Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday party

Join us Sat, Dec 11th @ 7:30pm at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (515 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton, IL) for an Elf movie/cookies/cocoa party!

We're going to laugh our faces off watching Elf & then stuff our faces with Christmas cookies and hot cocoa...."and snuggle" (must watch the movie to understand)!

Bring a dozen or two Christmas cookies, wear a Christmas sweater (ugly or not), and feel free to come wearing flannel PJ pants and slippers (or whatever else you'd like to wear)....and we will be taking pictures for posterity of course!


Bring a friend, or two, or three, or your kids, or your neighbor's kids!

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Parable of the Unexpected Guest

Join us at Gino's East Pizza in downtown Wheaton on Thurs, Nov 18th at 6:30pm. We'll be discussion discipleship and providing feedback to David Zimmerman on his (soon-to-be-published) manuscript "The Parable of the Unexpected Guest". It's a quick read and intended to frame the discipleship conversation. If you'll be attending, please let us know so we can send you the manuscript to read in advance.

For our December meeting, we have 3 options that we are proposing to the group:
1) Thurs, Dec 9 6:30pm at Gino's Pizza in Wheaton discussing Bonhoeffer's "Life Together"
2) Fri, Dec 10th 7pm Wheaton Center Towers Clubhouse - Watching the movie Elf
3) Sat, Dec 11th volunteering at the Outreach Community Center's Christmas Store in Carol Stream

OCTOBER Summary:
Last month, we gathered to discuss the question, "When does the Christian life begin?" We asked three people to tell their stories. The rules were fairly simple: our experience is not your experience – so don't feel judged if things differ and please withhold judgment until the whole story is on the table. It is easy to write people off because they don't start where you started or don't draw the conclusions you would have, but, in reality, discussing real people's lives, things are not always simple and not always as easily concluded.

Mark Williamson began the evening framing his experience by pointing to the Sacrament of Baptism as the start of his faith journey. For Mark, his life in Christ started before he could say or do anything. Before he was someone “worthy” and before he had performed a single good deed, in his baptism God accepted him. For Mark, the Christian life did not start with a decision he made -- it started as an act of God. It started in the faith of his family and of his church but most importantly it started with a God who loves us before we are lovable. His tradition (Lutheran-ELCA) baptizes infants (and people of any age who haven't been baptized before) and he was himself baptized as an infant and brought up within the church. Fast-forwarding from his early childhood to high school, he recounted a story of being brought to a mega-church event by a friend – an outreach “Target” night. Apparently Mark had a bulls-eye on him. They played games, broke into groups by school, and then gathered for a concluding worship service. Near the end, the speaker asked everyone to pray a particular prayer which he led. Mark followed as he was told, after concluding the speaker asked everyone who prayed the prayer to stand up. So Mark did. As it turns out he had prayed some form of the traditional Sinner's Prayer and was sent to the back to discuss what it means to be a Christian. Mark commented to us, “But I already was a Christian.” He had been baptized, taught the Scriptures, been confirmed in the church, and given himself to the faith – before walking into that church.

Patrick Green then shared his story with us. He told us that he knows when it was clear to him that he was a part of the Christian life, but that it must have started earlier. He told us of his isolation in high school and that he was lonely. In the end he joined the drama club for various reasons and made friends there. The majority of the club was involved in church and split about equally between two congregations. Pat recalls one day he decided to go to church. The decision between the two congregations was easy, one was closer and he had to ride his bicycle. So he put on his finest clothes, a suit, and peddled his way to church – with an enormous bible in his backpack. He got there and discovered himself overdressed and unsure how he fit in. But the pastor, a polio survivor with serious physical challenges gave a message that showed a beauty and love within the faith. He was shuffled off to the youth program, but, according to Pat, that guy was a complete jerk. He continued to attend and after a while shifted to the other congregation because, “the girls were cuter” where he met a different youth pastor and felt more welcomed. From there he went off to college to be a pastor, and ended up in youth ministry himself. He remembers when he knew that he was living the Christian life. One of the girls in his ministry was pregnant. The senior pastor and the church board indicated that she was banned from the ministry so as to not set a bad example. After some debate, Pat quit on the spot. For Pat the Christian life started at some point, but all the events leading him up to this decision, when totaled, do not seem to add up to any definitive starting point."

Kristine Socall then shared her story, a story without a definite point in time to look back upon and say - there is where her Christian life began. What existed was merely an ongoing series of pivotal faith moments drawing her closer to God. Her earliest faith memory is an experience at the age of 5 when she shared her understanding of the Gospel ("a description of Heaven and Hell, where do you want to go, then just say this prayer-kind of Gospel....) with her Jewish neighbor and then recited the Sinner's prayer with him. A few years later, while sharing the "Gospel" with another neighbor, and being called into the house to do the dishes, she responded, “I am about my Father's business.” Needless to say, the spiritual transformation towards humility came a bit later. She went to a Christian school for part of her elementary education years, but eventually ended up in a public jr. high school where she was mocked and bullied to tears on a daily basis, which continued mostly through high school. However, when she was alone a few of her classmates would approach her with questions about faith. She would answer them as best she could, but later her responses were further used as tools of ridicule. She felt unwelcome and unloved – set off rather than set apart from everyone around her. However, she was filled with an increasing desire to know God and to help broken people like herself. She went off to a Christian college; yet, though theology was a option, she majored in organizational relations, having been told by a family member, “What do you call theology majors? ...Unemployed.” During her life she has been baptized 3 times, once as a child and twice as an adult. But while those later events marked spaces of doubt and uncertainty in her faith and came from a desire "to be sure", they do not mark a change in her dedication or passion for the faith. For her, if the Christian life had a particular event or point of beginning, it is beyond her memories. She has not known a time in life without knowing God and talking to Him during the times when she had no one else to talk to.

