According to Emergent cohort guru Mike Clawson, there were about 50-60 active Emergent cohorts across the U.S. as of June 2011. That’s about half of the 100+ cohorts that were going just four years ago. And, anecdotally, it seems 50-60 may be a high number just one year later, because only a handful of cohorts are really visibly doing much.
Our cohort in Charlotte, NC, just celebrated eight years of monthly Meetups, and 2012 has been one of the busiest years we’ve ever had with special events, national speakers coming through the Queen City, and upcoming events to look forward to.
One of the other longest-running cohorts in the country, the Chicago Up/Rooted cohort is still going strong, thanks to the leadership of Kris Socall. The Central Ohio cohort (Columbus) is still kicking, thanks to Jesse Schroeder. (They even support some missionaries in Cambodia!)
The Metro Atlanta Emergence group is still kicking, thanks to Jeff Straka, Florin Paladie, and a host of other great people. I had the opportunity to visit with the Broward County, FL, cohort folks last year, which was a lot of fun. The Emerging Desert community in Phoenix is navigating that interesting space between being a cohort and being a new kind of faith community.
There are a handful of others I could list and name, but I’m skeptical that the list today would add up to 50. At the same time, I know there is a constant stream of people contacting Mike Clawson expressing interest in being a part of a cohort or establishing a new one where they are. We’ve had two more small cohorts startup just in the last couple of years in the greater Charlotte area — one in Statesville, NC, and one in Salisbury, NC.
I’m convinced that Emergent cohorts still serve a very valuable purpose, and more attention can and should be given to developing this network of theological conversations happening across the country. Part of the reason cohorts are so valid is because there are still very few churches that are creating space for hosting open, robust theological discussions.
Chris Smith writes about the experience of Englewood Christian Church in his e-book The Virtue of Dialogue, which is a fantastic guide for faith communities that want to learn how to bring this kind of theological conversation “in-house.” But, for now, the reality still seems to be that these grassroots, self-organized groups are the most reliable place to find people open to asking questions, discussing “heretical” ideas, etc.
So what should we do to foster cohort life and grow this network of theological conversations?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what should be done. If you consider yourself a cohort member, a cohort leader, or just someone interested in being a part of an Emergent cohort, please post your thoughts in the comments!
One suggestion I would like to make: We need to have a national gathering of Emergent cohort leaders, members, and others! And I can’t think of a better time/place for this than the Wild Goose Festival here in North Carolina next month (June 21-24). If you are planning to come to Wild Goose, please let me know by posting in the comments or getting in touch with me another way. I’d love to connect with as many of you who will be at the festival as possible to continue this conversation in person about where we go from here. I hope to see many of you there!
NOTE: You can get 15% off tickets to Wild Goose Festival now through Wednesday, May 23, by using promotional code EMERGENT.