Saturday, March 08, 2008

Exisiting Congregations and Convergence/Emergence

In my most recent blog, I said that the move to convergence/emergence had to start with questions and discernment. I think this is imperative. One reason is that it's a bit different moving an existing congregation to a new place than it is starting a completely new work. Not that either is easy!

Second, I even wonder if an existing congregation can be moved in this direction. The questions about what is God calling us to do in this time at this place with these people? Why has God brought us together? Why are we located geographically where we are? Why do we do what we do with our time together – in worship, study, prayer, fellowship? are hard ones. They call into question, in many people's minds and hearts, the things that have made us who were are as individuals and a community of faith. That includes our current "order" of worship and the way the pews are positioned in the Meetingroom. Perhaps a beloved pastoral type set the current order of worship forty years ago and people remember him fondly and want to honor his memory. Perhaps my mother was on the committee that picked out the new pews and carpet for the meetingroom forty years ago. All of these questions then move beyond just interesting spiritual ones and into the realm of interpersonal and system dynamics.

Third, I also don't think convergence is something that can be grafted onto a current system. Not too long ago people were wrangling over contemporary worship styles or traditional styles. Some compromised by developing "blended worship" -- a mix of chorus and hymns, organs and praise bands. I don't think this generally worked very well (at least that's what I've seen as a consultant). Except for the few places who did it well and carefully, it mostly dissatisfied both groups -- the young and old.

Blending convergence with traditional would be an even worse idea, I think. That's because the two are largely incompatible. Convergence is not just a new layer to be added, it's a whole new way of "being church." That's also why I doubt it could be an "added" service -- "we'll do the traditional service on Sunday mornings and the convergent on Saturday evenings."

Again, these are just my musings and thoughts -- after reflecting on some of the congregations I know and love. I wonder, even knowing all the good hearted people in them, whether they could agree to move in this new direction. Could we really unscrew the pews and dismantle the platform and arrange ourselves in such a way that we could see each other instead of all looking at the pastor and choir and the backs of everybody else's heads? The only way I see this happening is if it is a God thing -- if the community of faith listened and asked and prayed together and came to the sense of the meeting that this was the thing to do. And by community of faith I don't mean the ten people and pastor who attend monthly meeting. I mean everybody.

Another route may be to say, "It's not for us, but we like it for others and so we'll open some of our space to do this new thing." To do a sort of congregational space sharing. Other congregations do this all the time -- I know one building that serves as a synagogue on Friday and Saturday and a church on Sunday. Perhaps this could be a way -- to embrace the doing of a new thing whilst honoring the good work and the needs being met by the congregation's style and manner and ministry now.

These are the sorts of things I believe need to be thought about and wrestled with, all under the work of seeking God's will. Not my will. Not a small group's will. Not even a majority's will. Only what is God's will.

-- Brent

No comments: