Welcome

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.

12.28.2008

The past year has been a very important one for my own faith, and the I think the main change, and the theme of this little post, is that my life is now much less separated from my faith for better or worse. Jane and I decided after a very long time of struggling to leave our home church at Xenos. This was not easy to decide and I believe you can probably find some posts about it on the blog, so I won't lament over it any more.
The primary consequence, as I now realize, is that I have no element of my faith that is separate from my actual day to day life. I rarely go to a church (when I do it is usually with people from the cohort anyway) and my faith community is made up entirely of people I know very, very well and consider very important friends. It is odd how I have very few casual Christian friends in my life (people I see twice a month and talk to even less). Furthermore, I don't really have any friends in Columbus not attached to the cohort. This isn't something I'm really proud of - people in our department at school just really don't like hanging our with us....Also, we have no family within a ten hour drive of Columbus.

So, what this all means is that our social lives are now completely a part of our faith lives as well. The main thing I have noticed about this is that since I am surrounded by people of similar convictions most of the time I do far less thinking and (sadly) far less praying than I used to. I'm not sure if that means my faith is stronger, or if this is a nice little break that God has given us before our lives get much more complicated very shortly. I think that my faith dictates my actions stronger than in the past, but I do less purposeful actions...maybe that doesn't make sense.

Okay, I will go ahead and end this to leave some time for comments. I'm looking forward to seeing you all again very soon.

Faith Change

In reflecting on how/if my faith has changed in 2008 as a result of engaging with all things emergent, I have to admit that part of me now finds the question entirely annoying. Too much of my past was spent comparing faith barometers out of an unhealthy preoccupation to be spiritually superior. Perhaps this fact says more about me, than the question at large; nevertheless, the emergent conversation has given me the freedom to not really care about the level of my faith as it compares to others, which has in turn caused it to become more impassioned than ever! The emergent conversation has enabled me to take my focus away from being super-Christian (which wasn't working out so well anyway), and given me new ways to engage, new questions to entertain, new ideas to imagine, and new (and diverse) people with which to embark down our postmodern context. One additional thing is sure: in no other period of my life have I said to myself on so many occasions: "Ah, that's exactly what I have been feeling/thinking/wondering." 

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.

My faith is "more"

I feel like my faith has changed somewhat dramatically in the past year. I'm going to share a bit more of my church history, because I think that informs where I am now and where I'm going. 

In '05-'06, Kellye and I were really involved with a young church plant, based off of the Nazarene church at which we teach. There were a lot of great things going on at this church, but around Christmas of '06 we realized that the purpose and mission had changed from caring about people in real and practical ways, to church maintenance and growth. More significantly, we felt that we were losing very meaningful friendships simply because we weren't core leaders in the church any more. While my involvement in the church plant was the beginning of my re-thinking the important aspects of the gospel and the church, this experience left me feeling very hurt, frustrated, cynical and disconnected to the church. 

In January of '07, Kellye and I decided to take some students to Guatemala, and we dedicated most of our efforts to that cause, and then we spent a full month in Europe in the summer of '07. So for almost 6 months we didn't attend church at any one location regularly. During this time, I was stewing about the past hurts, trying to forgive in a real way, having conversations with family and friends about church and faith. And I was reading and learning about the Emergent Church. While in Europe, I read "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope," and the ideas and stories of the authors really resonated with me. My journal from that time period includes many fervent questions, excitement about new ideas, and fear regarding the future. Here is one selection: 
"What is very interesting at this point for me is that I feel like I have to hide this - that it has to be a closet conviction b/c if my Mid-Western, hyper-conservative, ultra-Republican - and yet still "Xian" peers, su-peers, friends and family and other church members found out - well, my views would not be respected encouraged or probably even recognized. I would lose my job and credibility. But when I think about past conversations, and possibilities for future ones - I know I am excited. There is something incredibly right in all of this "Emergent" thought. There is something that rings true w/ my soul." 
In August of '07 I was lucky enough to find the Central Ohio Emergent Cohort, or as I told my brother before we went to the first meeting, "some people I met online." Through the first few months of sporadic meetings, and then the year 2008 in which we intentionally met almost every week, my faith has certainly changed from the hurt, frustrated, angry, uncertain and timid European traveler. As I reflected today as to how I would describe exactly how my faith has changed, I think I would simply say that it is "more." 

