I just got back from attending the Nashville Emergent Cohort... a local gathering of folks who are leading or exploring emerging forms of church and are committed to meeting monthly to talk about it...
The group today had at least 3 of the folks on this blog there... myself, Jonathan, and Gavin. I'd met Jonathan previously briefly. It was great to meet Gavin face to face. He may be helping us out here a bit with design issues, and we're talking about possibilities for a broader "methomergent" kind of site. There were maybe 12 or so of us there today-- including a "recovering" Willow Creek staffer, a guy who's ended up having a Bible study meeting gathering in his home, another guy who is a poet/writer and erstwhile home church pastor (with 15 people 7 of whom are children under the age of 13), a youth/young adult pastor at a local Episcopal Church, a volunteer from that ministry, and another guy who was interested in the overall topic. In all about 4 of us were newcomers to the group today. We also had a special guest from Kiev, Ukraine-- a guy named Paul Thorson who's planting a church there, and who has just published a book called Painting in the Dark -- all of us there today got free copies. And yes, it was all guys today... I think this is a real challenge point for the whole emerging thing, to what degree it really represents male only leadership, even if it is not intentional, but that's another story.
Today's topic-- worship...
The conversation was rather free-form, and I think everyone contributed along the way. I think we came to a few common affirmations, though I don't think that was the point of what we were doing...
a) Worship is fundamentally corporate... worship itself is an act of a communal body.
b) Christian worship is primarily responsive more than generative... that is, in our worship we respond to what God has done for us and through us more than we try to "gin up" something we offer to get God's attention or even to offer a pleasing sacrifice to God.
c) Christian worship is relational-- God isn't the object, but the subject (the Thou, in Buber's terms, not the It) of our action, and we are certainly not the object either. Not even of God. We're all in this together.
d) God may not need for there to be a presider-- someone whose role is to help "conduct" the giftedness of the people in an orderly and profound way-- but we probably do.
We were of several minds on talking about whether worship and prayer are the same thing... my own tilt is that they're not... that prayerfulness or attentiveness to the presence of God in all things is something we may well strive to do individually at all times, but that's not the same thing, per se, as worship.
We were also struggling with the notion of strengths and weakness. Paul Thorson reminded us that God really makes a huge difference in our lives in the places of our deepest weakness... so we maybe need to be more thoughtful about whether we look at worship only as a means of offering our best to God, and need to make room for the possibility that God is also waiting for us to cry out in our distress, failure and weakness... no happy clappy all the time, no pep-talk self-help feel-good stuff as dominant mode, etc.
All of this leads me to wonder... do any of y'all have anything like an emerging cohort where you are? If so, what's that like? What are you learning? Who's there? Who isn't there? If not, is it something you'd like to see where you are? And if you would, how might we help?
Peace in Christ,