From Where I Stand: Coming of Age in The Village

"Life Together" Photo by Paul Soupiset
"Life Together" (2011) Photo by Paul Soupiset. Taken the Wild Goose Festival.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” or so the African proverb suggests.

By way of introduction, I’m one of those unfamiliar people Doug mentioned when he introduced this blog almost a month ago now.

What excites me the most about this blog is the rich diversity of voices that are present in the collective conversation. I’ll be contributing from where I stand and while my vantage point has much common ground with many of the other contributors, I’ll be writing from the perspective of what it has been like to come of age in Emergent Village.

I was introduced to the movement while still in high school and as I entered college at a small, private liberal arts college of the church my resonance with the conversation intensified. Soon the conversation gave way to an experiment as some friends and I planted an alternative community of faith in the Lutheran tradition. Planting a church and being raised in the Village as a young 20-year old has been a strange and wild way to come of age. At times I think growing up in this movement was challenging. Often times the movement has been a sanctuary for the wounded and a messy laboratory for crazy dreamers and innovators. Such a chaotic place is fruitful, but it can also be dizzying. I’ve often wondered if it’s already time for this movement to think about the next generation of young leaders who may benefit from the wisdom of our conversation and practices. Yet I want to be clear: is has taught me a few things too. The Village gave me the crazy idea that I could risk experimentation, that I could improvise with my tradition and that there are at least a few honest and safe places where theological reflection happens.

I hope to contribute to the conversation in a few ways. First of all, I want to tell stories, especially those that illustrate hope, but a hope beyond optimism. There are also many fine theological voices around the Village. I hope to apprentice myself to those conversations, but also to contribute to them in some way. I am especially interested in the relationship between theology and culture, so I’ll add my voice from where I stand at that intersection.

As I wrap up this initial post, I want to leave with a question and perhaps we can wrestle together with it:

What does it look like for this Village to pass on the wisdom of our movement to younger generations—to young adults, to youth, to children?

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  • Just stopping by to say that I am crazy proud of you!

    • Tim Snyder

      Thank-you! Too kind really…

  • Tim, I love your perspective and greatly appreciate your voice. I think you nailed it with this: “The Village gave me the crazy idea that I could risk experimentation, that I could improvise with my tradition and that there are at least a few honest and safe places where theological reflection happens.”

    I think that has been the legacy of Emergent for many of us, and that’s still a very important role to be played.

    How this movement addresses the challenges facing the Christian faith at this present moment — with mass defection of young people from traditional churches and rising numbers of religious “nones” — will be very important, indeed.

    To answer your final question, I’m very excited for the upcoming Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference in May 2012: — I think it’s coming at a very important time, and hopefully it will be a catalyst for renewed conversation and action around how to embody our faith in authentic ways that can be passed on to younger generations.

    • Tim Snyder

      Steve —

      Thanks for this.

      I think you’re right about this upcoming conference. Certainly it is timely (if not overdue). No doubt it will be generative.

      Before I say anything else, let me just be clear that I think we need lots of ways to dive into this question. What concerns me is that we’ll make this an issue about “youth” as if that’s some specialized conversation as if this is a question about a certain group people within our community. But it’s not. It’s a question about the very nature of the community we are called to be as the people of God. So, for example, one of the ways I think this is the case is that what’s at stake here is power and namely the relinquishing of power. It is as it was in Duet. 6, there at the edge of the promised land the elders don’t get to go in remember. It’s not just Moses…its a whole generation. God asks them to let go. I think this kind of posture is something we in the Village still have a lot to learn. We don’t practice this all that well I don’t think.

  • Charis Varnadore

    Thank you for your words; from where I live, here in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, these sites and blogs are my community of faith. I would take issue,however, with one aspect of your blog as well as other blogs I read regularly. It is that we must adopt a new vocabulary, since the words that we write and speak reflect out ideas and thoughts. Each and evey time I read or hear the word LEADER used in a Christian context, especially in the Emergent Church, I immediately wonder if I have been reading the same Gospel as others . Thank you… Charis

    • Tim Snyder

      Charis —

      Thank-you for your comments. I appreciate deeply your wonderings here as I share many of them, though maybe we do so from differing vantage points. Perhaps a few words are warranted here in response.

      First of all, though I now live in the Twin Cities, I spent most of my life as a Lutheran in the Bible Belt, so I know the loneliness that comes with being isolated by the overbearing religiosity of that cultural situation. Second, I agree with you concerning the importance of vocabulary. I might, however, nuance that claim with this. I think more precision in vocabulary would go a long way. It is a mystery right what an enigma we are to one another and it is certainly a miracle that any of our utterances ever make their way to another. So I am quite sympathetic with you. I think the language we use shapes the way we see the world and it especially impacts our relationships with ourselves and each other. Finally, I too am generally skeptical when the word “leader” is used in a Christian context (though I’m not sure I really know what we mean here by “Christian context”, I have some guesses of course). I wouldn’t want to say more about my own concerns though until I understood a bit more about what you mean here. If you would care to elaborate, I’d be sure to comment back.

      I hope you continue to read the blog and I trust God will grant you a measure of community—what ever form it may take—that will sustain you where you are.

  • Charis Varnadore

    Thank you for your comments.Quite simply, Jesus showed in word and deed that he was “servant;” if he used the word “leader,” it was usually in a negative context. Today, when we apply/use this word, it immediately sets up barriers that separate us. Although some, or perhaps many, may disagree with this and believe me to be just nit-picking, it has forever been an automatic response whenever I encounter this word in the context of Christian Leader. A Christian Leader might perceive himself as just too busy to be responsive to those who may need his/her assistance/advice, while the Christian Servant is ever responsive to those that call upon him. Thanks again, and I apologize for not replying sooner… Charis