Thanks Glen Barbier for the photo. This is Mark Scandrette on the left. Michael Toy is on the right - we may be staying with him tonight in Palo Alto. This is me (center) feeling happy at the Emergent Gathering last week at Glorieta, New Mexico . . . and I will tell you why i was happy. The Gathering was a great experience and it modeled many of the core elements of what i believe a gathering event of this type needs to have:
- It was FREE.
- It took place in kitchens, and i love kitchens.
- Shared accommodation was encouraged and reasonably priced.
- The schedule emerged organically to fit the needs of the participants.
- It had a tribal feel - elders were honored and children were included as equals.
- Nothing took place on a stage.
- There were no key-note speakers. In fact, there were no speakers at all on the promotional material which means that people came to connect with God and each other rather to hear an important man speak from a stage.
- Cooking, food shopping and cleaning duties were handled by everyone. We all put money in the pot for communal food experiences.
- The final worship experience happened outdoors and was lo-tech.
- There were no candles.
- I repeat . . . there were no candles. Anywhere. For the whole gathering. Serious!
- There was freedom to add or take away from the schedule.
- They let our family throw a pizza party for 100 people (tell you more later)
- Lots of bloggers were there. Will Samson has the list.
The Emergent Gathering was a huge success. 160 people (up from 60 last year) from all over USA and a few from overseas. The oldest person was a 70 year old from Hawaii and there were lots of kids and families. In fact, the poetry session ended up with more kids than adults - two of my daughters participated in that session.
I was never a fan of the Emergent Convention. You simply cannot reproduce church life on a stage and hope that people understand what you are about. Hanging out in a kitchen while you cook together and share stories is a much better way to go.
In 1998, Doug Pagitt and I walked over the same campus (its a Baptist convention center) to think through the Young Leader's New Edge Conference that happened that year. It was a great event - a milestone in USA emerging church history - and it set the pace for many years to come. But this event took some of those elements even further and decentralized the innovation to the people themselves. I was impressed. Well done, everyone.
Well, there was no WiFi but that is something the venue needs to deal with. And . . . .
One of the things that bugged me about the direction of church planting efforts inside the USA emergent world was the dependence on eating out in restaurants to maintain fellowship and church life - too expensive for the poor and for families. Its fine for middle class folk and students but it does exclude a lot of people and may prevent it from becoming a movement - [missiologist Viv Grigg says most movements start among the working poor]. This is one reason we offered a pizza party - to try and steer church life back into kitchens and homes - the kinds of places Jesus hung out in when he modeled ministry for us - breaking bread among the working poor in someone else's home and telling them to "do this in remembrance of me". And bringing the conversation into homes gives more time, more reality, more depth, and more space for God to do something lasting.
Thanks to Damien, Mark, Doug, and their wives for all their effort to make this event really rock.