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.


Creative Prayer

Check out this cool sampling of prayer station ideas.  Two of my favorites are To Be Broken and Deathbed Conversions.  At the U2Charist a few weeks ago, several prayer stations were set up outside of Skully's in order to focus awareness on issues of consumerism and poverty.  The tangible interaction required by these simple activities made them profoundly powerful.
Also of interest is a video that the originator of the site posted describing a Sojourners Evening at their church.  Observing the way in which the sanctuary was transformed reminded me of McLaren's thoughts regarding certain church denominations more readily able to incorporate "fresh expressions."


Church as Fetish

Check out Peter Rollins's latest blog.  In it, he is critical of "confident, aware, independent people" who continue to attend churches in which they "do not subjectively agree with what is being said, how it is being said, and the structures within which it is being said."  He also throws in a little Hegel and Marx for good measure.  Do you agree with his assessment?  


Landing Place

I was recently reminded of Columbus's Landing Place.  From their revamped website:  "We often gather in each others homes to share meals, have conversations, read Scriptures, tell stories, study the teachings of Jesus, sing songs, pray prayers, recite poetry, and practice liturgies."  Sounds strangely familiar . . .  I am planning to check out their gathering this Thursday at 6:30 (1469 Summit).  If anyone is interested in joining, let me know.


Super-fun! cookout plans

Sorry to bump your far more important posts down a bit Andrew, but we need to coordinate food for this weekend. We'll have the grill running, so feel free to bring grill type things - and you can be creative. If anyone finds a good pineapple I really like grilling pineapple. Also, if some people can bring drinks and chips and what not that would be good. So, please post what you plan on bringing (or buying at the Kroger in front of our house at 3:55). Also, feel free to invite your friends!


Field Conditions

Postmodernism is so 1985.

Or so Architecture Theorists would have you believe. The philosophical underpinnings and theoretical discourse that exists behind much of what is built is mind-bendingly esoteric and elitist at worst. It can, however, be potentially insightful when extracted from the jargon and reapplied for us mere mortals to absorb. I find that like any other system of theory (music, art, information etc.) architectural theorists are reflecting the zeitgeist of the day through a specific lens, but that the system of thinking can be much broader. The other nice thing about buildings is that you can see them and read them as three dimensional expressions of the ideas that float.

My current floating idea is that the emergent conversation is often inaccurately labeled as postmodern. In architectural discourse, where the term actually originated, postmodernism theory is considered a period of thinking a certain way that started and has since stopped (around 1995), though it's reverberations are still felt. The resulting deconstruction had it's place, and it brought us to where we are now: the field condition.

Take this example:

Peter Eisenman was the architect at the Wexner Center of the Arts at the Ohio State University. This is a prime sample of deconstructionist project that we know well, but the ideas were formed much earlier. In fact, Eisenman was architecturally deconstructing modernism while most of us were still in diapers. From his 1984 article, The End of the Classical, he breaks down the misplaced idea that things were better back then (whenever that may be), a line of emergent thought that sometimes surfaces:

An origin of value implies a state or a condition of origin before value has been given to it. A beginning is such a condition prior to a valued origin. In order to reconstruct the timeless, the state of as is, of face value, one must begin: begin by eliminating the time-bound concepts of the classical, which are primarily origin and end. The end of the beginning is also the end of the beginning of value. But it is not possible to go back to the earlier, prehistoric state of grace, the Eden of timelessness before origins and ends were valued. We must begin in the present without necessarily giving a value to presentness. The attempt to reconstruct the timeless today must be a fiction which recognizes the Fictionality of its own task-that is, it should not attempt to simulate a timeless reality.

The argument I forward is that it is not the process or task of the emergent church to deconstruct modernity or the church in any way. Deconstruction is less an active process that is applied and more of an end condition of an old way of thinking. A more accurate word would be decay because it originates from with in. These ways of thinking deconstruct themselves. As emergent thinkers and conversationalists, I believe that we are simply aware of this collapsing narrative and are trying to navigate the resulting environment wisely.