What's your story? We'd love to dialogue with you!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Emerging Perspectives: When Does the Christian Life Begin?

October 14th @7pm, up/rooted.west is back at Gino's in Wheaton for a roundtable (usually it's a round table, depends where they seat us) on the question "When Does the Christian Life Begin?" Spoiler alert: there won't be just one answer. We'll have Kristine Socall, Pat Green, and myself each talking about the story of our own Christian origins, inviting others to interact with these personal stories, and possibly sharing bits from their own, along the way. Our goal again won't be to try to settle on the right one--and as ground rules for the discussion, we'll take care not to judge the authenticity of anyone's coming to faith (and this isn't just a warm-up for some sort of altar call at the end either)--but rather to struggle with and hopefully appreciate the diversity of these stories and stand in greater awe of the God who gathers us in to the family of Christ with more agility and grace than we can pin down into a program or system.

So come and join us; no preparation or experience required. Nor does your Christian life have to have begun already--maybe that'll even be one of the responses to this question... Just come with a hunger to know God more deeply, and an appetite for pizza too.

up/rooted.west co-leader

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music and Culture Making with Bill Mallonee at Reimagine Worship

[Here's an invitation from Fred at Redeemer. I'm definitely not going to miss this. --Mark (up/rooted.west)]

Hey Up/Rooted friends!,

We're excited to announce our next Reimagine Worship gathering at Redeemer in Park Ridge, Friday, September 24 @7pm. Bill Mallonee - the lyrical and musical voice behind the Americana/indie band Vigilantes of Love - will our very special musical guest. Paste Music Magazine, in a 2006 poll of writers and artists, listed this Athens, Ga.-based musician as #65 in their "100 Best Living Songwriters." He has performed with such artists as Buddy Miller, Mark Olsen (the Jayhawks), Bruce Cockburn, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, REM, Sufjan Stevens, Derek Webb, North Mississippi Allstars, Pedro the Lion, Denison Witmer, Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, and the Gin Blossoms. With a career that dates back to the late '80s, Mallonee has recorded 23 CDs and has steadily garnered critical acclaim in both Christian and secular media.

As our theme for the evening, we'll be exploring some of the intersections between the church and the culture at large. To quote the author Andy Crouch, "It is not enough to condemn culture, nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture, copy culture or consume culture. The only way to change culture is to create culture." That task puts a Christian artist like Bill Mallonee on the leading edge of culture creation. We'll hear Bill's music and his reflections on what it means to be a Christian, an artist, and a culture-maker, plus take time for some discussion in small groups.

As usual, along with plenty of good conversation, we'll also have great coffee and snacks to go with it.

This promises to be another memorable and significant evening, so spread the news to your friends and join us at Reimagine Worship.

Fred Nelson

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Author Sean Gladding - 9/9 @8pm "The Story of God, the Story of Us"

Join us Sept 9th @8pm - "The Story of God, the Story of Us" -
with author Sean Gladding.
RSVP via facebook or reply email
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wheaton, IL
Doors open at 7:30, free refreshments and Q&A to follow event

Before the Bible was a book it was flesh and blood. Join author and storyteller, Sean Gladding, as he presents the story of creation, helping us hear it as Israelite exiles would have as they gathered around a fire by the rivers of Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E. The story of creation is chapter one of Sean's new book, The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible (IVP 2010), which has grown out of years of telling the overarching Story of Scripture to large groups and small gatherings throughout the United States and internationally as well.

How did we get here? That question has haunted all kinds of people ever since, well, we got here. Sometimes they're wringing their hands over the origins of the universe: how did we (the human race) get here (on a planet with a breathable atmosphere)? But just as often they're asking a more urgent, more desperate question: How did I wind up in this particular place, with this particular pain? And more important: where do I go from here?

Sean Gladding wrestles with those questions--and others--in all their cosmic and existential dimensions in his book The Story of God, the Story of Us. Thursday, September 9, he'll lead us through the biblical story of creation--not from the vantage point of an ivory tower or a bully pulpit, but from a campfire outside the walls of Babylon, where faithful Jews, to whom God had promised land and all its benefits, wondered where God had gone -wondered how they had gotten to this place of despair. Their story is more like our story than we often think; and God's story speaks to us as profoundly as it spoke to them.

Says the author: "What I always hope people walk away with is a desire to go read the text again, with others, and for people to hear the Story that is healing, invitational and that leads to life, rather than one that creates division, wounding and isolation."

About Sean: Sean Gladding spent several years in Houston, Texas, where he was co-pastor of Mercy Street, an initiative by Chapelwood United Methodist Church for "church wounded" people, as well as people in drug and alcohol recovery. He now resides in Lexington, Kentucky, at Communality, a missional community that serves as one of the host "schools for conversion" for the New Monasticism.

