Monday, February 9, 2009

Emergent Merton

Last week, I was at Perkins School of Theology for Ministers Week. The topic this year was the emergent church, and as I've read a lot but never heard anyone actually talk about it in person, I went up. I felt behind the times while at the same time ahead of many of my colleagues, who are still discussing how to get a contemporary service up and running. It was challenging to take some things that I had been thinking even further, especially in how I communicate--communicate the Gospel, communicate about the church, and foster communication within the church and about the world.

But then in my reading today, I came upon this:

"The 'spiritual preoccupations' of this time--the post-Vatican II Conciliar years. ... I need perhaps to be less preoccupied with them, to show that one can be free of them, and go one's own way in peace. But thee is inculcated in us such a fear of being out of everything, out of touch, left behind. This fear is a form of tyranny, a law--and one is faced with a choice between this law and true grace, hidden, paradoxical, but free.

"An unformulated 'preoccupation' of our time--the conviction that it is precisely in these (collective) preoccupations that the Holy Spirit is at work. To be 'preoccupied with the current preoccupations' is then the best--if not the only--way to be open to the Spirit.

"Hence one must know what everybody is saying, read what everybody is reading, keep up with everything or be left behind by the Holy Spirit. Is this a perversion of the idea of the Church--a distortion of perspective due to the Church's situation in the world of mass communications? I wonder if this anxiety to keep up is not in act an obstacle to the Holy Spirit." (February 4, 1966)

I think this may be where I could run into trouble with emergent--not that it is inherently a trouble with the idea of emergent churches. It seems, instead to be something that is built into the system--that they don't read everything everyone is reading or know what everyone is saying--that it, instead, emerges out of who the community authentically is and what it is authentically connected to in the Spirit. But I will be tempted to read my way, to knowledge my way, to network my way into it because I am so thirsty for this kind of experience in all its creativity and vitality and out-of-controlness.

But where on the circle do I start?

I remember as a young girl trying to figure out when to jump into a game of double dutch. Maybe it's just a question of finding the rhythm of those who are already turning the rope.

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