Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What has up/ been up to?

So, we've had three gatherings of the up/ type and I haven't told you about any of them.


First, let me tell you that we're going to meet again on Monday, December 8 at 7:00 at Wicker Park Grace, which can be found at 1741 N. Western. We'd love to see anyone who has an inkling of interest in meeting up with folks who are interested in talking about opening up God's kingdom to all people, not just the ones who believe the same things we do.

Now, I'm going to give a list of quotes from our various gatherings, since I really should be doing my homework.

September discussion:

"I used to have a passion for being an evangelical Christian and then I had a passion for being a post-modern Christian and now I wish I could just reclaim some of that passion."

"The way the faith has been presented is shallow. So the way I see emergence is looking back into the depth of tradition."

"Yearning for a deeper or more real experience of God and community and how this covenant is played out in real life.

"Young folks already believe they can pick and choose and would never dream of feeling oppressed by a "modern" church who insists on all or nothing belief."

"If Jews interpreted the New Testament you would pretty much have Unitarianism."

Brian McLaren:

Emergence arises from two impulses: anxiety over the decline of Mainline Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical communities and folks who just stopped liking going to church.

When Bolger and Gibbs looked at churches that seemed to be attracting young people they found that style of worship was not the most dominant common characteristic. Instead, most shared a desire to fulfill the idea of "on Earth as it is in Heaven."

Phyllis Tickle defined emergence as a desire to share spiritual resources.

Emergence can be viewed as the new outer ring of a tree rather than just another slice of a finite pie.

Pre-modern, Modern and Emergent can be defined by the evolution of literacy: Pre-modern is a time of no books (no literacy), Modern has books (literate), Post-Modern has screens and hyper-text (multi-literate).

"This building [Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago] evokes continuity with the medieval era."

Modern Christianity has been getting less and less formal, like digging a basement - Eastern Orthodox to Roman Catholic and Anglican to Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist to Baptists to Pentecostals to House, cell and storefront churches. Interestingly, the early church started in the basement.

Theology Pub:

Actually, I don't really have any quotes from the Theology Pub. It was a loud, hot and crowded event full of people that wanted to talk about opening up God's kingdom to all people, not just the ones who believe the same things we do. It was pretty cool. I ended up buying a copy of Nadia Bolz-Weber's book and I'm looking forward to the end of the quarter so I actually read it.

So, join us on December 8. Bring some cookies. Or celery. Or just your soul. We'll talk about stuff. It'll be good.

Go Gently,

Saturday, November 08, 2008

busy lately? take some time out with us for dinner and discussion!

Spiritual disciplines, grad school homework, funerals, hurting friends, a full-time job, working out, serving projects, family drama, and my own personal drama sure do keep my time occupied - as I'm sure for you as well! I'm not sure how Americans stay sane considering our lifestyles that keep us hopping and always occupied - sometimes even good spiritual activities just seem like another appointment block on my Outlook calendar. It's one of the reasons why the regular practice of Sabbath has been crucial for my life. There is a time for work, for play and for rest and God is with me through all the sacred ordinariness of life. Although, at times, I am simply overwhelmed with the world's crises and injustices that just seem to be never ending and there is still much work to be done. Learning how to recharge and find balance is critical!

I heard a woman speak last night about an experience she had in an orphanage in Ghana. She walked into a concrete warehouse open room filled with hundreds of crying, crawling and walking infants under 3 years old. Being overwhelmed with the desire to pick one up, to comfort at least just one affection-starved child, she asked if she could hold one. She was stunned by the response - "No, don't! They'll get used to being held and they'll cry even more and it will make it even worse! But, come here, let us show you something."

They took her to a room off to the side of the open warehouse where she could smell sweet perfume coming from under the door. They cracked the door open where she could see an older white-haired woman sitting on a mat on the floor, surrounded by candles and sweet perfume oils. This woman was holding one baby, massaging its back with perfumed oil and the baby had a wide-eyed look of ecstasy - soaking it all in! She was told that each baby gets two hours each week in the "holding room of intense compassion".

You may not have the capacity to hold the entire world's pain in your arms, but to whom are you called to offer love, compassion and holding? To whomever that is, I encourage you to do it intensely and surround yourselves with people who will support your arms when they become too heavy to hold anymore!

up/rooted.west will be meeting on the third Tuesday, Nov 18 and Dec 16 at 6:45pm, hosted at Randy Harper's home: 1950 Manchester Rd., Wheaton. We'll offer a free dinner, so please RSVP if you'll be able to make it so the cooks can be prepared. November's discussion will be an open forum and in December we'll tackle 1/3 of Phyllis Tickle's new book, The Great Emergence.

We hope that our discussion group and community of friends can offer hope and encouragement to despairing or weary Kingdom laborers, stimulate theological thought, inspire you with new ideas for how to be the church in your context and that our dreams and visions of what is possible will bounce off each other and grow exponentially as we share!

I pray that you are enjoying God and the divine work He has invited you into and that your life is filled with fellow God-lovers and laborers who will encourage your journey when you become weary! Wherever the disciples went, they encouraged one another. May we strive to do the same today as we are no less in need of encouragement!

Blessings on your journey,
Kristine Socall

…navigating the complexity of simplicity @

Monday, October 27, 2008

Instead of meeting to have a discussion this month and next, the city branch of up/rooted is going to attend some speaking events en masse. Of course, everyone from anywhere in the Chicagoland area is invited.

Tonight is Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass speaking at 7:00 at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. More details are available at

Next Sunday, November 2nd we'll be meeting for a "Theology Pub" at the Bar Louie on Printer's Row (47 Polk St.) from 6:00 to 8:00. Join hostess Nadia Bolz-Weber (House for All Sinners and Saints, Denver, Co. Author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television) for a Theology Pub featuring Becky Garrison (Religious satirist and author, Rising From the Ashes: Re-thinking Church), Doug Gay (University of Glasgow, Author, Alternative Worship: Resources from and for the Emerging Church), Nannette Sawyer (Wicker Park Grace, Author Hospitality: The Sacred Art), and Ryan Bolger (Fuller Seminary, Author Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures). Meet these folks. Chat. Have books signed. Drink beer.

I hope I'll see many of you at one of these events.


Monday, October 13, 2008


Of all men, I am most blessed. I have a beautiful wife whose heart is deep. I have wonderful young children who are beginning to find their own character and sense of self. And I have a God who loves me. A part of this profound blessing I feel is the great privilege to live across the road from a Forest Preserve. There is not a day that goes by that I fail to look over at God's amazing creation there--and, at times, enjoy the advantage of taking time there. Usually, my family and I will walk in the Preserve. Sometimes we'll bike it. And there are a handful of moments when I make my way there alone. Today was one of those occasions.
As I sat reading a good book in a grove of trees, I chanced upon an interesting convergence. There, in that grove of quietly invincible oaks, my eyes discovered that the tallest tree was also the most beautiful. It occurred to me that many eyes and many legs must have looked at and walked past that old tree. I wondered how many had noticed its amazing color at this time of year. (As I am fashioning these thoughts in the middle of a Midwest October, it won't take you long to ascertain why its beauty right now exceeds even its loveliest green when spring and summer shake hands in their passing of one another.)
Now, in my color-blindness, I am attuned to my limitations at being able to certify the color I perceived it to be, but I'll still stab at it. Taken as a whole, I'd have to say that the tree's leaves were the most attractive shade of amber, but that's not to say that I failed to see the hues of gorgeous orange and scarlet highlights. From top to bottom, this old oak was mesmerizing. Awe-striking, really.
And it's just as I had taken the whole tree in that a deep truth occurred to me. What is it about me that is most drawn to this tree NOW--as the season brings something about it to an end. Shouldn't a sensible person most admire it when it is at its greenest--when it is its most ALIVE? And while meditating on this last thought, I stopped to reconsider why I had not taken note of the tree during any one of the hundred other times I had been there.You see, it wasn't until I saw its color that I would end up taking notice of its character. From the same vantage-point of where I sat in October, the same tree exists as only one among about a million in June. While I could have probably seen that it reached further into the heavens than the rest, it's just that at its greenest the oak doesn't STAND OUT, it just stands up. Yes, it's when something in it is dying that I begin to realize how alive it is.
While I am no arborist, I would bet my neighbor's last paycheck that that tree has stood in that spot for 80-100 years. Slowly but certainly, it has grown into the patriarch of all the trees around it. But in order for it to be the wisest and strongest of those trees, it has had to abide and persist through many dozens of deaths. It has had to steadily give up a part of itself. The turning of those beautiful amber leaves were a striking display in nature of a God principle. The principle of turning. Jesus once said to those who might want to follow Him: “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must TURN from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it" (Matthew 16:24-25--nlt). Turning displays life more than any human action or event. While it certainly is emblematic of the release of the past; more than that, it is only by giving up the things we have had hanging about us or on us for too long(even if we consider them beautiful) that we can make space for new life.Some of you are at an amber point in your life. And while it may be difficult to freely release what you've known for a while, know that WE ARE OUR MOST BEAUTIFUL WHEN WE ARE MAKING SPACE FOR GOD'S NEW LIFE. It is then that we are most alive and most striking. Then--and only then--will we know that we have turned. Our amber will display our color and our character.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Event: Evangelicals and Empire

Hey Everyone,

This Wednesday will be a very interesting gathering in Wheaton about evangelicals and empire. It is hosted by Bruce Benson and Peter Heltzel, some good friends of mine. Please check it out.

