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Monday, April 12, 2010

Emerging Christianity Conference

Day Four.

Sunday opened with q & a with the presenters. The highlight was McLaren responding to the "why are there so few young people and people of color here?" question, by noting that it is the white church that is in trouble right now. Good point. It is also older white people who tend to be more likely to have continuing education allowances and other resources to attend such conferences. Rohr also commented on the possibility of moving conferences like this one out of the snazzy hotels.

In their summations: McLaren drew the distinction between a movement and an institution. Institutions are rooted in past movements and oppose new ones.

Rohr quoted a remarkable story about how Kalahari Bush-people would, when traveling, occasionally just sit down, saying that they had to "wait for their souls to catch up with their bodies." We don't give our souls time to catch up with our frenetic movement. Emerging church work is soul work. The soul wants meaning, not answers, seeks depth, not breadth. We need patience.

Stabile: the antidote for exhaustion is wholeheartedness. "What is it you don't have the heart for anymore?" We often hold onto the last word of God as a way to resist the net word of God. Every expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. Waiting is active: stay awake!

The communion liturgy was very powerful, except that Rohr should not try to preach. He can't do it. He should have handed this off to McLaren. It was a barely interesting lecture, and he never actually read the Gospel. But the service itself was excellent, with a shared eucharist across a long table, and music by a trio of women singers. Liturgical material from Taize and Iona. Even a traditional Protestant hymn thrown in.

All in all a good conference, though without the magic and electricity of last year's. Maybe it was just our table, but there seemed to be more of a Roman Catholic presence this year, which means discussing issues that have no relevance to me, having to do with the hierarchy and the Pope. Some seemed to identify "emerging" with a) more social action, and b) working towards women priests.

I am wondering if it is time to stop going to conferences and to start doing something. Future conferences will be valuable to the extent that they deal with practical, hands-on, active practices that can be shared and learned from.

Read Cynthia Bourgeault's book on the plane home: Centering Prayer and Inner Awareness. It's very good and helps to bring together the contemplation and action sides of the emerging church. This agenda is vitally important, and it is why Rohr is getting in on this. With McLaren and others, they seem to understand that this really is a paradigm-shift, new reformation, "rummage sale" time, and the new thing that is being born will need deep and strong spiritual roots. (As opposed to some corners of the emerging church movement who seem to view it as little more than the latest youth ministry gimmick.)

The conference also revealed again the bankruptcy of much of Roman Catholicism (not that I am not quite aware of the bankruptcy of much of Protestantism). But the Catholic inertia is so entrenched and virulent that I wonder why anyone even stays over there....

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