“Sean Gladding invites us to hear God’s story anew—to hear it as our own story—and to let it direct us toward the beloved community we’re made to be. Listen to him. Commit this story to memory. Tell it to your kids. Let it direct your life.”
--Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author and new monastic

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cool As God Made Us (up/rooted.west wrap-up)

When I was a kid, my mom told me, "If you want to be cool, just be the wonderful, unique person God made you to be." Well, alright, she never said that. But she should have. Somebody's mom probably said that. Anyhow, last night at up/rooted.west, I started the discussion by bringing in Brett McCracken's recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal called "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity," since this has been one of the many critiques lobbed at the emerging church--that emergents are just the coolest kids on the Christian playground. Look at those thick-frame glasses! Check out his super long goatee! Can you believe her dreadlocks! And they're all meeting in a bar! It's all so emerging!

While we weren't too enthused by McCracken's quick write-off of the emerging movement (he says it has "fizzled" for two oddly contradictory reasons: that it "was too 'let's rethink everything' radical'" and that its animating impulse was merely to "rehabilitate Christianity's image and make it 'cool.'"), who can take issue with his conclusion that for younger generations, "when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real?"

Actually, correct me if I'm wrong, but I have been under the impression that that was the impulse that got this emergent thing going in the first place. Not a quest for a hipper church, but a desire for a more honest and authentic one. As Tony Jones recounts the history of at least his stream of this thing (in chapter 2 of The New Christians), a host of young male rising-star pastors were assembled by the Leadership Network to figure out how to make Christianity hip for Generation X, but they ended up asking all these deeper questions about the nature of the the church and the essence of the gospel, and were rather critical of the American evangelical marketing machine.

That said, I would guess that for those emerging church leaders who were reared in the "golden era" of evangelical youth ministry, it's probably a struggle to jettison the preoccupation with staying on the edge, image-wise. It is always easier to get the people out of slavery than to get the slavery out the people, whatever the captivity in question may be. For my part, I'm Lutheran and I'm pretty sure the last time we had an issue with being too hip was circa 1530 in Germany. (Praise God for a great sense of humor if our rich theology and practice suddenly becomes retro-hip.)

We also finished our discussion series on Peter Rollins's The Orthodox Heretic last night with a couple pithy parables called "The Father's Approval" and "Overthrowing the Emperor." Having seen Peter Rollins in person, in a bar in Wrigleyville with many hip-looking people, it should be conceded that objectively speaking, his is cool. Good thing we emergents aren't keen on objectivity.

Next month, we are privileged to host special guest Sean Gladding, author of The Story of God, The Story of Us (IVP, 2010), in town for the Christian Community Development Association conference. Make note, it'll be on the second, not the third Thursday: September 9th at 8pm (gather at 7:30).

"Sean is a British Texan living in Kentucky whose thing is dramatizing the metanarrative of Scripture. His new book surveys the Bible in twelve chapters set in three different locales--for the Old Testament, a fireside gathering of a Jewish exile community in Babylon, where a rabbi reminds them of the promises of God while they fret over why God has abandoned them; for the Gospels and Epistles, an ekklesia in an urban commercial center, explaining this odd new celebratory sect to a merchant over a series of dinners; for the Revelation, that merchant's underground ekklesia, hidden for fear of persecution, explaining to two tentative followers of the Way why Christians stand in defiance of the Roman empire."

As you can see here at his IVP book page, Sean also has a bald head and a long goatee. Whether that is, for him, cool, only his Creator knows.

up/rooted.west co-leader

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Peter Rollins and his parables

Join us this Thursday, 7/15 @ 6:30pm at Gino's East Pizza in downtown Wheaton for more Rollin's parable discussion! Also, if you might be interested in an up/rooted lunchtime downtown loop meeting time, let us know! We're getting ready to launch a virtual cohort discussion group as well!


Last month, we began a discussion on Peter Rollin's book “The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales”. We selected three parables for discussion from the first section “Beyond Belief”: Chapter 3) Translating the Word; Chapter 4) Turning the Other Cheek, and Chapter 9) The Invisible Prophet.

The first parable, Translating the Word, recounts a woman who was commissioned by God to dedicate her life to the distribution and translation of the Word of God. To achieve this she sells all she owned and spends years of her life living on the streets begging for money and working odd jobs so that she can afford a printing press and qualified translators. One disaster after another happens and each time she gives away all the funds she collected to aid in the needs of people here and now. At the end of her life she is able to get the funds, hire the translators, and print Bibles. The parable ends saying she appeared to have fulfilled her commission not once, but many times.

Our discussion opened with a question, “Did she feel a failure until the very end?” She willingly gave away the funds to help those in need, but this put her further away from the “goal” of a printed translated text. From there we asked, “Did she ever feel a success?” For some present it was a feeling granted at the completion of the first printed text, for others it was a feeling she never received for there are always more who could receive. It was here our discussion was moved by greater attention to the text. She was called to spend her life on this task. It was not something God asked her to finish quickly so that she could do something else later. I will leave you with a question we did not get to ask, “Is this a lifestyle that God calls some towards, or is this lifestyle Christianity itself?”

The second parable we read, Turning the Other Cheek, was a recounting of Matthew 5. Our reading of this retelling had Jesus dividing the hearers into two groups – the oppressed and the oppressors. To one group he said carry the pack a second mile and to the other he said my witness to you is those who carry for you. To one group he said do not resist evil men but pray for their salvation, to the other he said, those to whom you do evil and they only respond with righteous love are my witness unto you.