This condition could be considered a field. Turning to another Architectural Theorist, Stan Allen writes in his essay From Object to Field. (An example of this Field condition is Allen's own proposal for Downsview Park)

In the late 1980s, artificial life theorist Craig Reynolds created a computer program to simulate the flocking behaviour of birds. As described by Mitchel Waldrop in Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, Reynolds placed a large number of autonomous, birdlike agents, which he called 'boids', into an on-screen environment. The boids were programmed to follow three simple rules of behaviour: first, to maintain a minimum distance from other objects in the environment (other boids, as well as obstacles); second, to match velocities with other boids in the neighbourhood; third, to move toward the perceived centre of mass of boids in its neighbourhood. As Waldrop notes: What is striking about these rules is that none of them said "Form a flock" ... the rules were entirely local, referring only to what an individual boid could do and see in its own vicinity. If a flock was going to form at all, it would have to do from the bottom up, as an emergent phenomenon. And yet flocks did form, every time."

The flock is clearly a field phenomenon, defined by precise and simple local conditions, and relatively indifferent to overall form and extent. Because the rules are defined locally, obstructions are not catastrophic to the whole. Variations and obstacles in the environment are accommodated by fluid adjustment. A small flock and a large flock display fundamentally the same structure. Over many iterations, patterns emerge. Without repeating exactly, flock behaviour tends toward roughly similar configurations, not as a fixed type, but as the cumulative result of localised behaviour patterns.

So to are we caught in a field phenomenon. We follow simple rules laid out in the Bible: gather, eat, worship, pray. From the outside it might look like some sort of organisation, like a coordinated flock of birds, but that's simply inaccurate. Just like there's nothing saying "Flock!" there's nothing saying "Church!" To an outsider, people living this way become threatening because it looks like a church forming. It's not. From within, there's no such thing as an Emerging Church any more than a bird has any concept of a flock.

(Random side note: I wonder why small groups are called "Flock groups". Flocks cannot be signed up for and then attended every other Thursday. Flocks emerge.)

The elements of modernity occupy this field: the Bible, Worship, Liturgy. But the field is flat and we acknowledge the existence of other systems like Buddhism, Science, Orthodoxy, mysticism and more. This is a dangerous landscape full of truths, half truths and no truths. Of course it would be simpler to imagine that we exist inside a safe sanctuary (pun intended) above this expanse. I for one can't cling to that delusion any longer.

I believe that God ordaining our steps is a promise to release us into this field certain that He is our guide. Postmodernity happened. The deconstruction is over. We are left to navigate the resultant field, but are not left alone. The Spirit is living and active, a comforter and helper. I think our churches can still be part of this new landscape. I don't think the emerging conversation is to coalesce into one single body. We're already part of The Body and that's where our membership rests.

I see Christians constantly moving across the field, not in pursuit of a higher ground to look down on the uninformed or to smash someone's Greek interpretation with my own, but simply walking in peaceful motion with God. The field is only scary if our God is not all powerful, all loving, and all knowing. He created it all and it is all subject to him. No idea, value system, or ideology can threaten our peace if He is who He says He is. I may have moments of doubt and uncertainty, but that is only when I forget about or ignore His sovereignty. I believe He is in all of these things and more and I am not afraid to venture into this new landscape: this field condition.

What emerges is not a new form of thought, a new kind of church, a superior way of thinking, but rather the emergence is our awareness and recognition of God and Christ as author, the architect, our savior. This becomes collectively part of our every breath. Not recognizing this reality doesn't diminish His power, it only diminishes our incorporating its truth into our life. This happens best in community, through the living out of these simple actions: gather, eat, worship, pray. This is emergence, unplanned, unstructured, un-outlined, and mysterious. We humbly acknowledge His incarnate Body now, the promise of His kingdom come, and pray His will be done in us and through us. Amen and amen.

