Monday, January 28, 2008

January up/rooted.west recap

We had a great discussion over deep dish pizza and beer at up/rooted.west last Monday. A dozen of us gathered at Gino's East in Wheaton to talk about the first couple of sections in Brian McLaren's latest book, Everything Must Change. We talked about framing stories - about how Brian's intent with this book is not to give us a list of action steps, but to first help us change our whole way of thinking about the problems facing this world. We talked about the value of deconstruction and whether it can go too far. We talked about the bigness of the gospel, and how it includes both the hope of heaven and hope for this world. We talked about trying to decipher Brian's systems diagram and about what we can do about the big problems in our world. We talked about the difficulty of living in the suburbs and what important gospel issues we are often blinded to as a result. We also spent some time getting to know one another and just enjoying the company.

We will continue this conversation over the next few months in preparation (and follow-up) to Brian's Everything Must Change Tour coming here to Chicago in early April (don't forget to register!). My hope is that this will be a transformative conversation where we can find ways to participate in this revolution of hope. We are at the front edge of a movement here, and I am eager to see it take shape and move forward as we pursue God's dreams for this world. As Gandhi famously said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Our next discussion will be on Monday, February 18 from 7-9pm at the same Gino's East in Wheaton. We'll be moving on to the next two sections of the book, chapters 10-18, though you won't have any trouble jumping into the conversation even if you haven't read them yet.

Hope to see you there!

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Announcing up/rooted.rockford!!!

A few months back I encouraged you all to think about helping us multiply new cohorts and branches of up/rooted around the greater Chicago area. Several of you responded to that asking whether something could happen in Rockford, and as it turns out, a discussion group was already meeting in Rockford, led by Dan Hinz. Dan enthusiastically agreed to partner with us and open the discussion group to anyone who is interested, so I am pleased to announced the beginning of up/rooted.rockford!

The first meeting will be next Wednesday, January 23rd at 1:30pm at Meg's Daily Grind (coffee shop) on Alpine and Guilford in Rockford. Right now, the group is just connecting and talking a lot about what it means to be the church here in Rockford (and bringing to the table what is happening in their local ministries, encouraging each other, etc). Everyone is welcome (especially if you're already in the Rockford area). And stay tuned for email and blog updates from Dan about future Rockford gatherings too.

I'm excited to see this conversation multiply! I hope you are too.

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Summary of December up/ gathering

On Monday, December 17, 12 of us gathered at Wicker Park Grace to drink mulled cider, eat a variety of cookie that involved cinnamon and create a safe space for discussion regarding the use of liturgy (The Lord's Prayer) in these meetings and our unique characteristic of being attractive to agnostics, atheists and folks of other faiths. That last category included Menachem, who identified himself as part of the emerging Judaism movement, which was super-cool to hear about, in my book. We also spent a good portion of time telling the stories of our lives to strengthen the community that we're creating.

It has been awhile since the meeting (almost a month), so this summary will lack a certain immediacy in the retelling. Helen wrote about it in a much more timely fashion here. I haven't read it yet because I didn't want it to color my own report, but Helen's always interesting and reliable in her perspective.

These are the quotes (possibly paraphrased) that I wrote down during the meeting. I think they represent well the flow of the conversation.

"A concatenation of words can't offend. It offends as a symbol." -Steve about the Lord's Prayer

"We're pursuing truth. It shouldn't surprise us that atheists come." -James

"The word truth, I try to stay away from because so many Christians use it to describe absolute belief rather than their experiences." -Helen

"What if we called it the Lord's Poem?" -Lyndi

"Liturgy inevitably draws a line. Why do people recite words together?" -Nanette

"How can we better serve each other and love God? How can we be human together?" -Lyndi

"I want to say, 'Your church would have a really hard time with me,' but I shouldn't because you're [indicating the group] part of your church." -Helen

The major ideas that I got from the conversation were that we all valued the group for creating a space for theological conversation but at the same time, many Christians liked that the conversation could tie together it's loose ends at the end of the meeting with an affirmation that something, probably God, connected us together in a common purpose. The atheists, agnostics, and others present were extremely gracious in their desire not to "take that affirmation away from us" but in retrospect, I personally don't like the divide that creates in the group. I have a real desire for the group to be organic in its purpose, forming naturally around the people that compose it. And the reality is that although up/rooted has some very Christian statements of purpose as it's founding principles, this city branch of it is composed of people that are not necessarily Christian. Doug Pagitt talked at the Midwest Emergent Gathering ( audio here) about how the adoption of two Hispanic kids into his family changed the family as well as the lives of the kids. He used this personal anecdote as a metaphor for the emerging church. I think that if we believe in a generous orthodoxy, we must not simply tolerate and make space for those that do not claim Christ as a leader, but embrace them as truly family, changing each other as we meet and are vulnerable in telling our stories, expressing our opinions and asking our questions. (Did you notice how many of the quotes that struck me were questions?) If we believe that a loving God is at the center and that we're all simply on different paths heading toward the same goal, we should be able to trust that -through our thirst- she'll keep us traveling in the right direction regardless of who we find to travel with on the journey.

So, some suggestion of possible alternatives to reciting the Lord's Prayer at the end of meetings involve:
- acknowledging that not all present necessarily agree but asking their indulgence as the rest of us pray
- ending in some sort of silent, personal prayer
- reciting something else

There were probably others but grad school is really getting in the way of my ability to remember them. I'm really sorry. Please add what's missing in any comments to the post on the up/rooted website.

We tried the silent prayer and although we didn't discuss it, I was personally dissatisfied with it. It didn't give quite the sense of "tying up the loose ends" of the discussion, as James said. I'd love to try the recitation of other words. Please suggest possible texts (secular and religious) that are more inclusive either in the comments section of this post or in an email to me. I'll figure out a way to let the group vote on which ones are best once I've received some suggestions.

I am so thankful for the role this up/ group is playing in my life. I am itching for our next meeting, which won't be until Monday, January 28 because of the MLK holiday. We'll be meeting again at Wicker Park Grace, which is located at 1741 N. Western and we'll start at 7:00 with the intent that folks will be able to start heading back home around 9:00.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

up/rooted.west book discussion - January 21

We will be starting our discussion of Brian McLaren's new book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, this month at up/rooted.west in preparation for the Everything Must Change Tour coming to our fair city at the beginning of April (and no, it's not too late to sign up to volunteer for the Tour, and definitely not too late to register if you just want to attend - don't delay or you'll miss the cheap tickets!) The issues dealt with in this book are hugely important and I'm excited to be part of the revolution of hope that Brian writes about. This discussion will be one way of participating in this revolution.

The book discussion will be on Monday, January 21st at 7pm at the Ginos East Pizzeria in downtown Wheaton (easily accessible from the Wheaton Metra stop for those who want to come in from the city). Eating is not mandatory, but bring a few bucks if you'd like to join in on the pizza. We will start this month by reading and discussing the first two sections of the book, chapters 1-9, however, even if you don't get a chance to read come anyway as I'm sure the conversation will be accessible to all. We will continue our discussion of the rest of the book over the next several months, so there will be plenty of chances to catch up later as well.

Hope to see you there!

-Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator