Emergent International

I was asked to write a post for the Emergent-US blog, about Emergent outside of the USA, here is what I wrote and it should appear over there soon.

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I have been asked to contribute a guest post to this USA Emergent blog, on the topic of what is happening in the international emergent conversation.

I must admit to feeling inadequate to that task, due my limited perspective, and experience, and am sure many other people will need to post comments to this piece to get an accurate sense of what is going on around the world, with regards to Emergent and it’s conversation. If you are reading this I hope you will add your voice.

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I co-ordinate what we call Emergent-UK. We use the name Emergent like a family name, an identifier of our relational connection in the UK.

As I write that, I realise that it is impossible to co-ordinate Emergent as a conversation in the UK. The UK is much larger than what we do, and the conversation amongst people connected to Emergent much broader than anything a group of people could co-ordinate. And that is one of the most wonderful aspects of Emergent.

We don’t pretend to represent all the people involved in the conversation, but in a limited way try as best as we can to connect people together, to enable others to join conversations, and find new ones.

At it’s best we hope Emergent-UK is a catalyst for conversations. Through the web, newsletters, blogs, gatherings, we are trying to facilitate connections between people who want to converse as best as we can.

Emergent exists in the relational spaces between those conversations. Those moments when people get to connect, to share their story, and questions in safety, so that spoken aloud or whispered internally, they say ‘I’m not alone in this’.

So we take e-mails and phone calls daily, with frequent questions such as, who is near me that I can talk to, who can I ask about this, who do you know that I should connect to, what can I listen and read to help me more?

Conversations are so powerful and life changing. How many of us talk something over with someone else and have the direction, and momentum of our lives changed forever?

Our limited stimulation of conversations began 6 years ago when I met Brian McLaren, several times in a row, whilst I was searching for people who had help for questions like mine. I remember hearing Brian and having that ‘I’m not alone experience’.

At the time I was running a resource newsletter after having started a church plant. As I met and learned from more people, I sent out any book, recording, gathering, and resource information I could, and the e-mail newsletter grew. I had recommended Brian McLaren so much that I invited him to the UK so people could hear and meet and talk with him in person, and that event was the first Emergent UK gathering we had.

The church I had planted, had benefited so much from its interactions with Brian and Emergent, that they funded these early trips by Brian to the UK. I mention this, as Emergent has not been set up by some rich Christians, nor is it a strategic import to the UK by Emergent US, as a branch of it’s association.

It has been an indigenous grass roots conversation, amongst people who have found hope in these conversations wanting to help others to have the opportunity to interact. It has been funded, as Americans would say ‘on their own dime’.

To date we have 1,300 people on our mailing list, and as far as we can tell they are people from Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Catholic, House Church, Cell Church, charismatic, non-charismatic, you name it. We seem to find conversation partners from all church groups in the UK.

One of the things I love about Emergent is its connection to the church in its broadest sense. We are not about a rejection of the modern church, and the adoption of a new set of beliefs and prescriptions for doing church, but a love for the church in all it’s diversity, and a connection over shared questions facing all of us who would call ourselves Christians, as we face the challenges of our emerging culture.

Emergent is not about finding a new set of correct answers on faith and church, but the opening of space for conversations, that are ongoing, and generative.

A bunch of people connected to Emergent-UK met earlier this year, and when we asked what we thought characterised the conversations amongst people connected to Emergent, we came up with this very limited list:

- Open source: not finished and ongoing, and open to others. - Responsive: responding to people’s questions. - Distributive: getting out what we already have to others. - Creative: stimulating and encouraging creativity. - Connecting: conversations and relationships. - Non-profit: as affordable as we can make it. - Half Baked: not fully formed - Generous: trying to get stuff to people as well as we can. - Empowering: of the people involved. - Gifting: releasing of each others gifts and abilities towards the production of our resources. - Multiple voices: male and female, young and old, etc. - Accountable: Open to critique. - Missional: to effect change in the world and the church. - Holistic: Touching on every area of life.

I am finishing a doctoral programme, and out of that learning, the experience of planting an emerging church, and connections with Emergent, I get invited to teach at seminaries, input at conferences, and churches, around the UK, and in Europe.

If my experience of the UK is limited, it is even more so in Europe. But in my small amount of travels, I have found as many wonderful dialogue partners, and friends, as in the UK, all facing similar questions.

Out of our connections in Europe, we have a 2.5-week series of events around Europe in May 2006, with Brian McLaren. The people hosting events are folks on the ground, who identify with Emergent, and are trying as best as they can to help others connect. Again Emergent does not recruit people to be country co-ordinators; it does not have a strategy for setting up networks in these countries.

All these friends are hoping that these gatherings will help bring others in to conversations, and introduce them to new ones. Also we hope they will be reunions and first time meetings together for people who have blogged together, podcast together, and read with each other.

As we undertake these gatherings and events, there are many people who are part of Emergent, and doing emergent things, that we will be unaware of, but hopefully it is one way of helping us find each other.

I often get asked how do I connect, how do I get involved? Whether that is someone from the UK locally, or someone from another country my answer is the same. There is no inner circle to be invited to be part of; if people are waiting for the recruitment phone call or e-mail to participate they’ll be waiting a long time.

Emergent is what people make of it; people already making conversations, helping others make connections, at their own cost of time and money. Talk, be a friend, help others to connect, make use of the things we try to put out to help, distribute the ones you are coming across, and then you’ll experience Emergent, by being a part of it.

You can find more information about emergent in the UK, at http://www.emergent-uk.org, connect with me at http://jasonclark.emergent-uk.org and for international connections keep an eye out at http://www.amohoro.org the international web site of Emergent.