An Open Letter

The Premise: Help improve this letter being written by an elder at my home church to our pastor.

It seems to me that the intellectual battleground of Christian thought today is not in the arena of salvation by works nor even in the arena of the inerrancy of scripture. These are virtually moot points to today's younger generation of Christians. Rather, the rising tide surrounding us all, and capturing the younger church, is mysticism. Since the Reformation the Protestant church has emphasized a scientific and rationalistic approach to understanding truth manifested in lower criticism, higher criticism, language studies, and exegetical rigor. The problem is that this emphasis has displaced an awareness or even acknowledgment of the mystical, the holy, or “numinous” if you like. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches thrive because they hold onto this sense, even along side their works righteousness. The rise of charismatic expressions and ever more emotive based church gatherings in our generation are manifestations of the yearning for awe, emotion, and an awareness of "God’s presence.”

A corollary drive for more communal, less doctrinally rigorous, expressions of the church fuel the emergent church phenomenon. The challenge of Biblical teaching today is not to deny and suppress these aspects of our knowledge and experience of God, but to properly exegete scripture to expound and manifest what is true and real about God including these dimensions. We seem afraid to go there lest we open a Pandora's box of horrors.

The Scriptures often make the emphasis upon God as transcendent, holy, unfathomable, awesome, etc. The point here, using David Brooks recent article The Neural Buddhists as an example, is that our teaching of the Word should not have “militant materialism” or “scientific rigor” as its essential methodology. Rather...

OK - so now we need you to pick up your blog pen and help finish the paragraph. What goes after the "Rather....???"

Alternately, are the original assumptions about the emergent conversation correct, or do they need reformed as well?


Reflection on EMC

A lot of tough questions were thrown out during the conference. You can tell that Brian McLaren has wrestled with a lot of these questions before, and is still wrestling with them. During a morning session, I blurted out: "We don't need more churches, we need more Christians." Brian's response was something like this: "Let's really feel that tension...Let it sit for a minute...Do you feel that?"

We all really wanted him to give us an answer to our questions, but he didn't.

Later, Jane commented that as American Christians we are eager to solve problems as soon as possible. But right now, the most important thing we can do is to recognize the depth of the problem that is before us, to really sit with the tension, to rest in the darkness.

God lives within this tension. He clearly sees the problems of the world, and of course he has the power to "solve" these problems if he chooses to do so. But instead, he allows us to experience uncertainty, questions, challenges and tensions. And it is out of the deep darkness, out of the struggles, that great faith is birthed and new visions for the future are obtained. Visions of faith that are not just cute names for a new churches, or new website designs, but new ways of living and believing.

At the last session, Brian encouraged everyone that perhaps one of the best things to do right now is not to search for a solution, but instead to deepen the dream in our hearts and minds. Through prayers, meditations, songs, poems, artwork and conversations, we can explore the depths of our questions and understand the undercover reasons for our discontent. We can better articulate our disappointments with the currents expressions of Christianity that we see around us. We can formulate a more powerful and invigorating dream for the future. Brian referenced the story of Nelson Mandela living in prison, dreaming of a new South Africa that would be free from apartheid.

I think my favorite section of the book "Everything Must Change" is Part 8: "A Revolution of Hope." On pg. 299, Brian writes this:
"But new kinds of faith communities are emerging, and more will emerge - virile, courageous, nurturing communities that center their theology on Jesus' revolutionary message of the kingdom and that center their lives on living out that radical message. These are communities of profound spiritual formation leading to liberating social transformation, and their continuing emergence is one of the most important developments in our time."
I believe that our Emergent Cohort is one of these "new kids of faith communities," not just another church. And I know that I want to follow in the revolutionary way of Jesus Christ, and not just be another Christian. I want to dream, to write, to listen, to love and to fight. I want to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul and mind.

But first, I'm going to deepen the dream by waiting and exploring the tension....

