‘Atheist Churches’ are more traditional than Emergents

I am loving the conversations that have come out of the publicity tour of Sunday Assemblies. The feedback and pushback that is being generated by these ‘atheist churches’ is proving very informative. I am actually learning a lot about how people think of church, atheism, tradition, and community.

If nothing else comes out of their moment in the spotlight, it has been very enlightening. I do, however, think that some more will come out of this.

The most illuminating resource that I have found so far was an interview with co-founder of Sunday Assembly, Pippa Evans on the Nomad Podcast ep. 55. Nomad is based in Britain – as are the comedic co-founders of Sunday Assembly – and Nomad comes out of the ‘fresh expressions’ branch of the emergent movement.

The interview with Pippa (Sanderson Jones, the other co-founder, comes in at the end) is 100% worth your time. The two things that stood out the most to me were:

  1.  Pippa talks about and has adopted the ‘form’ of church.
  2. The Nomad hosts hated it – but for the opposite reason you would think.

1. The Form: Pippa was very clear in several spots about her background in church. The telling part for me, toward the end, was when she mentioned being in Soul Survivor. If you don’t know what that is, you may have missed the reference. Soul Survivor is a very charismatic movement that has developed worship leaders and a style that has been imported around the world – including by US American evangelicals & charismatics.

Pippa explains the formula – it is all about flow:

  • Start with two high energy songs – one of them needs to be familiar and singable
  • A short presentation of poetry or reading (this is like the opening prayer or scripture equivalent)
  • A slower song
  • The offering
  • The sermon (presenting an idea)
  • Response / Confession of thanks (stuff your are grateful for)
  • A big song so that it ends with a bang

Pretty standard stuff! What it reminded me of was the hilarious parody video from a couple of years ago (which started out an in-house joke for a worship conference) about the formula for contemporary evangelical/charismatic worship services.

 

2. Traditional. The fascinating point that made by the Nomad hosts was that walking into and sitting through a Sunday Assembly was painful because it was reclaiming and repurposing all of the things they disliked about going to traditional church! The whole reason they are into ‘fresh expressions’ is because they found so little in the forms of the church.

They were horrified to walk in and find:

  • people sitting in strait rows
  • everyone facing forward
  • huge screens at the front with song lyrics
  • one person doing all the talking
  • passive participation by the audience
  • it was Sunday morning

My favorite part was when they asked Pippa about the possibility of conversation at future Assemblies.  She was not hopeful or  excited about the idea. She said that some people have asked for a Q&A segment at the Assemblies and that is not likely either. Her point is that things like conversation and Q&A’s happen in other places. That is not what the Sunday Assembly is for.

It was at this point that the Nomad hosts made the observation that – at least in this sense – the ‘atheist churches’ are more traditional than their emergent (fresh expressions) gatherings which have de-centered meetings and deconstructed elements. That was an epiphany for me.

I am so glad that Sunday Assembly is doing this – and even more pleased that they are so approachable about what they are doing and why they are doing it. I have already had more than a dozen conversations about ‘why we do what we do‘ with people. IMG_2181

I can tell you this though – now that I have met in the round and been in conversational church … I don’t know if I could go back to  everybody facing the same direction and not have interactive sermons Sunday after Sunday. I’m pretty sure that the future of the church is de-centered and conversational/participatory.

Let me know what you think – as you can tell, I love hearing other’s thoughts and being in conversation.   -Bo 

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The Beat of a Different Drum: Friday Night at Wild Goose West

Friday night at Wild Goose West will be one to remember!  The theme is “The Beat of Different Drum: living life by the rhythm of God” 

Our topic will be getting in sync with the rhythm of God through community, practice, and sacrament. We will be talking about the practice and intentionality of the new monastic movement, the beauty of liturgy and sacrament, motherhood, as well as the power of community.

Our guests will be Randy Woodley (recent Podcast visitor and author of  Shalom and the Community of Creation: an Indigenous Vision), Melissa Marley Bonnichsen, and Eliacin Rosario-Cruz.

We hope that you can make it to the festival. We are giddy with anticipation of hosting this conversation! 

If you have questions that you want to ask the panel – email Bo at aneverydaytheology@gmail.com or tweet @leadfromfringe or @HomebrewedXnty. This will be one to remember!

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Occupy Theology: Marx and Whitehead

In this special episode Deacon Jeremy Fackenthal & Tripp Fuller talk Marx and Whitehead at the 2012 Emergent Village Theological Conversation for 2012.

The “Inverse Theology” that is referenced is from Walter Benjamin and Theodore Adorno.