Evangelicals and Empire

Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 7:30 PM
Kresge Room, Edmond Chapel
featuring authors of Evangelicals and Empire

Dr. Benson: "Evangelicalism: The Contested Church."

Dr. Heltzel: "Hope Against Hope: Prophetic Black Evangelicalism from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack Obama."

Bruce Ellis Benson is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College (IL). He is the author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry and Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith. He is co-editor of The Phenomenology of Prayer, Hermeneutics at the Crossroads, Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love's Wisdom, and Evangelicals and Empire. His areas of research include continental philosophy of religion, Nietzsche, and political theology.

Peter Goodwin Heltzel is Assistant Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he holds theological degrees from Wheaton College (BA), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Boston University (Ph.D.). He is a Co-Founder of New York Faith and Justice and the Envision Conference. His book Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race and American Politics will be out this Spring with Yale University Press. Edited volumes include Theology in Global Context (T&T Clark, 2004) and The Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology (Chalice Press, 2008). He lives in New York City with his wife Sarah who is an opera singer


Evangelicals and Empire

Edited by Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Goodwin Heltzel

This groundbreaking collection considers empire from a global perspective, exploring the role of evangelicals in political, social, and economic engagement at a time when empire is alternately denounced and embraced. It brings noted thinkers from a range of evangelical perspectives together to engage the most explosive and discussed theorists of empire in the first decade of the twenty-first century--Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Using their work as a springboard, the contributors grapple with the concept of empire and how evangelicalism should operate in the world of empire.

Contributors to the volume include Jim Wallis
Helene Slessarev-Jamir, James K. A. Smith, John Milbank, Donald W. Dayton,
Mark Lewis Taylor, Amos Yong, Michael S. Horton, John Franke and Catherine Keller.

"Powerful, urgent, and rigorous. Evangelicals and Empire's diverse voices combine solid scholarship and moral passion to produce a challenging rethinking of what it means to be evangelical."--Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action

"Evangelicals and Empire is a significant book because it deals with religious groups that are usually identified with the politics of empire. Helping the reader understand the deeper reasons for the connection of empire and religion, the essays in this book come together to provide a truly invaluable resource for our time as they flesh out alternative resources that resist empire within the evangelical traditions. The future belongs to such efforts that seek to identify new horizons for the interplay of religion and politics."--Joerg Rieger, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Friday, September 05, 2008

CCDA and Theology Pub

As summer draws to a close and we get back into our "serious" lives, we have some very exciting opportunities to get together and build our community by teaching and learning from one another.

You've already heard about the up/rooted discussions taking place on September 17 and 23 and the free workshop on October 18.

We've also just confirmed a Theology Pub, hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who I met recently when she was in town for a conference. I want to say that she's an amazon of energy, passion and charm and I REALLY hope she takes that in the best possible way. :-) She's from House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Co. and the author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television.

It takes place on Sunday, November 2 from 6 to 8 at the Bar Louie on Printer's Row, which is 47 W. Polk St in Chicago. There will be beer. And God. And brains. Not zombie brains. Talky brains.

Because joining her are all of her famous author friends:

Pete Rollins - How (Not) To Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief
Becky Garrison - Rising From the Ashes: Re-thinking Church
Doug Gay - Alternative Worship: Resources from and for the Emerging Church
Nannette Sawyer - Hospitality: The Sacred Art
Ryan Bolger - Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures

You have one of these books. If not, get one. Bring it to be singed. Or signed. Or just bring yourself. It'll be great.

On a more get-out-of-town vein, wouldn't it be nice to visit Miami as it starts to get colder but before all the snowbirds settle themselves back in their nests? How about the end of October? The 22nd to the 26th to be exact? It happens to be my birthday on the 25th so if you happen to be in Miami at that time, you can . . .you know . . . give me a present or something.

But why would we both be in Miami at the end of October?

The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), that's why. Some of you know that I found my way to the emerging movement from the social justice direction, having grown up visiting Lawndale Community Church and Mendenhall, MI through my parents' involvement from a young age. (Those are the incarnational ministries of Wayne Gordon and John Perkins, respectively.) CCDA is a community of folks who have moved into or moved back into the most forgotten neighborhoods in our country to be more like Jesus by surrounding themselves with the poor and working on their behalf. These are some amazing folks who have doing this for 30 years. Emerging folks have a lot to learn about authenticity and love from their experience.

The conference in Miami is one of the least expensive conference of it's kind at only $80 for students and $155 for everyone else. This year, Brian McLaren is one of the key-note speakers, so we're really trying to make emerging folks away of this really amazing experience.

Please check out the conference website for more details. I listed some of the break-out sessions that you might be interested in below. Thanks for reading this far. I'm so excited to get back in the swing of things again.

Go Gently,

Jesus for President

A workshop to provoke the political imagination.

Shane Claiborne

Saturday, October 25

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers

Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do. Through exposition of biblical prayers, Shane and Jonathan provide concrete examples of how a life of prayer fuels social engagement and the work of justice.

Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Thursday, October 23

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Pre-emptive Peacemaking

Conflicts arise in the context of individual and group stories. Most conflicts fit in a handful of story patterns. Jesus told and lived an alternate story that redeems these other stories.

Brian McLaren

Saturday, October 25

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Urban Monasticism in the 21st Century

This session will address the critical place of the Desert Father of North Africa and a contemplative spirituality to building effective church communities in Western urban culture today. We will consider the radical power of silence, solitude, and a "Rule of Life" to slow both us and our people down. Moreover, we will consider its long term impact on our community development efforts today.

Pete Scazzero

Thursday, October 23

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Global Shalom: Not just for us

This workshop focuses on the reality that a peaceful and just existence cannot be experienced by only one portion of our world's population. In order for there truly to be Shalom, it cannot be limited to one nation, one ethnicity or one religion.

Brandon Sipes & Curt Luthye

Saturday, October 25

1:00pm - 2:15pm

Uniting and Mobilizing the Church to End Poverty

Fighting poverty has become a test of our faith and a social justice imperative of our time. Today the number of Americans living in poverty is almost identical to 1968, the tragic year Dr. King was assassinated. Since this tragic turning point in history, our nation has experienced 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, lacking both the bold leadership and national resolve to redress the root causes of poverty in America and around the world. This workshop will explore how you can best engage and mobilize your church and community to put the issue of poverty on the top of the national agenda and hold elected officials accountable to a bold anti-poverty agenda. The workshop will also provide practical ways to unite and engage your church in advocacy that addresses the root causes of poverty in America, including through the Mobilization to End Poverty on April 27-29 2009.

Adam Taylor

Saturday, October 25

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Militarism & Poverty: The Cost of War

Four decades ago, King spoke prophetically to the inextricable relationship between America's militarism, and the plight of its poor. As the current war approaches a trillion dollars, it's imperative that the Church examine this costly and egregious relationship, and seek to bear witness to God's shalom in the world today.

Craig Wong & Bob Kaiser

Saturday, October 25

1:00pm - 2:15pm

Prayer, Peace and the Poor

We will be talking about the importance of prayer (individual and corporate) when serving the poor. We hope to show how prayer and practical service filled with love and mercy will lead toward peace - with ourselves, our clients, our neighbors and our community.

