there has been a lot of discussion and blogging around emerging church recently. is it over? is the term a problem? is it just a phase? i confess to being pretty bemused by the whole discussion.
phyllis tickle in her new book the great emergence says that we are looking at the biggest cultural change for 500 years. it's not just a generational shift, it's much bigger than that. when these kinds of shifts take place it can take 50-100 years to know what we are looking at. and in the meantime it can feel very chaotic and uncertain. i referred recently to the bell curve of change. if anything is over, maybe it is the end of the pioneering phase for some people who are restless and want to do something new (or at least use a different label) and maybe generally there is much wider acceptance of the need to change - i.e. we're in phase two of the curve in some places. but the term emerging church i have always understood to be a description of the church responding to the challenge of the wider cultural changes so the church in that sense is going to be emerging for quite some time yet. it's never been about a particular denomination or style, there's never been anything to join that has owned the name. i think in the uk i genuinely don't know where it's all headed - what will be looking at in 20 years time say?
this last weekend richard and i were at l'église en transformation, a gathering hosted by témoins in france. it was over 5 years since i was last in a témoins gathering and it was encouraging how much the conversation has moved on. there were four presentations and two round table discussions and plenty of open discussion. jean hassenforder is very interested in the church in the uk and changes there and i was invited to give one of the four presentations, which seemed to be well received. one of the big differences is that in the uk the wider church has recognised the challenge and created a culture of permission with fresh expressions and so on (and i think mission agencies such as cms have had a key part to play). whereas getting permission for newness from an institutional perspective is very challenging in france. we also met up with jonathan finley and todd burke both working in multicultural settings with young congregations addressing north african needs. we visited la fonderie, a christian arts collective, hung out with matt, met a bunch of new people including eric zander a very savvy belgian who has his head wrapped around missional thinking and practice.
i'm not sure why but i was reminded of margaret wheatley's paper on the lifecycle of emergence that i referred to a few years back lifecycle of emergence. it's a paper on how networks change the world. and she identifies a fourfold process to that change - name | connect | nourish | illuminate . it will be good to see this process unfold in france though i am not sure who exactly will be the key people in it.
- name - identify/see pioneering missional practice on the margins.
- connect - connect those edge practices together, whether through gathering, connectors, smart social tools etc so that an informal network begins to emerge. obviously there are relationships, networks etc in france but the numbers are very small i think
- nourish - add value to the networks with encouragement, by participating in them, by helping share learning, and maybe some sort of training might be part of that
- illuminate - tell the stories so that the word gets out and the emergence expands
in france the emerging church (or whatever it's going to get called next) is not over. it's only just begun...
there were some cartoons stuck on one of the walls - not sure who by, but this one made me laugh though you'll need to understand a bit of french to get it! there is a set of photos of the day here.