Also referenced is the popular blog from last month “Undercover Boss” by Stephen Keating 

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Prayer & Process with John Cobb

John Cobb answers your questions about Prayer and Process – in prep for for the Emergent Village Theological Conversation for 2012 that kicks off Jan 31.

In the past week people over at Tony JonesRachel Held Evans, and Kurt Willems have been asking prayer and the relationship between Process theology and Openness theology.  Well John Cobb is here for you!

Of course y’all sent in questions about other stuff too…Occupy Wall Street, Postmodernism, Economy, Ecology, and other theological goodies.  I (Tripp) did this interview in Cobb’s library so listening to it will be like my first time because in real time I was a very distracted FANIAC!

For other resources check out:

Our TNT podcast about why people should come to the Emergent Conversation.

Marjorie Suchocki’s entry level PDF is super helpful.

The schedule for the conference looks amazing!

Bruce Epperly’s podcast continues to generate conversation.

His book Process for the Perplexed is fantastic.

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Entry level Process

Some exciting things have been happing in this little corner of the conversation :

Rachel Held Evans put up Tripp’s blog about how God is not omnipotent

Our TNT podcast about why people should come to the Emergent Conversation this month is getting great feedback.

People are finding Marjorie Suchocki’s entry level PDF super helpful.

The schedule for the conference came together and looks amazing!

Bruce Epperly’s podcast with me continues to generate conversation.

I was reviewing his book Process for the Perplexed and found this quote that continues to rock me:

The world emerges from the dynamic interplay of flux and permanence, in which the eternal and unchanging finds its relevance through its relationship to the temporal and changing world, and the temporal and changing finds completion in its role as contributing to the ongoing universe, embraced by God’s everlasting and ever-expanding experience of the universe… God is not the exception to the dynamic nature of the universe, but rather the dynamic God-world relationship is the primary example of creaturely experience in its many expressions.

I am so excited that so many are open to having this dialogue about a faith that really a) works and b) makes sense.

 

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Keeping up with Epperly

I was so pleased to turn on the Doug Pagitt radio show podcast and hear the voice of Bruce Epperly. Several months ago I had the chance to interview Dr. Epperly – he made my job pretty easy.

As we get ready for 2012 Emergent Village Theological Conversation – which will feature conversation partners like Epperly – I wanted to highlight 3 recent connecting points with his work.

Doug Pagitt Radio Show (hour 2)  – also available on I-tunes

Blog about the Incarnation over at Patheos

A quote from his book “Process Theology: a guide for the perplexed

The world emerges from the dynamic interplay of flux and permanence, in which the eternal and unchanging finds its relevance through its relationship to the temporal and changing world, and the temporal and changing finds completion in its role as contributing to the ongoing universe, embraced by God’s everlasting and ever-expanding experience of the universe… God is not the exception to the dynamic nature of the universe but rather the dynamic God-world relationship is the primary example of creaturely experience in its many expressions. – p 21

I find Dr. Epperly’s thinking and writing to be so accessible and helpful for really wading into a thoughtful engagement.

Two other points of interest: 

You can get Doug Pagitt’s books – like Church in the Inventive Age – on Kindle instantly if you need a book for the plane flight home this holiday season.

My mentor Randy Woodley was on Doug’s show for Thanksgiving to talk about Native American theological and historical perspectives. It was a fantastic 46  minute interview

 

a thought from the blog listed above:

…God is present in every moment of experience as the source of possibilities and the energy to embody these possibilities in everyday life. Accordingly, we are all, in varying degrees, incarnations of divine wisdom and creativity. The greater openness toward God’s presence in our lives, the more God can be present, guiding, energizing, and inspiring our lives.  Jesus’ uniqueness is not to be found in an absolute discontinuity between God’s presence in his life and God’s presence in our lives, but in the nature and intensity of God’s presence in Jesus’ life.

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TNT: Emergent Process Conversation Preparation

Tripp and Bo welcome Joe Paparone in for a conversation about missional priorities, process vocabulary, and an emergent framework. This is all in preparation for the 2012 Emergent Village Theological Conversation in Claremont California January 31-February 2nd.

Register for the conference at ProcessTheology.org - find the reading list [here] – order Process for the Perplexed by Bruce Epperly and get ready to engage philosophers, theologians, practitioners and church leaders in an amazing set of conversations!

If you want to listen to more podcast about Process, here are 3:

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Process with Bruce Epperly

Intro to Process Thought with Robert Mesle

An Emerging, Progressive, and Relational Vision of Faith with Bruce Epperly

 

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