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.


[Non] Membership

I've enjoyed the extended (virtual) conversations that have occurred on the blog in recent weeks. One term that pops up now and again that I find interesting is "membership." Clearly an important part of most American churches, membership is defined by different communities in different ways. It could be cognitive assent to certain doctrinal statements, attendance and/or giving record, perhaps even membership classes. A key term like "membership" is defined by each community, but is also an indicator of how a community is formed and functions. Therefore it could also be one more example of emergent is re-framing what it means to be a community of Christ-followers.

[reposted from ASBO Jesus]

So who is a "member" of the Central Ohio Emergent Cohort?

We might all have different ideas, and I'd love to hear what others think, but I'll venture my own (extended) answer here...as always feel free to engage, push back, etc.

Bounded and Centered Sets

I first learned about the difference between bounded and centered sets while reading a swath of books about emerging churches last summer. The concept is not new to emerging churches (this site claims that Paul Hiebert first developed the idea), but it helps me to understand how membership is drastically different in an emergent community.

A "bounded set" is one in which there is a standard. It may be behavioral, doctrinal or both. But a person is "in" or "out," a member or a non-member. While the qualifications and definitions of who is "in" or "out" may change with different churches and denominations, I would argue that that "bounded sets" are the foremost understanding of membership in American churches. Certain persons for certain reasons are "within the bounds" of what is understood to be the "accepted," "approved" or even "ordained" sets for this community.

["bounded set"]

Another way to understand a community is that of a "centered set," meaning each individual is dynamically related to the center of the community and the community at large. "Membership," as such, is not based upon performance or belief, but rather each person has some relationship to the center, albeit some are closer or further away than others. In evangelism classes, the "center" is often understood to be Jesus Christ (or the church). While that may be the case in most Christian communities, I think it is helpful to think of the larger emergent community as "the center" thereby explaining "membership" in an emergent cohort.

[note: this image of a "centered set" still maintains boundary lines that I would argue do not have to be drawn]

In a centered set model, every individual who is a part of the conversation, who is involved in the movement in a large or small way, is a member. However, this model also recognizes that not every individual is the same, and some are more or less involved than others, for any number of reasons. Our cohort certainly has a close-knit "center" of individuals who meet together throughout the week, stay in touch on a personal level, and are involved in each others' lives. However, these individuals are no more "members" than someone who casually visits discussion sessions once a month or even less. Each person is a member, but each has a different relationship to the center (i.e., the community).

Furthermore (and I want to stress), each person has complete freedom to move closer or further away from the center, at will. There are no levels, requirements or qualifications, but simply a dynamic community of individuals living in relationship to one another. In a "centered set," membership is not only "open," it is fluid. I believe that I have personally experienced this in the natural friendships that have formed in the cohort. There is never a question of "what do you believe?" or "how educated are you?" or "do you meet these standards?" But rather the question is simply, "Do you want to...." - meet for coffee? - read this book? - talk about politics? - be a more involved person in the community (whatever that may look like)?

Therefore, my answer to the question, "Who is a member of the Central Ohio Emergent Cohort?" would be - you are! If you are reading this blogpost, if you have ever visited our blogsite, if you have ever jumped in on a conversation, talked to someone in a coffee shop, picked up an emergent book in a store just to curiously flip through the pages, or even sent an email expressing disagreement - if you are engaged in the conversation at all, you are a member.

And I want to express my heartfelt joy that you and I are co-members, living in this wide community together - I am glad that you are a "member" of our cohort.


Celebration - Sunday at 5

Hey Everyone. Celebration of the Faithful time once again. We will be meeting at Zack and my house (2598 Indianola Ave. Columbus, 43202) at 5:00pm Sunday, Mar. 1st. The theme is prayer so come ready to set aside your ideas about whether or not prayer works and give this prayer thing a shot. For the meal to follow the theme is creative sandwiches. Zack and I will provide bread (marble and 7 grain). We ask that others bring things to put between bread, also some cold sides would be appreciated. Let's build amazing works of the culinary arts. Post what you will bring, try to think outside the bun. Detailed directions in comment. Eve

When should we hold wiki tutorial?

Hi everyone,

We need to plan a wiki training session to get our site moving. This weekend has quickly filled up, so it looks like it is a no, unless we do Sunday early afternoon. I'm hesitant about that because we've already got so much going on.

So, please post when you would like to do the planning session. I would like to make this happen by the end of next weekend because I'm afraid if we don't get started soon it will never happen. Also, during the session I would like to talk about criteria and design a visual guide for posts. A couple options are a weeknight this week or next, next Saturday afternoon, or doing it instead of a discussion next Sunday. I would like as many people there as possible because this will take all of us to work, so comment on when you think would be best. We will likely hold it at Tree of Life, or possibly where I work.

