Happy New Year, blogoids! And Merry Christmas to all! A few more days remain in the Christmas season–my tree and Christmas lights are still up, and likely will be through next weekend.
During my Christmas break I was pleased to receive an Emergent Village e-newsletter with a reflection by Phyllis Tickle. I consider myself a friendly critic of Emergent. Some of their leaders I admire, others, well, not quite so much. What I do appreciate about the efforts of Emergent Village has been the way that they have pushed the dialogue within Christianity concerning our collective identity as the church in America. Some of their critiques have been valid and helpful and for that I am very thankful.
The reflection I have mentioned by Tickle is entitled “Re-defining ‘church’ and ‘Church’” and you may click the link above to read it for yourself. In her essay Tickle offers her observations concerning how church has been discussed in recent years and challenges her readers to continue this conversation with increased intensity and diligence. Tickle states:
So this New Year, I seek—hope for—am eager to overhear—a sustained and prayerful conversation about exactly what we who are Christian in this time of emergence, hold as a working definition of emergence church/Church. And lest I be accused of doing no more here than passing along some kind of theological hot potato for the fun of it, I will begin the sacred game. I will begin the first round by saying that, as of right now, I believe both church and Church are “a body of people delighting in God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit.”
In offering this challenge Tickle has struck a chord with me, for I am all too eager to discuss the church. I’m not too keen on “re-thinking” or “re-defining,” but I am intent to think after or think again the thoughts of Scripture and our tradition concerning what it means to be the church, the called out ones, the assembly, the Body of Christ, the People of God. Being called as part of the church is a gift I have been (mostly) delighted to receive. All too often we take for granted that we know what (or who) the church is and as a result find ourselves off course. Having lost our bearings, we act in ways which betray our calling. This being the case, reflection on our character and identity as the church is an ongoing and continuous activity which is to be undertaken in a spirit of prayer, love, community, conversation, hard thinking, and hope.
I plan to undertake Tickle’s challenge in the coming year, and for the remainder of my days. I can only hope that other Christians will do the same. By doing so I pray we increase our grounding in the truth of our story as the people of Jesus the Christ.