Back from EMC

Hey everyone! We've made it back safe and only a little damp from Goshen. It was a blessed weekend in many ways, with exciting opportunities opened up, challenging conversations, and new books to read. Most of all, I think the members of our cohort genuinely enjoyed spending time together, and we realized that we have something really special in Columbus! This includes all of you reading this right now, and I'd love to invite everyone (whether you came to the conference or not) into the conversation of how our cohort can continue to live out God's call for us in Columbus. For now, here are some pictures, and look for more blogs about the conference to come this week.


Hungry for Justice - Part 2

The daily readings have been seriously challenging to me. I just wanted to share a few quotes that stuck out to me and that I have been mulling over throughout the day, and then ask for responses of others. What ideas, concepts, Scripture passages, quotes have been significant to you? How do you see our community being shaped, "converted," brought into God's kingdom and being an agent that brings about God's kingdom?


"No longer preoccupied with out private lives, we are engaged in a vocation for the world."
"Conversion is ultimately dying to self and becoming part of something that is larger than any of us."
"Through it all, the most profound change is finally the most simple: discovering the meaning of love."
I have noticed a distinct difference between how I have always conceived of "church" - joining an organization with which I agree in order to receive the spiritual services I crave - to a new understanding of joining God's kingdom. As Jim Wallis says, "the beginning of active solidarity with the purposes of the kingdom of God in the world..." I can no longer be concerned with my needs above all, but have to always ask the question, what is God doing in the world? How can I join alongside?

I think those are powerful questions for our cohort to explore, attempt to answer, and try to fulfill in our lives and our community.


Is anyone else tired of 'Narnia?'

Please forgive me for this blog-complaint. I try not to be one who takes out my petty frustrations on my keyboard. But with the upcoming release of "Prince Caspian," I have been overloaded with Narnia advertising. First, the full-length preview before the movie "Ironman" (which, by the way, was more than tolerable). Then, ABC is replaying the "The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe" complete with interviews with the characters, clips from the upcoming movie, and way too many commercials (I think the broadcast went for 3 hours). Today, as I peruse the blogosphere, I run into at least three separate websites that have Narnia video clip advertisements.

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why this turns me off so much. Perhaps it is my deranged need to always be "different" or not following the crowd. Ever since high school, if something was popular, I hated it. And I'll admit, my disdain could be just that juvenile. But I get the sense that there is something more...

It seems to me that the Christian pop-culture dollar is very easy for Hollywood to lure and attain. Certainly not the first, but perhaps the most infamous, "The Passion of the Christ" showed us that Christians will spend millions on a movie they fully endorse - including booking entire theatres for their congregations to be ensured a seat. I still still movie posters for Mel Gibson's interpretation in pastor's offices and youth rooms. What will happen after six installments of Narnia?

I was a little young, but I certainly remember the day when Disney was labeled "evil" by the Christian community. The cartoons had subliminal messages; the corporation supported the gay-rights movement and Pocahantas worshiped trees and "mother earth" instead of Jesus. But now, with Narnia, the Christians are back on board without a second thought! I see more advertisements on "Christian" webpages (Sojourners, BeliefNet) than anywhere else. Obviously, the Christian dollar has power in the media market.

And I think that is what bothers me. The blatant targeting of my money sends an implicit message that, as a Christian, I will only buy Christian books, DVD's and movie tickets. It tells me that I'm too dumb to know the difference between a good movie, and a movie that should never have been made (I'm pretty sure C.S. Lewis would have more than a few issues with his books being mass-marketed like this). The saddest part of all is that the media market implicitly tells Christians this message through extensive and blatantly targeted advertising, and we confirm that message by making the movies multi-billion dollar successes.

So bring on the cereal boxes and the action figures. Jesus loves Narnia. Because we all know - C.S. Lewis was a Christian, right? And whoever who wrote "The Golden Compass" hates Christians (doesn't she?), so we better be sure that Narnia makes way more money to prove to the world that God always wins!! And thank God that evil Harry Potter mess is behind us - all of that "magic" talk is straight from the gates of hell.....