Monday, February 4, 2008

Reflections on the Emergent Conference

Over the weekend John, Jen, Daniel, and I were able to go to an emergent conference in St. Petersburg. It was the same one that Daniel had posted about a few weeks ago. It was truly an amazing and inspirational time. We were able to connect and converse with some really awesome people. My understanding of the Emergent community up to this point has been one of distant observation, and through this I have come to appreciate most of what I have seen. They appeared to be a very loving community with a lot of excitement and zealousness for an open honest conversation about where the Lord may be drawing each of them. This observation was proven many times over this weekend by the love that I saw permeating the people that I talked to.
The main theme of the weekend was "a sustainable faith," and we got to see many speakers who both challenged and encouraged us to earnestly seek this type of faith. I am not sure what denominations/faith communities I was expecting to see, but whatever ideas I had were a little off. It seemed as if the vast majority of the people who came were involved in home churches or smaller churches with a nondenominational affiliation. Whether through some of the topics of the sessions or the excitement of the people involved, I couldn't help but feel a little out of place after the first day simply because of my affiliation with the Episcopal Church. I don't want to give the impression that anyone was intentionally attacking the people of the organized churches; as I already said, most of the people I talked to were very loving. It was purely an open critique of the inability of the church as an organization to be able to minister on a personal level and sustain close relationships. I personally have experienced both of this things happening in the Episcopal Church.
One of the speakers on Saturday led us through an awesome retelling chronologically of Paul's travels and the churches that he established. It was great to be able to hear the order in which the churches were established and the contextual situations of each one. Over and over again he reminded us of the fact that the early church was non-hierarchical and non-authoritarian. I loved the way in which he spoke of these communities living in an organic way. He spoke of the love that they shared and the way in which they took care of each other. I was, however, troubled by his unspoken assumption that a "building church" can not also live in this way.
On Sunday after church we traveled back to St. Pete for the afternoon. On the way I prayed that I would be able to see past my cynical angst toward some of these people whom we had heard from. That afternoon we went to a session led by Billy Daniel. The topic was Eschatological Economics: Trinity, Liturgy and Capitalism. Billy turned out to be an Episcopalian who had recently finished seminary and was working on his doctorate. He spoke of the beauty of the church and especially of the liturgy and the eucharist. He was unknowingly the instrument God used to answer my prayer. After the session I was able to talk to him, and before I knew it we had talked for over an hour and the conference was ending.
Throughout most of today I have been able to reflect on the weekend as a whole, and after this long intro, I want to share this reflection. I know that the animosity that I felt was completely unintentional and came purely from these people's excitement and enthusiasm about this new form of church. What they have found is enabling them to connect to each other and God on a much deeper level. I couldn't help but be reminded of our group and this endeavor that we are undertaking. For most of us this journey of a mystical life is just beginning, and I was reminded of the excitement and enthusiasm that I'm sure we are all filled with. I long to be grounded in Christ's love and have his hands guiding my actions. Through the excitement of this new thing that we are experiencing, I feel strongly that first and foremost our call is love. No matter what theological or ideological differences I may have with others, I can and should, with Christ's help, love them unconditionally. For me, those spiritual practices that we are helping each other to develop are the tools that God is using to teach us this love.

-Matt Addis


Daniel said...

I know that I was along for the ride, but I'm no less excited to see your thoughts in print!

Rickey Cotton said...

Wow! Great reflection. Very meaningful and very helpful. I learned a lot, and I feel strentened and encouraged. Thank you for investing and sharing!
--Rickey Cotton

living stones said...

I thought it was pretty wonderful that God led you to a speaker with a concrete connection to your personal experience. And your tender response blessed me. Thanks so much for taking the time to reflect and write.

Anna Cotton

living stones said...

I'm just adding my affirmation to the above comments. Sounds like that was a great conference.
--Paul Corrigan

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