Emergence Christianity: Relational Connections

This is a photo of Mark Shivers and me. We met at the 2004 Emergent Convention in Nashville. As you can see in this photo, we thought we were pretty hot shit. I can’t remember exactly how we met, but I think it was after a general session on the way to Subway for some lunch. We hit it off, enjoyed conversations about seminary, Emergent, theology and more.

This is a photo of Jen Lemen and me. Jen and I met through the blog world, and connected at Emergent events in the first couple years I was involved in the conversation. She was a constant source of encouragement for me, a beautiful and much needed voice in the early years of Emergent.

I tried to find an early photo of Jake Myers and I, but he was another good friend who I met around the same time as Mark and Jen, although it may have been first at Princeton Seminary, but we did a few Emergent events together as well.

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This is a photo of Mark, Jen and Jake at our wedding in 2006.

This is what I’m talking about. This is just one example of the type of friendships that have been formed and forged for me through my journey into Emergent. Jake and Mark both belong to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Jen Lemen has always been a very free spirit and a source of spiritual encouragement to me. These are the three people who helped officiate the wedding for two Presbyterians.

And this is just but one example that barely scratches the surface of how many friendships and connections I’ve made through Emergent.

For many of us, while we do hope to come away with some new ideas and thoughts from conferences and events like Emergence Christianity, if we’re honest, we go for the relational connections. We go for the fellowship, the chance to be encouraged and supported by our friends, to be challenged and pushed outside of our comfort zones and so much more.

And that is one of the biggest strengths of Emergent: the opportunity to bring a diverse group of people together and provide space for these types of encounters. I have connected with some great Baptist, Vineyard, non-denom folks and friends from all sorts of other denominations. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, but find common ground in a willingness and desire to see the church continually reform and evolve as we move into the future.

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Comments

  1. Mark says

    great pic Adam…wow, ~10 years ago!…You nailed it here – it’s about the relationships, the conversations and the friendships that arise and are strengthened in these conversations.

    I vividly remember the excitement when I first read ‘The Post-Evangelical,’ the (even resonating more so recently) feelings of solidarity (spoiler alert – the pastor gets fired at the end for being too liberal) when finishing ‘The Story we Find Ourselves In” and the overwhelming sense of being at home during that 2004 gathering in Nashville. After so much time of feeling alone, I found people who were asking the same kind of questions I was – who were struggling with many of the same issues and who were willing to talk and listen. Over the past 10 years, emerg-ent-ing-village, etc., has changed and shifted while being critiqued (many valid, some not so much) from all angles. Through it all, it’s been important for me to remember those first feelings of finding and then being welcomed into a group-community-tribe-whatever that resonated like no experience of macro-faith community before.

    Those initial moments were such a hope-filled stream in the continuing flow of conversion in my own life. While that feeling, vision and excitement have come and gone over these last few years, I can only cringe at where my faith would be if not for encountering those first threads of the emerging conversation in seminary (a big thanks to Steve Hayner!). From there, the journey into exploring the more mature alt worship scene in the UK was stunning and forever changed what worship is and can be for me. Those experiences combined with exploring new theologies in seminary meant that nothing would ever be the same.

    When I talk to my evangelical friends who are beginning to test the waters of questioning, thinking critically about issues long closed and allowing their experiences critique the foundations of dogma, I warn them that there is no coming back. That is to say, when you go down this road, you will not be able to look at the world, the church or your faith in the same way.

    There will be a cost and while there is a vibrant, amazing community of love you will meet along the way, it will never quite be the same for you again. Many you thought you knew so well will quickly turn away in fear and others will boldly declare you dangerous, heretic or worse – a liberal. When you know, however, that you can’t keep living in the faith you have now, when all you’ve been given is no longer adequate after being tested on the hard roads of human experience, there is another path open to you – a path where I and many others have found salvation and community (the two, of course, are inseparable).

    As the conversation matures and grows while living at the borders of movement, institution and network, I hope that it, that we will always be a space where those about to give up on their faith can come and find hope. While we struggle to include more voices and consider our blind spots, may we keep the often bumpy and difficult entrances to the roads of these conversations well marked, overflowing with graceful hospitality and ready to welcome all those who have the desperate courage to risk all that is comfortable, secure and known – but unfortunately also that which has failed them.

    I look forward to continuing the friendship and the conversation Adam…deep peace…thanks for the great post…

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