What’s really emerging…

My son may not be as well-known as Jay Bakker (and his mother may not be as famous, either), but it’s my contention that what #1 Son and a cohort of other graduates of Wes graduates are doing together is very much like Emergent, Emerging, Emergence Church/Christianity. And I wonder if this isn’t something about a shift of energy in response to the complexity of the world. First, a word about what #1 Son is up to, and by the way, his name is Edward Bauer, just in case some day you look back and want to say you knew him and his mother Songbird Faye back when:

THE ASSEMBLY THEATER PROJECT is a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists committed to realizing a visceral and intelligent theater for a new generation. Assembly members unite our varied interests in service of wide-reaching, unabashedly theatrical and rigorously researched ensemble performances that address the complexities of our ever-changing world. The company embraces collaboration as the core of the creative process, allowing all the elements of text, action and design to develop side-by-side within the rehearsal environment. The Assembly is dedicated to rooting its artists, audiences, and peers in a profound sense of community. (Read more)

Collaboration as the core of the creative process–doesn’t this sound like what we’re leaning toward in worship and church life in general? And we find an array of responses from eager to antagonistically resistant. Heck, we may FEEL that range of response in our own selves!

I’m reading “This Odd and Wondrous Calling,” by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver, and right at the beginning of the book, Copenhaver writes about shaking hands after church, how it breaks down the illusion that there is a difference between the preacher and the congregation, unlike that between actor and audience (and therefore making the point that celebrity mega-church preachers don’t shake hands for a reason other than logistics). He says, “Actors collaborate with members of the audience to create, for a time at least, a kind of illusion that they are the characters they play. Anything that exposes that illusion is usually unwelcome.” But in this new, dare I say emerging, form of theatre created by The Assembly (and other young companies no doubt), the lines are blurred. I’ve been watching #1 Son on stage since he was 7-and-a-half. That’s almost 18 years now. I’ve seen him as a child actor on a professional stage where the rules were traditional, as described by Copenhaver, but I’ve also seen him perform at The Red Room, where the audience held the branches that created the forest in “The Three Sisters.”

And I wonder if we in the church world, not just people as young as my son but even people of my more advanced years, aren’t looking for that? Aren’t we looking to be rooted in a profound sense of community? Don’t we respond when we are immersed?

Okay, not all of us. There are people who want to receive, nothing more. There are people who show up out of habit rather than spiritual practice. But they are fewer, no matter what size your church might be. It’s the non-participatory churches that will go the way of the Dodo. Our creative acts are not limited to worship, of course, there are other ways of being community that are profound, sometimes more profound. But they all need to be the work of the people, not just the pastor, for a community to thrive.

And that’s what’s really emerging, I think. You don’t have to be post-evangelical to experience it. A liberal theological education will not exclude you from it. The world is too big and too small, and we crave the community that helps us feel rooted in something that matters. This is not about cultural relevance, not for me, but about a push from God’s Spirit to draw God’s beloved children into closer and deeper understanding of the love that Jesus lived, the love that God has for all people.

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5 thoughts on “What’s really emerging…

  1. Well yeah…but….One quick setting glue for cementing a community together is the create and "us vs. them" mentality, with "us" being somewhat better than "them". That's the marketing ploy used in the video clip advertising the play. And IMO it's the same as "saved vs. unsaved" mentality. When we as a church lay that down and work to put forth the idea of being an inclusive church there is no "us vs. them".For me, one of the things that draws me to worship is the ritual that connects us to many generations that preceded us and the liturgy which many people are sharing all around the world at the same time. When I see the host raised with the words "This is my body….", I know that not only in this room, but in places in Africa, China, Russia, Europe, Pacific Islands, etc…..those same words are being pronounced for others, inviting them to come and partake of this gift.I understand the need to be creative with worship, but if we stray too far we run the risk of losing that connection to the past and with the rest of the world.

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  2. However, I don't read this as an 'either/or' but rather as a 'both/and'. Using Valerie's example of creative worship and the words of institution – so what if the space is different than the traditional, but the words are the same.Having held a branch in that play I will readily admit that I was nervous to be past the traditional boundary of the 4th wall, but the experience of the play meant so much more to me then and afterwards. Yet the words were still Chekhov.

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  3. Interesting what this called up for you, Valerie, because I hadn't intended to use the video clip at all. It's there only because Blogger wouldn't load an awesome mugshot/headshot of my son looking the wild-eyed anarchist. And my guess is these young artists are not promoting an "Us vs. Them" model at all, but exploring an historical moment (something they've done in other works they've created). Perhaps I needed to be more specific about the other ways we create collaborative community: in worship, yes, but also in care for each other and the wider community.

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  4. You don't have to be post-evangelical to experience it. A liberal theological education will not exclude you from it. The world is too big and too small, and we crave the community that helps us feel rooted in something that matters. This is not about cultural relevance, not for me, but about a push from God's Spirit to draw God's beloved children into closer and deeper understanding of the love that Jesus lived, the love that God has for all people. Brilliant!For me this is what I've ALWAYS sought, and what I've experienced in church in the best parts of my life. What makes me sad is that the parish I serve now doesn't seem to get this in a lot of ways.

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  5. Rev Dr. Mom posted the same quote I wanted to use…absolutely beautifully brilliantly stated. I couldn't view the video but I didn't read any us vs. them, simply that we need and crave a community that connects us on a deeper level than what is possible by lurking, we need to be more inviting, accepting, and working together.

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