Hector Alicea & Chris Ramsey

Friday, October 24

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Organizing Faith Communities for Environmental Justice

Lisa Sharon Harper and Rachel Anderson will share the story of how these sister grassroots urban movements came to be and what they are doing to organize faith communities for environmental justice. Motivated by the theology of Shalom, New York Faith & Justice is collaborating with faith communities and grassroots environmental justice agencies in New York City to organize a faith-based movement for environmental justice. The Boston Faith and Justice Network is equipping a rising movement of Christians committed to raising awareness and pressing for environmental sustainability for the global poor, starting with fair trade. There will be time for questions and answers.

Rachel Anderson & Lisa Harper

Friday, October 24

3:00pm - 4:15pm

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God's Official Political Party

Over the past few weeks, my daily personal experience in listening to God speak through the Bible has uncovered a great deal about national leadership. Most of my encounter with the Bible over this time has centered-in upon the lives and leadership approaches of two kings—a man named Saul and another one named David who both led the nation of Israel over 3000 years ago.Of course, I’d be the first to recognize that the political environment they lived in and the one we see in our own culture are two very different worlds. Saul never had to get elected and David never ran a TV campaign ad. Neither of them had to come up with a catchy slogan or pick a vice-king for their administration’s ticket. They didn’t arise out of political parties or ever experience tracking polls. CNN and Fox didn’t exist—so the scrutiny on these leaders was of a whole different sort.All that being said, these recent biographical studies in Israel’s first two kings have been a profound help to me as a backdrop to what’s going on in our culture today. (Remember the old saying: Fail to learn from history and you’re doomed to repeat it.) For the first time in my lifetime, the political world is touching full force on things beyond legislation, policy, and political platforms. The societal and spiritual ramifications of this year’s election are obviously higher than I can recall. Faith—a once taboo topic in the American cultural dialogue—is now very much at the center of the conversation. The issue of race is one of the driving forces behind the choices Americans face. Gender is a chief point of discussion. Generational issues form debate lines as to what is better—older ways or newer approaches. Even the political parties themselves—while seemingly energized—are at a crossroads since unquestioned party loyalties have almost become a total thing of the past. (This is a good development in my opinion, by the way.) People seem to be making choices less because of a party label and more because of what a candidate or movement represents in belief, conviction, and character. (Insert your own “No Duh, that’s the way it’s supposed to be” reaction to all of this.)In Saul and David's cases, neither were Republican, Democrat, independent, or Green. Both of them entered their role in national leadership like rock stars. (Sen. Obama wasn’t the first.) Both of them were bold mavericks (Sen. McCain wasn’t the first.) Both of them began their leadership roles at young ages. (Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama weren’t the first.) Both of them were war heroes. (Sen. McCain wasn’t the first.) Both of them were swept into power because of the people’s concern over national defense. (Sen. Biden and Sen. McCain weren’t the first.) Both of them started out quoting the ancient sacred Scriptures as a guiding force to how God held a leader and their nation responsible for living inside His ways. (God's ways pave the pathway to the best versions of our lives and our nation. Both Saul and David were anointed as a savior of sorts to a nation in profound turmoil. (Sound familiar?)In 3000 years since the two kings, some things haven’t changed. While we are seeing history in the making here in 21st-century America, it’s not new stuff. America is just following the generational trajectory of what happens when cultures make right or wrong choices about what's most important. We feel it currently only because this kind of reality has always existed in human affairs. You see, when things feel not-quite-right in the lives of everyday people just like you and me, we begin looking for a leader to march us out of the morass that will engulf us if we don’t move out soon.Neighbors, we’re at a cultural crossroads today. Our tenuous dependence upon the resources of those who don’t love us out in the wider world make some of us nervous. Our fears that our planet's ecological sustainability is deteriorating as we speak because of the speed of our culture lead us to a crossroad. Race and gender realities are no more removed from the national soul today than in the intense days of the Civil Rights movement. We just use a different language about it all, today. The involvement of the faith community within the public square is at stake. We are not at a Democrat vs. Republican crossroad. We are at the crossroads of who America is going to become. As a pastor, I don’t say this to scare or for the purpose of hyperbole, but to simply state a truth.The two different leadership trajectories of Saul and David led their nation to two drastically different outcomes. Saul was a miserable failure--a man who relied upon his own wisdom and strength--and ended up destroying the most sacred values of that people. David--albeit an imperfect man--restored the things that were most sacred to God and the people. And brought that nation and culture into a whole new reality—even adding immeasurably to the moral and cultural beauty and traditions that he had been handed at birth. He made his world better because God was free to shake him up inside of the inner world of his soul.Just moments before David’s meteoric rise to leadership would begin, the Scriptures explained what the most critical ingredient inside a person is such that GOD IS FREED TO CHANGE THE WORLD THROUGH THEM: “Don’t judge by appearance or height…the Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART” (1 Samuel 16:7—nlt).The heart.A leader’s heart. A nation’s heart. YOUR heart. And mine.This year’s election represents something deep and important about our culture—but only because it represents something deep and important about you and me. And that’s not a political reality—it’s a soulful one.Who are you becoming? Who is your family becoming? What kind of culture is Mokena fashioning in our classrooms, bedrooms, halls of justice, and churches...on park benches, judicial benches, and the athletic benches of our children? Who are we becoming? What are we calling important that really doesn't matter? What are we ignoring that will save us from becoming one more culture among many who litter history books with their slow demise instead of becoming "a city on a hill"? WHO ARE WE BECOMING?The voting booth in November won’t determine the final answer to these questions—you and I will. God looks at the heart of things—so, then, so should we. Imagine a political party built on the platform of the heart. God's heart. That's where God establishes His party.More to come on this…
RECAP of AUGUST meeting

Up/rooted.west met at Randy Harper's house on Tuesday August 5, just before Mike and Julie Clawson packed up to leave for Texas. We so greatly appreciate what Mike and Julie have meant to us over the past few years. They have exerted much effort (and lost much sleep) in order to help move forward the emerging church discussion, to network many sojourners with other travelers on this journey, as well as introduced difficult, but important questions for Christ followers to reflect and act upon. Thank you and keep it up! Let us know how we can encourage you!

The topic for our last meeting was the relationship of poverty and the poor to Christ's ministry and the gospel. We read chapter 3 from the book "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger", by Ron Sider, a long-time Christian activist for progressive issues. This chapter asked the basic question of whether God has a preference for the poor and it delved into what Christ's ministry and message have to say about poverty and issues of justice. We had a lively discussion that started off as we related our own past experiences of what we've heard preached in our Christian communities and commonly held Christian views (assumptions) related to poverty. We shared our experiences of reaching out to others in need, while also distinguishing between the more common practice of charity versus justice while truly seeking to know and understand the poor we come across. A common theme of the discussion related to the lack of voice and the sense of powerlessness that those in poverty feel. There is also a great need to participate in empathic listening of the stories of those struggling in poverty, entering into a two-way transformational relationship. We must recognize that we are capable of having a "God-complex" when we do charity or extend mercy and act justly and to think it is our job to "save" the poor; rather, we are called to love – in words and actions – this looks differently in every context.

We also spoke eagerly of our desire, as a group, to seek opportunities to put what we discuss and learn into action in future up/rooted.west gatherings – which is why for our September meeting, we'll be combining further discussion on poverty with a 1 hour serving opportunity at Feed My Starving Children (more info below).

NEXT MEETING – Tuesday, September 23, 7pm
Discussion & Serving at "Feed My Starving Children" – FMSC – a non-profit organization in Aurora that ships food around the world to starving children.

Meet up at Caribou Coffee at 7pm sharp, near the intersection of Ogden and North Aurora Rd., then we'll carpool together to FMSC.

OCTOBER Meeting – Saturday, October 18th - 8:30 am – 2pm
FREE Workshop held at Sacred Heart Monastery in Lisle, IL (On Maple Ave just West of Rt 53)
"Living Ordinary Life with Extraordinary Love"

Experience the goodness of Benedictine life, a workshop for men and women of all ages and put on by the Benedictine sisters of Sacred Heart.