I'm excited to get started on this project...I hope everyone else is also!


Let's change our buying habits

Below is a list of resources focused on our buying habits. Thanks to Nick N. for sharing this with us. If anyone else has any other resources, please feel free to comment.

Also in our discussion yesterday, Nick J. volunteered to make a wiki page. This website will be a resource for finding places in Columbus to buy goods that fit one or several criteria, some of which may be: made in U.S.A., made in foreign factories in which workers are treated fairly, money stays in local economy, product is made sustainably, etc. This could be a great service that our little community provides to the people of this city. But it will take many of us to make it work.

Getting Perspective on Consumer Culture
• The Consuming Passion: Christianity & Consumer Culture, by Rodney Clapp (IVP, 1998). Now 10 years old but still helpful, especially Clapp's final essay.
• Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture, by Vincent J. Miller (Continuum, 2003). A more scholarly treatment.
• "Faith in the Age of the iPod: Christianity and Consumer Culture," by Vincent J. Miller. Listen free online at maclaurin.org/mp3s/vincentmillerplenary11.mp3.
• Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are with What We Buy, by Tom Beaudoin (Sheed & Ward, 2007). Brand new.
• Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, by David F. Wells (Eerdmans, 2005).
• American Mania: When More is Not Enough, by Peter C. Whybray (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005).

Getting Perspective on the Media & Technology
• The Merchants of Cool (2001), PBS Frontline documentary by Douglas Rushkoff. www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/. This is dated but still very eye opening in terms of the grand marketing strategies behind the global entertainment corporations. Highly recommended.
• The Persuaders (2004), PBS Frontline documentary by Douglas Rushkoff. www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/. A second installment from Rushkoff explaining contemporary marketing strategies. Highly recommended.
• Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, by Thomas de Zengotita (Bloomsbury, 2005). Listen online to an interview with Thomas de Zengotita by Ken Myers on "Audition #3." mhadigital.org/index.php?post_id=135738. Also check out Mars Hill Audio Journal #78. Note that de Zengotita is at times vulgar, and ultimately despairing about a media culture that is "out of control." Nevertheless, this is worthwhile reading in terms of the negative consequences of a culture with infinite choices.
• "Ten Films that Ask the Right Questions," Salvo 3: Under the Influence, 2007. www.salvomag.com/new/articles/archives/film/maddex.php. See also the "Fatal Attractions" list in the print edition, page 20-24.
• Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society, by Marva Dawn (WJK, 2003). Without romanticizing the past, Dawn points out the negative consequences of technological progress, especially in terms of work, home and family, and offers biblical solutions. Highly recommended.
• "Technology & Children," an interview with Leon Kass by Ken Myers on Mars Hill Audio Journal #66. www.marshillaudio.org/cdbonus/default.asp.

Getting Perspective on Sustainability
• Consumed (2007), American Public Media. Key quote: "If everyone in the world consumed like the average American, we'd need about six Earths to sustain ourselves." Listen free online at sustainability.publicradio.org/consumed/


Faith and Doubt

In the post from 2-9-09 (Sunday Wrap-Up), we had many good comments. The topic of faith and doubt was intertwined into the conversation. While some thought that doubt was a good place to be, others thought that we should not stay there.

Our friend, Greg Newton, shares some great thoughts on faith and doubt on his blog. Greg is a part of Disciples' Fellowship in Birmingham, AL.


Atheist who believes Africa needs God

A new friend to the cohort, Nick, shared this article with me and asked that I post it. It ties in well with a lot of our past discussions. It is an article from The Times based in London. Please read and consider.

Also, don't forget to check out the previous post about our upcoming discussion on consumerism.


Discussion 2.22.09: Consumerism Part I

At the next cohort discussion on Sunday we will be diving into the topic of consumerism. Remember the “suicide machine” that McLaren spoke of last spring in Goshen (www.everythingmustchange.org)? One could say that American consumerism is the electricity that keeps it running.

I have posted two readings for our discussion on the yahoogroups page. If you aren’t a member of the group, you’ll need to sign up to get to the files (see the button on the right panel of the blog). Once you’re into our page, click on “files,” to the left.

One of the readings includes excerpts from What Would Jesus Buy?, a radical book written by a truly incredible activist (be warned, the writer isn’t actually that concerned about the hypothetical shopping habits of Jesus). If you want to know more about the organization featured in the book check out their site.

The second reading is a chapter from the recently published The Shock Doctrine. While the first reading deals more with our daily choices as First World consumers, this second one describes the destructive changes that American and European multinational corporations operating on current business models have brought to undeveloped countries rich in resources.

