Then – My Need For the Emergent Village
By way of introduction, here is the thumbnail version of my spiritual trek in 2 sentences. I could likely write a book about it but it echos many of the stories I’ve read from emergent writers. So many of you could write the book too and have!
I grew up in a conservative evangelical church, encountered the Holy Spirit in my 30’s. My husband and I planted a Vineyard church and after 10 years (+/-) burned out, dropped out and disappeared. The book version might be therapeutic for me but I doubt it and it’s time to move forward.
I remember shortly after we left ministry a friend of ours (a pastor…we still let some of them be our friends but we did not want to talk about it) handed us A New Kind of Christian (Brian McLaren). It had just come out. He thought we’d like it. I read the first page. A discouraged pastor is contemplating resigning and becoming a teacher. I teared up and handed it back to him. No thank you. Too soon. My husband was in the middle of that process. Someone hand me another novel, please.
Even though church planting and ministry can be fraught with burn-out inducing stresses, this was not the cause of the ultimate end for us. Of course there were several contributing factors but one of the greatest pressures of all came from within. We had doubts about several central doctrines held firmly by our evangelical denomination. Slugging away at the work while not being whole-heartedly convinced made us feel like we were straddling two worlds that were diverging and eventually it became untenable.
So we let it go. And gradually we let many of our beliefs go. And we let a community go. And we let the ‘blessed assurance’ go. And wasn’t that the best part? Being so sure you were right, so sure you were ‘in the truth’ and helping others find that truth? That felt good. Arrogant, but good. I felt like we’d unhitched our boat from the dock and were free floating. It was uncomfortable and lonely.
At the time we didn’t know anyone who was thinking about or questioning the things we were. We didn’t talk to anyone about it (for a while we barely talked to each other about it). We were quite sure that if those in our former community knew what we were thinking we’d be on people’s prayer lists as our eternal destination would be considered to be in serious jeopardy.
As we began to recover (read…years not months into this timeline) we still didn’t have anyone to talk to. None of the crowd we hung out with were talking or reading about the divinity of Christ or penal substitution, the reality (or not) of hell and the authority (or not) of scripture, evolution or the truths found in other religions.
At some point I finally picked up A New Kind of Christian and that opened up to many more books and authors and a relationship (albeit mostly virtual) with Emergent Village. About 5 years later we also found a community that espoused a very similar ethos.
Here’s what I love about Emergent communities; the relationships are not based on a system of beliefs as much as the desire and willingness to have an authentic discussion about them. The freedom to think and wonder and wander creates a spaciousness that allows for the religiously hesitant, like me, to enter comfortably and to find understanding hearts that aren’t at all threatened by my questions and who don’t push a particular answer. In fact, they have often thrown in more questions, which I’ve learned to love about them. (Them…should I be saying you? We?)
Before I found a physical community, the Emergent Village was a lifeline. It gave me hope that there was a place for faith that was not as restrictive as what I’d known, that was life giving and thoughtful and where kindness and conversation flowed freely.
Now – My need for Emergent Village
Once again I find myself in need of a virtual community. Last summer I moved, with my husband and youngest daughter (15) to Qatar for a great job opportunity for him.
So as we continue the ongoing, never ending process of piecing our faith together and questioning and grappling and living and experimenting, we find ourselves a little isolated once again, in a fairly moderate Muslim country in the Arabian Gulf. Qatar is made up of approximately 87% expats from all over the world. An interesting tapestry of people making my life in this sandy desert very colourful.
I will be using my space in the EV blog to talk about what that’s like. What it’s like to sell everything and move across the world, away from everyone and everything familiar, about the people I brush shoulders with and the religious diversity that I will glean things from and the stories that will awaken me. I am in the middle of so many “others” that I long to understand. And I will need people to listen and reflect with me.