March 17, 2006

emerging what?

Sent this out to the list today. If your not on the list you can sign up over there on the right. Your input would be appreciated:

For those praying for and watching the Ecclesia Collective from a distance there have been a few questions that I have heard several times:

- Are you guys one of those "emerging churches"?
- What's a Mennonite?
- What is the Collective, really?

These are valid questions. Not always easily answered. We've been at this for almost two years now and have yet to put our finger on how to articulate concisely what we are doing. But last night as those that are at the core of this thing sat around eating tortilla soup (yes, the Matthew's House recipe has spread to the south!) drinking home-brewed beer and wrestling with the kids a little clarity came out of our conversation...

EMERGING WHAT?
I always have trouble answering this question. Yes and no, is usually the best I can do. I'm not fond of "emerging church" being represented by upper, middle class white folks through all the publishing under this mantra. But the truth is, God is up to something around the globe, inserting a prophetic instinct into his body to return to core understandings of Jesus, his Kingdom and his Church.

Author and theologian, Scot McKnight, has written a solid article articulating what the emerging church is. I would offer that as a good definition of what we are trying be and what emerging curches are in a general sense:
http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/article/0602FutureorFad.pdf

Here are the notes from a presentation I did on the subject a while ago as well (Scot's is better):
http://a51t15.blogspot.com/2006/01/talk-from-wednesday.html

MENNA-WHO?
One thing that stood out to me from McKnight's article is his mention that Anabaptist values are commonly found in the practice of emerging churches. Several folks have asked us who the Mennonites are and why we make more and more mention of them. The Mennonite Church USA is a denominational expression of the Anabaptist heritage. The Anabaptist movement started during the Reformation. They highly emphasized Christ-centered community, justice and discipleship as values not just given mental assent to but lived out, radically.

The Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference (http://pacificsouthwest.org/) befriended us early on as we started dreaming about starting something in urban San Diego. They have provided mentoring, encouragment, friendship, inspiration and lots of prayer support (from people we haven't even met!). All of this was done through relationship and before we had even discussed official ties of any sort. This particular conference has felt like extended family from the start. It has been a natural connection and one that we are proud to acknowledge and continue developing.

SO, WHAT IS THIS.... REALLY?
In his article, McKnight mentions some accurate critiques of emerging churches in North America. The items he mentions are some we have wrestled with (in a less heady and more gut-level sense). Working through some of this has slowed down some of the things we had hoped to have accomplished as far clarifying how we see ourselves organizationally. I don't see this as a bad thing. Slowing down has meant spending more time nurturing the existing/developing relationships we have. The result has been a stronger community of faith.

Gordon Cosby, of Church of the Savior in DC, has often said that mission births community, not vice versa. I think Cosby is right. I believe mission birthed the Hawthorn House faith community. And now, as that community has grown and began to mature, it is returning to a sense of mission that binds us. This is going to result in, now that we are ready, more Kingdom community expressions.

As I said above, we had a very fruitful conversation last night. We were able to begin articulating what we have been, what we are now and what we dream to be. We were able to do this together, rather than just me waxing philosophical. Which was good because we began to realize a richer, more balanced and creative perspective.

Rick Horton, from Matthew's House (http://matthewshouse.com/), always talks about having, "One vision, but many voices." This has stuck with me from the first time I heard Rick say this. God's dream is discovered many times when we throw our dreams together and find the common thread. I think this started happening last night.

Josh came up with an helpful metaphor for how we understand The Ecclesia Christian Collective at this point. Josh explained the Collective as the trunk of a tree, precisely the dragon palm in our backyard. The dragon palm has a massive trunk that looks like it would be an oak or eucalyptus of some kind. But as you look up it extends into pod-like branches that sprout clusters of palm leaves with blossoms that cluster together to make an almost solid cover if you sit under the tree.

The Collective has been a trunk, providing the foundation for us to start faith communities and engage in other "missional experiments". That is where we have been and are right now. It has been the undergirding for our dreams. Looking into the future, the dream is that the Collective would someday be identifiable as the "collection" of the many branches that have started from a similar base and remain connected by relationship and values, making up a family of Kingdom communities: "an ever-expanding community" as Matthew's House folks call it. Like the dragon palm, we dream about the day the Collective is the many branches that together form an "umbrella" of kingdom activity, throughout our city. I believe we see this not as branding or imperialism but as companionship. We desire, as we always have, "to nurture grassroots expressions of the Kingdom of God in San Diego" and we hope this results in a network of relationships the are co-beneficial to each involved.

Hopefully this helps you (and us) understand better how we see our mission, our dream organizationally. We are very open to questions, comments and critique. We covet your prayers. I recently met with Geoff Hsu (http://www.thehsus.com/views/), a friend here is San Diego, and he has been helpful in gaining clarity. Some of us will be meeting with others (some of you) in the coming weeks to request counsel in how we should move forward. Please pray that these are helpful, productive and
encouraging conversations.

Lastly, I would like to request your continued prayers for our friends Mark Palmer (http://palmerlp.livejournal.com/), who is battling cancer and Renee, Aiden and Colin Canipe, who have just lost Chad (http://www.canipememorial.com/) an amazing husband, father and friend.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. We love you all!


Paz,

J
for the Collective

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