St. Benedict wrote a set of guidelines or a Rule, about 1500 years ago that has guided monastic life for men and women across the ages. Today, there are monastic and new monastic communities following his rule, as well as Protestant monasteries following these guidelines.

Come find out what these ancient practices have to do with the future of Christ followers living in community – city community, suburban community, apartment community –anywhere!

To Register: send email to up/rooted (link in the sidebar) with your name, address and phone# - that's all!

Schedule of the Day:
8:30 am Registration, Coffee & Rolls
9 am Lectio Divina – Reading and Praying with the Sunday Gospel
9:15 am Sharing about Lectio
9:45 am Benedict and his values
10:30 am Tour of the monastery
11:30 am Eucharist
12:00 Lunch (no cost – will be provided)
12:45 pm Outdoor walk – Leisure with God and nature on beautiful monastery grounds
1:45 pm Applying Benedictine Life in the every day world
2:00 pm Conclusion

Friday, August 29, 2008

August and September city gatherings

Hello good people,

Last week, 5 of us gathered around candles in the air conditioning to discuss the definition of emergence. Two folks were brand new to the group and to the movement and it was fantastic to have them there. As they discussed their experience, they described a church service that they had observed that involved a different kind of worship space with different seating. They quickly followed-up with the question, "Do people who call themselves emergent a line somewhere? How far inter-faith do they go?"

I love questions like this since I get to talk about how there is no way to answer that question. My delight in the movement comes from the fact that the movement's main effort goes into making sure that people at all points of the inter-faith spectrum feel welcome and valuable.

We talked a lot about centered sets and bounded sets, comparing an evangelical picture of the cross being a fixed point on a road to the emergent picture of a well that we wander away from but always come back to.

One of our familiar participants talked about her experience with emergence being a turning away from the "personal" gospel or an abandonment of the compulsion to "save" souls which allowed her imagination to be set free.

It was a beautiful conversation, full of laughter and eye-contact and the gentle pattern of bodies sitting forward to listen and sitting back to hear.

We have our next meeting on Wednesday, September 17 at 7:30. We'll meet at Wicker Park Grace, which is still located at 1741 N. Western in Chicago. I'll send out a reminder before then with a topic for study. If you have suggestions, I'm more than happy to give them precedence. Please feel welcome if you've been every week, if you've come once or twice or if you are completely new to the conversation.

Go Gently,

Friday, August 08, 2008

summary of up/ July 16, 2008

To continue my lessons in the humility of leadership, I learned at this gathering the lesson we learn every four years at the political conventions: people that are drawn to leadership roles often hold more extreme interests than regular people.

In this case, I wanted to talk about diversity in the emerging movement and why some people flaunt the label, while others eschew it or cannot obtain it.

I brought a CD of Dr. John Kinney from the SCUPE conference (available here). Pastor Kinney is an phenomenally articulate African-American man who says the exact same things that many of the phenomenally articulate and visible people labeled Emergent say. Yet to most of the world, he is simply another black preacher.

So, I played the portion of the sermon that was painfully obviously advocating emergent theology about our non-hierarchical relationship with God and how this should manifest itself in non-hierarchical relationships with each other. This was an attempt to back up my argument that folks from marginalized groups don't get a lot of attention from this movement of ours.

With that proof of my premise resounding, I tried to start a conversation about why some people get to be Emergin and other people don't with the group.

But they were having none of it.

They kept talking about the actual theological idea presented and not the process issue that I wanted to talk about.

Oh, I tried to pull them back "on topic" but they kept talking about how best to serve the people that showed up at their churches.

And that's when I admitted to myself that non-hierarchical leadership is valuable for precisely this reason. Folks get to use the group time for discussion that's actually valuable to them.

So, this month, we're meeting on Wednesday night at 7:30 at Wicker Park Grace (1741 N. Western). We'll have a discussion based around the idea of emergence 101 and see where that goes.

For preparation, feel free to check out this blog post by Mike Clawson, Wikipedia, or my excerpts from the Emerging Manifesto of Hope but your individual experiences and studies in this movement (even if you're just a beginner) will be just as valuable.

I look forward to seeing both familiar and new faces on Wednesday night.

Go Gently,

A new kind of tithing

As you know, my emergent church, Wicker Park Grace, is trying to find different ways to financially sustain itself as part of our mission to be welcoming to people who were hurt by churches in their past. We're trying to make it easy for them to get back on the path of moving toward God through Jesus by not parroting the fundraising tactics of traditional churches since that so easily makes people defensive.

Also, as part of our mission to engage the artistic community in Chicago, we've let a Second City student troupe use our space to practice and they're donating a show in return.

These two activites of my church are coming together in a fundraising event on Tuesday night. I'd love it if any of you wanted to come. For $25 you get a Second City improv show, alcoholic beverages and fancy restaurant-grade hors devours. (Fair warning, though, because this isn't your grandma's church, we're comfortable with some degree of adult humor.)

If you can't make it but want to support us anyway, we're also taking donations. Either way, it will really help out my church and the new, non-threatening direction we're trying to take spirituality.

More information about the Sketch Comedy Bonanza and the link to buy tickets online is here.

I consider this to be a new kind of tithing since the spiritual practice of it revolves just as much around giving our time and transforming our relationships just as much as it involves our money.

We're still new at this. Want to be part of the experiment?

Go Gently,

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Theology of Poverty" up/rooted.west - Aug 5th @7pm

The next up/rooted.west meeting will be hosted at Randy Harper's home (one of up/rooted.west's new co-coordinators) on Tuesday, August 5th @ 7PM at 1950 Manchester Rd., Wheaton 60187. We'll be discussing a "theology of poverty" and chapter 3 of the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (email us for that chapter if you'd like it electronically).

Also, we'll be saying good-bye to Mike and Julie Clawson as they'll be moving to Texas a few days later :-( They've been an incredible asset to the up/rooted conversations and wonderful people to learn from! Please join us in a discussion of a theology of poverty and our practical response here in the Western suburbs of Chicago!

I look forward to continuing the relationships!
Kris Socall
up/rooted.west co-coordinator
Navigating Paths of Spirituality

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rent Party: A Skiffle of Sorts

One of our local Presbymergent churches is hosting a fundraising concert, since it is "not about guilt and obligation" and is trying to figure out new ways to funds our operations than, you know, passing the offering plate.

July 12th at 8:00pm
at 1741 N. Western Ave.

Phone: 312-399-2081

In the tradition of those who have laid the path before us, Wicker Park Grace will be holding a
Rent Party: A Skiffle of Sorts

Door Fee: $15
(free food and drink!)

Historically, to pay rising rents in neighborhoods that were filing up with people moving north in the Great Migration, folks would ask a few musician friends to play in the living rooms of their apartments, asked a few other friends to make some food and mixed up a little gin in the bathtub.

Charging admission at the door generated cash to pay the rent and a party whose celebratory energy burst from the intimate setting for all comers. Rent parties were a quintessential example of communities of people joining together to work towards mutual benefit.

Wicker Park Grace will carry on this historical tradition on July 12th with an evening of music & art, food & drink, conversation & dance.

Performing will be:

Rob Clearfield & At This Point We Don't Have the Luxury of Silence

Kate Haralson

Dave Spaulding with The Moves

Ira Gamerman w/ songs from the band, Even So

Michael Mc Bride

If you can't come, you can still contribute to the effort here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

up/ - summary of last meeting and announcement of the next

Hey folks. Just touching base with you to let you know that we'd love for you to gather at Wicker Park Grace (1741 N. Western Avenue) on Wednesday, July 16 at 7:30. (Yeah. Mondays got bad for me.) It's been two months since we've seen each other and I'm looking forward to folks coming who want to connect for the first time with other people who are invested in learning how following Jesus can be made relevant to our post-modern culture. I'm also looking forward to seeing again the folks that have come once or twice or three times already to the monthly meetings we've been having since October.

Bring snacks if you've got 'em or your good humor if you don't.

Last time we got together, we discussed the recent Everything Must Change tour stop in Chicago. A mix of folks that had been to the event, read the book and had no exposure were all part of the conversation. We ranged over several topics but a few stood out enough for me to write them down.

