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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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/rooted.city 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.