The text in this format is bracing. Our discussion quickly took these sayings as defining groups who are powerful and who are powerless. We began by looking to place ourselves within the narrative. We realized through our discussion that we do not fit nicely into either category. Living within the richest county in the state we ought to remember our place as the oppressors, but we also give of ourselves in service to others. Thus sometimes we waffle back and forth between the two. Another of us held some problem with the categories, it is not the oppressed who choose of their own will to carry for a second mile but the free. The one who chooses to be a servant may be exploited, but their choice empowers them to be less than oppressed. As a group, however, we worried a bit over legislating freedom for the oppressed from our comfortable chairs surrounded by an abundance of food. What do you think?

The final parable we read, The Invisible Prophet, was about a prophet whose message was rendered void by the Adversary for it chose to make her beautiful beyond measure. She inspired the painters to paint, the poets to muse, and the crowds to assemble, but they heard nothing of her message for the words were so marvelous to behold. She died a popular star, but not one had listened to her call of repentance.

We began this discussion with an aside on modern worship practices. One of us shared a remark about a church where they had compelling teaching, reverent reflection upon God's grace, and the best Jesus show in town. The final element of the list being amongst the most planned out. We asked what this means for our understanding of worship that so much focus goes into the entertaining aspects? An awkward silence followed. From there one of us asked if this prophet might be creation itself? We are all so accustomed to the splendor of creation that we don't see it as a prophetic witness to God's goodness. We all too often ignore it. Another asked if this prophet was not the Bible itself, for all the beauty of its poetry or the romance of God's love we hear not the calls to justice – its voice condemning our sin. From here we also asked about what great beauty is hidden within the ugliness of the cross of Christ. What do you think, are we so distracted by beauty that even its absence drives us to distraction?


Pat Riehecky

Brief me-ness: When the season is right, I am a graduate theology student at Wheaton College; when it is not, I am a UNIX Administrator. My perspective is informed by the writings of Kierkegaard, Tillich, and Levinas as well as lectures from Daniel Block, Douglas Moo, Daniel Treier, and Kevin VanHooser. I have known the name that is above any other since I could talk, but it took me some time to accept His guidance. The theological questions that haunt me revolve around the meaning of Christianity, the theology of a name, and retelling the Bible as the story of God's romantic passionate love for His creation. In short, I guess you could say I am interested in a counter narrative of grace stretching from Genesis to Revelation.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Young Adults Speak Out Artistic Expression Event

In February of 2009 a new emerging community in Lockport, Illinois tried something new. We sat in a circle with about a dozen teens with some pizza and talked about what they wanted this community to become. It started off with radical inclusiveness - something like "Pizza Party meets group therapy" and we talk about life's issues honestly and openly. This new group of teens and young adults became known as YASO (Young Adults Speak Out)

This Saturday, June 12, the University of St Francis at 500 Wilcox Street in Joliet will be sponsoring YASO's first artistic expression fund raiser in their main auditorium from 7 until 10 PM. There is no admission fee and the auditorium seats 250 people. Teens and young adults will be expressing themselves through interpretive dance, song, slam poetry, and monologues on stage. In the lobby area there will be paintings, sketchings, and photography on display reflecting the hearts of a generation. In between performances, anonymous letters written by teens and young adults in the area will be read aloud. These are stories of pain, darkness and hope.

This is YASO's first engagement in their Society's Forgotten Children Silent no More campaign. The messages they want to send through their art regards:

  1. Real Life
  2. Hurt and Pain
  3. Acceptance
  4. How society Treats Them
  5. Criminally and Sexually Abused Children
  6. Change
  7. Profiling and Assumptions
  8. Family, Friends, Cutting, Death, and other real life topics they live with every day.
  9. Trust
  10. Hope and Grace
The people they want to hear this message are:

  1. Adults
  2. People With the Power to Affect Change
  3. Parents
  4. "Perfect Life People"
  5. Judgmental Bastards
  6. Teachers
  7. Fellow Freaks
  8. Doubters
  9. People who are like "Rawr"
  10. Pastors and Churches
  11. The Hopeless
  12. People who are hurting
  13. Those in Society who NEED to hear what they don’t want to hear.
Due to the nature of some of the content, it may not be appropriate for people under the age 13.

The most important aspect of this event is for their voice to be heard and the message of their hearts shared. In regards to fundraising, there will be an opportunity to donate and much of the physical artwork will be up for silent auction. All YASO folks are unpaid volunteers and all proceeds are used for relief supplies and resources for teens and young adults with needs.

For more information about the event, please contact Patrick Green at 815-905-0185 or email him at patrick (at) lifebridgeonline (dot) org.

For more information about the YASO story, please check out our article on the Emergent Village Weblog.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"He told them many things in parables": up/rooted.west this summer

At our May gathering, we wrapped up discussion of Tony Jones's The New Christians. Next up, since the few of us who were at the Peter Rollins Insurrection tour back in April were happily left in a parabolic state of mind by that experience, we'd like to take up Rollins's The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales. I notice from the blog archives here (before my time) that this won't be up/rooted.west's first discussion of a Rollins book--the group read How (Not) to Speak of God a few years back--but if you haven't had any exposure to Peter's distinctive way of "a/theologizing" yet, his latest collection of parables should serve as a fine introduction. Inspired by Jesus' own method of teaching, these creative new parables similarly reveal and conceal at the same time, pointing us to a God who is so much more than our statements about God.

