Monday, August 11, 2008

More New Members!

Welcome to our newest member blog, Mr. Locke's Classroom written by Neal Locke! In his own words: My name is Neal Locke, and I’m a former inner-city high school English teacher, currently working for my church as director of music and youth ministries. Starting this summer, I’ll be moving with my wife (Amy), my three-year-old son (Grady), and my newborn daughter (Abby) to New Jersey, where I’ll start work on a Masters of Divinity and a Masters in Education, both at Princeton Theological Seminary.

And today's Member blog highlight is . . . our new GA Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow's, personal blog, FAITH.

Here are some provocative thoughts from his post “Emergent” Worship . . . Whatever That Means:

This is a printing of an article that was just published by the Association on Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) in their Quarterly resource, The Advocate. This is a mish-mash of many other thoughts I have spouted here before, but there you have it!

I am always a little wary of writing anything to do with the “emergent” or “postmodern” church because I usually find there is not enough space to lay a sufficient foundation to address questions around their meanings and implications for the church. I also find difficulty in separating aspects of an emergent church experience into areas such as community, worship, administration, evangelism, etc., so if you notice that some of my observations and suggestions can be applied across church structural lines, BINGO! With all of this said, I still use these terms because one by-product of thinking about worldview shifts in culture and church is the inevitable realization that the church in a “postmodern” context IS different than most churches today and deserves at least an attempt at its interpretation within the larger church context.

What is “postmodernity?” // My working definition is a hodge-podge of thoughts from Len Sweet, Brian McClaren and many others, much smarter than myself. “Postmodernity is a paradoxical worldview that flows from a modernist worldview and is characterized by a shift in culture that moves from being scientific, analytical, institutional, and mechanical to one driven by the mystical, experiential, relational, and organic.”

What is “emergent?” // The “emergent” or “emerging” church is simply the manifestation/s of postmodernity in the church. See . . . simple isn’t it ;-)

What is my context? // I will be the first to admit that the context in which I serve, Mission Bay Community Church, is unique and not like many other PC(USA) congregations. With a full embracing of online social networking as essential to community, ambiguity as a reality to be navigated and an approach to church that reeks of cynicism if not outright irreverence, I fully understand that I am in a unique situation. Our folks do not need to have the existence of a postmodern worldview proven to them, they expect it to be manifested at all times in the church.

Again, while there are many ways to talk about postmodernity in the church, one element that I believe is essential when thinking about worship is this, the emergent church is not about methodology and the “How To’s” of DOing church, but is more about the posture of worship and the approach to BEing church. An emergent worship experience is not just about the “tactics” of burning candles, sitting on couches and wearing jeans, but about the foundational worldview that may create a natural inclination towards and an appreciation for those elements. An emergent worship experience can just as easily exist within a traditionally high-church context; it is just that at this point in the life of the church, my guess is that most churches of this ilk are grounded in a distinctly modern worldview. With this in mind, I offer a few essential “approaches” to BEing an emergent worship experience rather than a “toolbox” for DOing an emergent worship service.

Consistently be real // Nothing is more non-emergent than the multiplicities of compartmentalizing that happen in worship. From the pastor who gets up and puts on his/her “Preacher Voice” to a congregation that looks or sounds NOTHING like their website or yellow pages ad, consistency of self at all levels of church structure and personal interaction is vital.

Boldly Embrace the Grey // While most churches today try to explain away or figure out how to conquer chaos and ambiguity, an emergent worship experience embraces life in the midst of ambiguity as an wonderful opportunity to seek God’s guidance and live out one’s faith. No longer should we strive towards a life in opposition to ambiguity, but a peace of heart and mind informed by and in the midst of it.

Truly Appreciate the Other // It is one thing to have an outward image of diversity and tolerance of others, but without true cultural competency, this inauthentic diversity amounts to not much more than tokenism and window dressing. An emergent worship experience does not have diversity for diversity’s sake, nor does it simply tolerate differences in culture, class, theology, politics, lifestyle, etc. An emergent service will be able to show true appreciation for the diversity in it’s midst, an appreciation that does not always mean approval, but an affirmation that others’ journeys and context are just as valid to be part of the grander walk of faith.

Humbly Claim A Truth // Every church must claim some kind of “truth.” How that “truth” is held and perceived is at the core of any emergent worship experience. While claiming a little “t” truth – in our case a belief in the redeeming power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ – an emergent church never claims the big “T” Truth that renders all other’s perspectives false. An emergent worship experience exists in this seemingly unsettled place holding dear to the belief that it is in the humble sharing and exchange of multiple takes on truth that each one’s understandings of Truth is made more clear, meaningful and whole.

So there you have it, a few tasty tidbits for you to digest in thinking about and engaging in the whole emergent and postmodern discourse. I hope that there has been something that maybe helpful for your and your communities journey.

by Bruce Reyes-Chow

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David Holyan said...

I see myself as a pastor of a re-emerging mainline. I experience the emergent church movement as a desire for authentic, real, honest faith and a reaction against mainline church facades–looks good on the outside, nothing happening on the inside. Most of our PC(USA) churches are filled with wonderfully faithful folks from a generation whose definition of 'faithful Christian' is so very different from younger generations. Yet, they too are hungry for more- for real, authentic, honest, humble...they get that life is NOT a parade of triumph. They watch their loved ones die of disease, their friends lose jobs, their children divorce.

The good news is inherently attractive when authentically embodied. My hope is mainline communities blossoming into re-emerging churches, thriving fellowships faithful in Jesus Christ and attentive to the rapidly changing world. It is not easy, but we are all called to love, to feed, and to forgive.

Stushie said...

If the First Christians had believed in mutliple takes on the truth, they never would have died for Christ Multi-faceted truth is no truth at all. That's syncretism.

Sarahlynn said...

"Multi-faceted truth is no truth at all."

I might quibble with your semantics.

A cut diamond might have many facets and look different from, say, the bottom than it does from one side or the top. But regardless of how it looks to us with our limited perspective, it's still a diamond.

I'm not a pastor or a theologian. But I am far more focused on living my own life as a Christian, open and forthright about what I believe and trying to live consistently with my faith ("to love, to feed, and to forgive") as much as possible. I'm less focused on judging others (and their beliefs).

paulboal said...

Multi-faceted truth...

Holy Ghost

That's pretty tough to believe, too. It isn't a matter of multiple truths, but what angles you can examine the one truth from at any one point in time and with any one imperfect perspective.

Stushie said...

See here's the problem that I have with this: the First Christians knew Jesus personally. They listened to Him preaching. They saw Him after the Resurrection. They took the message out into a multi-cultural, pantheistic world. If they, who knew Jesus so well, would not 'syncretise' their beliefs and died for the Truth in Christ, then why do we think that our modern, multi-cultured, syncretistic theology is any better than theirs? That smacks of Western generational elitism, bordering on universalism, where we count ourselves more spiritually knowledgeable than those who literally walked with Christ.

Sarahlynn said...

I don't see it the same way, but I really do understand what you're saying. And have found this conversation very thought-provoking. In fact, we had an interesting family discussion about this last night.

Sarahlynn said...

Here's what I was seeking:

PCUSA website

"Relativistic and postmodern understandings of truth allow competing versions of religious reality to be seen as complimentary rather than in conflict."

"Presbyterians affirm Jesus as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), while being open to learning from the truth claims of other religions."