So what to say about the Emergent Gathering…
For starters – the Glorieta Conference Center is a fantastic place. It’s nestled in the mountains outside of Santa Fe – so one is surrounded by spectacular views, dense forests, and (this year at least) beautiful wildflowers. A beautiful place to be part of a conversation.
The campus is huge with massive meeting halls, hotels, apartments, and cabins, gardens, game areas, a lake, and at the center of everything a giant Bible (the Bible thing was really weird, to get anywhere on the campus you had to drive past the Bible – all roads led to the Bible… it was strange). At night you could see tons of stars which is something I rarely get to see here in the Chicago suburbs. The setting did serve to show me how out of shape I am given that at 7500 feet elevation I got out of breath just trying to walk from building to building.
As for the Gathering itself – it is a very organic and somewhat chaotic event. They call it a do-it-yourself kind of retreat/conference. We cooked our own meals which had been planned by other attendees. Whoever wanted to could lead a session. I led sessions on Re-imagining Feminine Imagery for God and on Emerging Women. Other offerings included open forums on theology, a photography walk, a visit to Santa Fe art galleries, discussions about salvation, a contemplative hike, forums on worship, Biblical literacy, and community involvement, and a local brewery tour and tasting. At first, I didn’t know what to make of the seeming chaos and disorganization. Nothing was really planned or discussed until it was about to happen. My “J” tendencies were beginning to stress out until I realized that in true DIY fashion, I could make the week whatever I wanted to make it. The community was coming together for an experience and what that experience became depended on how much each of us were willing to offer to the community. So I did my best to jump in.
During my time there, I got to participate in some fun discussions and meet some wonderful people. There were people there at various stages of encountering the emerging church conversation. Some people had just begun to hear about it and had come to the Gathering to find out more. Others who are in unsafe places at churches where they could loose their jobs if the wrong people discovered what books they had been reading came because they were desperate for like-minded people to talk to.
Other of us who have fully engaged in the conversation came looking for conversations that went deeper than the typical “intro to emergent” ones we often have. And all sorts of denominations were represented. There were those who had left the institutional church, evangelicals, post-evangelicals, mainliners (although they made up a smaller percentage of the whole than they did at the Emerging Women Gathering), and even an atheist interested in the emerging/postmodern approach to Christianity. I had fun making new friends and putting faces on internet friends from the Ooze and elsewhere. There were of course some of the Emergent “big names” there and it was refreshing to just hang out with them as opposed to hearing them speak from on high at a typical conference. Just hanging out with people was a huge part of the blessing of the Gathering. Be it over meals in local restaurants (yummy New Mexican food!) or over beer and wine late nights in the communal cabins – conversation was the core of this gathering.
A few “snapshots” of my favorite Gathering experiences –
- Sitting on the dock for Doug Pagitt’s discussion about getting beyond Augustinian Christianity. It was so freeing to admit that there are historical lenses that shape our perception of faith and then actually talk about what our faith might look like it we removed those cultural assumptions.
- Silly (yet somewhat serious) discussions with other Emerging Women about upcoming EW gatherings. Something about discovering the sacred feminine by dancing nude under a full moon and about theology that happens in Vegas staying in Vegas… um, yeah..
- The Wednesday night sharing session that turned into a place for people to share their poetry.
- The African drum song that we sang together after serving each other communion outside under the changing trees.
I am glad I got to experience this Gathering. I did find it to be a safe place to share ones ideas without being attacked or automatically called a heretic. It was a welcoming group and a place of hope for those of us who believe that the emerging conversation is a valid and necessary expression of the Christian faith. I will try to reflect more on specific conversations I was involved with there as well as the “emerging women” side of it over the next few days.
For those of you who attended and help make this even happen – thank you for all you had to offer and the experience you helped make it be.
Labels: Emerging Church, Events