Monday, April 19, 2010

What is Emerging? A Wood Between Worlds

"No, I don't believe this wood is a world at all. It's just a sort of in between place..Think of our tunnel under the slates at home. It isn't a room in any of the houses. In a way, it really isn't a part of any of the houses. But once you are in the tunnel, you can go along it and come out into any of the houses in the row. Mightn't this wood be the same?--a place that isn't in any of the worlds, but once you've found that place you can get into them all."--Digory, The Magician's Nephew.

I could say so much about what the Emerging Movement is and probably even more about what it is not (since misconceptions bug me). But instead, I'd like to focus on why the Emerging Movement has been invaluable to my own faith journey. The Emerging Movement has been the catalyst to going deeper with the scriptures, asking harder questions of myself, my community, and my God, and rethinking many of my own perspectives, assumptions, and understandings of the bible, faith, and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

In one of C.S. Lewis's classic Chronicles of Narnia books, The Magician's Nephew, Digory and Polly stumble upon "The Wood Between Worlds," a heavily forested place with an abundance of pools. The trees go so far up that they create a huge canopy that blocks their view of the sky and sun, yet a strange and warm light seeps through the cracks between branches and leaves to illuminate this strange place. They soon discover that each of the seemingly shallow pools of water are actually portals into other worlds.

For me, The Emerging Movement is a sort of Wood Between Worlds. It's not just another church or another denomination, but a place that connects us to something bigger, and by experiencing the other worlds through this place, our own world will never be the same. It's a humble place where we admit our limited view and yet walk boldly within the light that does shine through. A safe place to explore and seek honestly, fearlessly, and even brokenly. A welcoming place that attempts bringing together the vast "worlds" within the church.

My experience within churches, whether it was the Pentecostal churches in my young childhood, the catholic church in my middle school years, the Calvary Chapel movement in my teens and early twenties, or the nondenominational-moderately-charismatic church I'm a part of now, has been rather insular. In each of these faith traditions, I met lovely people (some of whom have become lifelong friends) committed to following God in how they knew to best. However, many in these settings were not only surprisingly unaware of the actual practices, beliefs, and history of other christian traditions, but were WARY of any other christian traditions beside their own. As I travelled between traditions, I found much to be celebrated and faithful people in all of them. But never shaking that "square peg" feeling, I always knew something was missing. Something was off. Something was stifled. Someone was calling me out, to go further up and further in.

When I went through my crisis of faith during my early twenties, I felt utterly alone in my thoughts, questions, beliefs, and understanding of God, the Bible, and what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Because of the insular nature of the traditions I had been involved in, I was completely unaware of any other expressions of the christian faith outside of the circles I travelled in, none of which I fit into very well.

But The Emerging Movement became an inclusive haven for the myriad of christian traditions and faith expressions to be fairly represented and engaged with. It's a place to learn from each other, to walk in each other's shoes, and progress further together in bringing about God's Kingdom. It's a place to wrestle, to challenge, to doubt, to affirm, to reject, to believe, to inspire, to listen, and to emerge as a fuller, more authentic person and community of faith. It's a place to conspire together about how to live out the love of God in our world.

Best of all, it's a place that draws God's diverse people out of their own secluded pools, continually welcoming them to be seated at the same table to encounter each other as a family and as a community.

This post is part of a synchroblog effort organized by Julie Clawson to gather diverse voices about the Emerging Movement. To read more posts on this subject, Julie has linked to all of the posts over at her blog here.