By Troy Bronsink
The reverberations continued at day two of Emergence Christianity 2013 in Memphis…
I’ve heard somewhere that the echo decay in a cathedral the likes of St. Mary’s can be as much as 20 seconds. In other words, if you are completely silent and you clap, high tech instruments may be able to pick up sounds for as long as 20 seconds (that’s one pecha kucha slide, in case you’re wondering).
Phyllis Tickle’s work recounted claps from across centuries, whether it was St. Gregory of Nyssa or Rosie the Riveter, MLK or Oscar Romero, you could hear history being retold in conversational ways as she unpacked the significance of the decay of Christendom. It’s impossible to summarize all she unpacked. In fact I’d say that the book, Emergence Christianity, serves it more summarily than her presentation. The power of her knowledge of history presented with anecdotal ease is what makes her one of a kind. In this way her madness has a method. Phyllis even gave a nod toward this herself today when she said, “half of what I do is saying outrageous thoughts so you can object and, in doing so, clarify what you already know.” If that was her method, you could almost say that was the conference’s method as well.
In no prior emergent/s, emergence event have I ever heard such a pastiche of passionate choral music, Contemporary Christian music, folks music, world music, and chant. Often blended worship feels like a blender so the congregation is left with a bland colorless scentless puree. Other times mixed worship feels like everything is interpreted by a dominate tone, hymns recast to fit a style or drums played to accommodate the square hymns. But there was not a center-set to the music. They all stood together but distinct. And the same went for the food truck culture juxtapositioned with coffee and bagels, Outlaw Preachers and large publishers, dioramas and national renewal groups. They all has places at this table. And so kudos to Jones and Pagitt as they honored the method as much as the person and her content!
At the end of the day Phyllis emphasized how the marginalization of Christianity means the good news of the kingdom of God must once again be transmitted domestically. That the it will again cost Christians and that intention will be necessary. She admonished that the gospel will only travel across the lives of people, people who let the gospel affect all they are.
The marginalization of Christianity, the decay of Christendom, will reverberate for quite some time. And history will judge whether our two days together were a new clap or more of an echo. But stopping long enough to listen and honor what we’ve been handed while letting go of the need to artificially repeat Christendom, that’s been practice enough for me.
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