First, my faith is more hopeful. I used to be plagued by the ever-present evangelical conviction that the rest of the world was certainly going to hell. But as I have learned that evangelicals do not have the corner on truth or the gospel, let alone God himself, I am much more hopeful. I am hopeful that salvation is much bigger than what I had previously understood it to be. I am hopeful that many more people are experiencing it in real ways in their life today, and many more will be in the future. I am hopeful for myself, and I am hopeful for those I know and love and work with. I can look back on my sketchy past and see what I've been through, and I know that people (and certainly God) will always surprise us. 

Second, my faith is more confident. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, in the church every week, in the Christian school and Christian college, I always felt timid about what I believed. I wouldn't confidently tell anyone that I was a Christian, because what that meant at the time what that I had to be judgmental of their lifestyle, condemn their beliefs, and consider myself better than most everyone else. But now, especially after spending a month in meaningful, honest, incisive, and powerful dialogue and community within the cohort, I can confidently say that I follow the ways of Jesus because I believe it's the best way to live - for myself, and for the whole world. And I don't believe that is an exclusive statement, meaning that those who do not agree are "out" or "excluded" from this wonderful privileged salvation, but rather it is an inclusive statement, meaning that this way of Jesus includes everyone - friends and enemies, sinners and saints, slave and free, Jew or Gentile. Because I no longer believe that North American evangelicalism and Christianity are synonymous (although they are also not mutually exclusive), I can be proud to say I follow Jesus, because I believe that it is something much bigger, much more beautiful, life-giving, challenging, true and wonderful - much more - than what I had ever previously believed. 

Finally, my faith - the faith in this something new, this something other and bigger than what I had previously believed and experienced - my faith is much more informed and intelligent as a result of being a part of the cohort this past year. Everyone in the group is so well-informed, and our conversations are very challenging. I always have to rethink and double-check what I'm going to say to be sure I really think it's right, and that's really good! Although we come from similar backgrounds, I also think we are very different, and that has helped me to learn more about myself and about God. As a result of talking about this "emergent faith" with other intelligent, well-informed, and I would say "Godly" people, has led me to be less concerned about what people in the evangelical circles will think or say, and more excited to share with others about what "more" there is to be found in the Christian faith. 

O rest, poor race

Over the past year I fell flatly into the reality that the compartmentalized God-box I so often tried to stuff my faith into was a feeble mind’s attempt at harnessing infinity. It was convenient for me to speak religion boldly as a human trying to fit into and succeed in the subculture of my family and social circles. Recent discussions with a friend revealed in deep ways how much of current practicing Christianity has more to do with a desire to be accepted, mutual encouragement and socioeconomic status than with the reality of Christ.

In the midst of great doubt earlier this year, I was challenged by a professor at Ohio State to claim a faith. I responded something like I’ve tried to not believe. I can’t. Something resonates deeper than the stuff of mind and soul that I simply can not turn off nor ignore.

So I stare blankly at a manipulative, control hungry and brain washing system (possibly with some positive cultural side effects) and derisively admonish those who abuse its power. Yet I still reverberate from the message being proclaimed.

And so my faith box was too small: not enough room for Churchianity and Christianity. All the reasons the system has given me through years of church, a Christian School upbringing and solid familial reinforcement has given me a set of westernized proofs that validate and gird my faith. I used to cling to these abutments, now I let them flail in uncertainty. I realized I was much more concerned about being certain, about clinging to these pillars of truth, for my own status and ability to prove others wrong than for what the truths were actually about. I was stubbornly clinging to them from the top-down, choking the reality of Christ with a fearful grip. I now see God at the base of my faith as much more living and active, moving like the wind than an uninvolved deistic anchor.

…and oh, the peace and freedom this brings! The Christ I read of promises things so dramatically different from what so many corporate church structures are built on. Peace comes not from giving up the search for these proofs (for I still will) but from knowing that their discovery and validation do not predicate my faith. Freedom comes from realizing that the life abundant Christ promises has nothing to do with the abundant life of Americanized health, wealth and happiness. The weight of fitting into this cultural mold is not the freedom I experience as one of Christ’s own.

