Emergence Christianity: Honoring and Bending Tradition

Most Sunday afternoons between our College Coffee Hour (at Starbucks) and heading off to the Ashland Youth Collective, I’m able to be home and hang out with Caleb. This past Sunday, we were playing with some Legos when I noticed that Doug Pagitt posted that the Solomon’s Porch service was being live-streamed. I thought I’d check it out, so pulled it up on my iPhone and then used AirPlay to send it to the TV via AppleTV (isn’t technology grand). We caught some of the beginning music, and Caleb immediately started patting his belly (which he does when he hears music he likes).

So, clearly, Solomon’s Porch is the exact type of church that will appeal to Caleb and his generation. He patted his belly.

I’ve actually never been to Solomon’s Porch, but I loved being able to “sit in” on their service via the live-stream. For those who don’t know much about it, you can read some here and get a feel for what it looks like with this photo:

As I watched the service, I couldn’t help but think that this is the type of place I’d love to be a part of sometime in the future. The other thing that caught my eye was the movement on the screen. Like, lots of movement. Little kids. Toddlers. Babies. Everywhere…running around, bouncing around…and I couldn’t help but realize how different those images are from so many of our PC(USA)/mainline churches today.

I wasn’t able to watch much of the service, but did get a chance to hear Doug welcome folks to the gathering, which was actually their 13th anniversary. Then he invited someone up to introduce and lead them into a time of communion. They have different people introduce the ritual of communion each time, which allows for diversity and for people to get to share their own meaningful experiences of communion. I love that idea. I didn’t catch the person’s name who came up, but he said something that I’ve been thinking about since then. He said, “Here at Solomon’s Porch, we honor tradition…and we bend it a little too.”

I love that. And it made me think back to the early days of Presbymergent, before we all got insanely busy and sort of let it fall by the wayside. We used to talk about Presbymergents being people who were loyal radicalsthose who stay on the inside to bring about creative, emergent expressions of historic faith.

Back in 2009, folks involved in Presbymergent met in Louisville to brainstorm the future of the church (Presbyterian Outlook article here), and some of them ended up going to meet with the Office of Theology & Worship after our meeting. I wasn’t able to attend, but heard that Troy Bronsink and others talked to the folks at Louisville about trying to find ways to hack the Book of Order.

Honoring tradition and bending it a little too. Being loyal radicals. Hack the Book of Order. Whatever language you use, it’s clear that something needs to change. In order to be the church of the future (heck, in order to be the church of today!), we need the freedom and flexibility to try new things, to bend the tradition, to hack the Book of Order (or whatever your denomination uses) without being told “No.” The naysayers, the Polity Police, the “we’ve never done things THAT way before”-types of folks, they’re going to stifle the potential of the progression of the church and really mess things up for those of us who are desiring to bring about new expressions of faith for the 21st century.

All of this is getting me pumped to head to Memphis tomorrow to spend time with Phyllis Tickle and many old and new friends at the Emergence Christianity event. I’m at a point in my life where I’m read to see what this next thing really is, and I’m thinking I’ll get some snapshots of it this week. I’ll be blogging from the event here at Pomomusings, so I hope you’ll check back and journey into this emergence Christianity with me.

This post first appeared at Adam’s blog Pomomusings

Adam Walker Cleaveland is the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ashland, Oregon. Adam loves drinking beer at Theology Pub, working with youth & young adults and is an occasional half-marathoner. Adam blogs at Pomomusings.com, where he writes about youth ministry, theology and social media. You can find Adam online at adamwc.com, facebook.com/adamwc or on Twitter at @adamwc.

About Adam Walker Cleaveland

Adam Walker Cleaveland is the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ashland, Oregon. Adam loves drinking beer at Theology Pub, working with youth & young adults and is an occasional half-marathoner. Adam blogs at Pomomusings.com, where he writes about youth ministry, theology and social media. You can find Adam online at adamwc.com, facebook.com/adamwc or on Twitter at @adamwc.


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