I’m a little sick of being the “emergent guy” on campus. In fairness, since giving a day long presentation a little over a month ago, a whole group of us have been openly identified as thinking in the “emergence” vein. I’ve been thinking about these questions for almost a decade now, since attending some church plants in San Diego and Denver experimenting with alternative worship. It stuns me that some of my fellow students have never experienced post-seeker-sensitive worship, or people playing with what comes next. I guess the Episcopal Church can be a strong silo in Christianity.
On campus this has meant that, since Phyllis Tickle’s talk this Fall, several students have been playing “Emergence Safari.” Let me explain. Every time something new surfaces in a class, or an idea comes up different from their experience of Church, they jump up, pointing a finger into the figurative bushes, and ask “is that emergence?” It’s like an episode of the Crocodile hunter. I feel my fellow students want me to say, “Crikey, what a Sheila you’ve spotted, that’s a real emergent liturgy there.”
What they don’t know is that we are far behind the curve. Emergence is new to many of my fellow students, but it is a dated way of describing the phenomenon occurring. The language is in heavy debate. At greenbelt this summer, I participated in a panel discussion asking the question “Is the emergent church dead?” A number of my friends consider themselves “post-emergent” (which is snarky, but it is what it is).
So, is emergence dead? Is it silly to use this language anymore? I’m still attracted to the word emergence. I like the image the word conjures. I’d love to see the Church emerge from years of infighting and discrimination. I’d love to see the Church emerge from behind the carefully constructed walls it has built. I’d love to see the Church emerge. I’m just not quite ready to say it has. Thoughts?