We started with the question, "Has anyone done anything different since attending?" One participant said that she'd been thinking about our cultural framing stories since attending. Her eyes were open lately to the number of movies in which battles are won through brute force. The moral of these stories (TLOTR and Narnia come to mind) is that it's OK to win using violence because we're the good guys. This is so different from the non-violent subversion that Jesus demonstrated and preached about.

We talked about the difficulty in making movies and telling stories that glorify Jesus-style victories but worried that they don't fit the "Excitement paradigm" that are culture is addicted to. We noted that there ARE movies that tell the subversive story but that they don't do very well at the box office.

As the conversation moved on, we noted that the conference seemed aimed at "cloistered church people" and that although Brian McLaren painted the big picture well, we were frustrated with the the lack of practical suggestions. The conference was more a primer for opening people's eyes than anything else. We agreed that this was fine except that this left a void for those of us interested in going deeper.

This brought up the discomfort that many of us had that the presentation seemed a little like one long commercial for the "church coach" business that was being touted at intervals. We questioned the need for a church coach but brought up both pros and cons for the issue.

We had a great group and they were especially gracious to me in the energy void I was living in after my brother's three-day traditional Hindu wedding. I'm looking forward to seeing a similarly great group next Wednesday.

Unfortunately, the Church Basement Roadshow isn't swinging through Chicago, so I thought we might focus our conversation on people who are saying Emergent things and doing Emergent acts without the label. In other words, who out there is emerging from their Christian traditions in similar ways that we are but who are not converging with our "small band of rebel fighters"? I'll bring a CD to listen and respond to if we want and if anyone else want to contribute some articles or suggestions, I'll be happy to send them around next weekend with anything else I find.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

up/rooted.west picnic - June 23

We had a great discussion a few weeks ago at up/rooted.west as we talked about the question of racial diversity in the emerging church. The conversation was wide ranging (too much to summarize really), though we all agreed that what is needed first and foremost is more effort to "relocate" our lives into more diverse settings in whatever ways we are able.

Anyhow, our next up/rooted.west get together will be an informal potluck picnic/get-to-know-you event at Northside Park in Wheaton from 6:00-8:30pm on Monday, June 23rd. If you haven't been to an up/rooted event yet, or if it's been a while, this would be a great time to plug-in, as we will simply be hanging out, having fun, and spending some time sharing our stories. Bring food for yourself, and some to share if you're able (there are grills available if anyone wants to bring some dogs or burgers), though if you're not able, feel free to show up anyway.

Hope to see you there!

Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Monday, May 12, 2008

up/rooted.west discussion on race & the emerging church next Tuesday (May 20)

Are you ready for a difficult but important discussion?

You are invited to join us at up/rooted.west next Tuesday (not Monday) May 20 from 7-9pm at the Gino's East in downtown Wheaton for a honest and open discussion on the issue of race and the emerging church. The emerging church has often been accused of merely being another movement by white suburbanites. Whether or not that is true, the reality is that none of us want it to be only that. So let's come together to talk about what needs to be done to make sure that diversity is happening, and what in our own lives or communities needs to change to make sure it does.

It hasn't been confirmed yet, but we are also hoping to be joined by a few friends from ERAC/CE in SE Michigan, and Crossroads Anti-Racism Team here in Chicago to help us have this conversation. I hope that you will also join us and contribute your experiences and questions to the dialogue.

BTW, there have been a number of good posts out there on this topic recently. I'd encourage browsing a few of them in preparation for next Monday:

Rebecca (our up/ coordinator) has posted two reflections on this topic, here and here. They're a must read.

Steve Knight (Charlotte, NC cohort leader) has a great post with links to many other articles up at the Emergent Village blog.

See you there!

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

P.S. Don't forget that up/rooted.south will be meeting this Thursday (May 15) at 7pm in Mokena to talk about Compassion International and about networking in the Chicago area for social justice efforts; Emerging:SeWi will also be kicking off in Kenosha that same night; and up/ will be meeting next Monday (May 19) at Wicker Park Grace for a follow-up to the Everything Must Change Tour.

Racial diversity and the emerging church

up/rooted/west is discussing racial diversity on May 20 (see sidebar for details). I wrote this post for my own blog but I thought it would be appropriate to re-post here. Please feel free to comment here or at the original post, where there is already a conversation starting.

My church prays in Spanish even when none of our Spanish-speaking members are there. Sometimes we sing one of the Taize vespers in Spanish. Often, that doesn’t work very well. People start mumbling. They are confused by having to use the line of text further away from the notes than the English words and they are uncomfortable with having to form their mouths around syllables that don’t mean anything to them. Our Spanish-speakers members aren’t our strongest singers so the mumbling drowns out the people that are pleading with God - for once corporately - in the language of their hearts and childhoods and families.

But we keep doing it as part of our liturgy. We do it even when no one is there who benefits from a familiar language other than English. We do it because we benefit as a community. We benefit as a community because it makes us into a welcoming community and a welcoming community is a community that is more aligned with the plan God has for us than a community that stays within its comfort zone, which is really just water that is rapidly becoming stagnant.

A dominant aspect of the Evangelical movement that swept through our country for the last 30 years was something called a “homogenous church growth strategy.” Basically, pastors recognized that if they wanted their churches to grow (for whatever reason), like attracts like. No pastor would say that different people didn’t need Jesus, just that all people would be happier with Jesus if they worshipped alongside people who were similar to them in culture, language and socio-economic status. In our country, those three characteristics added together equate to race. So, the white Evangelical movement grew by making itself attractive to other white people. The music sounded like Top 40 pop songs. The liturgy was a familiar blend of 30ish-minute sermon, music and corporate prayers. The food served at Fellowship hour and at events was comfortably suburban. The energy was calm, reserved, and professional. The dress was casual but not too casual. Since these were all trappings of a lifestyle that white people were already comfortable with, churches gained new members who almost always happened to be white.

The emergent movement is about identifying church traditions that were formed during the Modern era and replacing them with practices that are more appropriate to the Post-modern era that we are currently living in.

I think we’ve done a good job as a movement. We’re re-examining doctrine. We’re reframing the requirements to be part of the club. We’re flattening our hierarchies.

But, as a movement, we have not yet replaced the homogenous church growth strategy with a new paradigm.

On Thursday, I met with Professor Soong-Chan Rah at North Park University. He’s been fairly critical of the emergent movement on this issue and I think he’s right. We had a good and somewhat casual introductory conversation and then he said something that made me reach into my bag and take out my notebook. He said:
The emergent church feels like a perpetuation of white privilege and that has to be the first thing to go.
He cited that overwhelmingly white pastors and writers get media attention and book contracts when churches that are doing the exact same work but that are led by non-white pastors get ignored. He didn’t need to tell me that my own church is an exception in the movement for being willing to be messy, uncomfortable and awkward by moving out of our comfort zone to make worship something that appeals to more than just white people: to mumble in our attempts to be a welcoming community. Any study done of churches that claim to be emergent are going to show that they’re over 90% white. My own experience of trying to start a conversation by working some of my email networks, asking them to read and comment on my first post regarding race and the emergent movement got no response. Not one comment. I put the less effort soliciting comments on the quilt I made and got 8 responses. No response?

I know what people say in response: we’re a movement that grows through attraction, not prosyletization. But who is it we’re trying to attract when we make decisions about our practices? Usually, it’s people who already like what we like. For instance, the ancient futures movement goes back into history to find relevant practices today. But whose history? Are we plumbing the depths of Coptic traditions, a definitively African form of Christianity? Professor Rah has found evidence to support the opposite.

Other people will say that they can’t control who the publishers give contracts to. But that’s the white privilege talking; thinking inside the box. Why not say to publishers, “I’m flattered that you want me to write this book. Do you mind if I co-author it with my non-white colleague who knows just as much about the topic?” or “I will write this book for you if you also give a contract to my non-white colleague,” or “You know what? I’m flattered but my non-white colleague knows more about this than I do.” Foot-washing is not just something that is done with a hand-towel and a basin.

My church hasn’t gotten it right yet. When we focus a discussion on immigration issues, attendance goes down and, I’ll admit it, I’m part of that problem. But, as a movement, we cannot be afraid that our attendance will decrease. The Kingdom of God is multi-cultural. The Post-modern world is multi-cultural.

If our churches are not multi-cultural, then they are neither reflective of the Kingdom of God nor Post-modern.

