Friday, February 09, 2007

From Submergent Church to Name Tags

The latest issue of The Christian Century has an article about the "submergent" church. Similar to the ways of the organic church as Neil Cole has written about. The CC article isn't up yet at www.christiancentury.org but it probably will be within a week or so. The article depicts a local church that is hidden not only in mission but purposefully keeps the public unaware of its existence, the opposite of the attractional model of the church. It is a kind of mimicking of the underground church movement of China, and the first couple of centuries of the common era. People are taken to the location of the church gathering without knowing themselves ahead of time where it is. This dis-orientation and then re-orientation at the submergent church Event, often musical, can be seen as symbolic of the person in the world today, and of the way the church itself needs to be led from a false orientation through dis-orientation (where most are today) to a re-orientation of itself in the 21st century. For those of you who know Walter Brueggeman's work on the Psalms, this spiritual odyssey of the three steps of orientation, dis-orientation, re-orientation would seem familiar. So the submergent church can be seen as a kind of Psalms Church. It can also, as the article implies, be seen as a kind of corny, intentionally contrarian, church, but then such a risk runs through the Psalms too...

Some of the comments by the pastor about how the church defies everything that people come to assume of the church today, and of "success", sure resonate with me. I have found people flabbergasted by how much "so few" can do; by how much a few can give of themselves to mission; that they would think a church like our Living Room Church must have many more people present to have such a vision and mission. When they ask, "did you have a good turnout at church today?" my response is always, truthfully, the same: "It was great. You should have been there." If they follow up and ask, "how many were there?" I often reply by pausing to reflect for a second and then speaking the names of everyone who was there, whether it was one or a dozen or more. There is something powerful in that reciting of the names of who was there. It alone shifts the focus.

In the meantime until the CC gets the submergent article online, here are some links you might find of interest in a variety of ways on submergence: www.submerge.typepad.com/
www.tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com

And yet my learning curve, my own necessary dis-orientation, continues to widen before me. The other night at one of our gatherings I was talking with one of the first-time folks and I happened to mention at then end they might want to sign the guestbook even though we had made contact by email, and I noticed there were name tags out by the guestbook. But of course no one had any name tags on and we hadn't used name tags in "like forever." And so we started talking about the uselessness of name tags and how they kind of stood for the opposite of what we were striving for. and I put the name tags away for good. I am also putting the guestbook away for good too; we also didn't make much of it and so it has sort of quiety died away over the months. Maybe just bring it out for a special occasion sometime for the benefit of those who ask for it.

5 comments:

Philocrites said...

I confess: I thought the Christian Century article was satire.

Ron said...

LOL Thanks. Now it might be me who needs to confess. It certainly had an edge of satire, didn't it? Especially on my re-reading. I think if I hadn't been primed from reading about the submergent and organic conversation and experiments and stuff already going on, I might have thought so too. Very interesting. Now I am wondering too...I wonder what that says about the organic movement itself, and about us, that the question of satire comes up? Or is that a part of the risk of all new religious movements?

mmclaug1 said...

Wait. Seriously the article is satire, perhaps unintentional but satirical nontheless. At one point the pastor says something like "When it comes to God's grace less is more." Come on folks this has to be a joke.

Ron said...

Yes, I am pretty sure it was satire, and intentional. LOL. The giveaway was the feeding his soul by watching tv, etc. It was a pretty good take off to on a kind of merged emergent-organic church, with just enough of the real thrust thrown in to keep me going. The more fascinating aspect for me is why there is a part of that depiction, minus the satirical aspects and over-exaggerations, that attracts me for how to incarnate God these days in certain places. Oh well, you should check out the blog at www.agazette.blogspot.com for more good stuff like it. Now, back to checking out more of the real submergent movement :)...

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