Emergence Christianity ’13: The First Day

By Troy Bronsink

Phyllis Tickle said it felt much like a valedictorian address, as she traced the scope of almost 3,000 years of religious and Christian history… from the Hebrew prophets to Babylon to Early Church, the Great Schism, Luther, and even, somehow, including you and me and Daniel Faraday. The first day of Emergence Christianity 2013 was such a ride!

St. Mary’s Cathedral’s 150-year-old old nave was complete with everything from a relic from the original pool of Bethesda to more than 300 smartphones/tablets listing dozens of personal hot spots, tweeting, facebooking, taking pictures, reading scripture, searching and chatting. Scott Elsholz, Dean of the choir, found a way to woo listeners of Springsteen, Machelmore and Fun into chants like Arise Shine and What Wondrous Love is This. And then illustrator Paul Soupiset had his sketchpad projected, replete with playful sketches with live notes like “bee hive or ant hill” and “drinking from a water hydrant.” Hands full of intriguing conversations around every corner, music from a variety of musicians, diverse panel discussions, and pecha kuchas from artists, pastors, hunters, and sociologist.

The day could not have gone better. But not just because of the above. These great people, and the whole happening came together to celebrate the work of author/editor/speaker/mother/farmer Phyllis Tickle. “The Big Tickle” as folks have taken to calling it, is one part reunion, one part intrigue, and one very crucial part, wonderfully brilliant woman. Who else but Phyllis Tickle could offer biblical and historical appeals that Jerusalem and Antioch need to continue learning from each other, only to follow it with 10 minute detailed description of the mating, gestation patterns of the queen ant—and keep us all at the edges of our seat? By the way, the queen ant takes her partner on a flight that eventual kills him and proceeds to lay eggs from that intercourse for as many as 22 years. I remember that because Phyllis followed it up with the quip, “Now, that’s a real bang, ladies!”

Phyllis was honored by colleagues for her tremendous career, in fact Paraclete even announced a festschrift in her honor with contributions from the likes of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Diana Butler Bass, Tony Jones, Stephanie Spellers and Brian McLaren. And that was only day one!  Such much more on Saturday to unfold before the valedictorian matriculates and we send her off to a life in the real world! Though as a life long learner turned 80 this year, I doubt Phyllis Tickle will leave school for long.

Troy Bronsink is a musician/speaker helping shape the worship practices of the future church. He is author of Drawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers (Paraclete, November 2012). Troy’s friendships and artist’s experiences span a wide range of the American Christian landscape including Emergent Village and Liberty University, inner-city Atlanta and suburban Cincinnati, Young Life and the PC(USA). Troy has performed and recorded across folk, indie, and worship music genres (including 2012 Songs to Pray By). Presbyterian minister and consultant with over twenty years of experience in para-church, church planting, and worship ministry, Troy has spoken and made music with camps, conferences, schools, and congregations large and small. He currently lives with his wife and their two children in Cincinnati. You can follow Troy at www.churchasart.com

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