We’re all busy, right? But please try to spend some time digesting these readings, and please print them off and bring them with you on Sunday if possible. I was lucky enough to have several hours over last weekend to read most of both books, which resulted in what I believe were life changing epiphanies. My consumer habits have been dominating my thought-life more and more lately; I have become convinced that as reflective, spiritual people living in the U.S., we must pay attention to the products we consume, because these actions so powerfully affect both ourselves and others. If we want to love God’s children, we have to take this seriously.

Additionally, I have the documentary that goes along with What Would Jesus Buy? and I would love to have people over sometime this week to view it. I’m thinking about Saturday, either during the day or the evening. The film is funny, moving, and insightful all at once. Send me an email or post a comment if you would like to come.


Indulgences making a comeback?

I read this article last week in the Dispatch and I thought I would put it up here. Basically, it is about indulgences coming back to the Catholic Church, though not in quite the same way - as far as I understand people can't just pay their way into heaven anymore. As some of you know, I really want to like the Catholic church for various reasons, but this really bothers me. I understand, sort of, how this could help someone, but I can only see it doing more harm than good. I am a little bothered by the trend to return to pre-Reformation style Catholicism. I have certainly been harsh on the Protestants before, and as an historian of the 16th century I know that it is a very complicated issue. But as a man on (non)faith I really think the Catholic church needed the good scrubbing it got in the years after the Reformation.

Anyway, just thought I would post this up here. I would be very interested to hear some thoughts of others - especially those more sensitive to the Catholic church and the Pope on this issue.

Peter Rollins at Calvin College

Our friend, Peter Rollins, was recently interviewed on "Inner Compass", a television interview show from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

Go to the Calvin College "Inner Compass" page. The interview with Peter is #909.


Feeling the Presence of God

I posted this in a response to Sunday's Wrap Up, but was told I should repost it here so the comments don't get too long.

Sarah mentioned "an absence of God's presence" and I've heard a lot about feeling "God's presence" lately it seems. Even Peter Rollins talked about how once you've experienced God then you are able to notice his absence. He said it is like someone waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. If you are the person waiting then you distinctly feel that person's absence, but nobody else in the room feels their absence because they don't know them.

Someone said God's presence is always with us and I at first unthinkingly agreed because that sounds nice and I was taught that fancy word omnipresent. I do remember struggling to figure out God's presence in hell, but found some sort of work-around.

Anyway I can only remember a very few times thinking/feeling "God is present here" and those were times when I was completely alone and I can never remember thinking/feeling "God is absent here". So I guess my question is: what is that feeling like? do other people have that feeling? How do you know when you're having that feeling? Is it like a sensation in your body or just a thought in your mind?

I'm curious especially in conjunction with what Pete was saying that maybe I haven't experienced God in such a way to make me feel His absence. Or is this some kind of indescribable pentecostal invention to legitimize or illegitimize different expressions of faith? Or am I missing the point?


Super Fun?!?

Hey everyone,

We need to make a plan for our Super-Fun! activity this weekend. Greg had a good idea that we should just make a list the we can pick from so that when this happens again (it will) we can pick something already guaranteed to be fun. Maybe bowling would be fun if anyone knows somewhere cheap. Anyway, please start posting ideas - even if we've already settled on one for this weekend. Let's get a list going.



Sunday Wrap Up

Yesterday we met at the Global Gallery and watched a provocative Nooma video that led into an even more interesting discussion. Questions of the role of breathing God's spirit emerged, critiques of behavior modification churches were leveled, and concepts of loving our neighbors through self-forgetfulness were shared. We welcomed several new voices who added much to the discussion. I received this e-mail regarding the discussion last night and asked if I could share it with the group. I felt I couldn't answer it fully as it touches the core of how our group positions itself as open to atheists and agnostics alike, yet still circles around the Judeo-Christian worldview we are entrenched in. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

From a face in the crowd:

So, I just realized one thing that seemed not right to me during discussion. It seemed to me like there was an absence of God's presence in the discussion. Now I don't know how you feel about this or what your groups view is on this, but do you ever open group with prayer or pray for God's wisdom and guidance during discussions or even pray for people/each other?. It just seemed like everyone was trying so hard to figure out God and how he fits into our lives and our own thoughts and feelings about the topic today that God just seemed to be left out of it. Anyways, I was just wondering what your thoughts are on this, I seriously realized it just now, I couldn't believe I had completely forgotten to remember God. Scary.


A Quick Story

Walking home from Cup O’ Joe, the sun was shining; I was in a great mood; I’d just had coffee with a really good friend.