But if that doesn't sound intriguing enough, think of it as story time. Everybody loves story time, right? We'll have the book on hand and will pick out a couple to read aloud--they're short and pithy and I believe meant to be told in that way. So that means you don't have to read anything ahead of time, and securing a copy of the book yourself is optional.

We're sticking at Gino's, at least for June (maybe we'll picnic it later in the summer), but please note we're switching from the 2nd Thursday of the month to the 3rd. So we'll gather next on June 17th. Drop in between 6:30-7pm; the conversation starts at 7.

up/rooteded.west co-leader

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The (Alleged) Difference Between Emergent and Emerging, and the Stewardship of Words

At the Peter Rollins event last week in Wrigleyville some rumblings reached me from somewhere that it might be best to avoid “emerging” language in the little commercial Kris and I offered for up/rooted. That was well and good since the guiding image of the “Insurrection” was a fist, not a leaf (and really, in an insurrection, a leaf intimidates no one). But that brief message of caution reignited some thoughts I’ve been mulling over at least since the Dan Kimball/Skye Jethani “retrospective” on the emerging church at Wheaton College back in January.

I only made it to the second part of that talk, which was mostly Jethani, but the part that stuck with me was the effort to distinguish “emerging” from “emergent” by virtue of the kinds of questions with which one or one’s community is wrestling. You can see Skye standing in front of a Powerpoint slide here at Kimbell’s blog—and I believe he was getting this from another source I didn’t note—but as you can see, according to this schema, if you are mainly dealing with questions of style, evangelism, culture, mission, or church, you are “emerging,” but if you go beyond this into a preoccupation with questions about “gospel” and “world” you are “emergent” (and likely involved on some level with Emergent Village).

Now, I’m all for clarity, but separating out emerg-ing (the sheep?) from emerg-ent (the goats?) is getting a little out of hand. We’re only trying to have a conversation here. Mostly what is revealed to me afresh wherever I find this emergent/emerging distinction being drawn is the deep-seated need so many Evangelical Protestant Christians have to draw a line between in and out, true and false, even when the parties involved, emerging and emergent, are, respectively, not-organized and only loosely networked (sans doctrinal statement or magisterium). No doubt, some (not too-tight) brackets are helpful with certain tasks (e.g. understanding confessional/ecclesial traditions), but here we have to wonder if the brackets have become idols (“bracketolatry?”).

Come to think of it, it’s largely this impulse that makes me ill-at-ease being Protestant while highly committed to being reforming (in my case, named after Luther, to his displeasure). It seems to me the particular temptation of Protestant Christianity is to accomplish purity, originality, apostolicity etc. through separation—through an ever-more precise (if imagined) placing of the brackets. In contrast, the particular calling, and burden, of reforming movements within the Christian church, as they advocate for change, is to maintain and insist upon their own catholicity and apostolicity, even while “conservative” elements of the moment are engaged in excommunicating them from the institution or separating themselves to restore the “original” church.

It is never an easy thing to insist that you belong and believe you belong to a group when voices are saying you do not belong. It has been hard from the start for Christians to affirm their basic continuity and unity with Israel, the tree into which they have been grafted through Christ (Rom 9-11; Eph 2); it has been hard for churches of the Reformation to affirm their catholicity with the church of Rome; and now on a much smaller (and seemingly more abstract) level, the challenge is being posed to emergents (folks networked through Emergent Village) to maintain that they are in the same amorphous emerging phenomenon, without distinction.

Lest this problem all sound so six months ago (that’s like fifty years in the emerging conversation), I’m fully aware from Kimbell and others (all invested in this thing longer than I) that some folks are intentionally leaving behind emergent/emerging/emergence language altogether. Here I can only say that this betrays the worst kind of linguistic stewardship. I personally love words very much and I am saddened to see them used, scratched up, and thrown in the landfill like so many burned CDs. I think something very similar happened in the case of “liberation theology” in the 1970s and 80s. North American Christians imported it from Latin America, branded it, jammed to it for awhile, and when they decided it was too Marxist-sounding, trashed it (cf. “Disco Sucks!), leaving the very gospel-central word liberation tainted and suspect. Emerging is a good word, particularly wedded as it is to a rich organic motif, so compatible with the agricultural ethos of the Bible. I really think it’s a keeper.

We can never be too aware that the setting in which we live and operate here in the North American church—at least in its Protestant expressions—is compulsively schismatic and faddish. If we are looking for something to reject, I suggest we reject that particular ugly aspect of our inheritance, and concentrate instead on living into Jesus’ prayer “that we may all be one” (John 17).


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanks for all the fish

Good evening, good people. This is Rebecca speaking to you. I know my voice has gotten unfamiliar to most of you at this point because of the extended hiatus of up/ I have two things to talk with you about tonight.

1. I'm sorry to have to say that in working out the priorities of what I spend my time on, I will have to lovingly prune out most emergent events and my role as a local leader (or at least point person) of the emergent movement. I need the time to focus on my family (my sister-in-law just birthed my first niece plus, you know, the new husband) and my job at Safe Families, which allows me to work for systemic change for vulnerable kids by revitalizing the big-c Church. How cool is that job, huh?