Fortunately for the functioning of humanity, not all brains are wired like mine. Perhaps Christianity needs multiple expressions to meet different personality types and evolve with culture. I used to think God wouldn’t want to work that way, but I have grown over the past year to see that as my limitation on God for my own sake rather than for His glory.

I thank each and every one of you for the utter honesty and raw struggles expressed and revealed over the past year – you are blessed people and I am blessed to know you. I realized I never got to posting anything about the singing of last week’s Christmas cantata, yet there is an equally long post I would want to write about God’s permeation out of my faith box into art, music, literature, dance and (yes) even architecture. To that end, I will add a simple poem I found in a Christmas card that captured the season for me. It’s from Calvin Miller’s The Divine Symphony…

Once in Every universe
Some world is worry-torn
And hungry for a global lullaby.

O rest, poor race, and hurtle on through space-
God has unbilicaled Himself to straw,
Laid by His thunderbolts
and learned to cry.

12.26.2008

Online Meeting 12/28

Since so many of our cohort are still away visiting family right now, and yet we didn't want to do absolutely nothing for 2 weeks in a row, we are going to have an "intentional blogging day" in lieu of a meeting this Sunday.

Here is a question to get us started: How has your faith changed in the past year? Any ideas as to what caused new ideas to take root or old ones to lose their place? Do you see this change as fitting with a wider trend among other cohort members?

I would encourage all of us to make a point to spend some time on the blog this Sunday, making comments and then reading the comments of others, because intentionality is so important to a community and some of us haven't seen each other in awhile.

12.21.2008

Peter Rollins finds just the right way to say it...

I wanted to post this quote from Peter Rollins's The Fidelity of Betrayal, because I think it describes perfectly what so many of us in the cohort believe is our calling:

"How many of us can really know what it is like to destroy what we love for the sake of what we love - to be the most faithful of betrayers? Yet perhaps it is precisely this that we are being called to: engaging in that most difficult task of putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth."

This calling is both thrilling and terrifying for me, because it so strongly inspires my decisions, and yet it sometimes grimly dawns on me that this is indeed a "most difficult task."

12.13.2008

The Cizik Ouster

By now everyone has probably heard about the recent resignation of Richard Cizik, former vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. If you missed the story, it all started because of an interview he did on NPR's Fresh Air, in which Cizik makes known his support of civil unions for same-sex couples. Kara forwarded this brief editorial by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times, which essentially highlights the hopeful work that has been accomplished in places like Cambodian brothels not to mention other parts of the developing world in large part because of the bridge-building efforts of individuals like Cizik. Jesse's blog discusses how these sorts of stories illustrate the rationale behind words such as post-evangelical or post-denominational. Also of note, is an interview that our friend Sarah Pulliam did with the president of the NAE. In one part of the interview, President Leith Anderson explains, "I think the consensus of the executive committee was that he did not appropriately represent us. And if he did not appropriately represent NAE, then he has lost credibility as a spokesperson." A few questions later, Pulliam asks "whether one person can speak for such a diverse group politically when evangelicalism is not a political group per se," to which he responds "in answer to your question, can one person speak for everybody? Obviously not." To that, I have to say, make up your mind! 

12.08.2008

Recital Video

On Saturday, Greg performed his DMA percussion recital - and it was awesome! I taped the recital for Greg's own records, but thought I would share the final piece here since Jane accompanied Greg. Enjoy -

video

12.07.2008

Emergent Christmas Party!


Please come join us for a Christmas party this Saturday, at 7:00, at Scot and Mary's house: 179 Bridgeport Way, Deleware, OH 43015. We will have a white elephant gift exchange, so bring some piece of junk that you've been wanted to get rid of all wrapped up. Seriously, bring a crappy gift. Also, can someone bring Elf or other great Christmas movies?

Please comment below what food and/or drink you plan to bring so that we can cover all of our bases. While you are at it, let's set up some carpools in the comments. Also feel free to invite friends or loved ones (but make sure they also bring a piece of crap to unload).

Discussion Recap

Well, it's tough to summarize all that was said during a great discussion like we had today. We talked about Phylis Tickle's book, The Great Emergence. We watched the introductory videos from the website (which you can also view here) and then talked about the ideas of the "every 500 year rummage sale," "Where now is the authority?" and the connection of the various branches of Christianity.

Our discussion had several aspects to it: Theoretically/Objectively there was a general consensus that change happens throughout history, and yes things are different now, but perhaps Tickle is overstating the situation a bit. There was skepticism that Emerging/ent is not really "the next big thing," but just simply another chapter in the ongoing saga of Christianity. Others pointed out that the change in our use of language, the general openness of the group to new ideas and divergent viewpoints, were evidence enough that indeed we are witnessing a change in how Christians understand themselves and how Christianity is existing and functioning.

On another level, we discussed the implications of "The Great Emergence" for ourselves, personally. Several members expressed feelings of uncertainty, a desire to return to the "old, easy answers", even though in our hearts we know they aren't satisfactory. Many of these comments have been expressed in previous posts (see here).

Finally, we discussed what some of these ideas would mean for our small cohort, and how exactly our cohort should function. There is a definite challenge in developing a viable group with purpose and intention, without imposing unnecessary and restrictive structure. We discussed the relationships between institutions and communities - and it was said that most groups and organizations that continue to function well have some form of institution. Furthermore, the relationship between truth statements, creeds, and identity was discussed. For myself, I took away that creedal statements are helpful for offering a definition of what a group believes, and thereby who aligns themselves with that group. This is the way every modern religious institution defined itself: by statements of faith. However, these statements can create a division of who is "in" and who is "out" based upon who agrees or disagrees with such statements, even something as simple as, "there is a God." (I tried to explain the difference between bounded and centered sets, and it came out pretty poorly - another explanation is here)

Therefore, our cohort will not formely adopt any truth statements, but rather will allow our actions to proclaim what we believe and we will emphasize our relationships with one another. We live within the freedom to boldly state to one another what we believe without concern of aligning with any checklist or worrying about disagreement. And we move forward in confidence that our actions will always show that above all, we are committed to loving one another and showing that in real ways.

There were lots of ideas exchanged, and I'm sure others had different impressions, so please chime in. Some thoughts have already been shared here.

In addition to all this heavy "Great Emergence" junk, we also talked about a Christmas party - so look for details on that to come soon!!

12.06.2008

Discussion - December 7th

We are meeting to discuss emergent thinker Phyillis Tickle and her videos at: http://www.thegreatemergence.com/VideoDiscussion. Anyone is welcome to the conversation (even if you haven't seen the videos or ever heard of Phyillis Tickle). We will meet at the Global Gallery Coffee Shop on North High St. from 3:00-5:00.

12.04.2008

Just something to think about...

Nancy sent this in an email to me, and I asked her if I could post it on the blog for discussion by everyone in the group. Please offer whatever feedback or ideas you would like - Jesse

"I have thought a lot about what [Nick] prayed last Sunday night
regarding that maybe our group becoming a bit complacent and that we don’t seem to be blogging as much (although in your prayer you said that might not matter and you could be right). But it made me really sad. I just checked and there is no new posting on what is happening this Sunday yet.

With that thought in mind, I wondered if we might as a group really pray about direction and how we can be a light in our very unstable and uncertain world right now.

I e-mailed my nephew a fairly long e-mail and here is a portion of what has been on my mind…

In the loss of my evangelical belief system and foundation, I am coming to realize how difficult it is to love and worship God without it. Do I need to develop a workable belief system again? What do I really believe? What do I really know? This requires a blind trust that God will pull, teach and connect me to beliefs that continually evolve and perhaps change over time…Am I ok with that? This is radical and problematic for most because then it potentially could become all about one individual’s interpretation and perception of God—“cherry picking” so to speak. Can I trust and have faith that the One True God is revealing himself to me?” And so I ask…Can we trust that as a group God is revealing himself to us collectively? How united are we on what we think? Do we need to be united or is it better that we
do not get caught up on anyone’s collection of beliefs (perhaps there is a balance there)?

These are just a few thoughts and perhaps one of you could put something close on the blog. It’s kind of a “where are we now as a group and what do we think” blog or
discussion. Just something to think about."