However, we have not yet found a place that seems both spiritually alive and doesn’t consider emergent ideas heretical. We have not found anything like this in the area, although admittedly we have not looked everywhere. Also, many of our own lost or disenfranchised friends would have great difficulty searching for God in the church options this area currently provides. It seems, though, that many of these people might feel open and curious in an emerging-church environment. We can get more specific if people would like, but we suspect that other people have experienced similar things as well. That being said I (Nick speaking) regularly receive emails from people asking, “where are the emergent churches in Columbus?” I have to respond that there aren’t really any, but here are some churches that we know of that emergent-ers seem to find tolerable, and then end by welcoming them to attend one of our discussion groups. I believe that there is a strong demand for a church that is built on emergent ideas in the community and although we would begin very small, we could soon grow in number.

All that being said we do not necessarily believe a “house church” is the final word on the solution to this problem. Jane and I desire to see this potential house church grow someday into a church with its own building and a great enough number of people attending it to really allow the church to impact the community around it. We, meaning this cohort, have had some great conversation about this lately. Basically, if there was already an emergent church in Columbus, whatever that might look like, then this particular movement would likely not be needed This group would function as a house church at first, and likely for a long period of time, but primarily due to numbers and the lack of a facility. However, if at any time we are large enough in number to justify a move we believe that should only occur through lengthy debate, appeals to the Spirit, and near consensus with the group.

What would it look like? – It would take the shape that the members conceived, though we believe there are a few basic guidelines that could lead the group. We are presenting these here as brainstorming topics, something that must be discussed by the group as a whole. A few of our ideas are, in no particular order:

A fluid and minimal hierarchy – as purely Spirit-lead as possible
An open-mindedness to postmodern ideas
Some sort of occasional liturgy or worship element
Actively appealing to the Columbus community, both in terms of spreading
the word about what we’re doing as well as serving it
A group that still places primacy on the work and teachings of Jesus

As far as function goes we have some basic ideas that also need to be discussed at length. Basically we can foresee three different types of meetings that would occur within a month. They are:
Twice a month a discussion group much like what we have now (which we originally desired to hold twice a month). This could be about any topic that is beneficial for discussion. We imagine that these discussions will usually be based on some sort of text (book, topic, movie, article, poem, painting, dream, mental image, etc.). Moreover, these meetings could be led by anyone and this position should regularly rotate so that a firm hierarchy is avoided. This includes even interested non-believers, as this would be a wonderful time for them to raise questions.
Once a month a “celebration of the faithful.” This connects to the ancient version of the Mass which had two elements, this being one of them. For our purposes it would consist of a shared meal followed by a liturgical celebration that could include scripture or readings from the Church Fathers, worship, private and corporate prayer, and communion. This event would be open to anyone, though the person/people leading this should probably be confessing followers of Christ.
Once a month a fun activity that would both unite the group and be a great opportunity to invite interested people. This could be something like a game night, bowling, wine tasting, anything that would bring people together to share a activity and fellowship.

Okay, these are our thoughts. What we are mainly interested in right now is to see who else is interested. If a few people are we will set up a time to discuss all these issues in more detail. Obviously someone would not need to attend all four meetings a month to be a member, though there should probably be some people committed to coming every week for the group to survive and thrive. In other words, we still want people to feel free to come to just the discussions or just the liturgical celebrations. So please post if you would be interested in taking this leap. We will only go forward on starting an emergent house church if other people make it apparent that they would participate in it.

Nick and Jane


House Church

During our drive back from hearing Rob Bell speak in Cleveland last night, my brother posed the question to Greg and I: "If we really believe that organized church isn't necessary and there is a 'better' way of doing church, why do we all still go to churches we aren't fully satisfied with?" It was a good question for sure, and one that I've been pondering over for most of the day.

I've been trying to find some resources or conversations online, and haven't come across too much. But one name that came up a few times was Wolgang Simpson, and his 15 Theses. They are posted here and could provide some interesting conversation for our next meeting on December 8th.

Feel free to comment on the 15 Theses either here, or come prepared to the meeting on the 8th to talk about the idea of House Churches.