I have been at the Emergence Christianity gathering in Memphis for the last day and a half. The focus of this conference is celebrating the life and work of Phyllis Tickle. It’s been delightful to hear Phyllis speak, after praying the Divine Hours for over a decade and reading many of her other books.
Phyllis gave two lengthy talks — both astoundingly without any notes at all! – that gave shape to a historical narrative for emergence Christianity. The basic thrust of this history was that there have been major cultural upheavals every 500 years, which coincided with major transitions in Christian history, and that we are in one of the these periods of transitions today. This narrative is compelling and provides a meaningful explanation for the genesis of emergence Christianity today.
The one part, however, of this story that struck me as peculiar was Phyllis’ insistence that ”the age of the Spirit” began in 1906 with the Azusa Street revivals. I certainly agree with Phyllis that this Pentecostal movement is essential to the history of Emergence Christianity, what perplexes me though is her insistence that this was the dawning of Pentecostalism and the onset of the age of the Spirit.