We cannot simply wait for non-white folks to come to us. They would only be tokens if we did. We must go out and get them, welcome them, and let them change the agenda so that it more accurately reflects the concerns of the entire Post-modern Kingdom of God, not just the white post-Evangelical, post-Christendom, post-colonial folks. Alternately, we should consider going to them, submitting to their leadership and learning about emergence from folks that have arguably been in the midst of it longer than the white folks have.

Professor Rah pointed out that the emergent movement still has hope that it will not be left behind in a stagnant pool of its own homogeneity because our conversations and writings pay lip service to pluralism. We have the foundational support to change our paradigm if we’re willing to mumble a little.

But are we?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

SE Wisconsin Cohort Kick-off

After a little initial confusion on my part, we are now ready to kick off the first meeting of the new SE Wisconsin/NE Illinois Emergent Cohort. The first meeting of Emerging:SeWi will be Thursday, May 15th, at the Harborside Common Grounds, 5159 6th Avenue in Kenosha, Wisconsin at 7pm. This cohort is especially for anyone in Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties in Wisconsin, Northern Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois, or anyone else in that area who wants to join the conversation. If you're up that way, I hope you can make it, or spread the word if you know anyone in the area.

For more info email the coordinator, Glenn Hager at and also be sure to join the Facebook group.

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

up/rooted.west April Recap

We had a thought provoking wrap-up discussion to Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change Tour and book last night at the Gino's East in downtown Wheaton. We started by asking if everything must change, how will that be accomplished? Where do we start? What can we do, specifically, practically? And is it just hopeless to think that our small efforts are really going to make much difference ultimately in the face of such a broken, suicidal system?

We share a number of specific steps that several of us have taken, from buying more ethically, to eating organic or vegetarian as much as possible, to reducing consumption. We talked about getting veggie oil conversions on cars, and speculated about whether someone in the west suburbs could set up an operation to make it easier for people to do the conversions and get access to used veggie oil. We talked about the difficulty of even knowing what options are out there for living more ethically and making a difference, and about the need to start collecting information and websites to make them more accessible. Our up/rooted.south group has had the idea of collecting information about all the local social justice/missional projects around the Chicago area that people can plug into, and our up/rooted.west group talked about possibly doing something similar with ethical buying websites & stores - just collecting a database of resources.

We also veered a little bit into the theoretical/theological as we wondered how to balance hope in the kingdom as a present reality versus a recognition that we cannot bring the kingdom about through our own efforts and ingenuity. Jen Pare suggested that we needed an "active pessimism", i.e. a pessimism about our ability to bring about ultimate justice or compassion through government or activism or whatever, but at the same time a dedication to serve and be active anyway. In other words, we need to do our part and be faithful to living out the message of the kingdom, even if when it all seems utterly fruitless.

We also talked about upcoming plans for up/rooted over the summer, and it was suggested that perhaps we'd like to take several "field trips" to visit missional projects around the area. In other words, to go and observe and even participate in whatever ministries of compassion and justice that we are familiar with. If you have any ideas or suggestions bring them or up/rooted.west (or email them to us at during the next couple of months, and perhaps we can plan something for July and/or August.

For June we decided to have another communal cook-out where we can share more of our stories and reconnect on those personal levels. However, before that for our May gathering we want to discuss the topic of racial diversity in the emerging church. Our up/ coordinator, Rebecca, recently posted on this topic at her blog following the SCUPE conference, and the theme was then also picked up over at the Emergent Village weblog. I'd definitely recommend reading these posts in preparation for the gathering.

I'm also a bit uncomfortable about just having a bunch of white suburbanites sitting around talking about race, so I want to especially encourage those of your in our up/rooted network who are minorities to please make it a point to join us this time if you're at all able. We need your voices and your experience. Or, if you're not a minority, but you know of someone who is and who would understand and resonate with the emerging church church conversation, please invite them to join us as well.

We will meet Tuesday, May 20 @ 7pm at the Gino's East in downtown Wheaton again. Hope you can join us for this important conversation.

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Debbie Blue, Russell Rathbun and Linda Buturian

Hello emerging folks. Doesn't it feel good to identify with that word in this season of emergence? Buds from barren sticks, you know?

Last week, we had a phenomenal gathering of 17 folks, 3 speakers and 4 people that knew the speakers. Our speakers were Debbie Blue, Russell Rathbun and Linda Buturian, all members of the House of Mercy up in St. Paul, all folks that have books available at Cathedral Hill Press.

Russell started out the conversation by describing their church, which they formed when they got out of seminary because they wanted a church where they would actually want to attend and that their friends, who were artists and stuff, would also want to attend. Russell, who looked like he would fit in quite well in Wicker Park with his black cowboy shirt with embroidered banjos and funky glasses, pointed out that their church had been around for 12 years, which is ancient for an emergent church.

I liked watching the energy of the two pastors: Russell and Debbie. Both were a little twitchy and awkward. Obviously, they wanted to be there and had such beautiful, honest and vulnerable things to say. But, part of that honesty and vulnerability involved allowing themselves to be the self-proclaimed introverts that they are, even in front of a group of strangers. As someone who has been trained to pull out my most charismatic identity when addressing groups of people, I admire their courage to simply be themselves.

Debbie read first from her book, From Stone to Living Word, and I was impressed by the clarity and originality that she wrote about Biblical interpretation as idolatry and then about love. It's so easy to say the same old Hallmark-card-for-the-rest-of-us things about love and I felt like Debbie really avoided that. She even wrote that it felt corny to even talk about love, "like I'm young and I don't know anything." She also said that love wasn't "consistently positive regard" because "who could live with anyone and feel that?" I bought a copy of the book even though I haven't read a book that wasn't for class since last August.

Russell read from his book, Post-Rapture Radio, a novel that at one point describes a hipster pastor in a mocking tone and I want to give Russell the benefit of the doubt that he read that with utter awareness of the irony. The excerpt he read was beautifully written and my church's resident atheist loved the whole book when he read it.

Finally, Linda read from her book that had only been released the week before. She lives in an "intentional cul-de-sac" with Debbie's family and a couple of others and her book, World Gone Beautiful, is a collection of memoirs from that experience. Her reading resonated with me the most because I think her neuroses are probably the most like mine. At one point she described feeling like "the world is a model airplane that I must assemble in the dark" while she lay awake being unable to fall asleep. I think this might have been one of the first times she's read from this work publicly since she kept laughing to remember the events that was reading about. That connection of the words to the actual events rather than connecting the words to a particular way to tell a story effectively was utterly charming. The words themselves were also terribly vulnerable and lovely. I bought a copy of her book also.

They wrapped up their presentation by talking a little bit more about their church and how they find relevance in traditional worship by singing old hymns with irony and discussing how they find success because their people are "allowed, encouraged and required to poke fun at the structures" of the church. They answered great questions and hung around for a long time to talk with folks after we formally closed.

Next month's meeting will be on Monday, May 19 at 7:00 at Wicker Park Grace (click on the link in the sidebar for directions). We're going to focus our discussion on the talks that Brian McLaren gave here in the area but everyone is welcome to join us, even those that didn't attend.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Won't you be my neighbor?

One of the delights of the Everything Must Change tour was meeting so many people who have been on the up/rooted mailing list, but haven't been able to make it to the city meetings. They invariably revealed themselves when they saw my nametag and said, "Oh, you're the one who writes so much about tea!"

I'm touched that my informal and somewhat whimsical writing style is enjoyed by so many people. I've developed it over the years on my blog, Wild Rumpus, which I started when "an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for [Princess]Max and [s]he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are," otherwise known as Orcas Island, off the coast of Washington state.

It's more of a narrative blog than most blogs run by Emergent cohort facilitators, so probably only 1 out of every 8 posts is about any particularly emerging topic. The others are about quilting and living in the city and looking for community.

