Monday, March 29, 2010

Pub Theology and Easter Eats

Here's what happens this week with The Gathering:

Tuesday we are meeting for our last Tuesday of the month Pub Theology gathering.  The subject will be: Where does faith end and stupidity begin?  It is bound to be a controversial topic - like always.  Join us at The Old Spot - 121 Essex Street in Salem, MA 7pm Tuesday, March 30th.

Sunday is Easter Sunday, and we are meeting 30 minutes earlier than usual for service.  Well actually we are meeting at 9:30am instead of 10am to eat.  It will be a potluck Easter breakfast - bring something to share, and share in what others bring.  The service will actually be starting late due to the fact that we will be feeding our faces.  Look for the actual service to begin around 10:30am.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our buddy Ben preaching this Sunday

Ben Corey is the speaker this coming Sunday morning.  He joined for outreach this last October, and was a perfect match with the wold encounters, which occur every Haunted Happenings season.  You may remember Ben from his connection with us in October, are if you have been a part of the Emergent Cohort, you may also met Ben.  Then again you might also remember Ben from the short clip below which was part of a series I created at my Square No More site asking for definitions of the Emergent Church.  Here's Ben again - don't miss him on Sunday morning. 

I'll be with our friends at CotC in Carsbad, CA and Tom Conlon is there doing a concert as well - hmmmmmmm...traveled 3,000 miles to see Tom who lives in the town next door - funny.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's in the narrative? Help define our Church! Please!

During the counsel meeting on Monday evening there was a discussion on the narrative we weave around who we are as a church.  Otherwise, what is the best way to describe The Gathering.  This was not an easy thing to do.

It was not easy, because we do so many things outside the box of traditional church life.  Yes, we have Sunday morning services, and Sunday evening services.  Yes, we have people who donate their money to help support The Gathering.  It keeps us in a church building on the main thoroughfare of public foot traffic in downtown Salem - well, at least our hearty little band is trying to do that.

BUT (yes I used the taboo big yelling letters, because it is a big but):
  • We also get involved helping with community events (still good so far). 
  • We organize a large missional outreach to the 500,000 visitors and the locals who spend their time in downtown Salem every October (still easy enough to fathom).  
  • We have taught hundreds of people to do this work in a post-modern, post-christian setting (now we are stretching and looking like something which would be defined as "parachurch" - otherwise not church but helping it).  
  • We have become a place for missionally minded people to travel and work on a volunteer vacation - a type of pilgrimage of their faith, and we put them up in our homes! (okay, now we are stretching the boundaries of description!).  
  • We have become a location for a number of city events, and want to see this increase as well. (and I know some churches do that, but it has not been my experience that a lot do it.)
  • We have been growing in the number of social justice educational activities we perform (now that adds a new twist).  
  • And we have befriended people not normally attached to typical evangelical or pentecostal churches - like witches, GLBT, atheists, and whoever typically doesn't like doctrinally conservative Christians (and I don't know what to do with that myself - except appreciate it a whole lot).
So Jeff Gentry described who we are as Open Source Christianity.  Well, that went over great with people who understand social networks and other computer jargon.  Joanne doesn't have a computer at home, and some others only just use their email.  It was a great way to say that everyone involved has something to share and contribute to the life and definition of who we are, and it describes well the fact that we are a place for others to come learn and also share.  Yet the terminology only works for the social networking and computer elites among us, and those who are growing up with this stuff (except even Melissa was lost in the Open Source narrative.)

So I suggested the abbey narrative.  Perhaps we are like the old abbeys, which became the center of community life for a region, places for the poor to be received, centers of worship, places of pilgrimage, training grounds for new ministers of the Gospel, and sending centers for missionaries.  This narrative works well for those with a knowledge of church history or a background from orthodoxy, but for evangelicals and those not brought up in church an abbey seems like a big old church building, which at one time had monks in it.  Today you visit, and throw a couple bucks in the kitty to keep the pretty old building from falling apart.

So, the question is:  What narrative works best to describe this crazy community of faith?  Is there a good and accurate one - one making sense to young and old, educated and uneducated, those with a background in church and those new to Christianity alike?  Or must we use multiple narratives to describe who we are:  the Open Source and abbey Christianity, and a few other descriptive story lines as well?

Do you have a narrative to describe us?  Is there an illustration from church history, everyday life, car repair, garbage retrieval, or knitting to define us?  If you have ideas send please comment below.  We-a needs-a the help-a! (Pentecostal accent applied to the last line.)