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,