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.


A Time to Quit

So how would everyone feel about quitting the cohort?  Scandalous, right?  Or maybe just history repeating itself.
I feel like I'm in a private club.  Does anyone else have that sense?  And I don't mind the members in the club. They're quite nice.
What do we want to do?  What to do we want to be?  When Nick and Jane re-began the group (which is what I'm suggesting is in order again), the five of us settled on being a place to talk about emergent and doing topical discussions on a bi-weekly basis.  A few months later, Zach prompted discussions that led to our current schedule of discussion/celebration of the faithful/discussion/super-fun.  Now, many new voices are part of the conversation, so please speak up: what works and what doesn't?  Should we abandon the celebrations?  Should we only do celebrations?  How can we reimagine this thing?
Peter Rollins commented this morning that "no matter how much people within or outside the church accept doubt, complexity and ambiguity they do not want it to be reflected in the worship songs, the liturgies and the preaching. The structure itself is protected from doubt."  
How can we let doubt be a part of our structure?   


Zack said...

I think part of what allowed us to imagine the cohort in the first place is that we were left with a virtually empty slate. When Nick and Jane re-began the cohort the previous leaders just handed them the blog and didn't give any stipulations on how they should conduct meetings and they had never been to an emergent meeting so we were all left to put whatever we were thinking into it.

I agree with you Greg that it at times feels like a little club and when new people come instead of them immediately feeling like they have the freedom to create whatever kind of spiritual environment they want they feel like they need to either join or not join our club.
Is there any way to move on in our own way and somehow leave the doors open and empower others who are struggling with the same types of questions we continue to struggle with?

NancyJ said...

First, let me say thank you Greg. I was going to post something similar yesterday, (i.e. What's next for the Central Ohio Emergent Cohort?) but decided I wasn’t brave enough to do it.

I too have felt for a while that something vital and important is needed for the Cohort to continue.

My opinion on the question, “How can we let doubt be a part of our structure?” is that the enormous freedom that comes with doubting must somehow be integrated with responsibility. Doubt is an extremely valuable ingredient and has most recently helped strengthen and define my faith. However, it is also quite damaging in that it is a state of continual unrest and very circular in its nature. Too much doubt can keep me from owning the responsibility and risk of having any beliefs at all.

One thing we may each be facing is that while there is a uniting aspect to wrestling with questions, all of this wrestling can become frustrating and seem pointless. We all have very different opinions and there is never any real resolution.

Is doubt our common ground or is too much doubt breaking down our structure?

Am I using this wrestling to move forward and grow? Am, I solidifying certain beliefs about God and letting go of others? Is this important? Do I need to have solid beliefs about God?

As a group I think we must continue to ask...

What unites us?

My own answer is that that we have formed a deep love and connection to each other. We worship together, have fun together and pray together. We wrestle with questions together and share common goals. We challenge each other and celebrate accomplishments, life changes and share one another’s pain when something is hard.

I will end with the questions I have asked myself recently. Am I allowing enough time and intention to ask for God’s guidance regarding the Cohort? What do I bring to this group? What does being part of the Cohort fulfill for me? What actions am I choosing outside the Cohort meetings that resonate back to it? (an example might be my decisions about what and how I buy).

Again, thank you for bringing this subject to the blog, Greg. I anticipate much good will come from it.

Jesse said...

Well....I've been thinking about this post all week. I think Greg did an incredible job putting words around a question I would wager many of us have asked in the past months. I don't think it's a threatening question, or one that signifies anything is "over," but simply addresses the really important matters of growth, change, and transformation.

I've been thinking about transformation a bit lately, about how it means we leave behind something that at one point was really important to you, even crucial and life-giving - for example, an insect shedding an exoskeleton. In terms of our faith, what do we have to leave behind that was at one point really important to us? How do we transform in a real way? What are we becoming?

Throughout the week I've thought about sustainability as well. In most church-growth discussions, sustainability is talked about in terms of numbers getting bigger, programs continuing, and influence expanding. It is not usually talked in terms of ending programs, growing smaller (but deeper?), or "quitting" - as Greg put it. But it is worthless to hold onto our structures, our identities, our titles for the sake of perceived sustainability. The beauty of an emerging/postmodern faith is that it is free to deconstruct and reconstruct as the need is felt. There is a broader understanding of sustainability that involves continual adaptation so that our existence is still effecting transformation.