However, yesterday, I posted about racial reconciliation and the emerging movement. I think it's crucial that we make the membrane that surrounds the movement more permeable to non-white folks. But this is not necessarily true for all the leaders in the movement and has some major obstacles to realization. I'd welcome a conversation of people from all modes of thought over on my blog. If you have a minute, will you make the trip and leave a comment?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Upcoming up/rooted meetings

We have a lot of exciting things coming up in the wake of the Everything Must Change Tour, not least of which is the formation of a new Wheaton College student cohort, and the re-formation of our up/rooted.south group. We're also hoping to shortly put together an Evanston branch and a new Southeastern Wisconsin cohort if you happen to be in that neck of the woods. (If you are interested in being a part of this, send an email to Justin Worley at

Here are the gatherings that are coming up for this next month:

up/rooted.south will be meeting this Thursday, April 10 @ 7pm at Grace Fellowship Church in Mokena for a follow-up discussion on the ideas presented at the conference this weekend.

up/ will be hosting a special evening with authors/emerging pastors Russell Rathbun and Debbie Blue next Wednesday, April 16 @ 7pm at Wicker Park Grace .

up/rooted.west is meeting at the Gino's East in downtown Wheaton and will be brainstorming how to put the ideas of Everything Must Change into practical action on the last Monday of this month, April 28 @ 7pm.

up/rooted.north currently meets every week on Thursdays @ 7:30pm at the Barnes and Noble in Lincolnshire.

Rebuilding Eden is a special cohort just for college students that meets at the Wheaton College dining hall (Todd Beamer Student Center) every Saturday @ 12:30pm, and is currently discussing the Everything Must Change book.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Everything Must Change Tour Round-up

As you all know, this past weekend was the Everything Must Change Tour in Chicago. Here are some articles and reviews on other blogs that you should check out if you're interested:

First an article written just before the conference in Oak Park's Wednesday Journal that I was interviewed for.

As usual Helen has a great play-by-play review of the conference. (And she gets the credit for the picture. I forgot to bring my camera.)

Also check out some of Jason's raw notes on the sessions.

Chad Farrand, leader of the Mid-Michigan cohort, has a good recap of his experience as well.

And for a totally unique, very personal take in her usual "wonderfully rambling" style, check out Rebecca's posts.

Also, regardless of whether you were there, you can contribute to this revolution and share ideas about how to bring real change over at the Everything Must Change web community.

And if you live near Seattle, Kansas City, Goshen IN, or New York City, or know someone who does, it's not too late to sign up to attend the Tour.

UPDATE: I've now posted my own review.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

up/rooted.west March update

A half-dozen of us met again at Gino's East in Wheaton this past Monday to discuss the central sections of Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (chapers 19-30). Having reframed Jesus' message in terms of not just personal forgiveness and hope for the afterlife, but also one of global transformation in this world, Brian then applies this message to what he believes are the three biggest crises we face today: crises of security, prosperity and equity.

Our discussion began by reminding ourselves that Brian's main task throughout the book is not really to give us a laundry list of ways to fix all these problems. Instead the point of the book is to first change our way of looking at the problems in the first place, to see them through the lens of Jesus' story rather than the lenses provided to us by this world. For instance, we talked about how many of Brian's approaches in the book don't really fit into the typical Left-Right, Democrat-Republican categories that usually tend to only want to tweak the existing system, rather than seeing how the whole the thing is broken and suicidal and in need of something radically different (something Jesus called the Kingdom of God).

We also asked whether these issues - questions of violence, of environmentally destructive consumerism, and gross economic inequalities - could actually be talked about in the kind of churches we were familiar with. Since four of us attend emerging churches, one is currently de-churched, and the other is a pastor at a liberal mainline church, we granted that most of us probably could at least have the conversation; however we also recognized that these topics would have been totally off-limits or completely misunderstood at some of our former churches. And the mainline pastor admitted that even in his church where most of the folks would consider themselves "liberals" there were many topics raised by the book that still would have been considered either too extreme or would have gone completely over their heads - again speaking to the fact that Jesus' framing story doesn't fit well into our conventional categories.

Each of us expressed at one point a desire for more specifics in this book on how to actually bring about change, despite the fact that this was not Brian's purpose. If "everything must change" then we want to know where to start. That's what we want to talk about next month both as a conclusion to our discussion of this book and as a follow-up to Brian's Everything Must Change Tour coming to Chicago next weekend (it's still not too late to register and there's a new special student rate of only $35!) We want to get into specific, practical ways each of us can join this "revolution of hope" that Brian writes about. So come, once more to Gino's East in Wheaton on Monday, April 28 at 7pm and help us brainstorm how we can change our world. (Oh, and also read the final section of Brian's book, chapters 31-34, to help spur your thinking.)

See you then (and hopefully next weekend too!)

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Update from the city

On Monday I put my quilting down long enough to head over to Wicker Park Grace for our March up/ meeting. (Did I mention I'm on Spring Break? I'm still in my pajamas!) Six of us met up there to discuss the first chapter of Everything Must Change. I think it's terribly neat that the two new folks, Chris and Maria, knew each other from other places but hadn't known they would be in the same place that night. It demonstrates to me just how pervasive this emerging movement might become.

We had a great discussion about the first chapter and our speculations about the rest of the book, which were tempered and bolstered by those folks who had actually read the rest of the book.

We talked about the historical pattern that the small band of rebel fighters grow to become the dominant force in society, which spurs a new band of rebels to splinter away, fight for the right to exist and ultimately grow to be the dominant force of society. We talked about Constantine and about Christianity being a prophetic voice from the margins. We talked about Shane Claiborne and whether we are called to drop out of society or to reform it. We sat in remorse for a little while over that fact that examining our lives on any level shows that every act hurts another person in some way. Walking on concrete, wearing clothes, using toilet paper.

Those of us that haven't read the book yet wondered if it would actually show us hope, actually show us how Christianity can help us change how we live our lives and maybe the world.

John sent me a follow-up email pointing to an Emergent Village post addressing these concerns here. It refers folks over to Andrew Jones' blog (I love the internet) but summarizes it saying:
Andrew’s three concerns [about Everything Must Change] were:

“The apparent absence of the CHURCH as God’s primary instrument in accomplishing his mission on earth — and the gaping hole in [Everything Must Change] where the example of equality and justice in the early church of Acts 2-4 should have been”

“The apparent absence of HOPE in your view of future things … the afterlife, resurrection of the dead, etc.”

“An uncritical appraisal of the liberation theology movement from Latin America … [Everything Must Change] appears almost giddy and accepting without reservation”
Brian McLaren respond on Andrew's blog.

As usual, our conversation ranged around several other topics as the spirit and our hearts led us but I spent only a small amount of time taking notes. We did talk a little about charity vs. justice, whether the emerging movement should stick to internet posts rather than book contracts, the relationship between economic theory and broken human nature, and what issue exactly it was that sent us from conventional church to the emerging church.

Our next meeting will be Wednesday, April 16. Yup, not a Monday this month. We're hosting the Reverends Debbie Blue and Russell Rathbun (if the poetry of their names does not draw you in, I don't know what will). Their church, House of Mercy, is emerging in St. Paul, MN and has the delightful tag line for their Sunday services stating, "you should come, it's not that bad." Of course, I wish they had used a semi-colon in there, but not all of us are blessed to have been high school English teachers at some point our lives, so I won't judge. Regardless, come and eat the snacks we all bring, drink Wicker Park Grace's tea and listen to their stories and possibly a little bit from their books, both published and upcoming.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Josiah Community

Hey folks, this is Rebecca from the up/ cohort.

One of the things I've been doing lately that isn't school or up.rooted is working with a group of folks to develop an intentional community condo development. I was brought into the whole thing by my roommate in Africa, Arloa Sutter. Basically, we're converting a warehouse in North Lawndale to about 45 condos that people will own individually. However, the condos will be design to encourage interaction with neighbors: kitchen windows facing into hallways, "front porches," lots of common areas and a community cooking and dining area where folks will rotate cooking for anyone that doesn't want to eat mac and cheese in front of the TV every night. I like the combination of privacy and community since I can always retreat to my condo but have the freedom to knock on people's doors if I need them.

All decisions of the community will be made by consensus. When I apply what I've been learning in my poli-sci classes, this means that the status quo regarding community life will be hard to overturn once we get going. I see this as a good thing since I'm one of about 8-15 people that are the core group of ground-floor decision-makers. We'd love to see this number get bigger, though. Our next meeting is April 30.