As I was passing St. Mary’s Church, a homeless man asked me for change. My usual response is to avoid eye contact or say “I’m sorry.” This morning was no different. I quickly walked past him like he was invisible.

But I was so disappointed in my response that I turned around, went back and said, “Look I’m going to give you a dollar. Would you please spend it on food?” And I went on to tell him that I loved God and that I hoped he came into better circumstances.

The whole time I was talking he had this dazed look on his face like he couldn’t quite take in what was happening.

I turned and walked away and his parting words to me were…

“Do you have a $20?”

And I thought, well Nancy so much for your noble gesture! Did you really think you could make a difference in this man’s life? Did you really think this time would be different? How many times have you been told not to give money to people who beg and how many times are you going to be taken in?

While I’m quite sure that giving out some spare change rarely brings about a life-changing experience for someone deep in poverty or that I would be better off directing them to a homeless organization, I don’t ever want my heart to get that hardened.

Instead, I want to use discernment and discretion. Sometimes perhaps I will give; sometimes offer a kind word; hand out a card of a homeless organization that can help; and sometimes wisdom will have me continue walking.

The lesson for me today was to really open my eyes and stop pretending that what I do doesn’t make a difference. Giving money may be the least of the best options. But I took time, I looked into his eyes and I told him I loved God.

That might not have been life changing for him, but it will never cease to be life changing for me.


A little on Suffering

I think much of my life has been spent trying to avoid and reduce suffering. I tried the obvious—controlling things. That doesn’t go very far. Although I knew I couldn’t eliminate suffering, I actually thought my obedience to God would reduce suffering, but it didn’t. This past year I thought…if I could get closer to God, I would at least be stronger, have more faith and experience less pain.

Suffering came into my life by way of crumbled relationships and circumstances far beyond my ability to cope. And I will honestly admit that when I asked for more of God, I did not expect to experience anger, rejection, or abandonment.

I did not expect doubts of my theology to completely collapse my religious foundation.

I did not expect my life to fail so miserably.

However, something quite magnificent is happening in this process of loss and suffering. The thing that I wanted–less pain--didn’t come about at all. In fact, I have become more vulnerable, been more humbled, have risked more and I have probably felt more pain than ever.

And yet…I have hope like never before.

This is not because of any certainty of Heaven or that God will bless me or right my circumstances, but I have hope because I know that no matter what I suffer and how much loss comes my way, I can live out the words from James 1:3-4--God is quite simply making me whole.

I thought I knew
how to suffer less.

I would pray for more.

God empty me.
Fill me with a depth of love for all.
Flood me with a hope that could lighten heavy hearts.
Grant me a destiny that would fulfill my life and Your will.

I thought I knew
how to suffer less.

But I found love through a broken heart.
I felt hope after wrestling with despair.
I gained a destiny that calls me to be wounded again
and again.

So what of my prayer for more?

God empty me.


Pete Rollins Podcast Part 1

Thanks, Andrew, for recording Peter Rollins' presentations on Sunday! We have a few hours of philosophy, theology and Irish humor for everyone's listening enjoyment.

The recording is a bit tough to understand at times because of the echos in Studio 35. I've tried to fix up the audio as best I could, and have uploaded the first hour of the presentation. I'll try to upload the next two segments this weekend. If there are problems or you have comments, please let me know!

So it's uploading as I type, but I'm going to bed - so check the link here to get the latest episode

**Apologies: There was an upload error last night (of course) - but I'm working on it this morning - check back soon**

Ok - I think it's working - if there are problems, comment or email (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) to let me know - thanks!


A Thank You and a What's Next...

We had an amazing day today with Peter Rollins and thoroughly enjoyed learning from and dialoguing with him. Thank you, Peter, for sharing your time and talents with us. We appreciate your willingness to teach and talk and enjoy lots of good food with us. We wish you the best in all of your endeavors and are excited for your upcoming release of the Orthodox Heretic.

Also, we wanted to extend a Thank You to all who were able to join us this afternoon to hear Pete speak. Thank you for participating in the dialogue, and we hope that you were able to glean and learn from your experience. Know that we welcome you to any of our meetings and hope that you would shoot us an email, meet us for coffee or otherwise let us know who you are and let us continue the dialogue with you. We are very interested in learning about and knowing others in our community and encourage you to join us!

Additional Thank You's to Studio 35 for their hospitality and for helping to make Pete's talk go as smooth as it did! Support local businesses and go check out a film at Studio 35!

Next week, on Sunday, February 8, we will meet at the Global Gallery Coffee Shop in Clintonville at 3:00pm. We will have a discussion with a Nooma video as the initial conversation starter. So, bring your travel coffee mug (they give a discount for being eco friendly and not using a paper cup!) and get ready to Nooma it up.