After Courses

You might think that just because classes ended last Friday, I have my feet up in my Barcalounger, and I’m puffing a cigar, thinking about all the poor working stiffs whose work doesn’t crash to a halt two weeks before Christmas. You might think so, but — even apart from my lack of a Barcalounger — you’d be wrong.

I spent the morning talking with Kyle about his long-distance directed readings course on emergent/emerging church polity. Kyle’s put a lot of time and effort into connecting with me for this course, so I felt the least I could do was really monologue the living daylights out of him when he comes by to visit. He escaped with his sanity (more or less) intact after a long discussion of his studies, his visit to Geoff’s place Sunday morning, his visit to Willow Creek in the afternoon, and the conclusions he’s reaching on the basis of it all. It’s been a pleasure to talk through his explorations with him.

Among our topics this morning was a metaphor I threw out, that Kyle suggested I use before he stole it — so in deference to his wishes, I’m blogging it tonight. We were discussing the impetus (impetuses? impeti? impetuousities?) for emergent churches, and I compared the situation to the gradual congestion, silting up and log-jamming, of clear waterways. The water that would ordinarily flow through the mainb channels doesn’t just magically go away; it begins showing up in unexpected places (flowing down streets, cutting new channels, flooding your basement). So, when the established churches (here using “established” not restrictedly about “granted privileged status by the state,” but broadly as “constituted as enduring corporate entities”) impede the flow of the Spirit, we should look for the Spirit to make itself known in surprising places.

We also noted that emerging/emergent churches aren’t formally distinct from various modern church-start models. To the extent that emerging/emergent congregations differentiate themselves from precedent, they do so by the way they live out a distinct self-understanding. Kyle’s using “participation” as one of the key-concepts of his account of emerging/emergent polity; I wondered whether that might conceal the extent to which established churches encourage “participation” too, in ways formally quite similar to emerging congregations. These patterns clearly differ — but they differ not at the level of bare “participation,” but at the level of what that participation means to the congregation’s identity.

When Kyle finally made his way to the door, I turned my attention back to church history papers, handled some phone calls and emails, a couple of student visits, began working on the sermon for Todd’s ordination, and tackled more grading. I have an all-day faculty meeting tomorrow, and an errand with Margaret Wednesday morning. If things break well, Margaret and I may have the evening out as a treat Wednesday night — by which time it would be great to have my papers finished and be on my way ahead to the sermon.

The readings for Saturday will be Num 11:16-17, 24-5 (omitting the baffling concluding phrase), Psalm 43, 1 Peter 5:1-4, and Matthew 9:35-38. So far I have a strong intuition of where I want the sermon to get, but no clear idea of its itinerary in getting there. I’ll keep in touch as notions develop (don’t worry Ref, I’ll dig something up).

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. With regards to the plural of “impetus,” your first guess was right. That’s not the correct “-us” ending to lead to an “-i” plural in English – or Latin, for that matter. Of course, if you wanted to seem extraordinarily classical, you could keep the Latin plural “impetus” and confuse everyone on the Web.


  2. These patterns clearly differ — but they differ not at the level of bare “participation,” but at the level of what that participation means to the congregation’s identity.

    Do you mean that in an “established” church participation is encouraged and expected but if you don’t participate, the church still exists in the same way, but that an “emerging” church lack of participation means lack of community, therefore lack of existence? Or are you referring to more openness in the ways people can participate, so that the established church says “if you want to participate, here’s how you do it: be a reader, acolyte, LEM, etc.” and the emergent church says something like “we won’t tell you what to do, but how you participate determines what this group is”?

  3. Google indicates no posting on the emerging church has ever included the word Barcalounger – please turn in your hall pass.

  4. AKMA — I’m not in the least bit worried about the sermon. I’ve found that the plane ride out is a great place to craft one. In fact, I wrote both of my sermons for the interviews out here on the plane. It’ll work, it’ll preach, and I’ll see you Friday.

  5. Peter, That’s the question I’m still asking a couple days later. I threw (a version) of that question out to a few folks. I’ll try and share it if anyone is interested, including you my professor.

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