This will be a Christian community, however, we haven't set in concrete how that is defined. Since I'm involved, I'm hoping to sway the group toward an inclusive, emerging definition of Christian. More folks like me involved with this project early on will make this more likely. (hint, hint)

One of my major concerns in these discussions is that we emphasize relationships rather than rules. While I'm happy to sit down over coffee with a neighbor to discuss my lifestyle choices, I'm not at all interested in being held "accountable" by my neighbors for them. So, if the idea of being surrounded by other Christians and their tendency to judge gives you the willies, please be assured that I have those same willies (or heebie-jeebies, whatever you want to call them) and I'm working to make sure that doesn't happen in our earliest conversations.

Our community will be made up of whoever shows up and the culture will reflect those folks. How cool would it be to have a building full of emerging folks?

All sorts of information is available at the blog. Or you can email me about it personally at rebica at aol dot com.

The other major element of this project is that a major portion of the community space will be dedicated to a non-profit that facilitates theological study, often in the form of folks taking sabbaticals. There will be a hostel available in the building for these folks that will spend half their day working in the community, and half of their days studying.

Optimistically, condos will be ready for moving in in a little over a year. I see this as an experiment in living within the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth by living in community in the midst of urban community development.

Want to do something a little radical and join me?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not Too Late to Register!

Good news! The deadline for registering for the reduced rate for Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change Tour on April 4-5 has been extended until the day before the conference, April 3rd. So if you forgot to sign-up this weekend, you can still do so for under $100. Click here to register.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Something to read for the city gathering

Hey folks,

For those of you considering attending the gathering a week from Monday (and please feel free even if you’ve never been and even if you don’t live in the city), let’s try to read the first chapter of Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change. You can find it on line for free at Barnes and Noble . We’ll let that start the discussion and take it from there.

Please feel free to bring snacks but it is also fine to just bring yourself.

Go Gently,

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Recap of up/ 2/25/08

On the morning of our last up/ gathering, I got on the bus to head south to school and was greeted by the bus driver calling, "Welcome to the Happy Bus!" Each stop got a new name: "Happy Financial Place!" "Happy Franklin!" He also had a variety of phrases that he regaled us with through the speaker system:

Don't let nobody steal your joy.
Don't complain about your job. Oatmeal is better than no meal.
Don't let nobody steal your j-o-y. (The second time he spelled it out.)

I couldn't help but smile and feel a little bit like I'd just taken off the roller skates as I walked away from the bus at "Happy State Street!" It was a good way to start a day that culminated in our February cohort gathering. We had a smaller group this month but still some new faces, specifically Eric, our second Moody-ite, and Rachel, who is considering Div schools and had some experience with Quakers to bring to the group. Susan, Nick, Nanette, John and I rounded out the mix.

We started the evening asking and answering the question, "How is emerging defined?" with a follow-up question regarding the future of the movement and whether or not someday we'll set down an "Emerging" theology. Although I recoiled in horror at that idea, the other members of the group were able to discuss it with tact and grace. We talked about paradigm shifts, big E's and little e's, and asked if it was a post-evangelical movement with some mainline elements or a post-mainline movement with some evangelical soundings, as Marcus Borg asserts.

I have the words, "Brueggemann" and "dialogic perspectivism" written in my journal but I'll be danged if I could tell you what that means.

We did talk about the flat social network of the emerging movement and discussed whether or not Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt and Brian McLaren are leaders simply because they have book contracts. We speculated that in the same way folks at Moody all get painted with the same brush, so might emerging folks.

We landed on the concept of making space for conversations as a major element of the emerging movement and asked what should we do with people that don't want to have the conversation. This caused us to reflect on our own tendencies toward hubris and we talked briefly about arrogant progressives and our need to keep humility at our center as a movement.

Today, I went to a meeting about an intentional community that I'm working as part of a group to get started as a new condo development. I offered a guy named Chris a ride home from the meeting and in the getting-to-know-you conversation, he asked, "So what else do you do?" I mentioned that I facilitated the cohort and his face lit up as he said, "I just sent you an email! When's the next meeting?" My car was a tiny little Happy Bus at that moment.

Our next meeting will be Monday, March 24 at 7:00 at Wicker Park Grace, which can be found for a little while longer at 1741 N. Western. Snacks will be welcome, as well as warm and imperfect souls.

I'll send out a reminder email (hopefully sometime before the day of the gathering) with some readings to get us started on a topic.

Go Gently,

Friday, February 29, 2008

up/rooted.west February update

Sorry it's taken me a week and a half to get this update out. Between traveling to Texas for a grad school interview, and getting our house ready to sell so we can move next summer I've had very little time to catch up on cohort stuff.

up/rooted.west met on Presidents Day in downtown Wheaton to discuss two more sections of Brian McLaren's book, Everything Must Change. This section dealt specifically with two views of Jesus, which Brian contrasts to show how the "conventional" view is often an accomplice to the destructive systems that have cause the global crises we see around us, while what he calls the "emerging" view can actually help to heal some of these problems. (You'll have to read the book to get the details on these two views.) We had some excellent discussion and even debate, as not everyone in the group was sold on Brian's ideas, or on the dichotomy he appears to set up between the two views. Some felt he was overemphasizing the critique of "empire" found in the gospels, making it more significant than it is, or reading it into passages when it isn't actually there. Others suggested however that Brian was emphasizing those themes because they were relevant to the topic of global crises even if he wouldn't say that they are the only things the gospel is about.

The discussion also drifted into many other questions and topics, some related to the book, and some that grew out of the discussion itself. As with all good conversations, it was free flowing, respectful, and diverse. We closed with a "lectio divina" style reflection where each person shared one thing from the discussion that they would be taking away with them. It was good to hear how the Spirit spoke to each person differently in the course of the evening.

I hope you'll join us for our next round of discussion on this book when we'll tackle the central three sections (chapters 19-30) that deal with the three interlocking systems (Security, Prosperity, and Equity) that Brian believes are at the heart of the global crises facing our world. We will meet once again at Gino's East in downtown Wheaton on Monday, March 24 at 7pm.

Also, don't forget that Brian's Everything Must Change Tour will be coming to Chicago on April 4-5. The deadline for the lower $99 price has been extended till March 15, so you still have time to register. Click here to do so.

After the Tour we will meet again in April for one more book discussion on the final section and, more importantly, to brainstorm more specific ways that we can put the ideas of this book into practical action. The expectation is that we will be joined at that meeting by a good number of first-timers who will hopefully connect with up/rooted at the conference. I'd like to use the momentum of that event, as well as from our discussion over these past few months, to launch a revolution of active engagement with global and local justice issues among our communities all over the Chicago area, and I think our April cohort meeting would be a great place to kick that off.

So yeah, hope to see you for the discussion March 24, and again at the conference the week after that!

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted.west co-coordinator

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Emerging Church in Indy recently had an article featuring the emerging church in Indianapolis, Indiana, highlighting four emerging churches as well as our friend Sarah Notton (pictured on the right), founder of the Indianapolis Emergent Cohort and one of our co-conspirators for the Midwest Emergent Gathering we did here in Chicago this past summer. It's good to see the conversation flourishing in our neighbor to the south!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

Whether you've been around the dialogue between the emerging church and the evangelical church a lot or a little, you've noticed there can be some sharp disagreements. There are quarrels about the role of the church, definitions of success, theology of the atonement, salvation, the Kingdom of God, mission, understandings of the Bible, truth and more.

For those trying to navigate the changes in our culture and in the church, we find quite the maze to sort through. Must everything change? Is there a war on Truth? It seems the emerging church and evangelicalism are antithetical; if you're one you can't be the other. There are many emerging voices tearing down evangelicalism as nothing more than American consumerism and individualism, and many evangelical voices decrying the emerging church as having left orthodox Christianity behind.

If you're looking for a thoughtful gathering without all the rhetoric on just what all the fuss is about, up/rooted.north is hosting a 10-week discussion on evangelicalism and the emerging church: not just on the differences, but also how the emerging movement is closely linked to evangelicalism historically and theologically.

We will be meeting on Thursday nights beginning February 28th, at 7:30pm in the Barnes and Noble at 920 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Lincolnshire. We’ll be in the little coffee shop area. Our gatherings will be led by fellow up/rooted.north-er, Dustin Underwood. If you’re an evangelical, emerging, a bit confused, or all of the above, come listen, learn and add your thoughts. Hope to see you next Thursday in Lincolnshire!

Jon Berbaum, coordinator of up/rooted.north