That being said, I'm looking for someone who is willing to plan monthly cohort meetings, as well as to build the network of local emergent practitioners and events. I found that I loved calling up random pastors and writers and saying, "I coordinate the local Emergent Village cohort; would you like to meet me for coffee?" It was great to hear their stories and even better to have that knowledge in order to share with others who are new to the movement and just having that shiny feeling of not being the only crazy one out there who thinks that Jesus should be followed in new ways.

If you are interested in taking over this role for the city (the Western suburbs have some neat things going on already), please email me at rebica at aol dot com and we'll set up coffee to talk about it. :-) For those of you who liked getting my summaries about drinking tea, you are welcome to follow me at my personal blog Wild Rumpus or at the blog I co-host for folks in interfaith relationships called Fifty Percenters.

This has been an amazing experience for me and I'll still be around to see where God takes us now. I still proudly self-identify as emergent and believe that all of the work done toward making God accessible to everyone is necessary and good. Thank you to all of you who have walked any part of my path so far with me.

2. Also, there is a great opportunity to hear Brian McLaren speak this weekend. It's only $30 for a day-long event and lunch is included. The details are below and I really think you should take advantage of this opportunity to gather with like-minded folks.

Brian McLaren @ LaSalle Street Church
April 17 & 18, 2010 | (Sat. & Sunday)

APRIL 17: One-day Conference w/ McLaren ($30 per person, lunch provided)
10 am – 4:30 pm | Cornerstone Center, Leslie Hall | 1111 N. Wells, Chicago
Register online at

APRIL 18: Worship Gatherings 9 & 11 am | LSC Sanctuary | 1136 N. LaSalle, Chicago

Monday, April 12, 2010

The LOST episode at Reimagine Worship, Redeemer

Here's the latest announcement from Redeemer. I can't believe I'm going to miss this after watching every episode of Lost for 5 1/2 seasons. N.T. Wright at Wheaton College (registration full, don't try it) better be good... --Mark

We're excited to announce that our next Reimagine Worship gathering will be Friday, April 16 @7pm. We'll be welcoming back Aracely Bock as our special musical guest, along with (we think, not sure yet) some of her musician friends from Jesus People USA.

As our theme for the evening, we'll be exploring some of the recurring spiritual themes in the hit TV series LOST. We'll probably show a video clip or two and feed off of that, so you don't already have to be a fan of the show to participate. We're looking to make connections and correlations between the Christian faith and the spiritual questions of LOST, without pre-judging what the show's writers intend by it. For example, we may explore the whole notion of how people are "lost" in all kinds of ways. And, like the show itself, there are almost certainly going to be more questions than answers!

Once again, this promises to be a memorable and meaningful evening. As usual, we'll have plenty of time for some conversation and great coffee and snacks.

Belong. Believe. Be Yourself.

Monday, April 05, 2010

up/rooted.west April gathering: Insurrection!

Hey all, sorry for not posting a March wrap-up on here. We had a great conversation on the middle chapters of the Jones book, and got to meet a few new people--about as many folks gathered around those two round tables as you can have and still all be on the same page.

As for what was said or what page that was: hard to remember at this point. We'll wrap up the book discussion on The New Christians (Chaps 5-6) back at Gino's on Thursday, May 13 (also the festival of the Ascension, that special day when we acknowledge that the Resurrected Jesus has some serious hops).

And speaking of hops, our April 8 gathering for the west group coincides with The Insurrection Tour featuring Peter Rollins and friends at Trace Bar in Wrigleyville. Enough of us wanted to go and hear Peter while he's in town & fraternize with other emerging rabble rousers from the wider that's the main event. Go RSVP here on Facebook if you haven't already--helps if they know how many to expect. Doors 7pm; Event 8pm. Parking near Trace is likely scarce--I'm taking the train--but if someone wants to organize come carpooling, go for it.

See you Thursday night.

Christ is Risen!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Upcoming Events

Some upcoming events you should know about!!

March 5-6
Mission on your Doorstep
hosted by Wheaton Bible Church, sponsored by World Relief
Sat keynote speakers: Noel Castellanos (CEO, CCDA) and Soong-Chan Rah (Board Member, CCDA)

Sundays @ 6pm in Lisle starting March 14
hosted by Kris Socall - up/rooted.west co-coordinator
Intro Centering prayer/3-way Listening/Storytelling
for 18-30'somethings
email kristine (at) gifteddreamers (dot) com for location/details

March 11th @6:30ish
Gino's East downtown Wheaton
up/rooted.west discussion
Read Chp 3-4 The New Christians by Tony Jones (or not....)

March 20th 8:30am - 3:30pm
Listening prayer workshop
led by Ted Kallman from Mars Hill Bible Church in MI

April 8th 7:00 - 10:00pm (Trace Bar, Wrigleyville)
Peter Rollins Insurrection tour
Video to check out

April 9-10
Forge Missional Imaginations Conference
hosted by Wheaton College

April 17
Brian McLaren @ Lasalle Street Church

Beginning Now - volunteer registration for
Chicago's Green Festival at Navy Pier

If you'd like to add anything to this list, please post a comment!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reimagine Worship at Redeemer: Alt Worship UK

An invitation from Fred Nelson at Redeemer Church, Park Ridge:

We're excited to announce that our next Reimagine Worship gathering will be Friday, February 26 @7pm. This month we'll be experiencing some of the sights and sounds of the Alt Worship scene in the UK.

