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.


Jane's Faith Update

After being the one to pose this question to myself, I regret not having journaled much at all in the past year. Even though I reflect on my spiritual status often, the past year suddenly seems like a blur because I didn't commit any of my many reflections to a screen. With this caveat in mind, it seems to me like my faith hasn't been very dynamic for the past year. Our cohort's year anniversary is just about now, and I remember feeling really excited about the Kingdom at that point, but slowly my attention turned to other things, or I reached mental roadblocks that stopped me in my tracks. Nick (my husband) and I purposefully moved into a poor area of the city and after getting together with emergents regularly I was excited to beginning putting all of the many wonderful ideas of this movement into daily practice. And then guess what, this turned out to be difficult. It seems like what often happens, at least to me, when I strike out on some new spiritual direction, is that at first God and I seem right there together and I have this palpable sense that "Aslan is on the move." Then after awhile my sinful self gets more and more in the way, especially as circumstances turn for the worst, and then eventually I come to a complete stop. I feel like this has happened to me once again and I am very disappointed with myself for it.

A related difficulty I've also been experiencing is just having too much to think about. I could make a list of 20 paradoxes that are always hovering over my consciousness about modern capitalism alone, and I feel their weight pressing upon my ability to make decisions. While the deceleration and discomfort that this state produces irritates me, I also feel confident that God wants me to pass through it. It might not be a leg of the journey that everyone must travel, like Andrew discusses at the end of his post, but I think my faith would be absolutely paralyzed if I didn't make my way down this path.

Perhaps I'll share just one paradox, the most monstrous one that comes to mind at the moment. If Christ (both then and now) places so much emphasis on fruit, which I take to mean action that makes his Kingdom more present on Earth, what does it mean that I know people who seem to do more towards this end without believing there is any spiritual dimension to it than others who are devout but whose trees are whithered? This might seem like an immature question, I realize, because it sounds similar to classic questions of the religiously skeptical, but it really is a good question. Now that my paradigm for relating to the world around me as a Christian has changed, I don't really know how to relate to the world around me.

If I had to guess, I would say that my description of my current struggle resonates with many others who read this blog. I would welcome any solutions anyone has gained through experience. But let me end here with a ray of hope. Peter Rollins's The Fidelity of Betrayal is amazing for so many reasons. It seems like just the right thing for me to digest at the moment. Last night I was reading about his view of relationship between the Bible and the Word of God, and he talks about a cycle of engagement with the text that he believes all thoughtful Christians will pass through: an early stage in which one clamors for all of the facts of the text, believing them to hold the Word, a middle stage in which one becomes aware of how this cannot be the case because of the many valid problems with the text that are raised among academics, and then a final "second naivete." If I could relate this to my broader spiritual path, I would say that I have been in that second stage for a number of years and I'm really longing for my "second naivete," in which I continue to wrestle with the paradoxes of Earthly faith while being able to "bracket" (Rollins's term) those issues aside when I interact with God.


Andrew said...

Jane -

Very thoughtful post... I'm soaking in Fidelity of Betrayal as well. This paradox resonates with me as I was describing a new friend to my father who is incredibly talented and actively pursuing incredible relief work in Africa. He immediately and accurately assumed that she was not a Christian because her work was 'too humanitarian.' I shiver at the thought that such a conclusion could be drawn then got depressed at the state we are in... What have we wrought!?!

NancyJ said...

Jane, I very much appreciate your willingness to remain within the struggle and believe as you do that God wants us to pass through.

When this all started for me, I felt like Noah—like I was being asked to build a boat by myself on dry land. Clearly no one was cheering me on with the direction I had begun to take. During that early time the words that came to my mind were “Remember my Son was a carpenter.” I know that probably sounds very childlike, but it was comforting that I was on the right path and was going to build something with the One who really knew what He was doing.

Now six years later I, like many of you, are full of hope that God has been building and preparing something in me for whatever is on the horizon. I cannot speak for those whose trees have withered nor can I speak to those who do great things for good without spirituality, but I know for myself God has awakened me and connected me to all of you and that He will continue to ready us for something larger than we are as individuals--that only He can create and guide.

The following is from author Clarissa Pinkola-Estes…

“Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind...

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest.

That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless. We've been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naïveté, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially, we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.

What's needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.

If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They're the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall:

When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”

I’m not sure which of Peter Rollins stages I am in at present, but I have greater peace, am stronger for the wrestling and challenges that have come my way and allow the beliefs I grew up with to rest gently in my heart and mind as I remain open to all God has in the future.

Greg said...


I had forgotten about Rollins's mention of a second naivete. It makes me want to reread that section, because I am curious what he suggests gives way to such a reconfiguration. I feel as you do that the second phase has been my home for several years and also can't help but believe that the emergent conversation is enabling the third to begin to take shape. It's also interesting to contemplate how earlier generations of Christians would have reacted to Rollins's analogy.