Saturday, December 06, 2008

Live (sort of) from the Great Emergence

It's the second morning of the Great Emergence and I'm looking forward to another great day. Phyllis Tickle has given some absolutely stunning presentations on why/how she has identified what is going on in American Christianity as "The Great Emergence." She has tied all sorts of ideas (sola scriptura, quantum physics) and people together (David Farraday, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin) together, showing how a great emergence is moving through all of society -- not just faith.

As you might expect, most of her presentation is based on her book The Great Emergence. You can find her thoughts there, so I'm not going to recap what she's said here. You need to read the book -- spend some time with it and wrestle with its ideas. I, for one, have found her "story" persuasive -- as well as a cogent, concise description of what is going on in congregational life and the prime tensions of this time.

I will say that Quakers come off pretty well -- especially as she uses us as an example of how to deal faithfully and creatively with the question of authority. Just who/what is in charge? Scripture? Church structure? The Spirit of God? Of course, as those of us who are Friends know, we have been dancing with and around this question for 350 years and sometimes we get the steps right. The getting them right -- holding them in creative tension and allow them each to speak (the community of faith/Spirit/Scripture) -- is never easy, but is ultimately our goal and is spiritually fulfilling and rewarding.

On a personal note, I have been approached by a number of folks at this event who want to talk about Quaker spirituality and practice. Which confirms my long term belief that people are spiritually hungry for the best of Quaker faith. The question then, that I struggle with, is how do we come to live -- to model -- the best of Quaker faith and practice? How do our Meetings reach a place where they could seriously deal with what I consider the most pressing questions facing us -- What has God called us to do
  • With this people?
  • In this place?
  • At this time?

Notice that none of these have anything to do with how do we attract more people? Rather they deal with the question of faithfulness to the call of Christ -- both individually and corporately. Does it really matter if we attract 20, 50, 150 people? Of course it does -- especially if our concern is staffing committees, finding Sunday school teachers, paying staff, heating the building, etc?

But numbers do not matter if we dare forget those things and get back to the initial call of Christ to follow him and his command to feed his sheep. What does that mean for you with your community of faith in your particular place at this particular time? That, I think, is one of the prime questions that the Great Emergence is posing.



Robin M. said...

I wish I could have been there. These are good questions. I'm putting Tickle's book on my list for Santa.

Paul said...

I know I sounds like a broken record but as I have shared many times in the Quaker blog world.
Your book,Holy Silence The Gift Of Quaker Spirituality was a great opening for me. The book was a reaffirmation of what I have always affirmed and believe the heart of Christianity-Quakerism is the Eucharist. "Silence, when worship with others, becomes a means of grace. That’s because it brings us into God’s presence . Worship becomes Eucharistic when sense God present with our group". Chapter five page 91.

We live and move in the mystery of the Eucharist. The in breaking of God's Living Word and the sacramental representation of Christ' presence among us in worship. The Eucharist nourishes us in our work for peace and justice in the world.St Teresa of Avila:“Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.”