Following the Alt Worship ethos, there will be plenty of time for relaxing to music, meditation, prayer, communion, conversation, and interesting visuals.

Since this will a new approach for us, we're thinking that the evening will be a bit more loosely structured than usual. We're still working on themes and narrowing down the bewildering number of options available to us. At present, we're not planning on having a guest worship band for the evening: there should be plenty of other things to occupy us!

What is alt worship? One website puts it this way: Alternative worship tries to give people "tools" for honest encounters with God. "Tools" might mean prayer, pens and paper, a video loop, something to eat, someone to talk to, Holy Communion, or anything else that can help us to meet God in some way. But the tools used in alternative worship have one important characteristic - they don't lead to predetermined outcomes. That is to say, alternative worship seeks to bring God and the participant together - but not to predetermine what the outcome of the meeting might be. This is essential to protect the genuineness of the encounter. The absence of pressure, or concern for specific "results," encourages openness to God. Amazing encounters may follow.

This promises to be another memorable and meaningful evening. As usual, we'll have plenty of time for some conversation and great coffee and snacks.

Belong. Believe. Be Yourself. Be There!

Redeemer Church
1006 Gillick Street
Park Ridge, Illinois 60068

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are Emergents Creedal? West Cohort Feb. Wrap-Up

Last week Thursday, the uprooted.west cohort gathered at Gino's East back in its familiar "garage" space where, happily, there was no trouble at all hearing each other. Great to have some new folks again to join us in exploring the "frontier" of the emerging church with the help of Tony Jones's book.

I think I said at the end that we'd be discussing Chapter 3 at our March gathering, but now that I see it's on the shorter side, let's make that Chapters 3-4.

Much of our conversation last week revolved around what Jones calls at different points the "squishiness" or "slipperiness" of the emergent movement. If what emergent Christians share is indeed an "ethos, a vibe, a sensibility" (p.39), and--in lieu of membership of doctrine--the binding force of friendship (p.56), well, the question that keeps arising is: "Is that enough?"

We spent some time identifying some of the recurring emergent characteristics that connected with our own experience. Especially prominent was a penchant for eclecticism, possibly stemming from the diversity of church forms present in our own backgrounds. There is a real hunger to experience the wideness of the Church by being in touch with various expressions of it at the same time and having relationships spread across denominational/confessional lines. The lingering issue I'd love to continue to explore here is: How do we belong somewhere and to a particular community while retaining a healthy sense of this larger belonging? How do we preserve a healthy sense of restlessness, and perhaps of being misfits, without diminishing commitment to a particular people, place, and mission?

We spent a little time on the brief history of Emergent Village as recounted from Tony Jones's (by no means exclusive) perspective. Another trait of emergents that stood out here is an inability to limit a conversation about the future and mission of the church to matters of techniques, trends, generational hooks, "being relevant," etc. Sooner or later, Christians are going to talk theology and when they recognize their own biases--and the Bible's biases--in the process, things get very interesting and the commitment to friendship becomes that much more important.

Finally, I raised the question of whether, or to what extent, emergents are creedal Christians since this is something of a hot topic right now. My own take on this is simply to say that I am, and since I am not immune to doubt, I value being part of a faith community that can also be found confessing the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, among other things, to pick up the slack in my own faith. However, I am completely at ease with others in my cohort answering this question differently, or coming from communities that answer this question differently, and see no reason why an open network like Emergent Village should feel compelled to formally state its orthodoxy or lack thereof.

One parallel I am seeing just now--and this may have something to do with how hospitable the emergent movement has felt for artists and the creatively gifted--is with the longstanding tradition of discomfort among evangelicals with art, which always has trouble--you might say downright resists--proving either its orthodoxy or its efficacy as a tool for evangelism. Is the emergent church creedal? Is a painting creedal? Is the emergent church missional? Must a good novel contain an altar call?

Well, love to hear your thoughts on this here or at a cohort near you. Peace,

uprooted.west co-leader

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Ordinary Radicals

I recently got an invitation to this event. It looks really interesting.
So, yesterday, I got a facebook note from "The Ordinary Radicals" saying, in essence, "Is there anyone in Chicago who's willing to host Jamie Moffett so he can show his documentary in your church at a discounted rate?" Rather impetuously, I accepted the offer, and so we are showing this documentary at United Church.

If you're wondering "What is The Ordinary Radicals?" I've got a link for ya here. It's a documentary about various Christian communities around the country and what they are doing. It's about breaking stereotypes, seeking new ways of living, music, politics, spirituality, and other good stuff. If you're marginally interested in any of the above, even if you're not Christian, I think you'll find it interesting at the very least. The music is good too.

Jamie Moffett (the director) will lead a Q&A/Discussion period after the show. Please feel free to join in. The more perspectives, the better.

On another note, as I have promised to help pay part of Jamie's travel costs, and as the church can't afford to pay him, we're going to be taking up a collection. I'd suggest a $5-$10 donation. If you can't scrape that together, don't let it stop you. If you're feeling generous, the church and I would be deeply grateful.

