Friday, August 29, 2008

re-emerging from emerging church

After Greenbelt last year I was not very optimistic about the emerging church! I even wrote this poem

not emerging, drowning
I have tried to come up for air
but it feels like someone has their foot on my head.
I keep gasping and waving but I think I am going under again.
If I swim like this --- I seem to keep afloat, but it is painful and not my stroke.
If I swim like this --- the foot goes back on again and I go under.

I am not emerging,
I am struggling.
I think I am drowning.

I am sitting in a pew with a sore bum.
I am trying to play nicely with boys.
I am trying to learn how to turn the machine on.
I am whispering into a yellow flower on a sandy beach.
I am not thin or pretty.
I am not softly spoken.
I am not very meek or mild.

I can see legs under the water.
They are kicking and kicking and not getting anywhere.
I wonder if I swim closer we could try and go up for air together?

Perhaps it was my expectation of community, the desire to be part of church that explored new ways of worshiping (not just deconstructed and dismantled) and of being in communication with people who wanted to spend time together getting things wrong but not getting caught up with blame or competition. These expectations were challenged at Greenbelt 07 because as I encountered various groups, communities and individuals interacting I realised that the fragility of human life meant that quite the opposite set of values were often at play (in myself as well as others). The steep learning curve I experienced last year made me realise that if a new way of being church was going to emerge it would be as flawed as ever but it just might find new ways of engaging with culture and even provide a counter-cultural environment that challenged dominant cultures (secular and holy) if only it allowed itself to flourish and not eat itself. However, this would only be possible for me to be involved if I entered into debate and engaged in dialogue with my own practice and that of others.

This year I spent quite a lot of time submerging myself in various services, talks, musical encounters and 'performance worship'. I didn't want to dismantle or distance myself but allow the offerings to float about without trying to pin them down too much. I didn't go into the contributors lounge or engage with debate (that almost broke my heart last year) but instead enjoyed the challenges, the beauty and the spiritual connections when I got them allowing the negative, disappointments and stuff I just 'didn't get' to drift away. You know was great. And I did find hope:
at the hospitable dinner table in Grace
at the beach in Dream
in neotopia in soulspace
in new performances of old songs (of Larry Normans)
in the confusion of Foundation's babel
in the contemplation of Feig
amongst the plastic bags at Sanctus 2nds
on the terrace at Rise
in the cooker and the kitchen
and in the Ambient Wonder

So, as I come back to parish life I bring back a renewed sense of hospitality, a re-engagement with the creativity of my peers and a hope for a graceful British emerging church and alternative worship.

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