OK - so that's a lot of theory, which I think is interesting and I could talk forever about growing out of a so-called "modern" faith, etc. etc. But, there are some other things I want to share not just with the cohort, but to the cohort.

First: I LOVE our cohort. I LOVE you guys. I'm so entirely grateful for you and for the past year. I can't say it enough. And I think we have something really unique, really special, and really powerful going on. I don't want us to lose sight of that.

Second: I have heard bad stories of emergent cohorts and other emerging "churches" that start, and then disband because of disagreements. How sad! How utterly opposed to what we are about! So I think that while this process is long and perhaps tiresome in a lot of ways, it's important to maintain our foundational commitment to one another.

Last thought: In some ways, I can't help but laugh about this stuff, especially when I try to explain it to other people. As Kellye said tonight, "What am I going to tell people? I'm part of a group that wants to un-join itself?" I LOLed. And it reminded me of my favorite times with all of you - when we LOL - at ourselves, at this whole "Christian" thing, at life, and just because we can (perhaps cause we're not in church).

Nick Johnson said...

What is all this!?! We leave on vacation for four days and everyone wants to quit!?!...just kidding. Actually, this is a good question Greg and one that we’ve been struggling with – actually I kind of get the feeling that many of us are doomed to always struggle with this type of issue throughout the rest of our lives.

I had actually contemplated putting a post up about how I feel like I have ‘graduated’ from church. Echoing Jesse’s post, I was thinking that perhaps I’ve gotten what I need from ‘church’ and am now ready to just go start living. Specifically, Jane and I are getting more and more involved in our local community and are beginning to consider that an important priority. I am quite sure that if we were currently attending a rigid structure church we would have stopped going by now. As far as emergent is concerned, for the time being at least (and I feel a little embarrassed saying this) I kind of feel like I don’t have much more to learn from McLaren, Rollins, Jones, Tickle, etc. Obviously, yes, I can and do try to learn from everyone, but honestly I’ve had no desire to read or listen to emergent theology lately.

All that said, when it comes to our group I do feel that we serve a very important role and I think it would be a shame if it did not continue in some capacity. Part of this is selfish (I once again echo Jesse’s feeling of love for everyone in the group…plus I don’t really have any other friends…), but moreover I think we currently provide a service that no one else in Columbus is providing. I can confidently say that I have drawn closer to God as a direct result of the meetings, individuals, and ideas of this group. I hope I am not the only one.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in. Since I’m the Nick Greg mentioned I am going to hold my tongue on potential changes to structure as I kind of feel like my ideas have had a turn and it’s time for someone else’s.

Kate Murray said...

I was catching up on blog reading this evening and read through Greg's post and then everybody else's comments. Even though I now live several hundred miles away and am no longer an active participant, I'll throw my two cents in the ring (how's that for mixing metaphors?).

I'm not sure how the cohort is now, but as of last summer, in some ways it was very much like a club. A very hospitable, easy to enter, and re-enter, club. I say this as somebody who floated in and out due to various schedule things and being part of the seminary community - but I always felt welcome and very much included. Yet, I also saw that there were times when many of you connected with one another and knew more about each other than I did mostly because you spend an awful lot of time together (and as Nick said, he doesn't really have any other friends). So in many ways, yes it was a club. But a club that I always felt included in and loved.

Now, as for the quitting thing - there's an emergent ministry out this way that has decided to quit church (at least as they know it) for Lent. Instead of gathering together in their normal way (three Sundays they worship together at a coffee shop and the fourth Sunday they do something else which I can't recall what it is at this moment...) and instead they have decided to worship with a ministry that primarily is composed of homeless people. You can find their blog of the journey here: http://commontable.org/lent/

Anyway, I say all of this to say that if you want to restructure or whatever you feel God is calling you to do, perhaps the cohort can find great meaning in doing so and joining another community (at least for a time).

Look forward to hearing what transpires from this conversation.