So, if can come, please come. If you can bring friends, colleagues, or others along, all the better. I'm really hoping for a nice big diverse crowd.
If you're interested, here's the logistics:
Date: Sunday, February 7, 2010
Time: 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: United Church of Rogers Park
Street: 1545 Morse Ave
City/Town: Chicago, IL

Monday, February 01, 2010

Suggested emergent books

The moderator of the Pc(USA) church - who just happens to self-identify as emergent - just posted his list of suggested emergent reading. Find it here. Come on back after you've lokoed at it and tell us what you think? Are there any must-reads that he is missing?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dan Kimball lectures at Wheaton College

This looks good...and free. --Mark

The Emerging Church: Origins, Doctrine, Truth, Mission from an Insider Perspective

Wheaton College's Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) welcomes Dan Kimball to campus to speak on “The Emerging Church: Origins, Doctrine, Truth, Mission from an Insider Perspective.” Kimball is a leading voice in the Emerging Church movement and author of numerous books on the topic, including his most recent book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. He is co-founder of the Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, where he serves as a Mission and Teaching Pastor.

Kimball will be presenting on Tuesday, January 19 at 7pm and Skye Jethani will be leading a response and open forum on Wednesday, January 20 at 4pm. Both events are free and open to public and will be held in room 339 of Blanchard Hall, located at 501 College Avenue in Wheaton (
campus map)
. For more information, call the CACE office at 630.752.5886 or visit

up/rooted.west January wrap-up

A couple nights ago thirteen of us got together at Muldoon's Pub for the first up/rooted.west gathering in several months. Ostensibly we were to discuss the first chapter of Tony Jones's The New Christians, but as a lot of new connections and reconnections were being made (and most didn't have a copy yet), the book discussion will really begin in February.

Patrick Green, pastor of Lifebridge in Lockport, came for the first time along with several new friends from his community. Pastor Mark Borgetti from Our Savior's in Naperville also came by to check the group out. Good to see familiar up/rooted faces as well.

It was atypically loud in the pub (duh, you might say...but really, louder than usual), so conversation was mostly limited to one's half of the long table, but still it was good to make some new acquaintances and learn about how church is being embodied across some quite different communities. In case anyone out there would still benefit by being moderately shocked at an expression of God's church meeting in a pub, please be shocked now; we're moving over to Gino's East next time where we have a predictably quieter space, a big round table, and you can still order a beer if such is your thirst.

That next gathering will be February 11 (sticking with the 2nd Thursday pattern). Gino's is a block away at 315 W. Front St. in Wheaton. Come at 6:30-ish if you want to order pizza and all that; then we can actually start the discussion at 7pm. Also we wrap up (officially) at 8:30pm, but linger as you like of course.

Peace be with you, and if you are still searching for a trustworthy place to give to support the recovery in Haiti, I commend my denomination's channel for emergency aid: ELCA Disaster Response. 100% will go to aid the people affected.

Mark Williamson
up/rooted.west co-coordinator

Friday, January 15, 2010

Crisis in Haiti

There will be a free conference call TODAY at 11AM PST with World Vision's President Rich Stearns, Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels and Max Lucado on the Haiti crisis and how we can be responding.

Dialing instructions

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Becky Johnson

Friday, January 15th @7pm

Redeemer Church in Park Ridge will be welcoming Becky Johnson as a special musical guest, along with some of her musician friends - Izzy Hermosillo, Nathan Ykema, and Jonathan Fries. Becky is a worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, and a member of the increasingly popular band Beckon Q.

The theme for the evening is - get this! - "the devil." We're going to explore what Scripture says, what people are saying, and what we're thinking about the figure of the devil these days. Lots to talk about!

As usual, we'll have plenty of time for some conversation and great coffee and snacks.

Questions? Send an email to or call 847-823-3634.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Next uprooted west gathering in Wheaton

After a brief hiatus, up/rooted.west is back in session on Thursday, January 14th at 7pm at Muldoon's Pub, 133 Front St. in Wheaton. Randy Harper is taking a step back as co-coordinator for a bit and I (Mark Williamson) am stepping up to co-lead with Kristine Socall, who's been a part of this cohort for several years and is even featured in the YouTube video on cohorts at (I checked that out the other night and spotted her!).

I think we'll make a dynamic team, one that is quite representative of the diversity and convergence that is the emergent church. Kristine comes from a charismatic/non-denominational background and is also a Benedictine Oblate. She'll graduate in a year with her MBA Economic Development and is currently involved with launching a missional community hub in the Naperville area with Willow Creek's Axis. She's passionate about building community and creating experiences that foster transformation.

I'm a Lutheran pastor in Wheaton, with significant formative experiences in evangelical communities like Willow Creek where I went to Student Impact in the mid 90s and studied abroad at Oak Hill Theological College (an evangelical Anglican seminary) in London. I have a particular passion for helping to heal the liberal/conservative, mainline/evangelical split in American Christianity which I find to be terribly unhealthy. I think I got sucked into the emergent movement as soon as I came across the phrases "generous orthodoxy" and "generative friendship." Sounds like church to me.

Whether you've had any exposure to this movement at all or are just getting your feet wet, I think our series at up/rooted.west through the winter/spring will be a fine (re)introduction. We're going to be using Tony Jones's The New Christians to stoke the conversation; I think it does a splendid job of getting across both the history and ethos of this whole emergent thing, and has some good humor mixed in as well. Why don't you read the intro and first chapter if you can get to it in the next couple weeks. If you don't, by all means come anyway, and introduce yourself.

Hope to see you there & Happy 2010,

Mark Williamson